In honor of my son

 

In honor of the 4th anniversary of Gavin’s adoption. I wanted to share the letter I wrote to the judge, petitioning for the right to adopt him. This is a very emotional letter and in it, I share what it felt like to lose him to #Autism. 

This may also give you a little more insight into why our lives have turned out the way they have. It’s been an uphill battle since the beginning. 

Happy Gotcha Day Gavin. No matter what, we will always love you. 🙂

 

To whom it may concern,

Why do I want to adopt Gavin?

What does it mean to be a father?

I have been asked the question, Why do I want to adopt Gavin?

This should be very simple to answer but it is not.  There is so much going on in our lives that I do not really know how to answer this question anymore.  In truth I have been working on this letter for quite some time. There is so much joy and pain involved in writing this.  I wanted to take my time and do right by Gavin, so here it goes.

Let me start by introducing myself, I am Rob Gorski.  I am almost 30 years old today. I am a husband of 5 years to my amazing wife Lizze and a father to my two miracle babies Elliott Richard (2 years) and Emmett John (7 weeks).  I met Lizze a few months before September 11, 2001.  I was at the tail end of paramedic school and about to suffer a major, life changing back injury. We met each other while walking our dogs at the park. There was a connection right away.  We waited a while before I met Gavin.

The first time I met him was at Meldrum’s, a restaurant in Massillon.  I met them there for dinner.  Gavin and I bonded instantly.  This was uncommon for him as he was very shy. While we sat there coloring and waiting for our food he spilled an entire glass of ice cold lemonade in my lap.  Lizze thought for sure I was gone after that.  I never really told her but that was the moment I fell in love with her.  We were married about 2 years later.

Since the day I met Gavin I have taken responsibility for every aspect of his life. Not because I had to, because I wanted to.  Lizze and I have raised him together since then.

What does it mean to be a father?

I would like to introduce you to Gavin now.  Gavin is 8 years and 7 months today.  He is a sweet, compassionate, loving and selfless little boy whom I’ve had the privilege of raising as my own since he was about 1 1/2 years old.  Gavin loves to build with his Lego’s and draw his comic books. Gavin has been through more in his short time on this Earth then most people will in a life time. He has been the middle of a tug of war for almost 8 years.  We have fought very hard to shield him from this, insure his best interests and to get him the help he needs, which most recently included a DNA case in Stark County Family Court against Gavin’s biological father and paternal grandmother; which was triggered by Gavin’s doctors.

Gavin was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2005 by Dr. Lee Reynolds and Akron Children’s Hospital. Asperger’s is a form of Autism. Gavin has also been diagnosed with PTSD, ADHD, OCD, and Sensory Integration Disorder. Recently we have been treating him for bipolar disorder as well. Every day is literally a struggle to survive.

Gavin is emotionally about 3 years of age. We live in a world where Gavin “melts down” over everything. As he gets bigger and stronger he is getting much more difficult to manage. Words cannot describe how difficult this summer has been.  He was extremely difficult to manage and has more recently become very violent.  Gavin hurts himself when he gets angry or frustrated.  He is very dangerous to be around when he is raging. We have built our lives around Gavin’s needs.

Meeting Gavin’s needs requires great sacrifice from all of us.  We have involved every available means of support in order meet his needs.  This is extremely difficult to do because what’s best for Gavin is rarely what’s best for Emmett and Elliott. Finding a balance that allows us to keep everyone safe is very challenging.

We have once again begun discussing a residential treatment program for medical stabilization with his doctors because we have to ensure the safety of everyone in the house, including Gavin. When things are out of his control, he panics and lashes out but he would never hurt anyone on purpose. That being said, when he lashes out and melts down, anyone and anything in his path will be collateral damage. We have been working with Dr. Patti Milsap –Linger and Dr. Reynolds (for years) to try to stabilize him.

For several years we were taking Gavin to 5 or 6 appointments per week. His Doctors have told us many times that we have done everything that we can possibly do for him.  They constantly reassure us and help us get up back up when things get really bad and we begin to doubt ourselves. We have found a very delicate balance in our lives that has allowed us to tread water.  This balance has required great sacrifice on our part. Gavin can rarely be taken anywhere because of his behaviors. We need multiple babysitters if Lizze and I ever leave to go anywhere (which rarely happens).

He has no real friends because he cannot connect with other children and because it isn’t safe for them. He struggles with most social situations and really struggles with expressing himself. We do our best to provide him with a safe environment where ever he goes. We do all of this and more for him while still keeping the best interests of our other 2 children at the forefront of our minds. Things are extremely difficult but we pull together as a family and we push forward because no one gets left behind. Elliott in many ways has become Gavin’s “big brother”.

We have worked so hard to give Gavin a chance to live a quality life and reach his potential. We have found him a great school.  He attends Summit Academy here in Canton.  Every one of the teachers and staff are angels. They have made such a difference in his life as well as our own. Lizze and I are very active in the school as she is the president of the PTA.

All of this has helped manage the situation but as terrible as it sounds the Gavin we knew died many years ago.  What is left is a little boy who is lost in his own imagination. A little boy who rarely makes any real connections with anyone. A child who struggles in every aspect of his life. We no longer live in the same place at the same time, if that makes sense.

I cannot begin to describe the pain of losing a child to Autism. I catch myself thinking back to when he was little. I try to remember if there was something I missed. Have I failed him? What could I have done differently? I always come to the same one wish.  I wish I could go back to when he was 2 or 3 and I took him fishing for the first time at Price Park.  He caught a blue gill all by himself.  He was so proud and so happy that day.

That is the day I always return to. That was one the best and worst days of my life all at the same time. It was great because we had so much fun and I was so proud of him. We were connected that day. We were in the same place at the same time. It was the worst day because that was the last day I can remember we had like that. He began slipping away after that (although we were not sure why at the time).

I wish I could go back and make that day last just a little while longer.  I wish I would have known that would be one of the last times we would have to spend together in that place. That place where we were connected and he knew I loved him. I wish I could have said goodbye.  It seems like the next day I woke up and everything was different.  I am really struggling to write this because I try not to think about those days because I cannot stop crying. It hurts to cry anymore.  I miss him so much.

Even though I live with him every day we are not connected the same way anymore.  Gavin likes to spend his time alone in his room working on his Lego inventions with his imaginary friends.  That seems to make him happy.  We are told that Gavin does not perceive things like we do.  I often wonder if he knows how much we love him.  We tell him all the time but I do not think he gets it.   We constantly worry about his future.  We worry about everything.

Probably the most difficult part about this whole thing is we know he is still in there.  Every once in a while we get a glimpse of him. It’s like he’s trapped inside the fog but sometimes he fights his way through and we get our little boy back.  These glimpses last only a few moments and before you realize it they are gone.  Patti (Dr. Milsap) calls it the Swiss cheese effect.  Sometimes all the holes line up and we can see through.  We live for those moments. They are few and far between.

I love Gavin for who he is and morn for who he was.  I would never try to change him to fit a mold. I try to guide him though his journey as safely as possible. I have been there for him through everything.  I have been there for all the nightmares, meltdowns and injuries.  I have also been there for all the little victories like brushing his teeth and getting himself dressed for school.  I was there for all his karate awards and school plays.  I have been to all his appointments and to pick him up from school. I have made sure the tooth fairy does not forget to visit.  I make sure he has clothes to wear, food to eat, and a roof over his head.  I make sure that the spaghetti sauce does not have any “specks” in it because I know he will not eat it if he sees “specks” of seasoning.

I make sure our house is as safe for him as possible. I gave up my career so I could work out of my house because Gavin requires Lizze and me both to be there.  I sold most of my possessions so I could give him what he needs. I have made countless sacrifices in my life so I could meet his needs better and be there for him. I live each and every day in constant physical pain because of my back injury but I push through it because my wife and children need me to. We have gone bankrupt in the process. The only help we ever receive is from our families and Gavin’s amazing doctors and teachers.

These people amaze us because they don’t have to get into the trenches with us but they do anyway because Gavin has touched their lives. We have received no help from his biological father. Gavin’s father is an alcoholic and a drug addict.  He has shown up to court in Stark County twice over the legal limit and has 2 DUI’s. He has yet to our knowledge completed any drug and alcohol counseling and or treatment.  He also did not complete his DNA case plan after almost 2 years. This is why Jobs and Families finally moved to terminate their involvement (because of his lack of cooperation).

We voluntarily chose to enter into an agreement with his father and grandmother.  This agreement put Gavin’s doctor’s in charge of their visitation (specifically Dr. Milsap).  This legally binding agreement is on file in Stark County.

This will be my second adoption attempt.  The first time Judge Park granted the adoption. It was appealed and overturned. We then went to the state supreme court only to lose again.

The Ohio Supreme Court did not hear our case, thereby upholding the ruling of the Fifth District Court of Appeals.  Gavin’s father and paternal grandmother fought feverishly to get the adoption over turned and succeeded in taking it away. But here we are almost four years have gone by and not a single child support payment has been made.  In fact, they have not had any type of contact with Gavin in well over a year.

Lizze and Patti (Dr. Milsap) decided to move their supervised visits to the Massillon YWCA because it was a better fit for Gavin and his special needs. It was more of a therapeutic environment and they would help Gavin’s biological father and paternal grandmother learn how to interact with Gavin appropriately. They refused to show up at the visits as a “matter of principle” because they do not believe they need to be supervised.  They allowed pride and principle to separate them from Gavin. Nick then received his 2nd DUI, went to jail and the visits stopped all together. At no time did we ever discourage them from seeing him or him from wanting to see them. To this day, Gavin’s father still has yet to set up his visits at the Massillon YWCA.

We have recently been drug into court in Muskingum County to face contempt charges claiming we were “not allowing Pam (Gavin’s paternal grandmother) to exercise her visitation”. We have been following the Stark County Court Order to the letter (an order we all – myself, my wife, Gavin’s biological father and paternal grandmother – agreed to follow and signed).

We were found in contempt for doing so by Muskingum County court and my wife now faces jail time if she does not turn him over.  We have the full support of all Gavin’s doctors in perusing this adoption again. Our lives are so fragile and Gavin’s is even more so.  All we want is to be a family and move on as best we can.

Granting this adoption will allow us to do just that, move on and live as a family.  Fundamentally nothing will change because I am the only father figure he has ever known.  I am the one he goes to when he is scared. I am the one that shields him from all of this needless court drama.

I have seen him through all the broken promises and missed visits. We have made up countless excuses for why his biological father and grandmother will not come to see him.  All while ensuring Gavin that it’s not his fault.  We tell him they have “homework” to do before they see him at the new visitation.  For a while he would ask us why they weren’t doing their homework.

Eventually he stopped asking and now rarely ever mentions them anymore. Believe it or not that’s heart breaking for me as father. God has given him many challenges in life already, he doesn’t need this one.

Nothing will change the fact that I am his father, even though he calls me his “Robby”.  I have never encouraged him to call me dad because that’s just a name and it means nothing. I know what he means when he calls me “his Robby”. No matter what happens I will still be here doing the same things I have been doing for 7 years, along with my wife. I will never be one of those who abandon him, never.

I will be here waiting patiently for the next time Gavin finds his way through the fog.  I will try to reach out and grab his hand and hold on to him for that moment because it is so precious.  I will try very hard to remember to ask him if he’s happy, if he knows we love him and how lucky we are to have him. I just need to know he is happy with his life, that he knows how much I love him and how proud I am to be a part of his life.

I want him to know if there was a way I could take all of this away from him I would. Sadly, I know I cannot take this burden from him but I will walk by his side through his entire journey. I absolutely believe that if anyone can rise above these difficulties it will be Gavin and I will be here for him no matter what happens.

I humbly ask, please grant Gavin and me this adoption and help me to put this all behind us. Please help me give Gavin the stability and consistency that he so desperately needs and deserves. Please help us give him a fighting chance.

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Paradigm

Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I read your letter, and I can empathize on more than one level.  My story has a twist, though.  We have three children of our own, but took in a family of five children almost exactly one year ago. It was meant to be a temporary situation, but it became something else, as we uncovered how profoundly abused and neglected these precious children were.  But, much like your story, we ended up being the ones defending ourselves in court.  We became the "bad guys."  It was terrifying.  We were trying to save these kids lives, but nearly lost our own.  In the end, the state had to step in and take the children into hiding, for both the children's safety and ours.  In the aftermath of the situation, my children were traumatized by what they witnessed and learned about a side of life they had never known existed.  We took them for PTS therapy.  And, it was there, that my journey with autism officially began.  We had been struggling with many issues for years, with two of my children and with my spouse.  There were odd things, that never added up to a clear cause.  We just did the best we could, every day, and muddled along.  Finally, in this unexpected place, this therapist innocently suggested that I read some things about Aspergers.  I was stunned.  My relief/shock/grief was immediate and intense.  As I read the very first descriptions on- line, I knew that she was right.  My husband immediately recognized himself.  And we looked to our youngest daughter, and we knew that she was struggling more than the other two put together.  And so, we began testing and received the diagnosis.  My oldest is Aspergers with severe Anxiety Disorder.  At the time of diagnosis, we almost lost her to severe depression and anxiety.  The diagnosis allowed us to actually help her where she needed help, and we were able to do it in the right way.  Over the last nine months, she has healed.  We have faced huge hurdles along the way, but so much has changed for the better.  My understanding of my husband blossomed.  I had accepted him with his quirks, and I loved him just as he was, but the new knowledge changed my understanding of him completely.  And, honestly, I love his Asperger traits: loyalty, devotion, honesty, logic, hard-working, SMART, and just a great person.  He is never cruel and never insulting.  And, my youngest, her diagnosis is Aspergers with ADHD.  She is a bundle of energy…and has horrible meltdowns.  She is about to turn 8.  She is getting the opportunity that my oldest daughter and my husband never had, but she has more to overcome.  I also share the issue of helping a NT sibling that often struggles because of the issues that his sisters deal with.  He gets very tired of his life being "all about autism."  He is twelve, and he has a huge heart, but even a big heart gets tired of always overlooking being hit, or screamed at, or having to be "adult" in his behaviors and reations.  Every second of every day is a full time job of helping everyone get through their day.  Every single one of these people, who I love most in the world, needs guidance, support, and TLC…not to mention the practical chores of life (laundry, dishes, groceries, etc.)  And, I, too, have major spinal issues.  I keep "telling my spine" that I don't have time for its issues.  But, wildest of all, as I read your letter, I was shocked that you live exactly where I am from.  I know every city, county, etc that you mentioned.  I lived there the first thirty years of my life!  (Now, I live in the Deep South.) So, clearly, we don't have the exact same issues and challenges…not exactly.  But, none of us do, do we??  What we CAN do is empathize with each other. We can listen.  We can care.   It is a challenging path we walk.  Bless you for getting up and walking it everyday.  By the way, we have started an Autism Spectrum Disorder support group for our area….because we live in such a remote place, that there is literally nothing here, but the schools.  Thank God they are doing all they can to help. Hang in there.

lostandtired

@Carlyoung thanks Carl

YvonneMikulencak

You did not lose your son, your son is still the same boy.. You , as a parent, need to learn to work with his autism like Carly Fleischmanns father did with her. Children come in different packages adn they change.. Learn about autism and how to work with him.. its in your hands..

lostandtired

@YvonneMikulencak I'm going to let your ignorant comment go and assume you have no experience. I'm quite educated in autism and I also know what we have experienced.
No one has the right to discredit another personal experience. Have you lost a child to regression? My guess is no. If you had, you would not have spoken the way you have.
I wish you well but you would be best served by understanding that people experience different things when it comes to Autism and many other things in life.
Unfortunately, not everyone can see the world through the same rose colored glasses that you do. If your experience has been different than mine, I respect your experience, I would hope you can respect mine. @fibromamaby3 @carlyoung

Batty

@YvonneMikulencak @lostandtired    I'm sure you are a perfectly nice person, but you cannot generalize what you think you know just because you have learned about ONE person with ASD.  Carly  Fleischmann is only one person with autism.  There is a truism about autism you need to know—each person with autism is like a snowflake and every snowflake is different.  I have 2 girls with autism and they are as different as they can be. I have an MEd with a specialization in autism.  People expect me to know a lot about autism and I do–about the people I know with autism.  To assume you know all about autism by watching a youtube video or three is insulting to all people with autism spectrum disorders and their parents.  I happen to be both.  I have Asperger syndrome and have 5 children with special needs.  So please learn more about ASD before making pronouncements on how a SN parent is wrong in what he FEELS about his child–you come across as arrogant when you do that.  But I do hope you continue to learn about ASD and other neuro differences.  The more educated society becomes, the better life can be for individuals living with differences.
Karen

Batty

And you continue to hold him close to your heart even as he is far away.

Carlyoung

My heart aches after reading your letter.  We had a staffing for Marc two days ago.  I think I told you about it.  They asked us "how did you do it for so long without support?" A word answer would suffice.  Love.  I also said… "if we knew then what we know now about Marc, we would still take him into our hearts and make him a part of our family."   Somethings are just worth it.
 
Marc is doing well in the facility placement.  He has started equine therapy.  His horse's name is Johnny.  Johnny is 28 years old.  As we come up on the anniversary of Marc's placement with us, I am of mixed feelings as to him being away from home.  My mind knows it is for the best, but my heart wants him home.

Pam Peyton Shadowens

God Bless you and your family. I am the parent of an Autistic son and our journey is much different than yours.I respect and admire you!! Pam Shadowens,

jjean3940

this is one of the most touching things I have ever read Rob.  What an amazing person you are!  You continue to act in Gavin's best interests- not one doubt in my mind that the judge made the absolute right decision.  for what that's worth.  Happy Gotcha Day to your whole family

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