On February 19, 1993, Kim and I were blessed with the arrival of our second child, a son, Coleman Bradford Pyles. Hannah, who was 2 1/2 years-old at the time, was thrilled to welcome a baby brother into our family. Hannah had already been such an incredible blessing in our lives and had brought us so much joy; having a “matched set” was almost too good to be true. We imagined a future with a house filled with the noise, activity, and laughter of the four or five children we hoped to have.
Coleman’s diagnosis with Dubowitz Syndrome at the age of five months and an additional diagnosis of autism a few years later significantly changed our hopes and expectations for the future. I think that Kim and I both began making the necessary mental adjustments immediately, although I would unfortunately be about a decade and a half behind her in emotionally processing what this meant for him and for our family. Hannah was a sharp little girl, and it didn’t take her long to realize that her little brother was different from most; she quickly took on roles far beyond her years as a tender guardian and fearless defender of Baby Coleman.
I’ll spare you the details of the struggles, heartaches, advances, and setbacks of the early years: more hospitalizations and pneumonias than I can count, trips to NIH, bone marrow aspirations, years of Neupogen injections, Cerebral Palsy Center, Easter Seals Center, orthotics, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and special education.
We have weathered many storms over the years, but, even through the worst of it, there was always plenty for which we could be grateful. We were a family; as odd and irregular as we were, we were still a family. While others cannot fully understand our circumstances unless they have walked this particular, peculiar road, we have always been blessed with friends and a church family who were sensitive to Coleman’s needs, as well as to those of our family.
I have watched in amazement for 19 years as Coleman has softened and stolen hearts, broken down barriers, loosened people up (who seriously needed loosening up!), and became a perennial teacher’s pet. He has trained and entrapped countless people into doing his bidding, whether it was whistling or producing other sound effects for him, quoting movie lines, or supplying him with hamburgers, Dr. Pepper, Skittles, and Lucky Charms.
Coleman has accomplished all of this without saying a word; “Mama” remains the only word he has ever spoken. If my “accomplishments per word” ratio were as great as Coleman’s, I would be the recipient of several Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes by now. I’ve talked a lot!
Coleman is the happiest person I know. His laughter is infectious. His cleverness and ingenuity are amazing. His perseverance is inspiring. He is sweet. He is gentle. He is affectionate. He has overcome the fear of simple things (but extremely terrifying things to him) like hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, electric clippers, escalators, and horses, although he remains very uncomfortable around dogs and cats. I’m with him on the cats!
He has been blessed with the best mother and the best big sister God could have ever given him.
Happy birthday, Coleman! Your Dad is so proud of you!