Some time ago I took care of this lovely giant soul with Autism. He was the most profound case I had. He carried his world around his shoulders and entry was difficult it took time and gentleness, great gentleness. Now I had met both his mother (a sweetheart) and his father (a Fierce Creature). His Dad was a loud strong German-American, baggage handler and sportsman who fished and hunted with the best of them. Quite a character. Not a man to be toyed with. What I could safely call a type A personality. You better have your ducks in a row if you came to tangle with him…and odds are he would still find a way to blow you out of the water. Unless he loved you, and then the gates of hell wouldn’t stand in his way to protect you.On more than one occasion he came to bat for me and by God, when this ‘Fierce Creature” stood up for you nobody stood in his way. He was a godsend.
Then one day I noticed this picture of a Huge Lion in cross- stitch hanging in their home and asked him about it. And once again I was so amazed by the hand of God. It seems this gruff loud man had grown up amidst some pretty rough poverty and parenting and as a young man. And at 12-13yrs old he had found himself roaming the edges of the Brookside valley in Cleveland, off West 25th. The neighborhood which for him included the old ‘Brookside Zoo” in Cleveland. Well he wandered down there repeatedly and found himself fascinated by the Lion. Well he finally found a way into that old Lion’s area and from the minute he touched the creature he felt a kinship that the Lion relaxed and so did my friend. Probably for the 1st time in his life. The Boy had found something that soothed his soul, and it was that Lion. Soon enough the keeper discovered him there and quietly explained he would have to leave. Afterwards he told the young boy he’d never seen such a thing and if he wanted to come back and help out with and visit the lion it would be OK, but just between them.
He treasured that his whole life. It was the start of one of the things he felt dearest about and while his wife had heard the story she was still amazed years later when visiting a zoological attraction, (I think African Safari in Port Clinton) he was found once again in a cage with “Clarence” the cross eyed Lion…another Lion who recognized twin soul.
Years later when I was trying to get my Buddy with Autism in the car for a road trip to the Library, when suddenly he became annoyed and his Dad, (that type A, that fierce creature) came quickly to the car and talked his “Sweetie”, (my buddy) back into calmness. I could see that, literally this man was putting his grippers on his very own nature to get aggravated, but he clamped down on his own feelings long enough to calmly reassure my Buddy that every little thing was OK and he was going to have a great time. It was a miracle of seeing a “Type A” morph into a gentle giant himself. Amazing. This life. Then I realized just how lucky this young man with Autism was… to have such a strong yet capable of such great tenderness Dad. No wonder that old Lion loved him, he recognized a fierce creature just like himself. And I recognized a miracle, the miracle of someone loving someone so much that they change their very way of being to make the other comfortable and reassured and safe. This truly is what is called ” A Man’s Man”. Amen.