Yesterday I learned that someone very vital to the progression of my life had died. In this post I will not use names because those that know him will know who I am talking about and if you don't know him, well, maybe someday someone will think of you the same way I think of him...
It was May 2004 and my life was not going the way I thought it was going to. I had just gotten my diagnosis six months prior and my racing career was stuck in neutral. Things were not going well at all. Then, for reasons I still don't know how or why, and when I think about it to this day I still don't understand why it happened, this man suggested I come to what is now called TouchPoint and give a presentation. Today this is a normal event, back then I was not talkative at all except when it came to auto racing and perhaps that is why this man suggested I come and give a presentation on racing.
I had 90 minutes to fill and because I was talking about racing it was barely enough. Never had I talked to a group for so long, well, I had never spoke in front of a group. There were times when my thought process stumbled, but this man and the group never let me hit the ground. If I stuttered trying to come up with something to say they asked a question that I could easily answer. Again, why was I giving a presentation at a autism center? I still don't know, but it was an amazing 90 minutes and while the effects were not felt right away, the confidence from that stayed with me and would later allow me to do what I do today.
Time progressed and I started to write and my dad shared my unedited stuff with him and it truly shook him with the insight I was providing. As I began writing I put no merit into that my work had any relevance at all and I believed that all in all it was worthless. Despite my beliefs on this hearing my dad explain the impact it had on him made me have a slight doubt on my belief of worthlessness.
Eventually my book was released and he was at my first book signing event and bought, I think, the 3rd copy I ever sold in person. He also was at my 2nd presentation as an employee of TouchPoint. I find it odd that he was always there, in a way, and yet I barely spoke to him. Conversing outside the 90 minute racing presentation, or presentation at TouchPoint, I never actually had a conversation with him.
In my presentations I speak, sometimes, about being allowed to be the host of the flashcards in 2nd grade as a major point in my life and until I heard the news yesterday of his passing I forgot about the racing presentation here. Of course everything in my life had to happen just so, but he opened the door in my older age that put me in front of a group. Confidence in critical for those on the spectrum and he took what I was afraid of (talking) and combined it with what I loved above all else and made it an environment that I could not fail in. How great is that?
As great as it was I never thanked him for that. I can present all day and all night but I am not the best at conversations that involve thanking someone. Don't get me wrong, the emotions are there, but there is such a wall preventing me from expressing it.
There have been, and I'm sure will be more, people that have given me a chance and have provided me a forum to grow. There will always one instance I remember at the top of the list and that is the time I got to speak in front of a group about racing. Without those 90 minutes I would not be who I am today. I may still have written my book, but my presentations, this blog, and my work with TouchPoint surely would not have occurred. Knowing this, and knowing that I never thanked him for that is going to be with me for some time I fear. Because of this I want to say that if you have ever played a role in a person on the spectrum's life and they have not thanked you please know we are grateful. I'm grateful beyond words and I'm afraid that this remembrance is lacking in the power it deserves.
So, there are no words with which I feel are worthy enough to end this. How do I for the person that opened that allowed me to go down the path and become who I am today? Well, maybe there just two and I never told him this and I have to live with that but, "Thank you!"