Phil, the barber

Phil cutting C's hair Doctors, dentists, barbers — none are going to get very close to C's head. He ducks and lurches, bobs and weaves like Ali. His anxiety and sensitivity are so profound, in fact, that dental work requires general anesthesia.

That's why we're so grateful for Phil.

Phil works at our local barbershop. He's a sturdy middle-aged man, taciturn except for a few words delivered with a Ukranian accent. He has deep-set blue eyes, close-cropped gray hair, and large hands that belie their fluid dexterity.

And he's the one stranger C lets near his head.

The first time C had his hair cut by Phil, I preemptively let him know that C was a little different and might be a tricky customer. Phil said only, "Yes, yes, I know," and got to work.

Well, C did his usual ducking and weaving, dodging and bobbing, but somehow through it all Phil was able to deliver a haircut. And not any haircut, but a damn fine haircut. Wherever C's head went, Phil's scissors followed, like a small bird relentlessly stalking elusive prey. He stayed cool through it all, even chuckling a bit at C's giggling and wiggling. (Quite different from another barber's running, muttering commentary about C's behavior.)

C, a couple of years ago, enjoying a post-haircut lolli

We've seen Phil several times, and C has grown quite comfortable with him — so much so that his antics are much more subdued now. Not reacting seems to be a winning strategy after all.

The best part, however, is Phil's obvious affection for C. As I said, he's a man of few words, but I see his smile broaden ever so slightly when C hops into his chair.

Phil still hasn't gotten near C's neck with the trimmer, though. Maybe next time.


Postscript: I started writing this post after our last visit to the barber. During that time, a few people shared a wonderful story about a barber who went to incredible lengths to give his young autistic customer a haircut. Here's to this barber, Phil, and all the other people who go the extra mile for our kids.

A drawing by a friend

Sean Gallagher is many things to our family: friend, confidante, supporter, neighbor...emergency contact! He's also one of the grownups in C's life who always takes him in: when Sean visits, he gets down on C's level and greets him with great affection and humor, and C loves him for it (as do we, of course). So I was incredibly honored when Sean asked if he could do a drawing of C. But then I was blown away when I saw the drawing itself: a sublime portrait of C singing. Gratitude aplenty. Thank you, Sean.

A drawing of C singing in the shower, by Sean Gallagher

To see more of Sean's work, visit his website.

The twin bond

Sharing a moment, playing an app We didn’t experience the almost supernatural bond between our boys that many other twin parents talk about…the secret language, the shared connection.

In fact, what we experience most of the time is two kids who exist not just apart from one another, but in separate worlds. Two boys who share almost no interests, as different from one another as any siblings can be (physical similarities aside).

And yet there are these moments when a bond does make itself apparent, its existence indisputable. For example, seeing C revel in M's enjoyment of an iPad app (see photo above), or finding them sleeping together, arms and legs entangled, faces an inch or two apart.

I now know they are connected — perhaps not in that special twin way, if such a thing even exists. But I know that, despite my earlier fears, my boys love one another very much. Even a newfound sibling rivalry is welcomed, because it means engagement, entanglement, connection.

And, once again, I find myself letting go of “normal" or “typical.” (What is normal or typical anyway?) Instead, when I can let go of those expectations, I find myself open to experiencing something else, something even better.


C in respose I have not always been the most grateful person. In fact, when I used to hear people talk about how gratitude was a gift, I thought they were being a bit disingenuous.

Then, over the span of a few years, a lot of stuff went wrong. I lost dear friends and family, both to untimely deaths and departures. C developed serious health issues, and developmental issues followed soon after. My career was foundering, and financial worries came along for the ride.

But then. Nestled in among the bad stuff was a lot of great stuff. Some of it was new, a lot of it was old, things I just hadn’t noticed before. (Maybe because, you know, I wasn’t looking for it.)

A good portion of my cynicism faded away. My sense of outrage mellowed. I realized that, compared to most people on this small rock, I’m doing pretty damn great, even after taking the bad stuff into consideration. When I looked at it that way, I realized I’m a pretty lucky guy.

So I’m grateful.

Life isn’t meant to be easy or fair. It’s not necessarily meant to be anything, in my opinion. It is, as they say, what you make of it.

So I’m trying to make mine a life of gratitude. (Wish me luck.)

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!


I've written about this before, recently even. But it's worth repeating.

There's a different C that most people don't see, and this is the C who comes out when it's quiet. I mean, really quiet. And not just when it's quiet, but when we're quiet.

Instead of unresponsiveness, C answers. Instead of silly talk, he is frank and funny, and sometimes poetic. For example, just after I took the photo above I asked him what he was doing (he was so intent and still, very unusual for him), and he said, "I'm listening to the quiet."

Quiet. It's hard to come by. But it's worth it when you can find it.