On that day we promised “for better or worse, in sickness and in health,” I don’t know about you, but I figured on more better, more health. A couple of decades later, and we’ve had more than our share of sickness and worse. Neither of us had the first inkling of what our lives together would be like.

Parenting our son with disabilities and multiple medical conditions wasn’t what we anticipated so many years ago, but you’ve stepped right up to the plate, and been exactly the father our children need.

Sometimes I wonder if you see your friends coaching soccer teams and playing hoops in the driveway with their kids while we’re busy running to doctors and therapists, and wonder if you feel left out or sad. If so, you hide it well.

Your friend’s wives have all returned to work, they bring in a pretty nice income, and can buy and do things we can’t because I’m not able to work outside the home. I wonder if you wish it could be that way. If you would like that extra income instead of a wife who is a full-time mother and caregiver. If so, you never let on.

We have to tag team to care for children who still need constant adult supervision well into their tweens and teens instead of enjoying nights out and vacations like our peers. I know you wish we could have fun like that, but you don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself.

You cheerfully build whatever adaptive equipment I suggest, you invest in specialized bicycles, toys, beds, toilets, you name it, and you never seem put out. In fact, I sense that you’re proud to provide for your kids in this way.

I hear you brag about your children and tell their stories. You are raising awareness about their abilities and disabilities just by being a proud dad.

I know we didn’t plan for this, but you have risen to the occasion and then some, and in so doing, you have stolen my heart. Again.

I fell in love with you as a young man, carefree and unfettered. I fell in love with you again as a father, responsible and conscientious. As a special needs dad, you have swept me off my feet yet again, but this time, not in that charming way of youth, but in your reliability, your teamwork, your solid strength that is the perfect accompaniment to my own. You have dazzled me with your patience and resourcefulness and this bond we have goes deeper than whatever naïve vision I had as that pastor officiated our vows.

No, this isn’t what we had in mind. It is infinitely more complex, intimate, and vulnerable and real than I ever could have dreamed.

Alethea Mshar

Alethea Mshar is a mother of four children; an adult child who passed away of a drug overdose, one typical daughter and two sons who have Down syndrome, one of whom has autism spectrum disorder and complex medical needs. She has written "What Can I Do To Help", a guide to stepping into the gap when someone you know has a child diagnosed with cancer, which is available on Amazon, and is publishing a memoir titled, "Hope Deferred". She can be found on Twitter as leemshar, and blogs for The Mighty HuffPost as Alethea Mshar, as well as her own blog, Ben's Writing Running Mom on https://benswritingrunningmom.wordpress.com/. She is also on Facebook as Alethea Mshar, The Writing, Running Mom.