The Latin is “milia passuum,” meaning a thousand paces. The Romans also erected stone markers at mile intervals to notify the passerby of distances covered or the number of miles to go to reach their destination.

The Lower Merion Historical Society

We sat in our chairs among other parents, siblings, grandparents, and friends. The gymnasium was filled with nervous energy as we waited for the ceremony to begin.

It was a day that we weren’t sure would ever happen. For 10 years, my son struggled with unrelenting seizures, medication side effects, and behavioral issues. After he was stabilized, although never seizure-free, he faced social and intellectual challenges in learning environments tailored for students who were not like him. At the same time, my wife and I fought school districts that seemed motivated to make him disappear. That was until we found his current school.

For the past 3 years, he was in a place where he belonged. He was in a place that saw him for who he was and celebrated it. He was surrounded by peers on similar journeys and was able to bond, make friendships, and learn. When we received the results of his recent neuropsychology test, it showed progress. He was below his grade level, but there was progress. After his testing a few years ago, the doctors predicted only regression. We started looking at functional schools, assuming the academics would be too challenging. That was until we found his current school.

As I took it in, Pomp and Circumstance began playing, and the room collectively turned to face the door. Our son, dressed in his blue suit and tie that matched the school colors, led the procession of 8th-grade graduates to the stage.

I looked at the faces of the families around me in the gym. I listened as they spoke about their experiences with the school and how proud they were of their children for reaching this milestone. My heart swelled as I watched the video the school made, combining pictures and videos of the students being interviewed about what they learned and what they would take away from their experience at the school.

When it was time to hand out diplomas, I walked to the back of the room and hid behind my camera. I’ve gotten to know many of the graduates and their families, and I knew it would be emotional for everyone.

There is a tradition at the school where the teachers put together an acrostic poem using each student’s name. As each student stood on the stage, teachers took parts to read. Every line of every poem showed how well they knew each student with a great mix of pride, humor, and recognition.

My son was the last to the stage. He stood tall as he climbed the steps, but I could tell he was nervous. The anticipation of this day and this moment had been building for weeks. As he stood to the side, the teachers read his poem, which, appropriately, included a Marvel reference. He looked so happy when he received his graduation certificate, and he and his teachers exchanged big, warm hugs.

And then it was done. Students, faculty, and families came together and filled the gym with love, and pride, and gratitude. I found my son in the crowd and he fell into my arms as I gave him a long hug. My wife came over and we all embraced and shared the moment as a family.

There are milestones and there are MILESTONES, and this was definitely the latter. It is a moment set in stone to let us know how far we have come along our journey, even if we don’t know how far we have to go.

Where Do We Go From Here

I’m coming up on the 8th anniversary of the Epilepsy Dad blog. That’s more than 200 posts documenting our journey since my son was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2014.

The beginning of that journey was pure chaos. We were coming through nearly losing our son when the doctors couldn’t control his seizures when I wrote my first post. I captured the endless and severe side effects of the medications we tried. I shared our experiences with therapy as my son lost control of his emotions. I documented every attempt to control seizures, from CBD to the VNS, that were never able to silence them fully. And I captured not just my son’s challenges but the impact that this complicated condition had on my family and me.

Admittedly, the last few years have been sporadic with posts. I’ll get the inspiration to write when we reach a new milestone or when we encounter a new setback, but largely it’s gotten more difficult to find that inspiration because our life feels pretty settled.

Settled. It’s a strange word to be using. My son still seizes every day. He still takes handfuls of pills multiple times a day. He still struggles in school, socially, and emotionally. His future is still uncertain. From the outside, it must look anything like being settled. But this is our normal. This is our every day, and less and less does anything happen outside that normal.

That’s not to say that we don’t celebrate the exceptions when they do happen, no matter how small. A good report from his teachers or doctors. A hit at a baseball game. A dominant win at Uno. We also have the good fortune to have had amazing experiences and see interesting places. In many ways, we’ve worked hard to get to this place so that this could become our normal, in spite of the challenges.

But where do we go from here?

When I sat down to write, my intention was to make that question about the blog. What else is there to write about? What other part of our story was there to write about when most days feel like a re-run of the previous day?

It was different when the blog started. I used this blog as a way to process my thoughts and feelings about my son’s diagnosis when every day brought new challenges, or when I was reacting to a new obstacle or achievement. It felt like every day there was something to write about, then it was every week, then every month. And now, I’m writing about how there isn’t much to write about.

As I pondered that thought about the blog, though, the act of writing down my thoughts changed to thinking about the future of my son and our family. So much of the last few years have been reactionary, but now we’re trying to shift our gaze from looking backwards to looking forward. From being reactive to being proactive.

Where do we go from here? Forward. Where we go from here is to experience what is ahead of us. Where we go from here is unwritten and unknown, but it is also something we can influence and contains the potential that we can work towards. And maybe, there will be something to write about.

I don’t plan on shutting the blog down, but posts may not be as frequent as we step into the future. But I hope you’ll check in. I hope you’ll be in touch, whether its leaving a comment or sending me an e-mail. And I hope, wherever you are in your journey, that when you find your normal, you can be grateful for the progress, make the most out of every single moment in the present, and be hopeful and intentional about the future.

Walls and Doors

A few weeks ago, we attended the yearly fundraising event for my son’s school. The event was an opportunity to interact with other parents, teachers, faculty, and board members and to collectively celebrate that a place exists for kids like my son.

This year, the guest speaker was a Hollywood movie producer who attended the same school when he was my son’s age. The producer accepted the school’s Achievement Award and gave an emotional speech about how much the school helped him learn and grow and how it changed how he felt about himself and his outlook on the future.

Earlier in the day, he spent time with the kids, including my son. The kids worked together to create movie pitches and presented them to the producer. My son came home beaming, feeling proud of himself for his accomplishment, and also because the producer gave my son the inside scoop that there would be another Captain America movie.

We didn’t learn all the details until we spoke with one of my son’s teachers at the fundraising event. He often has a hard time remembering and sharing details, but his teacher was so proud of him, and we were equally proud and grateful that the producer had spent time with the children.

In his speech, the producer talked about his experience with the kids. He said it reminded him of what it was like to find a place like this school after struggling for so long in other schools. He looked at the faces of the kids and wanted to inspire them and show them that, even though they have challenges, with a loving family and by the right support, anything was possible.

When he said that, I felt a light come on.

I think a lot about my son’s future. I wonder what he will be capable of, and what options will be available to him. Often, those thoughts are about the things he won’t be able to do because I see how much he struggles today. But I think a part of that is because we traveled so much in the unknown, without the type of support that schools like this provide. Based on our experience, the unknown is dark and scary, and we spent so many years navigating potential futures in that dark, feeling around for a way out.

When it’s that dark, everything feels like a wall.

But that moment in the producer’s speech when the light came on made me think about how much our life has changed in the last few years. Our new home in our new town, my son’s new friends, and my son’s new school have all changed his life. They’ve changed our life. The school, in particular, has given him a sense of belonging in a safe space and the tools he needs to learn. He is surrounded by other kids like him. He is being taught in a way that works for him. And now, he’s seeing examples of what other kids like him have done.

The school has provided light in the dark, and, for the first time, we can see a little further ahead.

It’s because of that light that, for the first time, we can see that we’re not just surrounded by walls. We can see doors, too.