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The last few years have been pretty tough on the family – we lost so many in so little time and unexpectedly. It almost seemed like we were cursed with all the tears and so many hearts to heal. This year was a bit different and we are all still here, and although there are those who continue to cope with different ailments, we are pretty much okay.

This year was a big one for my Nick. This year he finally “got” the whole birthday thing and he enjoyed Halloween and was the cutest Superman I have ever seen. The words started flowing and he is communicating so much better. Just the other day he said “good morning” to a neighbor who was in the elevator with us. I had to prompt him, but he looked at her and said it. I don’t think she realized what a big moment that was. He uses “I want” when he needs something and he is doing great in school. My Facebook cover page says “Words Will Come,” but I think I have to change that now.

I have met and become closer to new friends who are on the same journey as Nick and I. These women who understand what it means to raise a child with Autism. We laugh together over a meal and drinks or just talk about our children – sometimes we shed tears of sadness but mostly of joy. As an adult I can’t remember the last time I met someone who I can genuinely call a friend. I have never been the type to give anyone the title of “best friend” and I still don’t because my real friends are more like family. These new friends – and you know who you are – are a blessing to me and they are now and will always be my family.

On Thanksgiving night when we sit around the table with my family and share the amazing meal prepared by my dear mother, I cannot help but feel blessed to still have her and my father here on earth and hope that we have many more years together.

Health, Words, Family.

And for that I am grateful.

Marisol Vendrell is a life-long New York City resident and works as a legal assistant for a midsize Manhattan firm. She is the single mom to a seven-year-old boy named Nicholas who is diagnosed with Autism. She is the co-founder of the Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle, a parent support group for Bronx parents, and is a CUNY SPS student working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Disability Studies

Recently I read an FB status on a friend’s page that asked what a panic attack felt like and I smiled in sympathy. I wanted to reply and describe it, but I didn’t want to take up that much space. I recently experienced my first panic attack.CherylAtwell_Charlie

Now if you’ve been a reader for a while you are wondering, well why did you have a panic attack? Finding out you are the grandmother of a five day old infant can do that to you. Looking back, it’s a really funny story. It was about 8:30 pm on a Friday evening. I was puttering around my kitchen, wine glass in hand, when my eighteen year old son ‘S.’s seventeen year old girlfriend ‘A.’ called me up. We both said ‘hi’. Then she said, “S. said I should talk to you because you give really good advice. He said you gave him good advice about our dog a couple of weeks ago.”

“Sure,” I said, “I love dispensing advice, what’s up?”

A: “So we had this baby right, and I don’t know what to do.”

Me: “A baby what?”

A: “A baby!”

Me: “A puppy?”

A: “No a baby girl.”

Me: “Whose is it? Are you babysitting?”

A: “No, it’s our baby. Me and S. had a baby girl a few days ago.”

Me (sounding very stupid by now): “You and S had a baby girl a few days ago?”

A: “Yes, and I needed some advice from someone on what to do about it and S. wanted me to call you.” Here I think she said something else, but I couldn’t really hear her anymore.

Me: “Ok. Let me call you back. Just stay by the phone and give me a few minutes and I promise I’ll call you right back. In, like, a few minutes.”

Somewhere in the middle of that last sentence is when the panic set in and the attack began. My hand was shaking so hard I could hardly hold the phone. My heart felt like it would beat out of my chest, or be squeezed to a complete stop by the increasing tightness. My throat was closing up and I realized there were tears falling because I felt them scalding my face. Both my son T. and his dad J., my significant other, were staring at me with panicked looks on their faces. I hung up the phone and ran past them to the bathroom. J. followed me in and shut the door.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“S. had a baby girl!” I squeaked. I grabbed his shirt tightly with both hands and burst into loud crying. If he hadn’t been holding me so tightly I think I might have crashed to the floor, I could hardly breathe.

He let me cry for a while and when I finally began to wind down, he said, “You have a right to feel upset and cry, but you need to get it together and call those kids back. Can you imagine how scared they are right now? And they called you for help. Go call her back, and go get the baby if you need to, everything will be fine.” He was right of course and hearing him say it, I started to feel much better and calm down.

I washed my face and then as he walked out of the bathroom, my mother knocked on the door. He let her in and directed her to the bathroom. As soon as I saw her, I burst into tears again, having an ‘I-need-my-mommy-moment.’ And although that lasted all of about 90 seconds, it helped me get an immediate perspective on how it must feel to be a seventeen year old girl with an issue like this and no one to talk to. I told my mom what was going on and she said essentially the same thing J. had. I just felt all the hurt, anger, and disappointment drain out of me to be replaced by something like a steely resolve. I went back to the kitchen (and my wine!) and called A. back and arranged to pick them and the baby up the next morning.

CherylAtwell_KhevShe was with us for a few weeks until her parents got themselves situated. Now I am officially a grandmother to a beautiful baby girl named Charlie. Whew, I said it! I guess I’ll be writing lots of infant articles now, between her and my niece. I can’t wait to pick her up and meet up with my sister and niece to shop for baby girl dresses, shoes, hair bows and pink everything!

Cheryl is a student at CUNY School of Professional Studies and the mother of three boys.  A former office manager, she currently writes a blog about her adventures in parenting called  In her spare time she likes to check out fun new places and things to do with children for her readers.