Chicken Nuggets & French Fries Forever
by Sheryl Wilde
Dylan was born with massive brain damage. Steve, his father, was already struggling with alcohol at the time. And having Dylan threw him over the edge.
“The doctors, they really didn’t tell me what was going on. I just knew Dylan had massive brain damage. When I asked questions about Dylan and his prognosis, the doctors kept saying, ‘We don’t know. We don’t have a crystal ball.’
“I wanted to know, ‘Will he ever walk? Will he ever talk? Will he ever be able to smile at me?’ But they wouldn’t tell me. They didn’t want to give me false hope. But what they didn’t realize is that they gave me no hope.
“I kept asking myself, ‘Why do I have a child like this?’ It took some soul searching to realize that was my own fear. I wasn’t really mad for Dylan; I had my own selfish fears.
“After Dylan’s birth, I went into a downward spiral and I became homeless. I was just gone. I was mad at God. I woke up every day, living on the street, not knowing what to do with my life.”
Steve recalls one day, when he was homeless, he went to see Dylan. “I was very down. Very down. But Dylan took my hand and lifted it up. He kept lifting my hand, putting it toward the window, and holding it up in the sunlight.
“Here was Dylan, I think he was about six at the time. He was in this condition – in a wheelchair, unable to walk or talk, or move anything except his right arm. And here he was, lifting my hand toward the window, and into the sunlight. I felt it was a sign. I felt like he was trying to tell me something. I felt like he was trying to tell me to feel the ray of light from God.”
Steven’s downward spiral continued until, one day, he was sitting alone, outside in the rain. “I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I felt broken. I was at the end of my rope. I decided right then and there to make a prayer to God. I prayed to God to help me and to guide me, because I was broken and I couldn’t do it alone.
“I made that prayer to God on February 20th, 2005. And from that day on, my path was clear as to what to do and how to get help. And I did get help. I got sober and everything changed. I got Dylan back into my life. I started my own business, bought a home. And I married Dylan’s mother.
“When I got back into Dylan’s life, there were times I swear, when I was struggling, and though he can’t speak, he would just look at me and his eyes would say, “Everything’s okay, dad.”
“Getting a second chance at being able to be a good father to Dylan – it’s enough,” continues Steve. “It’s a great gift.”
Daniel Enciso is the QIDP/A at MSCH – San Diego, Tangelo house. “Steve is a great dad. Unfortunately, he is the only dad in all of my houses that is really involved his child’s life. He comes every Sunday to visit Dylan.”
“There are special moments every time I see Dylan,” adds Steve. “He gives me kisses.
“I was a singer in a band many years ago. So, Dylan was exposed to that and he likes music very much. Very much. My band, Pistol Dawn, played hard rock, grunge metal, like Alice in Chains, Sound Garden, Creed. So, Dylan was exposed to that. That’s what he likes.
“I’ve always had guitars. I’ve always had the music.”
Adds Daniel, “The music, even though it’s hard rock, really calms Dylan down. I think it’s because it reminds him of his dad.”
“Music is Dylan’s happy place,” adds Steve. “Every night, I used to climb into Dylan’s bunk bed and I would always take the music. I always had the music. I made up all these songs and I’d sing them to him. Then we’d have tickle time and that would wind him down for bed.”
“Dylan’s favorite toy has always been the Mozart Cube,” says Steve. “He’s always had one, since he was young. It’s a little cube, with lights, that plays Mozart songs. He knows when the batteries are getting weak, and since he can’t speak, he’ll throw it. That’s his form of communication. So, he’s had many Mozart Cubes.
“Another of Dylan’s favorites is McDonald’s. He likes Chicken Nuggets, and he loves McDonald’s french fries. He likes the french fries more than the nuggets. There’s a definite ratio. If you try to sneak in a Chicken Nugget before it’s time, he’ll reject it. He’s going to eat at least six fries before he’ll eat a nugget. He knows what he likes.”
Tragedy struck again in Steve’s life, when, in 2016, Dylan’s mother died. “She had become an alcoholic,” says Steve. “She died because of it.”
His wife’s death was the catalyst for putting Dylan into a home. “I couldn’t take care of Dylan. I couldn’t do it by myself. It was a very hard decision. It’s still hard.
“Sometimes when you’re a parent of a disabled child, you start weighing things out in your brain. I was like, ‘Maybe I can take care of him if I work fewer hours.’ But then you realize you can’t even go to the store and leave him alone. You become almost a ward of the state yourself. Dylan needs total care, 24/7. He can’t be left alone.
“We arranged to have Dylan put into a home. There were a multitude of issues there. They didn’t buy him clothes. He was in the same clothes that he went in there wearing for years. He looked dirty all the time. He wasn’t strapped into his wheelchair properly. Sometimes I would go visit and he would be alone – and I couldn’t find the caregiver anywhere.”
“My partner, Nadine, was instrumental in finding Mountain Shadows,” says Steve. “She was the catalyst and is the reason Dylan is now living there. She is like Dylan’s own mother.
“Since Dylan moved into Mountain Shadows, everything has changed. After he moved into the new home, the first time I visited him, his whole demeanor had changed. He had life back in his eyes!
“In the other home, I think they over medicated him to make it easier on themselves. When I visited him, he had a look like, ‘Get me out of here!’ He doesn’t have that look anymore. Now, it’s a look like, ‘Change the song before you leave, dad.’ He’s very content at Mountain Shadows.
“The staff is just great. When I visit, Dylan, he’s always smiling. He looks like he’s been showered, like people are paying attention to him. Mountain Shadows is so much better!
“Dylan has brought depth and meaning to my life. Before I didn’t appreciate life.
“Despite his many challenges, Dylan is so joyful! I used to joke that if I get into heaven, it will be because I’m holding Dylan.
“Having Dylan in my life is the best Father’s Day gift I could ask for.
“Before I became homeless, I thought it was a cold, ruthless world. But then there were people who would come by and ask me, “Are you okay? Do you need something to eat?” It’s those little lanterns of light that just outshine any darkness.
“It is my hope that Dylan will grow more and more, and become as independent as God is willing. I just want him to be happy and cared for, and shown love.
“And, when I’m not around, someone’s gotta bring him a Mozart Cube, some Chicken Nuggets and some fries. I’m putting that in my will. I’m going to have a fund setup and I’ll hire someone, and forever they will bring Dylan Chicken Nuggets and french fries.
“That’s the least we can do for him.”