Joan Flores

@joan-flores | contributor
I am a stay-at-home mom to 3 beautiful children. I have a blog page at thisausomefamily.wordpress.com. I also have a Facebook page at facebook.com/thisausomefamily.
Joan Flores

When a Barber Fulfilled His Promise to My Son With Autism and Me

Back in May, I wrote about my son Michael’s barber, Freddy. I had jokingly but sort of seriously said that I would fly Freddy back and forth from New Jersey to Virginia after we moved just to cut Michael’s hair, if I had unlimited funds. Freddy read that post, and it touched him. He made the amazing offer to me that when we moved, he would drive to Virginia to cut Michael’s hair. I was absolutely stunned and speechless at such an generous gesture. Sometimes people say things they will do just as a kind gesture. Even if they never follow through, the fact that they offered is a lot to be thankful for. Freddy did follow through. Freddy and his wife, Chaquira, made the trip from New Jersey to fulfill the promise he made to us. This was after he worked in his shop all day until 8:30 p.m. They left New Jersey at 9:30 p.m. They drove all night and arrived here in Virginia at 5 a.m. They slept for a few hours, and then he texted me saying he would be here when I wanted because his day was dedicated to us. When they got here, my husband, Jason, gave them a tour of our new home. Then Freddy got down to business. Even though the venue changed and he was cutting Michael’s hair in my backyard, nothing else changed. There were lots of laughs. Michael made sure to remind Freddy to not cut his ears off. That is a reminder Freddy gets every time from Michael, from day one. And he sat, as he has from their first meeting, and let Freddy cut his hair. Of course, no cut with Freddy would be complete without a spray paint of color. That is Michael’s favorite part, and Freddy didn’t disappoint. My daughter, Jordan, also got into the act this time as well. Orange hair for all! Freddy said something a few weeks back on one of my Facebook posts that really hit home with me. Freddy, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m sharing it here. He said: “Some clients are clients, some clients become friends, some clients become family. I thank God I had the opportunity to meet Joan Leigh Flores and her family and gratefully consider them part of mine.” Freddy, my friend, my family: I have said it before. No words can properly express my gratitude for what you have done. You are one of kind, you are generous, you are amazing and I am forever grateful that our paths crossed. Follow this journey on This Ausome Family. The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe a moment you gave or received a gift that touched your life in a special way. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Joan Flores

When My Son's Barber Gave Us a Gift I Might Never Be Able to Repay

If you are an autism parent, you might already know how difficult and utterly exhausting getting your child’s hair cut can be. My son, Michael’s, first cut was a horrible experience for both of us. After that first cut, we were both ruined for a while. I decided I would start cutting it myself. He still cried. It was still exhausting, and it still took the rest of the day for him to recuperate every single time. Over time things got better with me cutting, but I am no barber. It always looked OK, but it definitely could have used professional help. One day driving through town, I noticed a barbershop I’d never seen before. I took my other son, David, first. I met Freddy. He did a really good job, and David was comfortable. I thought for a bit and decided I would take Michael. I expected to walk out in tears. When we got there, I explained that Michael has autism and really didn’t like cuts from anyone. Freddy talked to him. He joked with him and made him comfortable. I was in shock. We have always gone back. Michael actually asks to go back. So when we decided we were going to move, it hit me. I would have to find a new barber for Michael. The thought turned my stomach. The level of trust he built with Freddy doesn’t come easily. Now we would have to start all over. Last time I got Michael’s hair cut, I jokingly (but seriously too) wrote on Facebook that if I had unlimited funds I would fly Freddy back and forth just to cut Michael’s hair. Freddy and I are friends on Facebook, and he saw that post. Well, this weekend I went to get Michael’s hair cut. As we were getting ready to leave, Freddy asked when we were moving. I told him in the the beginning of July. He said to me, “My wife and I talked. We will go down to Virginia before the school year starts so I can cut Michael’s hair.” I thought I was hearing things. I must have looked like a deer in the headlights and I obviously thought that he was joking. As a matter of fact, I must have asked six or seven times if he was. He was not. He was serious. He also was not already planning to go to Virginia. The purpose of his trip, from New Jersey to Virginia, would be to cut Michael’s hair. How do you thank someone for a gift like that? How do you make them understand just how much the gesture means? I still am not sure. Dinner? A gift certificate? A kidney, maybe? For now, this post is my thanks to you, Freddy. You have no idea what this means to me… what it will mean to Michael. You have shown a level of kindness that I don’t know I could ever repay you for. Both of those pictures were taken after Michael’s very first visit to Freddy’s. A version of this post originally appeared on This Ausome Family. The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one moment someone in your life performed an act of kindness for you or your loved one with a disability or disease? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

Joan Flores

My Dad Died Before My Wedding Day. He Still Made It Incredible.

October 4, 2002. My birthday. After eight years of dating, my boyfriend, Jason, asked me to marry him. My whole family was ecstatic, especially my parents. My dad wanted to throw us an engagement party right away. November 7, 2002. Our engagement party. We were surrounded by family and friends. It was a wonderful day. You could see how happy everyone was for us. Again, especially my dad. He made sure everything was just right. In the days that followed, we made wedding plans. We decided November 1, 2003, would be our wedding day. Jason, my parents and I went to visit a few wedding venues. Our second trip was to a place called the Colonial Inn. When we walked in the “chapel” where the ceremony would take place, my eyes lit up. Much to my surprise, my dad’s did too. He said, “I can see you getting married here.” And with that, our venue was reserved. One rainy December night, my mom and I decided on a whim to take a trip to the local bridal salon just to look around. I remember the consultant saying, “Very few people just look. Many times they buy a dress right on the spot.” I thought to myself, “ Yeah whatever, lady. I am just looking.” Well, she was right. We walked out with everything that night. We got the dress, veil, tiara… the works. When we got back to my parents’ that evening, I tried on everything for my dad. It was an emotional moment for both of us. He loved the dress. January 28, 2003. My mom called me. She said something was wrong with my dad, and she asked if I could please come to their apartment. Things were bad when I arrived. He was talking but wasn’t making sense. He had lost all feeling in his left side. In the days and weeks that followed, we endured a variety of diagnoses and several hospital transfers. In the end my dad was diagnosed with acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), an extremely rare autoimmune disease that attacks the myelin sheath, the protective layer of the brain. The disease had already done a lot of damage. He had to endure surgeries, tests and more tests. He spent the bulk of his time in the ICU at the hospital. We sat together every day watching monitors and listening to machines. March 1, 2003. I received the phone call that would change my life. My dad had passed away. Immediately, I wanted to cancel the wedding. It was only eight months away. I remember my mom telling me, “Absolutely not.” She said my dad would have wanted our day to go on as planned. My parents, Jason and me at our engagement party. This is the last picture of my dad and me together. November 1, 2003. Our wedding day. My dad never got to walk me down the aisle as we planned, but he was a big part of my day in so many other ways. He got to see me in my dress and he helped choose where I would be married. And I believe that he was looking down on me on that day, the day he made possible. For that, I am forever grateful. The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe a memory with a loved one that you didn’t realize meant so much to you until they passed away. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to community@themighty.com. Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Want to celebrate the human spirit? Like us on Facebook . And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night .

Joan Flores

The Time My Son Made Me Smile After a Tough IEP Day

Yesterday was IEP day. It always causes me anxiety and stress. In the days leading up to it, I try to mentally prepare myself for it. I have to admit, I can’t say I have really ever had a bad experience. For that, I am grateful. I really do feel that his team has always had his best interests at heart. It is just the whole process that puts me on edge. It makes me feel… anxious, uneasy and uncomfortable. I have always attended the meetings alone. Unless of course you count last year. Jordan, my 6-year-old at the time, had to come with me. I jokingly called her my “Little Enforcer.” Yesterday’s meeting went well. He got the services I believe he needs. The part that gets me is hearing about where he struggles. It is not something I talk about here often. He does struggle, in so many areas. It is hard to listen to. I know it is coming, but it never makes it easier to hear. Of course I hear the good things, too, but it is the struggles that stay in the front of my mind. I left and felt, for lack of a better word, “blah” all day. I spent most of it in a sort of fog. Then he got home from school. He got off the bus and flashed his handsome little grin at me. “Hi Mommy! You know, it is raining out!” He proceeded to walk to the car giggling, and trying to catch the raindrops on his tongue. I just watched him and smiled. We got home from the bus stop. “Mommy, will you come watch ‘Angry Birds Tunes’ with me?” Of course I did. And he laughed, his most contagious belly laugh. How could a person not feel better after hearing their child snort from laughing so much? Yep… some things are more difficult for him, and they may always be. I don’t know what the future holds and I try not to think ahead too much. But he works so hard. He has made such progress over the last few years. I have to remind myself of that on days like yesterday. There will always be hiccups, but he is healthy and happy. I really can’t ask for more than that. This post originally appeared on This Ausome Family. Want to end the stigma around disability? Like us on Facebook. And sign up for what we hope will be your favorite thing to read at night.