Sunday, June 24, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

From This Day: When 3 is never a crowd

CLEARWATER

Rain wasn't in Tyler Stanley's picture book.

The autistic 11-year-old knew that he would walk in front of his mom, Kristin Stanley, and sprinkle rose petals on Honeymoon Island Beach on March 31. Then, she would stand next to Mark Stewart and the two would be married.

But the detailed picture book Kristin made to schedule the day didn't include rain.

"He doesn't like to be wet," said Kristin, 46, an exercise physiologist for heart patients. "He starts to take his clothes off."

Still, Tyler participated in the wedding in front of 25 close friends and family — which organizers moved to the pavilion. The trio even took photos together on Mark and Kristin's special day.

Pictures are important to Tyler, a McMullen-Booth Elementary student, whose autism prevents him from communicating like other children.

And Tyler is important to Kristin.

That's why she took her son with her to Clearwater Beach to meet Mark, 54, a long-haul truck driver, for their very first date in June 2011.

The couple met on a dating website, but details on Mark's profile made Kristin wary.

"I thought this wasn't going to work because he said he liked traveling," she said. "Everything has to be scheduled for Tyler or it can become challenging. I have to think long and hard if I want to go out to Walmart."

During that first date, Kristin was nervous about how Mark would perceive Tyler. They spent most of the date talking about the boy's autism and what he can and can't do.

"I knew almost immediately that I wanted to spend my life with her, and I knew what that meant," Mark said.

So he began working his way into Tyler's schedule through trial and error.

Once he tried to surprise Kristin and Tyler by visiting unexpectedly after a long haul.

"I showed up at her job and she was stone faced," Mark said with a laugh. Tyler was also confused, because Mark wasn't on the magnetic schedule on the refrigerator that plans out his every day.

"He said, 'Mark leaving.' " Mark recalled. "It took some getting used to."

When Mark made the change from long-haul to local driving, Kristin used a magnet with his face on it to mark the days of the week Tyler could expect him to be with them.

Mark proposed on a bench near the Pier in downtown St. Petersburg on Nov. 12, 2011 — and again the surprise left her stone faced.

"I thought for minute that she was going to say no," Mark said. "But eventually she said yes."

He knew she was the one because of their chemistry and how well she cares for Tyler.

"I'm just in awe of her. She's amazing, how she did all this on her own," he said. "She's Wonder Woman."

Kristin knew early on Mark could handle sharing her life.

"He would come over and follow me around asking to help with everything. Most men aren't the helpful types," Kristin said.

Tyler hasn't weighed in yet, but the couple is hopeful about his progress in the future.

For now, he knows he can look forward to seeing Mark every day.

His picture is in every slot on the calendar.

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