Making a Difference: Ollie Cantos

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Throughts on the Storycorps conversations between Ollie Cantos and Leo, Nick and Steven Argel

Every so often, I come across a story that stops me in my tracks. Such stories remind me that what seems like a small gesture can change the path of a person’s life for the better. They remind me that it’s okay to accept help as well as to offer it. They make me proud to be human.

The story of triplet brothers Leo, Nick and Steven Argel, and their mentor, Ollie Cantos, is one of those reminders. Go on, listen to it. I’ll be here when you get back. If you’re not able to listen to it right now, perhaps the transcript will work better for you.

Ollie Cantos with his soon-to-be adoptive sons

Done wiping your tears? I told you I’d be here.

This story touches me on so many levels. Yes, there’s the obvious triplets thing. Thanks to my sweet twin daughters, M and J, as well as their triplet cousins, I’m a sucker for happy stories about multiples. That’s not all, though.

I have the privilege to know an extremely well-adjusted, smart, sweet, highly energetic little girl who happens to be blind. She’s 9 years old and a role model to my daughters, both academically and socially. She recently took first place at our regional Braille Challenge. Several months ago, one of my daughters was driving a scooter on the sidewalk and not paying attention. Her blind friend reached out for the handles from behind her and turned quickly to keep both girls out of the street, then lectured my daughter on street safety.

This little girl’s mother is one of the few NICU moms I know in real life. The grace with which she navigates single motherhood and encourages her daughter’s independence and self-advocacy is an inspiration to me in my newfound single mom life. The matter of fact way in which she faces her daughter’s disability has been a model for the way I discuss my own daughter M’s birth defect with her.

I’m fortunate to be in a position where I can provide for my children. However, I don’t do it alone. While I am well-equipped to feed, clothe and educate J and M, I lean on my church community for their spiritual formation. I know that Nick, Steven and Leo’s mom did her very best, but simply wasn’t in a position to know what her sons were capable of. I can’t imagine it was easy for her to let Ollie into her sons’ lives, putting in relief all the ways in which she hadn’t been able to nurture them alone.

This is a story of love. It’s a reminder that family isn’t just a group that you’re born into, but one built on love and chance meetings. I am newly invigourated to not only to continue to deepen my relationships with children in my community who, for whatever reason, have crossed my path and been drawn to me, but to accept help from others in raising my own two daughters.

Thank you, Mr. Cantos.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Transcript of the Storycorps interview of Ollie Cantos and Leo, Nick and Steven Argel

Ollie Cantos: I had a lot of trouble growing up because I didn’t have any friends really. I was made fun of a lot. There would be people who would put their hands in front of my face and say, “How many fingers am I holding up?”
Leo Argel: Same thing.
Ollie Cantos: Same thing with you guys, right?
Leo Argel: Yes.
Ollie Cantos: So, what were things like growing up?
Leo Argel: Well, every day was like wake up, go to school, come back home, and then you stay there for the rest of the day. There were certain things that I wish I could do like go out and play in the snow like everyone else. ‘Cause I’ve heard kids through the window… we could hear that they were having fun. The only thing I remember when I was seven, we went to McDonald’s, and we went to the park. We rarely went outside.
Nick Argel: It was getting so bad that I wanted to die. But it was one of the decisions I’m glad I did not make because I would have missed out on everything.
Ollie Cantos: Do you remember that night when I first arrived?
Nick Argel: Oh yeah, I do. Because I… I certainly didn’t know that there were other blind people except me and my brothers.
Ollie Cantos: You didn’t believe me that I’m really blind. So, I’m like, “Well yeah, here’s my cane.” And then you left and came back with a book, and you put my hand on it, and it was the Bible. You couldn’t believe that I actually read Braille.
Nick Argel: It just made me feel like I had a person that I could trust, because I didn’t trust anyone.
Ollie Cantos: I took you guys individually to learn how to use your canes better, and we’d just go to the corner store, and I remember, Leo, one day the store clerk, she said, “Is that your son?” And, you know, before I could answer, you put your arm around me, and you said, “Yeah, it’s my dad.” And I said, “Do you know what that means?” You said, “Well, you take us places, you protect us, you help us with our homework. Sounds like a dad to me.” Whenever I hear you call me “Dad,” it’s the highest compliment to me. You three used to be in the same situation that I was, and to see you come out of that and to be the way you guys are now, it’s impossible to describe how grateful I am that I get to be your dad.

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