To my only son, a boy whom I love with every ounce of my being but whom I may never understand:
They say you have autism. They say that’s the reason for your silence, for your oversensitivities, for your behavioral delays. They say that’s why you can’t tell me what you want to be when you grow up, because maybe you don’t know how to express or explain it. Or maybe you simply can’t think beyond this very moment. Tonight doesn’t compute with you, much less years from now. They say you may never know what love is, or be able to hold a job. They say you may never have friends, a wife, or kids because relationships and autism don’t mix. They say you may never be normal, whatever normal is these days. You may never feel passion, you may never get respect, you may never dream. This is what they say, but all I can say is I love you.
I love you–every part of you–but I don’t “get” you. I don’t get why autism has to hold you captive to a bunch of you-may-nevers and what-ifs. I don’t get why you isolate yourself. I don’t get why you try to hurt yourself from the simplest, softest reprimand. I don’t get the screams instead of sentences when you can’t tell me what you want. I don’t get why you mix up simple words that your two-year-old sister corrects for you. I don’t know your thoughts, your fears, your hopes, your joys, your humor, your interests… They are all mysteries locked inside your head that no one knows…maybe not even you.
You’re my pride, my sweet little guy, but I yearn to know you. And I fear I may never get that chance because of autism. The “A” word that changed our lives and crushed my heart when I first heard it. But a word that also gave me hope that maybe I can help you, that maybe together we’ll overcome the obstacles tethered to autism.
As a parent of a child with autism, it’s a diagnosis that can break you. After all, it doesn’t just affect him, but me too. He’s part of me, I’m part of him. We’re in this life together, and my purpose is to raise him so that he can hold his own in the world. But what if he can never hold his own? What if he can’t pursue his dreams because his dreams are a canvas that will always be blank? It’s a pill I don’t want to swallow, a pill that chokes me.
I don’t have the answers, and I may never find them. But I do know one thing. My son isn’t alone in this, and neither am I. We have each other, and no matter what we face, we’ll do it together. To the son I don’t always “get,” I am lucky to have “gotten” you as mine.