In a windowless place there is nothing to denote the passage of time, nothing to distinguish morning from night. Morning is night. So, for all I knew the sun had risen, made its way across the sky and set all while I stood there looking at a pile of papers unsure of where I was and what to do next.
What I knew for sure was I definitely didn’t feel like dancing.
But I had to move. I couldn’t just stand there in this woman’s office, file in hand, a permanent fixture to indecision. Besides, I was beginning to feel very self-conscious in my frozen state. And with the deliberateness of someone relearning to walk, I pivoted away from the counter and faced the doorway.
You put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door.
Channeling the words of a Rankin-Bass Christmas special from my childhood. I did just as Kris Kringle’s song said and the next thing I knew I was in the most familiar and comforting of places, my living room, sitting in my window seat. No longer did I have that dusty file in my hand. Instead, there was an entire box, full of files, beside me. I chuckled as I thought to myself, “But if it were just that single file.”
Gone was the submarine file room but I was still full of indecision and insecurity. Why was I doing this? Why on earth would I voluntarily revisit the most trying period of my life? “Don’t look back.” That’s what people say. So why am I about to look back?
Because it has also been said, thank you Mr. Shakespeare, “what’s past is prologue.” So perhaps the trip taken to the submarine file room to retrieve the Meltdown files of my mind was but a setting of the stage for a story, a wonderful story of how persistence fueled by love and responsibility overcame the adversity of a son diagnosed with Asperger’s and the ensuing situations having a child on the Autism spectrum created and continues to create to this day.
Eventually, everything connects. Charles Eames
Often puzzle pieces are used as a visual representation of autism. But I think, on the spectrum or not, life is a puzzle, and each event is a piece which connects to other pieces to form our story. And when you have reached the point in life when your story comes together, burgeoning, the desire to share, to connect your story to others becomes strong. I wish to share our story, not so much because it parallels others in all details, but because in a more macro way it is a story that reinforces the idea that families can make it through, intact and strong. Such a story is encouraging to me and perhaps too to those still in the trenches, raising a youngster with Asperger’s.
Hands down the most important lessons raising Teddy taught me are to be flexible in my own thinking, to try not to judge others because I do not know the whole story, and that there is more than one way to okay. I am learning that many people don’t seem to know these lessons. How liberating it is to know I do.
I know what it is like to have your brother not want your child in his house and to have a friend call and say because of your child they no longer want to see you socially. It broke my heart when my son said to me, “Uncle Jack doesn’t like me, does he.” and to sit there, being the adult, without my true emotions showing and address his most trenchant observation. I know what it is like to save the tears for later, to be alone and have no one to address your own fears. Sometimes there are no good answers for the way people act.
And because of those experiences I know you go on. You have to and you do so without resentment. That is why I am sitting here on my window seat with a box of files from the past. My story is not unique. It is not special. I am not the only one this stuff has happened to. Absolutely not. But I am willing to share it. I can tell people there are moments that suck more than you could ever imagine a moment sucking. And there are people capable of making the harshest of judgments, ready, waiting, almost gleefully telling you exactly what they think of your child and your parenting skills. But I can tell you that same child will achieve the most fantastic of accomplishments, against some of the strongest of odds. For every crappy thing that happens, for every insensitive jerk you encounter, there are more beautiful times and more encouraging, loving people than you are able to count. Remain open to the goodness because it is there.
Now that is a story worth telling.