August 20, 2010

Family Ties

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , at 6:22 am by autismmommytherapist

We had family stay with us this past weekend, my husband’s sister and her husband, and their lovely daughter making her transition to womanhood. After eighteen years with my husband, first as boyfriend, then fiancé, then spouse, I feel confident claiming these relatives, and Jeff’s brother’s family, as my own family now. What’s even more fun is that I actually like all of them.

This recent trip was particularly special because it was the first time they had stayed here since Zachary commenced his path to relinquishing the quiet fog he seemed to reside under, his opaque shroud which was eventually replaced with a desire both to communicate and to interact with those around him. A year ago he wasn’t really interested in having guests, although he perked up a bit when they came, and eventually succumbed to the experience. This summer however, his cousin is all he can talk about the week prior to their visit, with special mention of his uncle, who is a veritable kid magnet. This is the individual who first convinced Zach he could indeed survive being submerged under water, and that conviction has stuck with him ever since. I remain eternally grateful.

There is always a little tug at my heart when we have company now, for while I’m ecstatic that Zach is so interactive with basically anyone who crosses his path, I still yearn for the same for Justin. He has made progress over the years, and definitely acknowledges the intrusion into his world with the briefest of smiles, a glimmer of recognition, and if that person is fortunate, a hug or the touch of his hand on an outstretched cheek. He is particularly enamored of his three cousins, all considerably older than him, but all until recently still residing within the parameters of childhood. I know in my heart he comprehends in some way that these people belong to him, that they love him, that he is theirs. It is a great solace to me that a few times a year Justin’s world expands beyond the confines of his father, mother, and little brother.

This visit, I even get a bonus gift. Most of the time the kids’ different schedules preclude us all being together other than meals, plus we generally have to contend with Justin’s all-consuming desire to remain in the house. This past weekend I was awarded a prize- an entire hour in which my immediate family and my family by marriage frolicked together in our pool, with not only Zachary thrilled with the attention, but Justin somewhat engaged with everyone, and at the very least consenting to immerse himself in the calm waters of our backyard haven. He lasted outside twice as long as he usually does, enough time for me to play a bit with him, to watch Zachary douse his uncle at least thirty times, and to consume an entire wine cooler while it was still cold. For me, this constitutes a stellar day.

And I will say this- if I could release this family from the bonds of autism, erase the suffering I’ve witnessed my two children experience, I would sell my soul, make my bargains with the devil, do whatever it took to eradicate this disorder from our lives, because it has caused my sons pain. It has caused my husband pain. And there is no doubt, on a variety of levels, I have suffered as well.

But I also know in my heart I would never appreciate this hour as I now do, would not even have it register on my list of things to be thankful for, would probably instead spend the entire time attempting to remember where all the necessary staples reside in my kitchen for the meal I’d eventually be preparing that night. Although this gratitude does not in any way mitigate the circumstances that spawned it, I recognize I am finally in a place where I can excavate something positive from this experience, this journey that has scarred my heart and soul.

And for that, in this moment, I am grateful.



  1. Naomi Seligman said,


  2. misifusa said,

    Love to hear stories of progress…in addition, you were able to finish an entire cold wine cooler…talk about a win-win situation! Enjoy every moment and be grateful…amen.

  3. Chad said,

    The last two paragraphs got me AGAIN! Great story Berlee.

    • I’m here to please… How the hell are you, by the way?

      • Chad said,

        Doing well. Started my 21st (!) year of teaching last Monday! Oh, I also thoroughly enjoyed the safari adventure–hilarious.

  4. Cindy said,

    What a wonderful day 🙂

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