October 11, 2010


Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged at 6:20 am by autismmommytherapist

The explosion and flutter of foliage almost completely muffles his exclamation of “Mama!”, as my youngest son hurdles toward me on the narrow path, aiming unerringly toward my outstretched arms. Some poor parks and rec employee probably toiled a long time to create the mound of leaves my child has so determinedly desecrated, but he’s three, and that’s what happens when small children encounter vast piles of fall’s discards. Just hearing him say “Mama!”, while simultaneously looking into my eyes, would be enough for me to offer to return and rake them back into some semblance of order should the leaf police be on patrol. I smile as I embrace him, and am fairly certain we’ll escape that indignity, at least today.

My last child wiggles quickly out of the confines of my arms, and with staccato skips moves down the windy trail to see what other adventures he can encounter. I try to keep up with him, but it isn’t easy. He’s fast even for a pre-schooler, or at least that’s what the other moms in the neighborhood tell me as they gently mock my attempts to remain within arm’s length of my hurling missile. My chest heaves as I admit there’s a reason we’re probably not supposed to procreate at forty.

We round the bend, exit a copse of trees, and a few feet ahead of me I see Zachary stop dead in his tracks. The wind is our blustery companion today, continually foiling my attempts to listen to my son’s streaming chatter from afar, so I know that until I catch up to his tiny body I’ll have no idea what he’s saying to me with such urgency. I summon up an extra burst of speed from what’s left of my energy reserves and approach him, then I stop dead in my tracks too. From an undetermined location to my right I hear the eerily familiar cadence of “eee,eee,eee” emanating from the woods, and for a second my mind panics and I wonder how the hell my oldest child escaped his therapist and made it to the park on foot. Then my sanity returns, and I remind myself that Justin is indeed safely home, ensconced in education, and this is an entirely different individual invoking my firstborn’s favorite vowel sound. My heart soon slows down and resumes its normal rhythm.

I scoop a frightened Zachary up into my arms, and I’m certain before I turn to look at the source of the sounds that this concert of vowels is being performed by an autistic man, and I am correct in my prediction. Zachary is stiff in my embrace, eyes wide, clutching me for dear life and explanation. I whisper in his ear that “the man sounds like Justin”, and I see the glimmer of a smile play at his lips, but he won’t take his eyes off the peaceful gentleman sitting comfortably in his souped-up lounge chair with his books and snacks as companions. Just as I decide to resume our jaunt I hear the last syllable of what I presume is “It’s okay” being swallowed by the lusty currents encircling us, and I turn around to see who’s uttering that abbreviated sentence.

A somewhat breathless and elderly woman approaches us, and I recall I’d seen her before, striding purposefully around the park on several other occasions that I’d brought my youngest son here so as to leave my oldest in peace with his therapy. She bridges the distance between us rapidly, and before I can reassure her everything is alright she breathlessly apologizes for Zachary’s fright, and explains her adult son has autism, he says “eeee” a lot, he means no harm. I smile in response and tell her both my sons are autistic, we understand, it’s fine. She looks at Zachary quickly and I can tell is stunned by my disclosure, and I am certain she must have heard bits of our conversations while she exercised, watched him move with such utter confidence and ease, seen his earnest and joyful eye contact with me. I tell her Zach has made a great deal of progress since he’s been diagnosed, and I share with her that my oldest is probably somewhere on the spectrum between the child in my arms and her child in the chair. She smiles back at me, worry instantly evaporated, and our eyes meet in recognition. We know. We will share our life experiences for as long as our children will permit us to chat, but no explanations are necessary. We both just get it.

In the few brief minutes we’re permitted to swap stories I learn the grown child before me is the last of six, a surprise, in more ways than one. I find out the school system he’s attended has done well by him, that she feels he’s learned and retained a myriad of skills, achievements he’s been able to put into practice at the local job he’s held since he graduated from high school a few years prior. I discover that he lives at home, that she’s not certain how much longer she and her husband can care for their late in life child, but that his other siblings have combined forces and offered to care for him when they are no longer able to do so. She says everything in a rush after listening to me regale her with my own story, and despite her haste I am struck by her calm voice, assured manner, her grace. It is clear she loves this last gift, that she worries for him, but that she and her husband have constructed a full existence for him, and a life for themselves as well.

I admit to myself I am a little envious of the cadre of support she will have to care for the man resting comfortably on the barren lawn before me, and I remind myself how my husband and I firmly believed we were only capable of zone parenting, and that two offspring was enough for us. I also know our life paths will diverge greatly, as with both of my children on the spectrum I am as yet uncertain how well Zachary will be able to care for himself, much less his older sibling.

But I tell myself that we do seem to co-exist on one path together now, that I at least slightly mirror her peaceful exterior, have begun to be sanguine in my acceptance. I still have a long way to go, and I am certain I will encounter many bends and dips in the trail as I continue to try to choose the best route, and there seem to be so many of them with autism, for both of my sons. I can tell however that I’ve finally taken my first tentative steps, my foray into if not peace at my family’s situation, then at least acceptance at what life has brought us. I hope with all my soul I will one day resemble this woman in her outlook, her perspective on life’s pathways. I would be fortunate to emulate her in this regard.

We exchange names, promises to encounter one another again, and I continue on my ordained path with my child, leave her to resume her own. I am comforted, replenished. And as I watch my youngest son approach a suspicious looking mound of something frightening unidentifiable, I shun all thoughts of the future, and engage gloriously in the moment at hand.



  1. misifusa said,

    What a moving story! I am so glad that you found eachother. What a wonderful coincidence that you met! 🙂

  2. Debbie said,

    Kim, you are amazing! You are giving both of your children a lifetime of memories and experiences. You are also giving them the education and therapy they need. You have so many resources out there and you, of all people, will do what is best for your two boys if and when that time comes. Embrace these fond memories you are having with them right now!!!

  3. LZ said,

    That moment of recognition…those words convey so much. We all want our children to be accepted, treated well and loved. It means so much when we find someone else who understands and accepts, without having to explain.

  4. Nels said,

    Kim, you and your boys stories always amaze me. You are truely one special person. Can’t wait to see you Saturday night.

  5. Cindy said,

    She may be on a different step than you Kim, but you’ve always amazed me with the peace and grace with which you live you life and find your joy with your wonderful boys.

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