I wrote this more than ten years ago, and it can be found in my first book, Making Peace With Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery, and Unexpected Gifts. (Trumpeter/Shambhala 2005 and 2006) I am posting it today because it still rings true for me, more or less.
From Making Peace With Autism, Epilogue:
I still find myself wondering, during my dark times, What if Nat woke up one morning to find that he wasn’t autistic any longer? I see us all, gathered around his bed, the site of the miracle, eagerly listening to his every word. He speaks so clearly now, in full, effortless sentences. At last, we understand everything. It’s as if he has woken up from a coma, or a deep, enchanted sleep. He will have to catch up for all the lost time.
We tell him, “And then you did . . . .Why was that?” We have so many questions for him, as he does for us. And now he can tell us all his secrets: “Oh, I hated it when you would try to make me talk to you.”
“Because your words came at me too fast. If anything else was going on, I couldn’t pay attention to whatever you were saying to me. The noise in a room overpowered everything else.”
“What were you saying with the silly talk? What was ‘Feem–sh?’”
“‘Feem’ just made me feel good. It was my word. Because you didn’t know what it meant, you couldn’t talk to me about it or make me talk about it. And ‘ssh’was just that,‘ssh.’ I loved the feel of ‘ssh.’ I loved when people got quiet.”
“Why did you hit? Why did you pinch?”
“I don’t know. I think that with the pinching,my fingers got carried away. It feels good to squeeze. And once I hit, it’s hard to stop.”
And then I have to ask the most important question, “Do you love us?”
“Yeah, but it’s hard understanding all of your emotions.You can laugh, then cry, then sing, all in the same hour. How can
you change moods so fast?”
“Maybe now you’ll see,”Ned says.“What do you want to do now, Nat?”
“I want to meet some girls.”
I wish for a miracle like this so badly that when I really think about it, I can barely breathe. So I close my eyes and let it pass through me. And the more I think about it, the more I come to realize that there are not many fifteen-year-old boys, autistic or not, who actually talk that way to their mothers. Anyway, I do know Nat. I know why he does what he does, the “feem,” the pinching, all of it. All in all, as my father once said, he’s still our Nat.
So I drop my miracle fantasy and open my eyes and go looking for him. There he is, pacing back and forth, living room, hallway, dining room,waiting for his video to rewind, his loud steps reverberating through the house, his hand opening and closing in time with the cadence of his soft silly talk. He notices me immediately, but he keeps moving, probably hoping I will not disturb his comfortable rhythm.
“Hold it, Nat,” I say, stopping him between rooms.
He turns and fixes on me with his wide blue eyes, waiting, silent now. He’s taller than I am these days, but his hair is still bright blond, the same as it was when he was a baby. I say,“I just want a hug.”
Immediately, he leans in toward me, “OK, yes,” he says, so softly it is almost imperceptible.
I kiss his cheek and breathe him in. His long arms are gingerly draped around me, bony and warm.We stand together for a moment, just like that, and my pain recedes, carried away with the tide.