Excerpt: Letting Go

Autism Mom's Survival Guide cover

It is as if, by leaving home, Nat has been propelled to another level where perhaps he now feels the need to communicate with me in a way I will understand. I believe that he needs, more than ever, to connect and he seems to be aware of that.

Nat is always a surprise, sometimes because he shows me that he is just a teenage kid, and not a Disabled Teenager. This was clear when, another time, I heard him saying, “Peeiss” and giggling. Could it be … ? Yes. Nat was laughing at body parts, just like so many kids do!

Thus I realized that the words at the end of Nat’s seemingly senseless phrases were full of meaning. This small glimpse into Nat’s mind felt as good to me as any conversation a mother could have with her teenage son.

It is often difficult for me to remember that Nat’s own particular development and progress is actually OK. I guess I am scarred in some way since his babyhood, when nothing went as planned. But sometimes his phases parallel Max’s so strongly that I get a kind of flash of understanding: They are both teenagers, after all, and they are both leaving the nest, one way or another.

One night during the summer Nat left home, I got a call at eleven p.m. from Max, who had gone off to Vermont for a week with his girlfriend’s family. I had put him on a Greyhound bus Monday morning, reaching up to hug his hard, broad shoulders and to kiss his impassive face. It smarted just a bit to let him go, and to see how eager he was for me to leave the bus terminal.

I asked Max to call me when he arrived, but he forgot until late in the evening. He was a little sheepish on the phone at first, knowing he had not done what I had asked him to do. But there was something else that shaped his tone, a roundness, a curl of happiness that I had never before heard from him on the phone, or perhaps had not heard it in a long time. What surprised and touched me even more was the content. He kept offering information, descriptions. He told me how cows were “really disgusting, because they lick their noses and so their faces are always wet with either saliva or snot,” and then he laughed. He described the beautiful large house he was staying in, the icy-cold pond, the “crazy stars.”

When I got off the phone, I felt happy, full. I think it was because for the first time in a long time, Max really wanted to talk to me. What I realized then was that even though things were so different for us these days, we were all still connected. My sixteen-year-old and my eighteen-year-old were both moving on from here, but neither one had let me go.