Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
The Thing About Autism
by Kyra Anderson
You find yourself at the center of a huge debate. You're the new black, the hot topic, part of a growing epidemic, an oft-cited statistic that grows at alarming rates or not at all, depending on who is doing the reporting. You're living the thing most families fear. You're the brave one, the resilient one, the courageous one, the one doing something she or he (but mostly she) says she can't imagine herself doing, performing feats of parenting with super patience, understanding, and tolerance while she races home to a child that skips up path of maturation and independence and connection with nary a nudge from anyone.
The black box of the brain has been tossed on your lap. It's hot and silent and seemingly impenetrable but that doesn't stop you. It burns your legs as your husband casts worried or guilty or even heartbroken looks before running out the door or up the stairs to take care of other business like buying insurance and shopping home insulation. You pick it up (you can take the heat) and turn it over, hold it up to the light, shake it, knead it, knock on it, looking for the secret panel. You whisper to it, cajoling, beseeching, berating, and then smash it against the wall over and over.
And still. You learn things, things about social emotional development, more than you ever imagined. You recognize the astonishing complexity of the human being. You hold it in the soft cup of your hand like the exquisite mystery it is. You take nothing for granted. You acquire second sight, the ability to slow down time--your super power. This portion of your brain bulges.
Now you're like your son. You feel superior.
You're in a graduate course on the human condition. You're getting a PhD in the soul. You watch your ambition float down the river hoping it takes along your pride, your ego, your superficiality, your competitive streak, the one that taunts you with fantasies of how you will show them all one day when your best-selling book becomes an academy-award winning movie.
You're constant companions with your shortcomings, your fear, your fury, your futility, your ineptitude, your impatience, your envy, your boredom, and Oh, your guilt. Your perfectionism drives you like a slave master, lashing you to the rock of all that you can't escape. You let go. You hold on. You let go. You hold on. You, all of you, become a family, siblings, bound by blood and a deep loyalty though you often fight like cats, like orphans.
You fail every day. You hope to become a friend of failure but what you notice is that you slowly become a friend of forgiveness. It expands in you like a small balloon in your chest, rising with every intake of air, suspending with every exhalation, holding you up, moving you forward from that place that says, I love. I'm afraid. I love. I'm afraid.
Kyra Anderson edited Gravity Pulls You In, an anthology of writing by parents of children on the autism spectrum, and contributed to The Thinking Person's Guide To Autism, The Relationship Development Intervention, as well as a number of small presses. She blogs sporadically at This Mom Dot Com while working (less sporadically) on a memoir about her experience raising a boy with Aspergers.
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