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Pride and Joy

March 24, 2011

Tomorrow is a big, exciting day, as Bobby told his sisters this afternoon. He gets to accept the Autism Awareness proclamation from the mayor tomorrow, which will then hang at the day center he attends. His dad and I will be there with him, and I’ll have extremely leaky eyes, just as I have now writing this. It’s a big deal, both to him, and to us, to stand with him and to get the chance to thank our city for providing for more than three decades a center for the mentally and physically challenged to attend. It’s been a part of our lives for the last eight years and it’s made a tremendous difference for Bobby and our family. We will be forever grateful that our city provides this for a little over a dollar a day (and that fee’s only been assessed for the last few years; before that the center was absolutely no charge). Bobby’s grown, learned, matured, and even looking back at this post from October of 2009, the changes are obvious. He has become more confident, more independent, and more capable. He’s learning to cook and often cooks the family meals, always with our appreciation for his willingness to try new things. He helps at the local animal shelter one day a week and cares for the cats. He helps with lunch at the day center, as well.

I could not be more proud of the man my son is. And I will be leaky eyed and beaming tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

There’s a shovel in there somewhere

Seriously, there is a shovel in there somewhere. My garden remains, for the most part, unattended, ignored, shoved to the side as if it no longer mattered. My gardens, over the last two decades in the various places we’ve lived have been my visible reminder that what I do makes a difference. My gardens have given me peace and hope, as they have been visual reminders that our work, our careful tending has a demonstrable impact. There were many years, so many years, in my bright boy’s soon-to-be two decades where it felt like no progress was made, no developmental strides occurred. My gardens gave me the fortitude to continue my work with my son (and later my garden girlies), with the hope and the belief that careful tending matters, makes the difference.
There’s no real miracle story, no one day the bright boy was normal, here. He’s a vibrant, sweet young man who has carved out a good life for himself at the day center he attends. He has a best friend, he’s had the good fortune to have three girlfriends at the center in the past year. He had a first kiss a year ago, his first date a few month ago. His goodness shines from him. I am proud of him, of the man he is growing into.
The girlies thrive, as well, happy to go to school, happy with the lives they are working so hard to create for themselves, and I am for the first time in my adult life able to spend my time on my work and on working towards a new career, full-time work and the chance to tend new gardens of different kinds.
Like my garden outside which, although no longer time-consumingly tended, continues to grow and evolve, with a wild, chaotic and yet beautiful flowering, my children grow and bloom in their lives. They don’t need my complete absorption and assistance now. The years of careful tending are paying off as they move forward into their lives. Yes, they still need some spot tending. But they don’t need all of me anymore to thrive.
Autism, in all its varieties, does not have to keep a child, a person, from thriving. Parents who see autism as shackles on their children, as a thief in the night, miss the point. Miss the child. Miss the person. Miss the shovel, I suppose. We are a complex waltz of neurons and neurotransmitters. Of glial cells supporting the wonderful electrical dance. We are all-or-none kinds of people, and yet many of us miss that, miss that who we are is ever-evolving, that we are a part of a convoluted, incredible tapestry. We miss the beauty in the flowers blooming crazily everywhere when we focus on the weeds that peek out beneath the blooms, when we focus too narrowly on what we are missing or need to do instead of looking at the totality and what we have now.
And I would add, today, in what can and will be if we have faith and work hard.

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