I hear Justin’s bus before I see it, motor revving loudly from a block away so I have time to get up from my curb and wait at the end of the driveway. I’ve been away for two days and am anticipating this homecoming, am usually greeted by effusive hugs and kisses upon any lengthy absence. As I move closer to the bus door however I hear his unmistakeable unhappy sounds, the “protest whine” that means something is not right with my boy’s world.
He advances to the top of the step still uttering his displeasure, staring behind him perhaps at whatever made him sad. He is most of the way down the stairs before he sees me, and he halts mid-step just to take me in. A huge grin envelopes his face, and as he takes that last step down to be at my level he tilts his head up for a kiss, his intense gaze a focus that will not be broken.
He quickly takes my hand pulling me to the front door, and as I thank his driver and aides I hear him resume his sounds of displeasure. Our moment is gone, but I know I’ll carry that look with me as I’ve done so many days before.
Justin and I have always been close. I was the parent he spent the most time with when he was young, and most of the time when he was at odds with the world I was the only one who could calm him. We were so connected, his gaze following me everywhere in his early days. In fact it was that intense stare that made me think initially that his pediactrician was right, that autism was not on the table, that he truly was just developmentally delayed and taking after many of the men on both sides of his family tree.
But then after his first birthday he lost even the few syllables he’d mastered, and I knew there was more going on than just delays. My fears were confirmed when he turned seventeen months. Then our whole lives changed, from the structure of our day to foregoing playdates for therapy. People told me some of what to expect with an autism diagnosis, but nobody told me this, said these words aloud.
He’s still your boy. He still loves and adores you and is deeply, irrevocably connected to you. And no matter what else changes, what life alterations this diagnosis will bring, this truth will never change.
Justin breaks my reverie by clamoring for popcorn, and I am immediately flooded by the demands of two children. I placate Justin with food, but we have one last moment before he eats where he takes my face between his two hands and bestows a kiss of gratitude, a demonstrance of welcome.
Yes, he is still my boy in all his messy, often demanding, yet wonderful glory. We will always have that bond, that ability to make each other smile no matter what transpires in our often chaotic worlds. He is my boy.
And he always will be.
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