It’s hard for me to believe but today, you, my firstborn severely autistic son, are eighteen years old.
It seems like yesterday I was holding you so tightly in your bedroom in northern VA, swirling around and moving to the beat of your favorite children’s CD, secure and content.
I had dreams for you then. Dreams that despite your autism you would one day speak in conversant sentences, drive, go to college, have a friend.
None of those things have come to pass.
They never will.
Instead of posting college acceptances on Facebook, I’m writing of other milestones with this significant birthday. I’m posting about dealing with Social Security and Medicaid, registering you with the DDD, becoming your guardian so we can protect and shepherd you through adulthood. There were no prom pics, no photos of driver’s licenses. There are none of the traditional accomplishments I’m seeing my bevy of friends who all had kids the same year as you were born are sharing.
I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me sad.
And despite what a vocal but loud minority of the autism community might tell me, it is okay to be sad about this.
It’s just not okay to be forever paralyzed by it.
Truthfully, I can say I’m not. You are generally a happy child, for which I am eternally grateful. You love your routine of school, DVDs, the computer, and the occasional Disney movie on Netflix. I know you’re content both from your occasional smiles and elusive laugh, but mostly from the absence of your angst. We worked hard as a family to get you to this place.
You worked hardest of all.
I am constantly thinking of your future, and with a few of my friends we are trying to create a fabulous one for you and their children. I refuse to accept the “cliff.” You’ve been able to have a pretty great life so far and I won’t accept that this will end at 21.
If I could orchestrate this for you from beyond the grave as well, you know I would do it.
I’m working on it.
In a few days you will be an official adult. Your day will still revolve around your beloved school, but will include cupcakes, pizza, and some gifts we hope you’ll enjoy. We will blow out your candle for you, singing “happy birthday” to you which I sense you tolerate only because you know chocolate is coming.
I don’t know if you will make any wishes. But I know I will.
I will wish you remain as enthusiastic about your life for decades to come as you are now.
I will wish your future caretakers will respect you and like you, and keep you safe.
I will wish you laughter and peace, and always, an abundance of love.
I love you with all my heart, my birthday boy.
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