Last night, when the mosquitoes stirred on our damp lawn Willow stirred too. I asked her to grab her sandals and we went for a walk. We walked to the end of our street where I lit a sparkler for her. She danced entranced swinging the metal stick in the air. I took her for a walk because her mind and body needed to regulate. She was a mess and going for this walk would very methodically prevent a meltdown and a potential bolt.
I scratched my eyes and thought of the never ending battle of getting her school to complete an FBA for her. The year long battle to get her an aid and the news of her behaviors. A soft wind brushed against us and I remembered the words my boyfriend spoke to me when we first began to know each other, when I needed to hear them most:
“What about years from now when the kids are older, when we are older?” I heard it crawl over the warm pavement and I looked back at Willow who was jumping with her sparkler. She was wearing felt Christmas pants, a strawberry t-shirt, and pink sandals. Red and green unicorn reindeer on her thighs.
Years from now.
When they are older.
“What about Willow?” he said. I remember the spitting anger that flew through me when he said it and the how-dare-you.
We think we know everything but we don’t. Sometimes we learn things that are hard.
“Look at the sparkler!” Willow screeched, flapping and jumping up and down. A car drove by slowly and knowing she could turn and run I put my body instinctively between it and Willow. I watched the car pull into its driveway. The engine shut off.
His hazel eyes searching for mine and the audacity twisted like a web in his honesty.
Flies and mosquitoes hovered across the cul de sac and Willow was now picking wild flowers off a thorny shrub. Through the tangled trees and twines was the swamp which she had quietly climbed months earlier when she ran away. Past the swamp came Beach Road and then there sat that tired sun, setting and spitting an exhausted red and pink over the wetland.
I am an autism mom.
I smiled at Willow and helped her pick a few white flowers that she would add to the collection of bouquets that take up most of our kitchen table and leave little room for anything else–Willow’s bouquets that create a porcelain eggshell ready to crack and spill over at any moment because how-dare-anyone touch her flowers.
“Alright, one last sparkler.” Willow threw herself at me and gave me her half-hug. It took awhile for it to catch.
It took time.
“She may have to live with us when she is older.” I heard it echo past the cutting grass blades and I heard it move the pebbles along the street where a man walked alone.
And it moved me too.
And then, “I don’t know exactly but it is a reality and I will be there.
I will be there for you and for them.”
I swatted away a bug and kicked a rock past Willow who was bouncing about with her sparkler and flowers. I remember thinking there would never be anyone for us. I would never be able to let anyone in because they don’t know. They don’t know that my children will outgrow. They will outgrow autism like the wild, white flowers reaching and tangling into the dusk.
My love is stronger than autism.
My love is tougher than autism.
I remember his strong hand in mine and realizing that he already knew.
That he had the courage to speak the words out loud. The ones that I cannot.
“Alright, come on now, Willow.” She ran to me and put her small hand in mine, something she only does when she is clear like water.
“Mom, but can we put these in a vase?”
Behind us the wildlife stirred and the mosquitos fought their own battles across the red of that sun.