A staff member and teacher at Alex’s residential facility told me on Tuesday that I had “graduated.” I was walking with Alex up the big hill toward the gym after spending his lunch hour with him. It was Valentine’s Day and I absolutely *needed* to be close to the only boy who will ever completely own my heart. Alex is my love, and if he could express it in words I think he’d say:
“My mom is my best girl.”
But of course, the spoken words usually elude him. And he’s 11 now, not exactly the age for publicly confessing to parental attachment of any kind.
On our walk I was feeling calm, enjoying the unseasonably warm & shiny day, grateful for the feeling of Alex’s hand in mine, grateful that he was walking *with* me and not running ahead. Grateful that we were both present. Anxiety levels were low, warm & fuzzies were high.
I didn’t respond the first time his teacher said “you graduated” so she repeated it a few minutes later.
She continued, “You graduated. You’re not melting down anymore.”
I laughed. I’d certainly melted down on this poor lady on more than one occasion. Each time she listened patiently, she reassured me I wasn’t crazy, she encouraged me, and promised it would get better with Alex here, that I’d learn and grow through this process and things would become alright.
“It’ll never be okay. But it’s going to be alright.”
Choice words given to me by another autism mom with a kid like mine at the same place. That was two months ago now, but those words still wind through my head once in a while, like one of those scrolling banners outside a shopping center.
When will that really be, I wonder? Another word that scrolls by on the bottom of the movie screen in my mind, as I replay my Valentine’s Day walk and the special moments of that day with Alex. I wonder if I’ll ever feel closure, if I’ll ever feel “graduated.” If it feels “alright,” if I’ve passed the point of the initial meltdowns, does that mean I’m somehow farther along in the natural process of “autism mom?” Or is this just how it will always be, intense experience with a continuous, ever-scrolling banner updating & explaining & punctuating my experience?
Sometimes this autism life really doesn’t make sense to me. Or the words elude me, too. But I keep thinking to myself that as long as I can be present, no matter how long the journey or how much work until the next “graduation,” maybe it will indeed become “alright.”