God made the grass and the sky and the mountains and the sea.
He made soft, silky flowers, and buzzing bumblebees, and tall, tall trees outstretched in the forest.
He made rainstorms so we would know wind.
He made droughts so we would know thirst.
He made deep, dark night so we would know the brilliant sunrise.
He made autism.
One late summer afternoon, a 12-year old boy named Jack asked his mother why. He was sitting at the kitchen counter and he was wearing a light blue t-shirt.
Why did God. Make for my autism.
He and his mother had been arguing. They were arguing because in a few days, his three brothers and one sister were starting school. Usually they all start school together and take a picture on the front porch even though the oldest boy, Joey, sighs and rolls his eyes and the littlest boy, Henry, makes funny faces.
Not this year. It won’t happen like that this year.
That’s because Jack is going to a new school and he doesn’t start until a week after they do.
The mom, well, she is confused because she does not know how to handle this day. Does she line all five kids up on the front porch like she always does for the first day of school picture she always takes?
That seems really mean.
Or should she or the dad take Jack out for breakfast where he could order pancakes instead of watching, heartbroken and devastated and embarrassed and sad, from the front porch as the middle school bus pulls up and his brother and all the neighborhood kids pile on it?
She is also a little panicked because she is really, actually worried that Jack might run, frantic, down the driveway and try to climb on the bus on his own and ride to the school that he no longer goes to and she and the dad will literally have to drag him off, all one hundred and twenty pounds of him, kicking and screaming.
This isn’t what he wanted.
This isn’t what she wanted.
Both of them, they wanted to return to what was familiar, in favor of what is good.
This new school, it is good.
It is small.
It is cozy.
It is a chance for both of them to get off of the merry-go-round that made their heads spin and their stomachs flutter.
But see, Jack does not agree. They had been fighting off and on about it for over a week and now she had a headache and was so tired of arguing that she wished school would just start already so it could all be behind them.
Then she felt like a total jerk-head for wanting this. She does not, in fact, want to speed time up—but to take it back and drink it all in once more, like cool, fresh water out of a stream.
The end of the summer always makes her feel this way. It makes her think of her kids when they were babies, and long for their soft, plump skin and the funny way they toddled around and how they each felt in her arms—drowsy and sweet and peaceful—when they fell asleep.
She wants another chance to say all the things she should have said, and to do all the things she should have done.
Maybe she should have forced him to do more homework and read a chapter out loud before bed and practice his multiplication tables while he brushed his teeth. Maybe she should have made him play an instrument. Maybe she didn’t try hard enough to keep him in the place where he so desperately wants to stay.
Maybe she failed him.
She suggested the pancakes.
Jack-a-boo, how about Daddy brings you out for breakfast on Thursday morning, wouldn’t that be fun?
Come on, it’s a nice treat in the middle of the week.
No. I am going. On the bus. For middle school.
And so the argument launched like a rocket, taking on a life of it’s own once more, until the boy interrupted the mom while she was explaining that he was not going to middle school and he knows this and he has to accept it and he loves going out for breakfast and she just wants him to be happy.
Why did God. Make for my autism.
She looked at her son—the boy who screamed when it was time to make his First Communion because he was scared to walk down the long aisle at church and eat the wafer from the priest’s hand.
And after the long ceremony in the stiff navy suit, he sat on the small fence post outside of the church and—gap-toothed and proud like a six-year old who has just conquered both heaven and earth—and gathered his two brothers to his side in an uncharacteristic hug.
He does not like to hug, this boy.
These days, he sits dutifully in the hard wooden pew every week next to his father, twitching and rocking to a song only he hears in his complicated mind, and when the altar boy or girl rings the shiny gold bells, he put his hands over his hears.
God made the stars in the sky and the big yellow moon, and the planets that go round and round.
He made ducklings marching in a line, and fish that swim in schools, and the stealth, solitary jaguar.
He made the uncharacteristic, and the unusual, and the mysterious, and the brave.
He made a boy with a disability inside of his brain; an incapacity no one can see or touch or smell or know.
He made autism.
He also made time; slippery like water through an opened hand one moment, abundant and plentiful the next.
Like a balm to a wound, time heals. It mends. It aids in the long, slow journey that is repair.
The mom waited a minute and then opened her mouth to try and explain all of this, when the boy in the blue t-shirt interrupted her once more.
I guess for pancakes.