My name is Carrie. I am married to a man named Joe, and we have five kids.
They go like this: Joey (age 14), Jack (age 13), Charlie (age 11), Rose (age 10), and Henry (8).
Sometimes I wonder if other people have a zillion thoughts that float in and out of their brains all day like I do. This seems to happen when I’m alone in the car, or on the treadmill.
It’s a disorganized mess in here, is what I’m trying to tell you. It’s a wonder I can get a coherent sentence out of my mouth sometimes. These are some of the things that ran through my mind when I was driving to the gym the other day.
I like having a 14-year old. He cracks me up, the way he is slowly starting to become his very own person. I mean, duh, he isn’t going to college and obviously God isn’t real. He might be one of the funniest people I have ever known.
But man, he can be aggravating. It’s as though teenagers move at half-speed, like they’re operating on less power than the rest of us. It’s not their fault. It’s because their frontal lobes are undergoing major reconstruction.
Just last week, he was leaving for school and he had his backpack slung over his shoulder, and he was so tall, and so gangly and big and overgrown and sweet, that I thought there is no one in the world I could love as much as I love him.
Then he stood there with the door wide open and the dog ran out and he knows I don’t like the dog to run out first thing in the morning because he barks at this one other dog in the neighborhood like a nut. In the space of time no larger than a heartbeat, my sentimental mood turned to rage, and I thought to myself, I am going to murder this kid.
About five times a day I say this sentence: My son Jack has autism.
I say it on the phone and to the bus driver and in the grocery store and at the library. I say it so much and so often that it’s almost become meaningless, like when we used to play that game as kids where we said the word bubblegum over and over until it was little more than a smooth, round marble in our mouths.
I’m kidding. Autism will never be meaningless in my life.
But what does it mean? What does autism really mean to me?
It means an unexpected life.
It means the landscape of our family is constantly shifting between our feet, as the siblings hop over him in a game of familial leapfrog. I hate that part of it, like how Jack and Henry are emotionally the same age, even though they are five years apart. Already Henry understands more about the world, and social constructs, and language, than his older brother ever will. It’s depressing, to tell you the truth.
The other day I saw a headline announcing the four most important questions to ask your kids at bedtime. I didn’t read the article because the idea of asking my kids anything at bedtime—or do anything more than shriek at them that their teeth will fall out if they —seems like a gargantuan task.
We do read, even though it’s hard to find a book that everyone is interested in, but right now we’re reading a Wrinkle in Time. It’s a little slower than I remembered but I think the good part is coming up soon.
We’re almost out of toilet paper.
Rose is becoming a really good softball player. She needs new boots for the winter.
Right now my life is the perfect storm of monotony and chaos, joy and aggravation. Time is at all at once slipping through my fingers, and yet crawling like a turtle.
We have a lot of turtles crossing the roads in New Hampshire. People pick them up and bring them to the side so they don’t get squished. I haven’t had to do that yet which is good because I don’t really like turtles.
I bet I have cooked about eight hundred billion and forty-eight meals by this point. I don’t really like to cook.
I shouldn’t have yelled at Charlie yesterday.
Last night I had a dream that Joe was the third base coach for the New York Yankees. Pat Benatar was playing for the other team and she slid into base, stood up, and screamed “Hit me with your best shot!”
I thought this dream was very, very funny but when I told Joe about it this morning, he thought it was just okay-funny, not funny-funny. I think he was preoccupied with something else, because anyone can see how funny this was.
I’m a little sick of people always talking about mindfulness. It’s getting on my nerves, to tell you the truth.
I mean, I can’t be mindful all the time. I have to reflect on the past and consider the future and plan out whether or not I should have a cupcake for lunch or eat a salad instead and save the cupcake for later.
I’m really enjoying power yoga lately. I never thought I’d like it so much.
Probably the time I was most mindful this year was when Jack had to go to summer school and he didn’t want to, and he jumped off the bus, so I had to carry him to the car and drive him. Once we were there, we stood together, swaying in the parking lot.
I held both of his shoulders with both of my hands. I can still feel the way the fabric of his shirt kept sliding between my fingers. I was so scared that if I let go, he would run off the sidewalk and into the parking lot and across the street and he would get hit by a car.
Every few minutes, he laid his head on my shoulder, and in my head one single thought circled around and around, like wispy smoke at a campfire.
Stay with him.
He wept for almost an hour, and in that space of time, I thought of nothing else.
To me, autism means you have to stay in one place, even when you are overwhelmed with the desire to move somewhere else.
When I was a kid I wore something we called sun suits. They had white ties that we tied over our shoulders. My favorite one was red. I think they call them rompers now.
I wonder what my kids will remember one day.
I hope they remember all the times I told them if they criticize the umpire, they will never step foot on a field again.
I hope they remember how we sang Karma Chameleon at the top of our lungs in the car, and even though Jack covered his ears and didn’t sing along, he smiled a slow smile.
I hope they remember that no matter how big they got, I was always able to carry them.