When I was very little, we lived on top of a hill.
One night my mother and father walked my sister, my brother, and me down the hill to a big white building on the corner so they could vote. I’m not sure how I knew this, but I did.
There were people sitting at a small table. They looked through some papers attached to a clipboard, and they shook their heads. Then we walked back up the hill to our house.
That is my memory of voting—clipboards, papers, and a long climb uphill. Even as a child, I understood the cloud of shame, and rejection that marked our steps.
This memory stayed with me. It was so strong, in fact, once I turned eighteen I didn’t vote. The idea made me nervous. I associated with a vague sense of exclusion.
In fact, I have only voted a handful of times in my life. This is a terrible thing to admit, I know.
I still find it uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong—I am grateful for the opportunity and my voice and democracy. It’s the process that I find complicated—registering and driving to the polls and standing in lines while people argue politics and wear buttons.
Now, I want to talk about something I have put off talking about for a long, long time.
My son Jack has autism.
He is sixteen.
In two years, my husband and I will likely obtain something called guardianship.
Typing the word guardianship makes my heart squeeze very tight. It makes my stomach hurt.
Guardianship happens in a courtroom.
There is a judge.
In this courtroom with a judge, we will sign documents and secure legal authority to make decisions for our son.
Healthcare, medical records, living arrangements.
Guardians are typically used in four situations: guardianship for an incapacitated senior (due to old age or infirmity), guardianship for a minor, and guardianship for developmentally disabled adults, and for adults found to be incompetent.
We will be the guardians, and he, the ward.
Developmentally disabled ward guardianship legal it is awful and I hate it all.
His name is Jack. He is my son.
He has a diagnosis. He has autism.
For the most part, nothing will change.
We’ll handle his finances.
We’ll keep track of his prescriptions, and schedule his doctor appointments.
We’ll make sure he has a place to live, and the food he likes, and transportation.
At the same time, it changes everything.
See, this boy has been chasing freedom and independence since the day he learned to climb out of the crib.
He figured out locks and raced out the door.
He found my keys and started the car.
I have chased him through parking lots, and the mall, and the neighborhood.
Time and time again, he pushes against the bell curve’s parenthesis, and resists its limitation.
Yet his autism has continued to confine him.
Guardianship is simply one more shackle inside his gilded spectrum cage.
I need you to know so many things, I don’t even know where begin.
You need to know he is a whole good person with thoughts and opinions. He is smart. He has a point of view.
I never saw this coming.
When the sun dropped long and low into the sky, I stood at the counter and made chicken cutlets and tried to get him to memorize math facts. I never saw it coming.
I told social stories. I toasted waffles in the morning, and sliced celery with peanut butter in the afternoon. I never saw it coming.
His father taught him to change everything from light bulbs, to the oil in the car.
We went to the grocery store. We chose the best avocadoes. We talked about prices per pound and smiled at the cashier.
I didn’t know it was coming.
All this time, it was looming, unspoken, in the shadows.
I have failed. In my brain, I know this is not exactly the case, but in my heart I know it is exactly the case.
He is my son.
I want you to know I cradled him on the day he was born and I hoped for the best for him even after the soft-spoken doctor delivered the autism news.
Where is the turning point in all of this? Where is the triumph?
In New Hampshire, he can still vote. This is not the case for every state when it comes to guardianship, and I am grateful for the small mercy.
Still, he faces barriers to the process.
He cannot drive himself to the polls.
Registration will be confusing for him.
He is easily influenced by propaganda, and publicity.
I have a favor to ask you.
This November, please vote.
And if you face any obstacle at all, message me. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do everything I can to connect you to what is rightfully yours.
Vote for him. Vote in honor of my son, who cannot always choose for himself.
Be a voice for those who cannot cast a ballot.
Triumph, on his behalf.