To my son,
on graduation day.
Too often, the things I wanted to say got caught in the bottom of my throat
when I was wiping runny noses,
and buying oatmeal,
and folding towels.
My time with you was too short,
even on the days it felt never-ending long.
I see this now.
I see this now that my toddlers have sprung into teenagers.
and I watch boys become tall men.
One single minute ago you were a baby.
This is the truth.
And now, graduation.
The problem is, the things I Ionged to say
were often lost amidst the business of life.
Lost in the middle of all the work is takes to move a family
through another day, week, month.
Towels, breakfast, basketball.
Reading, math facts, field trips, snacks.
Dinner, arguments, showers, bed.
Doctor’s appointments, paperwork, permission slips.
I never chose autism over you.
I want you to know this.
Yes, there were times he took up space.
But he never took your place.
There are things I want to say.
But I don’t. Because of the business-of-life stuff.
What I wouldn’t give
to wipe your runny nose again
or hold your small hand in mine.
I can still hear your young voice in my ears,
What I want to say is, please remember.
Remember that in the moments I yelled,
I loved you still.
Still, I loved you.
I love you.
I want to remind you that on your baddest of days,
when you feel overwhelmed and lost and lonely.
When the rain won’t stop
and the sun won’t shine.
Remember our walks on the beach,
and the seashells in your hand.
Remember the way we curled up on the deep red couch
as the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed.
The secret stories we told,
a warm dog nestled beside us.
Remember that even when I was busy
folding, shopping, cooking, driving,
managing meltdowns, or reading IEP reports,
I never lost sight of you, even once.
You never left my mind.
My oldest boy, my first son, my child called Joseph.
Time is spinning faster and faster—
an hourglass full of slippery sand.
Soon you will live elsewhere,
In the city of love and eagles.
It is the smallest things I will miss the most.
Giant shoes outside the door.
Your quick goodbye, and easy laugh.
The sound of the car up the long driveway.
I know there are hard days ahead of you.
Days when you will make a wrong turn.
A bad decision.
You will lose your judgment,
and find it again.
Maybe you won’t get the job.
Or the promotion.
Or the house.
Miscarriages, divorce, traffic tickets.
Colicky babies, loud arguments, tax bills.
In the hardest moments, I can only tell you three things.
I will write for you all the words I cannot say.
The things that are lodged in my heart.
Make your bed in the morning. It’s a good way to start the day.
Sing out loud to your favorite song, even if you don’t know all the words.
Don’t be afraid to say no.
Eat when you’re hungry.
Stop when you are full.
Dream big, delicious dreams for yourself.
Then figure out exactly how to make them come true.
Think critically about the world around you.
Hold the door for others.
And listen for the answer.
And no matter what,
On dark, rainy mornings,
and bright, sunny afternoons.
Days when you are homesick and sad,
or happy and triumphant.
Days when the mistakes feel so big,
and you are hopeless, and alone.
Mama loves you.