I once read that you prefer the season into which you were born, and the Virgo in me dutifully complies to the searing orange and red of autumn.
Yet this year, spring has taken me by surprise. I stand at our bedroom window each morning, marveling at how vibrant green leaves changed the landscape overnight.
I want it to last forever. I’d like to stay cupped inside the palm of possibility—all yellow days and cooling dusk.
Because come July, when the sun is a jealous circle of fire overhead, my son Jack will leave for a college program.
Once again, I am desperate for a crystal ball to know how it all turns out.
I’ve played this game before, where I attempt to predict the future.
When he was newly diagnosed, I predicted he would outgrow autism.
In first grade, I predicted he would outrun anxiety’s quick chase.
At age twelve, I predicted we might get through puberty unscathed.
The human brain, it seems, is lousy at predicting. Mine is, anyway.
There are certain worries that accompany launching a neurotypical child into the world.
You worry if he’ll ever change his sheets.
You worry about homesickness and alcohol and time management
When you send your diagnosed child out, the worries are magnified.
You worry about bullies, predators, speeding cars in the crosswalk.
You hope you’ve prepared him for the world, yes, but you also wonder if you’ve prepared the world for him.
Sitting at lunch on a regular Tuesday, I overheard two men in suits talking about a new hire in the office.
They traded complaints the way a child trades baseball cards: the new employee asks the same question a lot. He checks his watch constantly.
I’d like to wear these words like a loose garment. Instead, they cloak me in the itchiest wool.
My son repeats himself.
He checks his watch thirty times an hour.
July. It is racing toward me like a locomotive train.
Who are we without this boy? It’s difficult to capture how much he inhabits this house and our family.
Over the years, he has pulled us through timeworn traditions.
Elf on the Shelf, egg coloring, Santa’s boots on wintry steps.
I’ll miss his music, his voice, his hello when he walks in the door.
My husband and I, well, we are adrift in the deep wide ocean of this boy’s future. You might even say we’re on different islands altogether.
We are fiercely devoted to the granular shores upon which we sit, our faces upturned. I am committed to my candy-coated cerulean sky. He, to the metallic shade of an impending storm.
Space: this is the gift marriage counseling has ultimately bestowed.
Space to think, feel, worry, love, behave, try in a way that is different from the other.
In the meantime, there is much to do when it comes to the Jack-launch.
We have to file for a government ID he’ll carry in place of the long-coveted Driver’s license, and get medication in order so he can pick it up locally.
I research grants to help defray the astronomical cost of full-time residential care and all the required academic scaffolding.
Online, I scan lists of scholarships: money bestowed for high GPA’s, or standardized tests, or an interest in the field of geology.
There is a distinct lack of money for those who skipped the SAT’s but learned to boil pasta—those who followed a non-traditional academic journey full of phrases like life skills and independent living.
It is another way I can’t help but feel we’ve been forgotten—the sharp blade of self-pity I indulge myself in from time to time.
What does it matter?
I’m not asking for a handout.
I’m simply asking for our culture to acknowledge that people like my son are worth an investment.
He is worth the investment.
For so long, this boy Jack and I have been attached by an invisible umbilical cord. Over the years it stretched, yet never severed.
It is time to let go.
I’m just not sure how.
Still, we built a family.
We built a family out of the mundane and the ordinary.
We built it out of grated cheese on top of spaghetti and cannonballs in the summer.
Wet towels, egg salad sandwiches, broken bicycle pumps, beaded bracelets, warm fleece blankets—this is the detritus upon which our familial fortress rests.
One by one, they are leaving this proverbial nest we call home.
And now, his childhood is over. It feels like everything is done.
Everything is done.
Nothing is done.
I believe in him. I always have.
Perhaps this is the center of our marital discord.
To me, it feels like Joe doesn’t believe in him the way I do.
Perhaps it’s the opposite. Perhaps he has trouble putting his faith in the world.
Rarely, in this life of ours, is the sky a singular shade of color.