Amongst the five pear trees, a single bird stirs. From where I sit on the front porch, I feel his eyes upon me. Perhaps I am imagining it.
Inside the house, a notebook sits on the counter. It’s opened to a blank page.
For the last four weeks, you’ve been at a summer program.
Now, a new letter arrives nearly every day. You write to your brothers. Your sister. The dog and your dad. Me.
We read them eagerly.
With pen to paper, you reveal yourself. You share memories. You describe your day. You close with “I love you,” words you rarely speak aloud.
It’s like meeting you for the first time.
You’ve always worked hard to communicate. When asked a question, you often hesitate. Writing was a chore.
I imagine words in your brain are like bees in a hive. They swarm. They buzz and sting.
With these letters, bees have become butterflies. The sentences dance across the page with color and light. I treasure them.
Now, I am trying to write my own.
What do I say?
How do I capture the last four weeks?
How to I apologize for the ride there, when my brother called every hour or so, with reports of my mother’s emergency intubation, her imminent passing?
How you wanted to stop for lunch at a pizza place you read about online, but I rushed us through sandwiches at Subway instead?
At home without you, I notice things only you would appreciate.
Pillows stacked high on the bed.
A new Taylor Swift song on the radio.
The announcement that a Thai restaurant is coming to town.
On paper they seem mundane, ordinary. Yet they are the very things that keep our wings aloft in the sky.
I will never forget the first time I heard you laugh.
You were almost a year old. It was about eight months before we heard the official diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Disorder.
I already had the sinking sensation that something was wrong. For nearly twelve months, your silence was eerie. You never babbled. You didn’t coo or smile.
But you sat before the television watching a Baby Einstein DVD. The videos that paired classical music with simple puppets and scenery. I remember a barn, animals. There was a stack of hay.
And you laughed out loud.
It sounded like seashells on a sandy beach. The kind you hold your ear up to and listen for secrets.
Hearing your joy, I’m not sure which I savored more. When it happened, or the moment that followed.
I don’t know what to write in the notebook on the counter. I don’t know how to tell you I am proud of who you are, and who you will become.
Without warning, the bird leaves his resting spot amongst the trees. He chooses a higher branch. He is wobbly at first. Once he gets his feet beneath him, he takes off again. Higher, higher, until he is nothing more than a silhouette against the clouds.
I think of you.
I stand up from the step. I walk back inside the house. I pick up the pen.