There is a tinge of autism in the air. We load the last of your bags in the car.
I look to the sky. I think of newborns wrapped in blue. I think of spring. I think of sandcastles.
I read somewhere that it’s easy to trap bees in a jar.
This is because they don’t look up to the sky. They focus on the bottom.
Since you were born nineteen years ago, I’ve joked that the umbilical cord between us never quite disappeared.
You were always near me in the house. You called for me constantly. I knew your footsteps better than I knew my own.
Whenever I was out, you always met me at the door when I pulled into the garage.
You’d d ask me where I’d been, what took me so long to come home.
In many ways, we were like the bees.
We scrutinized the jar. We examined the walls and the floor. We stared at one another, instead of shifting our gaze toward the horizon.
The sun shines brightly on the long drive. Green fields sprout tender leaves on either side of us. We are quiet. We are thinking.
We pull into the lot behind the building. You shift in your seat. You are excited.
We unload the car. With a lemon-yellow sun perched overhead, we carry in your new comforter, the whisk from Target, the laundry basket.
Once inside the room, you touch each surface lightly with your fingertips. Desk, bed, shelf. It’s as if you are claiming them as your own.
I make your bed, the way I’ve done a thousand times before. I smooth sheets over the mattress. I stack pillows. I imagine you sleeping here tonight. A lump rises in my throat.
Who are you without me? Without us?
At first, I was terrified to let you go.
A college program for the neurodiverse.
Who would keep you safe?
Who would refill your medication, and make sure you dressed warm enough, and fix your glasses when the lens fell out?
Who would remind you to put your money away or that soda keeps you up at night?
In many ways, my world revolved around you. This isn’t anyone’s fault. It is simply the life alongside a diagnosed child.
But it meant I had to do the very hard work of untangling my own needs from your future. I had to begin to separate. And this was the hardest of all—harder, even, than sitting in the doctor’s office, and hearing the words autism spectrum disorder attached to my boy.
It meant letting you walk into the pharmacy and pick up your own prescription.
It meant biting my tongue when you drank too much soda, hoping you would connect the dots between beverage and sleeplessness.
It meant encouraging you to stay inside when you heard my car in the driveway.
It meant giving up control.
One day I pulled into the garage. You weren’t standing at the door. I put my head on the steering wheel and cried.
What was I doing?
I didn’t want to let go.
At the same time, I didn’t want you to wait for me another moment.
I didn’t want you to watch the world through glass.
After the last t-shirt is folded and the towels are neatly stacked, you walk us to the car. You are vibrating with anticipation. After a quick goodbye, you turned one way. And we turned the other.
You turned one way.
We turned the other.
How does this story end?
For so long you were a bee.
Now, you are a bird taking flight, all sapphire wings and tender leaves. You are the colorful cloud overhead. You are possibility wrapped up in a new beginning.
May you claim your own sky.
I still look for you every time I pull in the garage.