The restaurant is busy. Holiday lights twinkle overhead.
The server sets the pizza down in front of him. He looks at it, then back at her.
“This is not. What I ordered.”
I start to speak. I think better of it. I lean back in my chair and fold my hands carefully in my lap. I am waiting for the storm.
A word wrapped around a stop sign.
My son Jack.
For nineteen years, autism connected us in complicated ways.
For as long as I can remember, I fought for him. I spoke for him. I hoped for him.
So often, I wondered how this story will turn out.
I long for it to sit, still and dusty on a shelf somewhere – its power lost after so many live a similar tale.
How long will I look over my shoulder? How long will I wait for the chaos to descend?
How badly I want to know the ending.
Now, I sit across the table from him. His brother shifts slightly in his seat. I hold my breath.
Once upon a time, Jack and I were two bees scuttling across the bottom of an old jelly jar. We never looked up to the sky.
He isn’t my friend.
He’s not my companion.
He is my son.
Autism created two versions inside of him.
Now, slowly, I begin to disentangle us.
Like the sun making a long, unhurried arc across the sky, so too is the disentanglement of mother and son.
Untethering, it seems, is a triangle of sorts. Three corners: physical, emotional, and interpretive.
At first, I stop managing his medication.
I tell him to stop waiting for me whenever I left the house – his tall silhouette standing in the doorway whenever I pull in the garage.
Because if untethering is wrapped around a stop sign, then codependence is the sly lean into the red and white yield. I am determined to keep us both upright.
I stop calling him Big Guy.
I stop suggesting what clothes he should wear.
I stop ordering for him in restaurants.
I stop monitoring how much soda he drinks.
Tiny changes. Perhaps meaningless in the face of life with a diagnosed child.
Now, here in this restaurant, I move to the third corner. Interpreting.
For so long, I interpreted boy to world and world to boy. Now, it is time to slide out of this space. It is time for boy and world to try and figure each other out.
How will this story turn out?
I have no idea.
I can only tell you what is, as opposed to what will be.
It is the story of brotherhood, motherhood, changed minds, and beating hearts.
It is the story of the wind at our backs and the sun on our face.
The story of a first bite of unexpected pizza beneath the holiday lights.
The ordinary, dazzling story of metamorphosis of boy to man.
It’s easy to assume the story begins and ends here.
I don’t know where it began.
I don’t know where it ends.
But I believe the middle of it happened in a garage. My tall boy’s silhouette making shadows on the wall.
“Mom. I always come to see. If you have groceries to carry inside.”
In this life we call ours, we have only moments.