So sometime in my past I went out a few times with a really cool lady. We got on reasonably well but, for some reason (read: my hangups) we weren’t able to make a go of it. That despite having many things in common, similar life outlooks and goals, many shared likes and dislikes, even the same graduate degrees; pretty much everything with just enough differences to keep things interesting.
One big difference was kids. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I wanted children and she did. Very much so. Oh, she wasn’t overbearing about it; no, this lady wanted a real partnership with the guy who would be sire to her dam, a physical and intellectual melding of two people.
Yes, children proved to be the main issue between us and, not wholly because of me, she moved away. And that’s entirely fair. Children, and whether both partners want them, should be a deal breaker. Deal breakers should be over real issues, not invented ones.
We remained in touch and over time have become, I think anyway, pretty good friends. So imagine my surprise when I find out that she had a child, a baby boy. His birthday happens to have been on my father’s birthday to boot. His first name is similar to mine (well, at least it begins with the same letter as mine does which is good enough). His middle name coincidentally is the same as my paternal grandfather’s. She didn’t didn’t do either deliberately, of course, it just happened that way.
Even though he’s not my son, I reveled in the news and photos she’d send periodically. We did the things many friends who live a ways away from each other do, send cards (in our case, e-cards), emails and occasional texts, and see each other when we travel to the other’s area (which is usually her coming to my neck of the woods). I won’t go into detail, but she brought me back from the brink of religious stupidity as well.
Well, on one of the trips to my area, she brought her son along. We were both , excited about my meeting him for the first time. We met at a restaurant (which she remembered was where we ate on our second date) and I met and saw her son for the first time. He’s a tow-headed kid, cute, and she looked the same, a touch of gray at her temples now, which I attributed to the trials and tribulations of raising a son alone. To get in both of their good graces, I brought along a couple of Hot Wheels, figuring little boys always like cars. When I handed the cars to him, I said something like ‘when you’re old enough, you can buy a real one.’ She then said ‘from your mouth to God’s ear’ and then mentioned something about her son’s “problem.” She’d never said anything about a problem before, so I dutifully asked.
He has autism.
You have to understand something about my friend. The biggest goal in her life, the biggest desire she had was to become a mother. She went through the hassles (shots) and expense (thousands) of artificial insemination. I don’t know how many times she tried to get pregnant that way but, from what I understand, it is not unheard of for a woman to fail to become pregnant on the first effort. So that means more shots, more cash, more discomfort and waiting, more heartache.
And she succeeds at some point and has a son who has autism.
She’s not complaining and is doing her level best to help him. She takes him to different schools and has him enrolled in different programs to help with the disorder. It’s amazing that she finds the strength to do what she does every day because virtually every day she has some place to go with him.
She recently sent another card. She asked that those who are observant pray for her son. I emailed and asked what was going on, was he okay.
Yes, came the reply, physically he’s fine. But he’s now 4 years old and still doesn’t talk. She’s getting worried.
After all this time, it seems that her efforts to help her son have yet to bear fruit. I don’t know a great deal about autism, just what I’d read in my psych classes, but if I remember correctly 4 is a crucial age for children with autism. If they aren’t speaking by that time, it’s a much longer climb and many more problems are out there for the child.
Autism is an absolute scourge. It is horrible, for both parent and child. It’s a drain on resources both physical and mental, and the economic toll – for the family and society – is huge. It’s not without cost to place children in schools geared towards teaching autistic children.
This absolutely kills me. One of my many character flaws is that I’m a ‘fixer:’ I try to solve everyone’s problems. It’s made me a good lawyer, but doesn’t really help in my personal life. In this case, there’s not a bloody thing I can do. Not a single thing I can do to help her in any way, other than be there for her, an ear to bend and a shoulder to cry on.
Life is unfair. Yes, no one said life would be fair. But – – this lovely woman did what she could to create a family so that she could fulfill her life’s goal, the one thing she hadn’t done in her highly successful life, have a child.
Then the child has autism.
That’s not just unfair, that’s just unspeakably cruel.