Ten years from this day. I wonder what that day will look like. That day, that week, month, or year. My daughter will be 17. I will be 44. 2027. How will autism have changed my life? Our lives?
I think I will be the same person. Still listening to 90s music. Still wearing my checkered Vans. Still alone. Still feeling more safe that way. Still in that waiting game. Waiting until my daughter is home with me again every time she has to go to her dads. Still having our Friday night dinners together at Salvadores. Where my parents had their first date. Still walking to Silverlake Park. We will ALWAYS do our movie nights. With candy and popcorn, snuggled up in my ratty couch with my old comforter. Still having Sunday dinners with my family.
But what might be different?
Maybe when I ask her about her day or her week at our Friday dinners, she will tell me and I won’t wonder if she is just mimicking what she has learned is a socially acceptable response. Maybe she will tell me a story about her friend from school and I won’t wonder if she’s actually talking about something that happened to two other people…..but she is casting herself and another person because it is the only way she can relate to the event. Maybe she won’t question the gender or race of every person she encounters while we shop together. Maybe she won’t ask strangers what their name is 3-4 times before she introduces herself. Maybe she won’t use lines from Disney movies to convey to me that she doesn’t want pizza for dinner.
Maybe everything will be so different. Maybe she will have graduated high school. Maybe she will be thinking about college. Maybe I will meet some amazing warrior type person who isn’t afraid to have a messy life sometimes. Maybe she will meet that person too and then find someone like him. Maybe one day I will dance with her father at her wedding. Maybe one day, I will be a grandma.
Or maybe not.
We might still have therapy every Thursday. Or more frequently. I might still have to explain everything to strangers when she reaches out for their hand randomly. I might still have to remind her about personal space. I might have to preside over her affairs. With input from her father. I might have to elect someone to take over when I am gone. That is the scariest part. Thinking about when I am gone and so is her dad. When we can’t protect her any more.
I can’t see the future though. I do not know what autism will bring us each year, each week, or each day. You cannot prepare for the unknown.
You have to accept everything that comes your way. There is no other choice. When you are pleasantly surprised you celebrate. When you are let down, grieving, angry…..you just have to keep going. Keep striving for a celebration or a victory. They are there. In the little every day things. When they finally lick a carrot or introduce themselves to a stranger or tell you what they ate for lunch at their dads and you find out later it’s accurate. Don’t discount these small every day things. Because the small things are big things for them. It’s the little things that are so important.
I don’t know where we are going to be ten years from now. It doesn’t matter. We will be okay. I’m prepared. I will always follow her lead. Because my daughter has taken me on such a beautiful journey. I’m thankful for it. Each surprise. Every story. Every wound. Every victory.
I’m in. I’m along for this ride.