What a gift this day was. I can’t stop thinking about this picture, taken yesterday, Columbus Day 2015 from the top of Mt. Abraham, Maine’s 2nd highest peak. Firstly it’s rare the boys are actually looking at the camera, so thank you iPhone IoS burst feature and the husband who found it. Second the weather was just amazing, almost as gorgeous as the day the boys’ sister was born some 24 years ago last week. But most of all, because this picture is my talisman for the days like today when it’s all work, or rain, or the clouds obscure the way.
Autism gave me the mountains, which I always loved but thanks to the boys, they’ve loved me back.
Autism gave me a different trail than my other kind of exceptional child. The autism trail is rocky, hard and long, like the talus field we crossed made of the kind of rocks we sit upon in the picture, only smaller – for a half-mile of it. You look up at the steepness and say, My God. – But like yesterday and like this picture, some days the rewards bathe you like warm sunlight – and somehow the road isn’t as daunting as you feared. Those days more than make up for the ones where you had to turn back, or you swore at the universe as you bit your lip til it bled, or wondered why this curse was foisted on you. In those gifts of a moment, you meet your goal, and that’s great – but the best part is that you know you’re the master of the trail, and not vice-versa.
Most of all autism gave me these young men – these glorious, challenged but exceptional young men. No they aren’t destined for Harvard since they can’t read. They may struggle enough to butter their toast or orient their shirt front and back. But the joy in those smiles above fills the skies, and all who are sensitive enough to see, and feel what is radiating from my guys. It’s pure love. I like to believe it’s love for me, and I think it is, but I think it’s also the joy of slogging through the metaphoric trees of life and emerging above treeline (Will’s favorite) to the reward you earned, and thoroughly savor. For kids of this profile, so much of everyday living is just such hard work. Bursting into the bright beyond is so energizing. The knowledge that you can do it, whatever “it” may be, is almost as powerful as the tectonic force that created those mountains. And it’s as limitless as the skies.
Perhaps that’s the best gift of all -not only the love they bring to me, but the capacity they can bring to the great beyond. We sat seemingly on top of the world this day, and felt the mountain magic as the foliage lit the trees on fire. In reality – perhaps it is us, creating that fire.