|No, that is not really me. I was bigger.|
When I was 7 ½ months pregnant with Conor, I put my hand on my huge belly (I had gained 40lbs, I guess that explains the stretch marks) and proclaimed to my mom that I thought I could handle anything, even the death of my child, except autism.
My mom frowned at me, pursing her lips in a disapproving way. She shook her head. “Plenty of people love to work with that population, Alisa,” she declared.
(She worked for a nonprofit that provides day habilitation, vocational and support services for adults with cognitive disabilities. Many have autism as well. My husband travelled a lot so I had lunch with her often at her office.)
“I think that’s great, Mom, that people take on that work, “ I replied. “But I don’t think I could handle it, my own child.”
I had seen a TV report about autism just the day before. It may have been on 60 Minutes, I’m not sure. I do remember the beautiful towheaded boy and his mom. He screamed every waking moment of his life. (Was he five years old?)
From the time he woke up until the time he went to bed, he screamed. He was nonverbal but vocalized constantly. It was awful.
And his mom, she worked so hard. You could tell from the tiny segment of the 60 Minutes report, she had the patience of a saint. Me, I have the patience of a two year old. Yeah, it’s not one of my virtues. (My family and friends will happily confirm that.)
So I’ve often pondered what this all means, being handed the very thing I knew I couldn’t handle. The one thing I just did not want. And it’s turned out to be just as hard as I feared. Different than that boy, but just as hard.
If I believed in a god, I would say s/he was testing me, trying to prove to me I could handle it. But I’m agnostic (leaning toward atheism), and I can’t. At least not very well, most of the time.
I pretend to be a Buddhist sometimes and I guess they would say it was some bad kharma. But basically, they would leave it up to me to figure it out through meditation. And burning incense. (To cover up the smell of the pot. I kid, I kid, totally not serious, don’t call my mom. Or the cops.)
I’m not sure why I was handed the exact thing that I feared. With 1 in 94 boys now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, I guess the appropriate question is, why not me?