For starters: I no longer feel entitled to say “younger,” and probably will not give myself permission to until I’m seventy and looking back on “nearly fifty.” Right now I’m firmly at “when I was young.” Of course, “when I was young” I thought of this moment in my life as “when I’m old,” not “when I’m older.” There are things that, with all honesty, I wish I’d worried a little less about when I was a stupid young person; I was “stupid” because I was “young,” not because I was unintelligent. My worries were so misguided that now I look back and just shake my head at my young self. What an airhead!!!
But let me backtrack so this might (MIGHT!) make a little (but not much more) sense. Dada and I woke up to the phone ringing insistently in the wee hours of Saturday. My neighbor’s mom was calling to say she was heading to the hospital, and could I check in on the dogs later. As a result of this, sleepless ensued.
[We now interrupt this entry to make a clarification. Ahem.
While this entry is based on a conversation Dada and I had in the wee hours of a Saturday morning, I would like to indicate that -being the parents of a somewhat spontaneously disruptive autistic individual- we didn’t just talk. We know that opportunities to spend time together not-talking can be few and far between if J is inclined to be sleepless, anxious, etc., so we jumped at the chance and THEN we had a conversation…
J slept all the way through to 7:30.
I don’t want you all to think that this household is all about yak-yak-yakking away. We DO know when to shut up.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.]
Because our history is long (rather long) and complicated (don’t even get me started,) Dada is one of those beings on whom I rely for feedback, and vice versa. I tell him things I wouldn’t tell anyone else (not even my best friends…and, sorry, but it’ll stay that way,) and he tells me that it’s the same for him. I tend to believe this because, even when he hesitates at what my reaction might be, he tells me stuff that makes my head spin, and then it all settles and we’re cool. So on this particular morning, since the phone call was about a baby being born, we had a conversation about babies…or, rather, what it would have been like to have babies together when we were younger.
Dada said he’d have been in there for all the pushing, needing a shot of whiskey when it was all over. I said I’d rather have him wait outside, and to please bring me a shot of whiskey when it was all over. He said he would not have known what to do with a newborn; I said I know he’d be a natural at it, one of those guys who is seemingly awkward until he has his child’s baby butt in the palm of one hand and the head cradled in the other. We both admitted that we regret not going through THAT particular experience together.
Where am I going with this. Where am I going with this? I’m going in this direction: I wish I’d known how to talk when I was younger. I knew how to talk, but I didn’t know how to say what was really on my mind. I could say what was on my mind but -famously- this came out as a barrage of hurtful or shocking things that led to miscommunication. Furthermore, when we were young -we both admit- we seemed to have a knack for listening to the wrong person at the wrong time, and we didn’t talk to each other when it would have been wisest to do so…had we had the gumption to actually communicate with each other (instead of worrying about what we assumed the other person thought,) things would have been significantly different.
There’d be no J and TGG. We’d have skipped a lot of the unpleasantness we experienced apart, but…
What if we had known something that led us in a different direction? What if we hadn’t ever had the opportunity to know what Autism is, and where it leads in oh, so convoluted ways? What if this lifestyle of ours could have been prevented? I have one autistic child. My ex-husband has two. What if he was the one meant to deal with the ups and downs, and he’s simply avoided them by escaping in a timely fashion? Would our lives be better?
A turn in our conversation led to Dada saying “I remember you when you were twelve. I can see you clearly. You are running around, making a pest of yourself, and I think of you as any fourteen year-old boy thinks of an annoying twelve year-old.” (I remember this, too. I remember how blindly adoring I was towards him while trying to play it cool enough that he and the rest of the world would remain oblivious to this weakness.) And then he says to me “I want to go back and whisper in my own ear: see her? That’s the woman who’s going to make you happy; you’re going to spend the rest of your life being madly in love with her. Freaky, huh?”
I wish I could go back and tell myself “him? Yeah, you’re right…that’s him. That’s the one. Only, don’t be so sure that you skip all the nasty bits of heartache and go straight for happily ever after. You won’t be able to appreciate what you’ve got until you’re older and life has slapped your arrogance around a little. He’s Eggs Benedict, but you won’t really know that until you have one Egg McMuffin too many…”
As we sat sipping coffee and pondering the rest of our day, J bounced down the stairs with a smile that pretty much covered his whole face. Out of the blue, he bounced to Dada and hugged him tightly with a bright THANK YOU that made us chuckle. “I think you mean GOOD MORNING, J,” I said. THANK YOU! He was even more emphatic this time…and then he hugged me and expressed his gratitude just as exuberantly. “Does he know something we don’t know,?” Dada asked…
I shrugged…yeah…maybe…probably…it’s likely…or quite possibly not…