Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"He Can't Walk, But I Can Carry Him."

In my own trajectory of life, there has been nothing to compare with what my son with autism has taught me--again, I will say nothing. I have traversed some bumpy roads before (that's what happens when you get older), but I was not prepared for the nearly debilitating heartbreak I felt for many months after his diagnosis. Conversely, I did not anticipate the daily tutoring that our family would embark on by having a child/brother with autism.

Enjoying a moment of laughter.  How he loves his siblings!  One therapist told me when he was very young that he had an incredible sense of humor.  She said, "That is something you can not teach him in therapy.  But he's got it.  He is so funny!"

There are days, or I should specifically say moments, when I feel his words and actions capture the purest sense of compassion and love that I have ever witnessed. Today was one of those days. They happen more frequently than I would have guessed or expected. Sometimes I am swept away with wonder and awe of his guileless heart.

Elias is now 13, taller than me, and swimming in hormones. Being in 7th grade is demanding enough for any typical kid. But to pair autism and adolescence...well, it can be a tough mix. I need these happy, beautiful interludes when I hear the pulse of his heart.  It makes any other difficult exchange or confusion of the day wash away.

This is one of my favorite pictures of our Egypt trip.  Listening, understanding, connecting with his brother....
When he came home from school today, this was our conversation--mostly a steady stream of consciousness, linking his thoughts:

Elias:  "Mom, I know I have autism. Why do I have autism? (no pause for an answer) But everyone has something.  One grandpa doesn't have a toe, and my other grandpa was blind. Some people can't talk, but I can. I know people (and he names a few children we know who do not speak).
Me: "Yes, you speak very well. We are very glad you can talk." (I remember when he was four--not knowing if he ever would talk, and now he never seems to pause for a breath).
Elias: "You remember that boy who was in a wheelchair?" (I struggle to remember a boy I haven't seen in two/three years from our church who was confined to a wheelchair).
Me: "Yes, I remember him now."
Elias: "I can carry him, Mom. I am strong.  He can't walk, but I can carry him. I could get him out, and carry him. I know I could. I am so strong."
Me: "Yes, you are strong. He is so lucky to have a friend like you. What a good friend you are."

A conversation from a few days ago:

Elias: "Did you have a good day, Mom?  What did you do today?"
Me: "Well, I played my cello and guitar, read...."
Elias: "Did you work out? You worked out, right? (with a worried look since he is in a healthy phase now). You had a good day?"
Me: "Yes, sometimes I just like to be myself" (not mentioning that I really need this time so I have the energy when he bounces in after school).
Elias: "I don't like to be myself.  I just want to be with people. All the time.  I love to be with people. I love people."

There is still the occasional strenuous day, to be sure, but my initial darkness and fog lifted a long time ago.  I have since learned to see this amazingly pure boy who is loving, funny, creative, and oh, so very kind.  Yes, he does love people--everybody, anybody--no strings attached! While living in the Middle East, he gets to know people from every corner of this world, and he loves every single one. And you know what?  They love him too!  Lucky me. He is my son who mentors me more than I would ever known possible.


This picture was taken immediately after Elias was born.  Little did his siblings know, or any of us for that matter, that he would teach us all so much.  We took him to Toronto, Canada when he was four to receive listening therapy with Paul Madaule who just wrote When Listening Becomes Alive. He said to me something I have always remembered:  "From my observations of your kids, they will be his best therapists."  His prediction became true.