Here’s some information about me: First, I have a degree in creative writing. If I try hard, and spend a lot of time, and stare out the window between clauses, and search within myself for emotive phrases, I can usually write a pretty sentence. A flowery sentence, even, when the occasion calls for flourish. I can do that. Second, I also have a master’s degree in philosophical theology, a field I adore (though I went on to become an lawyer). Sometimes in the middle of the night I get so worked up about the meaning of eternity that I have to go downstairs and see if I can find an episode of Family Ties on Hub TV to calm me.
I’m revealing these facts to make a point about this blog. A few books have come out recently by parents who wax poetically about their children with ASD and related issues, who have found the meaning in their quirkiness, who see beauty in a life that looks different. I’ve perused the jackets of those books, but I haven’t read one. Each time I try, I end up thinking, Cut the crap. Despite the creative-writing and theology degrees, I don’t care to ponder the meta-questions associated with my son’s disorder. In this blog I will not be contemplating the interactions that make us human. I will not be reflecting on what Martin’s otherness says about my sameness.
I will admit that Adrian and I have talked about the blessings of a son whose development, on most fronts, is delayed. We get the opportunity to savor moments that might otherwise have flown by. In the past few weeks Martin has finally found the focus and moderation to walk alongside a grown-up, holding hands. Last week we realized that, when Martin speaks, he now looks at one of us to make sure he has our attention. How many parents of neurotypical children celebrate those milestones? Yet Adrian detests the saying that everything happens for a reason, and on some level I agree with him. I mean, I’m yet to find the well-wisher who can give me the “reason” that my kid has autism.
Martin’s autism, more so than any non-work-related issue I’ve ever encountered, has brought out the lawyer in me. I just want to roll up my sleeves and fix this. I chose that word—fix—with care. I know it will anger or upset some persons in the autism community, but I have promised honesty in this blog. And the truth is that I view autism as a problem, and I plan to fix it.
Here’s an analogy: I do a lot of volunteer work in area church governance. Often when a matter of business arises, we spend, seriously, hours making sure that everyone’s position is heard on church history, theological implications, congregational inclusion, who knows what. (Hey, it’s church, right?) I detest those discussions. After five or ten minutes, all the really important stuff has been said, and we’re just drifting Joyce-like through emotional arguments and feel-good reassurances. Serving on many of the same committees is another lawyer, retired from a big firm like the kind that employs me. I catch his eye, and we give each other a look that says, “These people obviously don’t work on billable hours.”
It’s like billable hours here. We have a limited window in which to recover Martin. With each passing day, it will be more difficult. I’m not going to waste any time searching for the ways in which his life with autism can be just as rich and varied as without. And I know we may not succeed. Martin might, for his entire life, remain distinguishable from his neurotypical peers. If that happens, I have no doubt that I will find comfort in a more philosophical approach to our situation. Now is not that time. If I can fix this disorder, I will not let it fester while I admire the bigger picture. This blog is about the workaday aspects of finding, and fixing.
I suppose there is some irony that I’ve written this post at all. True, it required taking a step back to contemplate our journey and what I plan for this blog. But I really don’t have time for irony, either.