I’m a major Bills fan, so that sucks.
But it doesn’t suck as much as it might, because it was a hard-fought game on a sun-shiny 68-degree day, and Adrian and were sitting in MetLife Stadium, cheering. With friends. Without Martin.
Years ago, when we decided to have a child, Adrian and I vowed that we’d never give up being a couple for the sake of being parents. We were both 35 years old when I got pregnant. We had a decent society, some other couples with children, but mostly child-free couples and single persons. Concerts, dinner parties, sporting events, the usual. That’s still pretty much our crowd—the type of people who ask about the kids but really don’t want them lingering at get-togethers.
In fact, I’ve always been uncomfortable hanging out with women who define themselves by motherhood. When Martin was younger, pre-diagnosis, and Samara had a day off, I would take Martin to a neighborhood playground and hover awkwardly while he ran and climbed. I didn’t belong to any of the nanny clusters that congregated there, and the full-time mothers seemed to have a language of their own, organizing “walk-dates” and exchanging tips for rainy-day hotspots. I couldn’t seem to find crowd organized around the principle of “the kids are fine, let’s grab coffee and talk about books and sports.”
When Martin was diagnosed, long before we undertook or even heard of biomedical recovery, Adrian and I made a supplementary promise: that we would never become a family defined by the spectrum. Our friends should think of us as cool folks (okay, maybe that’s a stretch), not folks who have a son with ASD. We have grown-up lives that lovingly encompass but also stretch beyond autism.
So we make every effort to concentrate on our marriage, and even our independent social lives. Once a week Adrian comes home early enough for me to go out to dinner with a girlfriend, or to the Rangers game, or even just to the wine bar on the corner, solo, with the iPad for reading. Those evenings it doesn’t matter whether I haven’t slept more than three hours, or I’ll have to stay up late doing kitchen work afterwards. I go out. And Friday night, every Friday night, Samara works late so Adrian and I can have a date, alone or with friends. We just have to maintain those connections to each other, and to the world.
Right now Adrian is testing my commitment to this practice. For our recent anniversary celebration, he gave me—a vacation. He hasn’t told me where we’re going, only that we leave right after Christmas and I should bring a swimsuit and hiking boots. He’s conspired to have my mother in town, taking care of Martin, while we’re gone.
I need a vacation. I love escaping the City mid-winter. The idea of lying poolside with a fruity cocktail is warming my insides right now. And I know I can count on my mother to follow my instructions regarding Martin.
At the same time, part of me doesn’t want to go. Part of me thinks I can’t go. I don’t believe anyone, his grandmother or otherwise, can do for Martin everything in our day, from supplements to diet to RDI interactions to HANDLE therapy. When I traveled four days to Germany this summer, I cooked all of Martin’s food in advance, and Samara moved into our apartment and teamed up with Adrian to manage the daily routine. That was hard enough. Now Adrian is talking about more than a week away, both of us, no parent at home. Unrealistically, I imagine everything getting messed up, Martin desperate to see us, Martin facing multiple set-backs to delay his recovery.
Then I tell myself to imagine how much more I can do for him once I’m rejuvenated. I try to set aside my fears.
Adrian is right. We need breaks, to forget about parenting and act like the carefree couple who fell goofy in love a decade ago. We can’t let autism recovery run over what Adrian and I have unto ourselves.
Besides, it’s not like there aren’t enough threats to our marriage.
Adrian, for example, prefers the Giants.