Friends visited us recently with their son Robert, who is younger than Martin and less far along the autism recovery journey. Robert kept his mother busy, as she had to pull him repeatedly away from his fixations—trains, colors—to get him to eat or otherwise join the group.
After our guests left, Adrian said, “Robert can be a handful!”
I replied, “Reminds me of Martin a few years ago.”
“No, Martin never had obsessions like that.”
“Excuse me?” I asked.
“I remember when we always had to take the Brooklyn Bridge home, and how he liked certain train lines, but he wasn’t so challenging as Robert.”
“Are you talking about our son, Martin?”
“So you’ve forgotten when I had to buy placemats in different colors so he could practice using something other than yellow without having a meltdown?”
“That’s right. I did forget that.”
“And the panic if he boarded a subway and no yellow seat was available?”
“I guess he did that, yeah.”
“Then there were the times when he and I had to wait for the No. 2 subway, because if a No. 3 came instead, he’d scream with fright, even though he knew it went to exactly the same place.”
“You did used to tell me about that.”
“How about when he couldn’t go to school unless he had that pink stuffed bear from Chicago in his backpack? When he had to approach and open every mailbox we passed on City streets? When he refused to enter the wine bar if ‘our table’ was occupied? When he—”
“Okay, fine. He did have all those obsessions. It’s easy to forget what those days were like.”
This conversation made me reconsider the previous posts “So Far Gone” and “Manifesto.” One day, when someone says, “Maybe Martin never had autism,” will I respond, “Maybe not,” because I too have forgotten? How will we bear witness to recovery as more and more symptoms become so far gone that we forget they ever existed?
I have his earliest developmental neurology reports, the ones that describe a child unresponsive to his own parents, unaware of his own name, echolalic, in the first and third percentile of expressive and receptive language. Those tell the early story.
And I have this blog.