Ordinary

I’m not the same person I was, seven years ago. Quite honestly, I’m not the same person today as I was yesterday – it’s just been a more gradual change and I have yet to notice it. It’s hard, today, to even write anything. My thoughts swing back and forth on a major pendulum. Life is good. Life sucks. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. In fact, I know I’m not. So often however, the “Life is good” part of me wants to take over. And the “Life sucks” part jumps in to try and save the day. I wish I could say that both parties do well at keeping me somewhere center bound, but more often than not – I am left confused.

You see – Life isn’t the same as it was. Seven years ago. It’s very much different. In the past ten plus years, things have changed from one extreme to the other. And through many of those years – I wrote. I wrote my way out of the ever changing days that kept my head spinning. I wrote my way through the difficult moments, and the days when I didn’t honestly want to see another sun rise. I wrote my way thought a lot of difficult moments, and yet – I am finding it increasingly difficult to write my way through the seemingly good.

Because it seems almost as if I am cutting ties with the past – and moving forward. Which is exactly what I am doing. I just don’t want to admit it. If I am too happy – then I should be sad. But if I am sad – Then why am I not happy? The ever constant pull to be the person I am not is taking a toll on who I really am. Which is really quite sad. Because for so long I have fought, to be here. To be who I am today. To be happy. To have to right to smile. And crash on those days that just simply suck.

Life isn’t always good or bad. There isn’t always black or white. There won’t always be a yes or no answer. Life won’t always be good. But it won’t always be bad. I won’t always be on one side of the pendulum – in fact, there is a lot of times that simply just are.

Moments that are, quite frankly, ordinary.

Seven years ago, was one side of that pendulum. It was one of the full extremes. Up one side, and down the other. Life was filled with moments that I didn’t honestly want to walk away from – even if there were better days out there. Seven years ago I didn’t have to wonder at the pain and sadness imaginable in this world – I knew it. I lived it. I breathed it. And I knew that if there was a day that would come where it would no longer be so intense, that it was always possible to relapse to that time.

The darkness. The pain. The sadness.

It was never something I wanted. Yet strangely, neither was this.

I never wanted to see the other side. The side of life that is full of ordinary moments, with crappy days sprinkled in, and blue skies every so often.

Seven years ago, I couldn’t imagine being happy again. But seven years later – I can’t imagine never being broken. I can’t imagine not living through those dark days. And maybe, that’s the point of crappy days, and broken hearts. Maybe, just maybe, they are there to show you what life could be. Maybe they are there to let you know that yes – crap happens. Coming out the other side won’t be easy. You will never be the same.

But once you go to hell and back – you really don’t care. You are just glad to be where the sun sometimes shines, and life is sometimes ordinary. And that’s enough.

It’s enough to make you smile. And it’s enough to keep you from going back there. Even when life throws you curve balls and threatens to take you deep within.

Seven years ago, I said good-bye to someone special. Someone who gave me what I needed to make it to where I am today. Her death took me to rock bottom – but it also gave me the will I need to not go back there. To that place that will forever haunt my dreams, and bring me down pleading to never leave this place: Where ordinary, is ok.

We miss you Molly, today and forever.

One Day Maybe

Tiny arms wrap themselves around me as far as they can reach. The arms of an overly happy one year old that has just spent the past ten minutes dictating what I could and could not do. Pleased with my ability to follow orders, and satisfied that I gave into her demands, finger jabbing, and babbling that made no sense. She gave me a quick cuddle while her parents ooh’d and aww’d over her random gesture.

I remind myself, almost daily, that running from memories will never work.

For a while, memories were what kept me going. And then a short while after – memories were too much. Now? They come and go. Fleeting moments that race across my mind, giving me a glimpse at what was, what could have been, and what never will be. My life. A fast-forward of up’s and downs, ins and outs. Nothing ever connects or makes sense, until one day…

Some days, it doesn’t matter how much of a pep talk I give to myself.

Her picture catches me off guard – and for a moment, I think I can see the sparkle in her eye. The one that always made me smile. The shy smile that gave the impression that she was a timid child – when she was anything but. It brings me back to a different time in life. A time that wasn’t good, but certainly wasn’t bad – because how could it be bad?

I scold myself for judging. It wasn’t something I was going to do. I wasn’t going to become one of ‘those’ people who judged everyone for doing ‘wrong.’ They are trying their best, doing all they know how – yet somehow, I feel cheated. Justifying my judging acts, I tell myself that if only…followed up with a quick I would never.

It’s easy for me to say I would always love her, never get angry, and only give her the best without being selfish. Of course I can say that. The only thing left of my daughter is the dim lit memory that fizzles out like a broken light bulb. The only memories left of her, are with me. Hardly anyone knows her, and hardly anyone wants to remember her with me. So yes, I would be the most patient, caring, loving person in the world – except that I know I wouldn’t be. Should the tables be turned.

Instead I accept the hug, and for a few seconds I imagine life a little bit different. And then I turn her back to her waiting, doting parents who love her more than life itself. And retreat to the memories. The ones that flip past too quickly, and turn off before I am ready.

Sometimes, the missing runs deeper than it should. It pulses through my veins like my own blood. Spurred on by the flickers of life that don’t belong to me. One day I will learn to stop running, and embrace the memories that are my own. And when I do, I will wrap my arms around her – and never have to let her go.

Self-Imposed Regret

To be completely honest, these past few years have been anything but easy. But I remind myself, almost daily, that things could be worse. It keeps me going, in some ways. Knowing that no matter what I am facing, things really COULD be worse, and I shouldn’t be complaining about the speed bumps we are hitting, when in reality – life could be crashing in around me. While a lot of times it feels as though life really is caving in, I am forced to remind myself that its not.

I spend so much of my life wondering if I’m living up, meeting standards, impressing the right people – brown nosing, I suppose. I live with reserve, I hold back, Im not as adventurous as I would like to be. I live with fear, and regret and guilt. I let people down and spend years trying to repair bridges that I should have burned years ago. I wander the line of being selfish and taking space for myself. I read things and agree, and then go out and live the opposite way. Im a horrible friend, a terrible uncle, and an even worse person – and yet I try again and again to redeem myself.

This life is so…complicated. At times I wish I could just fast forward to see. Is it worth it? Does life eventually pan out? Do things ever make sense? But I suppose much like reading the end of the book before the beginning; it takes the enjoyment and magic out of those rare days when everything is going ok and there isnt a care in the world.

Im always waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the blanket to be ripped out from under me, waiting…for the next big breakdown. I spend so much of my life close to the ground out of fear of falling. Out of fear of being hurt. I spend so much of my life living the way I don’t want to – just to avoid the possibility of something that may never happen.

I want to let go of the self-imposed way of living. I want to let myself enjoy life, I want to live without regret, without fear, without being held back. I want to be a better person. I want to be the kind of person that lives freely, openly, and adventurously. I want to. But I cant. For so many reasons. Reasons I cant explain. Reasons I don’t care to understand. Reasons. Or are they excuses? Excuses to keep from being let down. Excuses to keep what little sanity I have reserved, intact. Excuses. Because its easier.

Easier to live the on the well beaten path of life, and never venture out. One day, I will be adventurous. One day, I will rip the perceived notions I have of people down. One day I will stop caring how people see me, and start showing them who I really am. One day I wont be so afraid to be hurt. One day I wont be so weak. One day.

But until then,

I will hang onto this piece of ground that is well worn and familiar. I will hold it close like a welcomed security blanket. I will file away these things like sky diving, back packing cross country, jumping without thinking away, or talking to someone I like. I will remember these things. Much like a digital scrapbook, and one day, perhaps when its too late, I will take it out – and regret not doing more. Regret not jumping on the opportunity.

Because Im nothing, if not a regretful person who is guilty of letting opportunity slip away, all in the name of fear.

Free

With coffee in one hand, and the other hand empty – I look over the balcony. The smell of the sea air, mingled with sunscreen. It happens to be one of my most favorite smells in the world. It brings back memories. So many memories. Carefree happy days spent on the beach.   A time in my life that I didn’t have a worry in the world. Its not that things were much different then, its just that my mind was too small to comprehend just what was going on. All I knew was that a day at the beach – was a day at the beach.

The sun shines hot, the sky blue, the sea green. Its just the way it is here. Atleast, for the moment. And for the moment – life is ok.

Its not always this way. Its not always calm, and relaxed. Free and worriless. Infact, it rarely is. But for this moment, this frozen instant in time – everything is alright in my world, and Im free to think of nothing. Much like those carefree lazy days on the beach as a child, my mind doesn’t comprehend anything other than what is circling in my immediate world, which at the moment, happens to be alright.

Im relaxed. Something I haven’t been in months. Ive tried, to relax, that is. And for a few moments, maybe a few hours at a time – I am. But the worry always comes back. The fear of forgetting, hurting, loosing, leaving. The fear of betrayal, the what ifs, the how to’s, and maybe nots. It all gets to be so much sometimes. The worry of routine, of work, of life in general.

I have always heard people talk about taking time away to do absolutely nothing – but to me, that has always seemed painful. For once in my life, perhaps for the first time, I have not worried about the night at hand. I haven’t fought out the dinner plans, or forced my way through the bed time schedules. I don’t even know what I dare to do tomorrow. Even the rain seems calming here.

Maybe part of me left the worry behind. Maybe its just the country. The way the people live here. The way the sea washes in. It’s the way of life that so many people crave, yet few find. The suntanned backs, burned faces, white beaches, green oceans, rocky cliffs, and breathtaking views.

For once, I don’t worry about those I left behind. I don’t worry about those who Ive lost. I don’t worry about those I might lose. Or those Ive worked so hard to hold onto. Its freeing.

I just hope its something I can hold onto…

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forever.

Seventeen

Just a few short weeks ago I opened my email to find a picture of you.  But you weren’t alone.  And you weren’t looking as grown up as you have looked in your past few pictures.  Infact, you didn’t look a day over six.  And there, beside you, was the devil himself – with his arms.  Around you.  Maybe I am exaggerating, but not by much.  The truth is – you are growing up faster than I can keep up with.  One day you were six, and the next your turning seventeen and I don’t know how that’s even remotely considered fair.

Seventeen.

It sounds so old, so grown up, so mature, yet strangely – so…you.

You are branching off into things that I don’t even know what mean.  Colleges, boyfriends, scholarships, awards – your future.  Its bright.  So bright.  And while I know you know that, I still worry that you don’t see your full potential.  That you will get caught up in the things that are coming your way, and forget, momentarily.

In a way, I want to remind you of all the things you said when you were younger.  Especially that part about boys being “Yucky.”  Because I liked that phrase.  I really was hoping you wouldn’t lose that.  But I guess, you too, must find your way to the next stage in your life.  I don’t know if ‘he’ will be in the picture next year, or even tomorrow.  I don’t know where your life will take you, or how you will take life.

I do know, however, that whatever you do choose – you wont settle for less.  Which is what allows me to sleep at night, knowing that no matter how far you are, no matter who has their arms around you – you have a good head on your shoulders.  Just don’t forget that.

You pushed your way though being a “Kid” you dealt with the “Childish” things, and brazed your way to where you are today.  While a lot of kids (and grown ups) struggle with being the age they are, you have always embraced it, and worn it well.

There are some people in this world – that make the world a better place for everyone.  They stop and help without thinking, they give without a second thought.  They make others smile and laugh, and never stop giving or trying.  They power through.  They might not finish first, but that’s because they stopped along the way to lend a hand to others.  They genuinely make the world a better place – without even trying.  They are an inspiration, a challenge to others to be more.  They are like rare jewels – always sought after, but rarely seen.

You, happen to be one of them.

I will probably always see you as a toothless six year old, or a grown up eight year old.  I will probably always cringe when I see someone else with their arm around you, and might not ever let you live it down that at one time in your life – matching socks were the most important thing to you.  But I will always be proud of you.  No matter where life takes you, no matter what paths you choose.

Don’t lose your sparkle.  Don’t stop being you.  Because the world without you – is a bleak and lonely place.  Don’t lose your fire, and what makes you, you.  Don’t ever settle for less.

Happy Birthday Kiddo,

- Your Uncle

Sometimes…

For the most part, I like to think that I have come out the other side of this whole…grief thing.  I can navigate life fairly well, and it’s the very rare day that Im taken down by thoughts.  And even then, its more of a bad moment – instead of wondering when the end will come.  Every so often, I pause.  To remember.  A song, a smell, a person.  Most times I can smile.  Smile and see the other side.  I can push aside the anger and the guilt.  And for the most part, I can be happy for others who have what I don’t.

The list of things or places I avoid, grows smaller everyday.  And while a day not too long ago – I would go out of my way to avoid stores, and people – I now manage to grocery shop one day a week.  I interact with people.  I love the kids with a love that is no longer reserved, and while I do have the fleeting thoughts of “What if” and occasionally pull back from something because its going too fast, and too far – I like to think I have made it out the other side with a well rounded view of the world.

I can enjoy sunny days, I can laugh at jokes, I can make friends – and sometimes – if needed – let them go.  I can find happiness in the small things.  I can smile at others, and partake in their happiness as well.  My heart still knows, as I suspect it always will, when certain days roll around.  But for the most part, life is…good.  We have our bumps.  Our ups and downs.  Our bad days.  Our rough patches.  Everyone does, and I am not exempt.  As strong as I try to be, I do admit to falling victim to crappy days.  It happens.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, not too long ago, I too loved someone.  Very deeply.

I have swung to different extremes on the pendulum.  I have tried forgetting, and I have tried forcing everyone in my path to remember with me.  Both have gone as well as one might assume.  No matter how hard I try to forget – it simply will never happen.  Because what the mind forgets, the heart remembers – and will never forget.  Forcing people to remember only leads to frustration on my part.  Because no one will remember them the way I do.  And while that’s not wrong, its not right to force someone into it either.

So often I wish someone would say her name, unprovoked.  And for so long, that bothered me.  That no one, would ever say her name.  That no one would remember her with me.  That no one would know her the way I did, or ever care to.  As time has worn on, I have come to accept this.  And become ok with this.  She didn’t mean the world to anyone else, and that’s ok.  She shouldn’t.

But every so often, life has a way of surprising you.  When you least expect it.  This afternoon, I checked my mail.  It wasn’t until I ripped my way through it did I find an envelope.  With a letter.  And one of those simple gestures.

Something that will mean absolutely nothing to anyone else – meant more than I can honestly say with words.  A small gesture, unprovoked, and nestled between the words and in the story of how said gesture came to be: was the word I have been looking for, for years.  Her name.

Life has a funny way about it.  Taking and giving.  Pushing and shoving.  Coming and going.  But every so often, its like life takes a break from pushing people down – and offers a small something.  A token, In memory.  For someone that meant absolutely nothing to one person, and means the world – to another.

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April

This morning he didn’t want to leave. I pushed him a bit harder than usual – for selfish reasons. Mostly because I had a busy day and wanted some time alone. But he pushed back, and I finally let it slide. Instead of going he wanted to plink around in just his underwear. Doing his own thing, his own way. He wasn’t in my way, wasn’t bothering me, and really wasn’t even noticed. Except that he was. Because I stopped doing what I deemed so important – to watch him.

Hes nine years old, and still prefers to be as naked as possible. He hasn’t spoken real words in I don’t know how long, yet it doesn’t seem weird. Or unusual. It seems normal. I watched him this morning. I watched him do his own thing, his own way, at his own speed. The autism, it doesn’t bother me. The lack of using words, the underwear, the dancing over pb and j…it doesn’t bother me. None of that bothers me. Watching him grow, make his own decisions – it makes me smile. No matter how he goes about making them.

When he first came here, separating autism from Josh, and Josh from all the other things involved – was difficult. Finding Josh buried beneath everything seemed like a daunting task. Digging a small child out of years of abuse and diagnosis’s is not an easy task, and trying to build him back up when you don’t really even have a model to go off of, is equally hard.

But today, as I watched him. Carefree, seemingly happy, dancing around in his underwear I realized something. We found him.

April is child abuse awareness month, and while it may seem odd…that after my previous rant on awareness, this month sits close to my heart. Child abuse is not autism. Its something that should be, and can be – prevented. Something that should be avoided, and not something that any child should ever have to endure. And yet they do. And after watching all the things that Josh has struggled with, and gone through, and over come…

I can honestly say that yes, I will love him no matter what. And after all these years, I think he knows this. I will take him – autism and all. I wont get rid of him because of his diagnosis. I wont trade him in because hes ‘different.’ But if there is one thing that I wish I could have spared him from, one thing that has not added to his life, one thing that I wish I could turn back time to avoid – it would be to spare him the abuse.

The needless, heartless, cold heartedness abuse that he endured – and over came.

A Different Approach to Awareness

I have a hard time with “Awareness Day” or “Awareness Month.”  Not just related to autism, but related to everything.  Sure, I sometimes join in.  But other times I don’t.  Because I honestly don’t know what to say about it, and what good it will do.  While I might not join the masses and picket on the street corners, I also wont jump them and tell them what they are doing is wrong.

Honestly, I think it’s the months and days, and moments in-between those “Awareness” moments that count the most.  The moments when I am beat down the hardest, and struggling the most – are the moments that matter and count, the most.  How I handle disappointment, and pressure, and judgment – all while I think no one is looking?  Is the most important.  And I fail.  So hard.  In those moments.  Which is probably why they matter the most.

I don’t care how the world perceives Josh.  I mean, to an extent, I suppose I do care.  Or else I wouldn’t spend so much time trying to prepare him for the world that lies ahead.  If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t teach him how to handle the disappointments and failures that are bound to come his way – and not just because he has autism.  But because he lives in this world where autism or not, you are bound to have disappointments and frustrations and its my job to teach him how to handle those things.

It frustrates me, that when people hear the word “Autism” they think a million and one different thoughts, and have books ready to teach ME how to teach Josh.  When they hear the word they look at him differently.  Some look at him with interest, while others roll their eyes.  Here comes autism again.  Marching through the streets, demanding equality, and free rights.  Here comes the problems.  The demands.  The labels.

People have vocabularies.  They have words they use.  Words that mean things to get their points across to other human beings.  Many of us, speak different languages.  Spanish, French, English.  The native tongue of one, is not the same as another – and often times, we go out of our way to learn a new language JUST to be able to communicate with others.  Because communication – no matter how done, is vital to human survival.  When you go to France, you learn French!  You don’t demand the French learn English to communicate with you.

When people hear the word “Autism” their vocabulary has already been filled with so many things, that they THINK they have the proper definition.  They THINK they know everything there is to know about the word.  When really, no one does.  And no one should.  I want people to know Josh, as Josh.  I want them to WANT to learn his language, not just because they have to, but because they WANT to.  I want them to want to.  I want them to want to communicate with him.

But on the other hand…

I cant expect it.  No amount of picketing, or protesting, or demanding is going to do any bit of good.  I cant go to France and demand they learn English, and I cant go to the world and demand they learn autism.  Or Josh.  Or anything else for that matter.  But what I can do, and what really matters the most, I think, is teaching Josh how to handle matters for himself.

I cant change the world.  I cant change the way the world looks at him, and how they will define the word.  I cant change the way the world will carry on, and bring awareness.  I cant change the way things will happen.  But I can change one little boy, and if possible, make his world a little bit easier.  I fail, 99% of the time.  And Ive come to realize that’s ok.  Failure is natural.  No one succeeds 100% of the time.  What matters most is getting up, and dealing with those failures – and turning them into something better.

Instead of trying to hopelessly change the way the world looks at Josh, I am trying to change the way Josh – looks at the world.  And show him, by example, that falling is ok as long as he gets back up.  Being different – is ok too.  Everyone is different.  How you treat those that are different, on the other hand – is what matters the most.  Expecting someone to learn YOU is hopeless.  But learning someone else?  Might get you somewhere.

Ill do what I can, to announce to the world that Josh is BEYOND the label that has been given to him.  And then I will turn right around, and show Josh that the world?  Is out there.  For him to explore, and navigate.  And I hope that I will be able to give him the tools he needs to pick through the bad, and find the good.

Of Broken Spirits

I would say probably 90% of time, things are rolling along smoothly here.  By smoothly, I mostly mean we are making progress, gaining speed, and avoiding head on collisions for the most part.  But eventually – That crash will happen.  I try not to think too hard about when it will happen and just know in the back of my mind, that eventually – it will.  It works.  I don’t work myself up fearing the worst (most times atleast) and Im (somewhat) prepared when that crash occurs.  But still, it sucks.  Because nothing can fully prepare you for what all will be entailed in that crash.

Sometimes, you can see if coming from a distance – you know its coming, you embrace, and you get through it.  Yet other times it comes from left field with no warning and you are left scrambling to reassemble some sense of normalcy.  Because what else can you do?

Throughout this entire trek, one thing has constantly stood out to me.  The phrase from a well known man in town, who, after his daughters boyfriend ended up in jail for abuse to his 3 year old grandson, became his legal guardian.  This man isn’t from town, and like a lot of transplants here, came from farming country.  He was a cattle wrangler.  He know what all was entailed in whatever goes in with that cattle.  Nothing caught him off guard.  Nothing surprised him.  He was always ready.  And yet his words have stuck with me.

“It takes a lot to break the spirit of a 3 year old.”

They are the first words that come to mind when something goes down around here.  And often the last words that leave after a long day.  They race through my mind as I try, desperately, to bring the known to the unknown.  They are the words I wish I could paint, with MY words, to make everyone realize just how true that is.  Because indeed, it does.

I do my best to encourage the boys to seek out their dreams, while trying to guide them into their place in this world – whatever that may be.  I fail, 99% of the time.  I talk myself up everyday, I remind myself of those words – in hopes that I will remember NOT to break the spirit of these kids.  I succeed for about 5 minutes in the heat of the moment, before I too, succumbed to the old tried and true ways of life, say the things I wish I wouldnt.

There have been a few situations here, lately, that have kept me up late at night trying, desperately, to find some sort of answers in the land on the internet.  Situations that have left me scrambling to find answers before its too late.  Yet all that I find are the problems – with seemingly no solutions.  And while it frustrates me, it also encourages me in some weird way.  To know that I am not the only one seeking questions with no answers.  To know that not every question has been answered yet.  To know that I am not alone in this world with roads that seem paved for everyone but myself.

And when I do finally find the answers – they arent as I expected.  Instead of fighting for solutions, and racing to beat the problem to the punch, I read between the lines, and deep beyond the spoken words.  Into the heart and soul of the question is where I find the answer.  The answer, that I don’t necessarily like.  Sometimes, you have to let them fall.  The answer says.  Sometimes – you have to let their spirits become broken – so they can be built up again, correctly.

Sometimes solving all the worlds problems – is not easy.  Infact, sometimes its hard.  And goes against everything I have taught myself.  It screams that it cant be right, there must be another way.  There has to be SOMETHING that argues against this.  Instead, I slowly come to grips, that sometimes – I must be wrong.  Sometimes, pain is needed, and pain is good.  Sometimes.  I must stand back, knowing full well that train wreck is coming and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I must stand by, and watch.  As the spirits of the very ones I have tried so desperately to protect from all pain and sadness – become broken.  Because only then, will they too realize what I have tried to teach all along is true.  Even if not always right.

No, I dont down play it

Im unsure of how to start.  I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to say it, and the blank page is taunting me.  The words of others ring in my ears.  The worries of what some might think hold the words back.  Before the pen touches the paper, I close the book and don’t write anymore.  Its been like this for weeks now.  I have something I want to say, something that I feel needs to be said – but the words are stuck.

Something that hasn’t ever been directly said, but something that I have always gotten from other people is that – many assume I downplay Josh’s diagnosis.  Not many will agree with my thinking when it comes to him, and very few care to hear me out when I speak.  I take what others say, apply what I think will work for him and leave the rest in the dust.  Because when it comes down to it – At the current time, I am the one making decisions for him.

I have always felt that part of Josh’s past, is his.  There are parts of his life that I don’t get into with just anyone, and pieces of his life that I will leave out.  Its his story to tell if he chooses to tell, and if he doesn’t – I am not going to go there.  Its not mine to tell.  All that is to say, he has come from a checkered past and been put through the ringer.  If he doesn’t want to wear matching socks – I am not going to make him.  Let me explain.

When Josh was first diagnosed with autism, he was also diagnosed with other things related to what he had been through.  At the time the diagnosis’s overlapped each other, and it was difficult to find a technique that worked for him.  With so much going on, attacking all aspects was a difficult procedure, and not one many wanted to share in.  Over the past five years, we have worked through some difficult areas with him.  Trust issues, behavioral issues, health issues, the list goes on and on.  And when it comes down to it, autism sits at the bottom of the list.

I don’t downplay this.  I read everything I could when it came to his diagnosis.  I read theories, facts, ideas, questions, answers, and then some.  I took the ideas and tried to make them all work – but all it did was frustrate me, and him – and we got nowhere.  We teetered on the edge of institutions, toyed with the idea of medications, and many sleepless nights were spent watching him.  Begging him to just give me SOMETHING.  Because I was running out of ideas.

Five years ago – I took a week off of work because the phone calls to work were constant, he refused to stay at any daycare, he wouldn’t settle down, he would eat, he wouldn’t sleep, he was only causing harm to himself.

Over the past five years, we have made our way to where we are today.

I don’t downplay his diagnosis.

I just tend to up play him, as a person.  Not a label.

Instead of treating the symptoms – I want to get to the bottom of things.  I didn’t want to medicate him – not because I didn’t love him, but because I knew there was something causing him to react the way he was and I didn’t want to simply suppress this.  Josh doesn’t speak with words.  He doesn’t choose to tell me that he is scared, that things in his mind don’t make sense and that he just needs to know someone will care for him enough to come back.

Medicating him would suppress the only way he has to communicate.  It would silence him, for good.  And yet many well meaning people told me I should simply medicate him – because I didn’t understand what he was going through.  I didn’t understand how badly he was suffering.

I didn’t KNOW what he was going through.  And yet somehow, from the other end of the world – they knew.  They understood.

I spent countless nights watching him fight in his sleep.  I read every single recorded word that was written about him, and listened as they told me about the things he had went through.  I held him as he screamed in terror and clawed to get away.  I sat by helplessly as he hid under the bed, pulling his hair, and making himself bleed.  Yet somehow – I did not understand what he was going through.

This morning – he woke me up just by walking across the room.  I watched as he went through his morning routine.  Turning the tv on.  Talking to himself.  Playing his own games.  And making sense of the world around him.  He caught me looking, and smiled.  I couldn’t help but smile back.  We continued through the morning routine, taking a few extra minutes to try and guide him through the process of getting dressed himself.  A task that many would have already accomplished at his age.

And then he put on two different colored socks.  And I let him.  Because those things?  Are great accomplishments for him.  He walked out the door, raced me across the street and willing went to the babysitters house.  He waved from the window as I left, and when I picked him up – he wasn’t hiding in the corner.

When he takes his pants off at school, I laugh.  Not because I think its good practice to take your pants off in public, but because I know it means hes comfortable.  And because it seems one step closer to that greater goal.

Years of working with him.  Years of SHOWING him that I would come back.  That I cared.  That I did love him.  That I was going to do everything I could – even if I didn’t know what that was, have finally paid off.

Yes, he has autism.  No, I don’t downplay that.  But after everything else that we have already worked through – it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.  Im not going to tell the world to change because of him.  Im going to tell HIM to change the world, because of who he is – and those who choose to accept him, will be better off for it.  Autism and all.