Mine too

The girls and I were at the playground. Hope was making all the boys play with her – appointing one as the evil dragon, another as the ice cream man, and the tall one as her knight. (It goes without saying that she was Princess Pinky of the Play Structure.) Rhema was being Rhema, contentedly running her patterns, only stopping to examine specks in the turf.

I stood watching, enjoying the peaceful breeze and a few seconds to be still.

Then the quiet was interrupted by a loud shriek. It was a shriek of joy from a large boy  as he bounded up the ramp and onto the play structure. A young man followed close behind him, chuckling as he went. Clearly the two of them were playing some sort of game.

I watched the boy closely in his baggy clothes, baseball cap turned backwards, and hightops. The way he moved, the way he let go of happy sounds as he ran, the way he seemed so out of place – too old and too big for the space, the way he did not notice or seem to care… it was all so very familiar to me.

Another mother who had only just arrived, declared it time to go and gathered her young before they were run over. She tossed me a look that seemed to say, “So much for that.”

And I realized in that moment that my girls and I were passing as a “typical” family. I looked at Rhema, and for once, she wasn’t knocking over toddlers as she ran or singing too loudly or eating dirt or attacking unsuspecting women wearing hair clips. I tried it on for size for a second, only to discover that it just didn’t fit.

A woman – obviously the boy’s mother – appeared. She tried to tell her son it was time to go. But he resisted, his shrieks growing louder in protest. So as to avoid a meltdown, she let him play longer and sat down heavily on a bench. I walked over and sat next to her, and as her son let loose a blood-curdling scream I smiled at her hoping to communicate that I loved his happy sounds.

Finally I said,

“Autism?”

She turned to me with a curious look on her face.

“Yeah.”

“Mine, too.”

She looked over at Rhema, heard her soft song, saw her repetitive loops.

“How old?” Her voice was gentle.

“Seven.”  I knew that I could tell her my daughter’s age and not need to say more. I knew she understood that sometimes that’s a complicated question because people see my girl and wonder why a seven-year is acting like a two-year old. She understood how time is moving too fast, how my worries are growing just as tall as my child.

“And your son? How old is he?” I asked over the shrieking.

“Ten. He has two words. ‘Car’ and ‘Pizza’”, she said proudly.

I smiled imagining how celebrated those two words must be.

“My daughter is preverbal, too.” I realized I wasn’t apologetic or sad over that fact (how many times have I intervened on a playground explaining that my girl didn’t understand, that she didn’t have the language?). I was proud like this mama for every little, hard-won word.

We talked some more about the schools they attended, and we laughed when her son jumped and let out a new ”Whoop”. He sure knew how to have fun. I, without a doubt, loved him.

We said goodbye as Rhema took off toward a soccer field of middle-schoolers.

In our brief interaction a lifetime of words and stories had been communicated. We were strangers from very different walks of life, yet instantly bonded in our common stories of heartache and joy.

There’s a passage in the book of Hebrews that I don’t completely understand but it brings great comfort. The writer describes how Christ himself calls us brothers (and sisters). How He literally came and entered into the humanness of life. He shared, and shares in now, our joys and pains – bonded to the breast cancer survivor, strapped in with the special needs mama , joined to the single woman longing to be married. That very heart and soul connection I had with the woman at the park, I can have with Him. And how He longs to connect with us!

…That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.  Hebrews 2:16-18, The Message

As we left the playground I thought of my friend Andrea’s description of a gathering of autism mothers once:

“All of us had made similar choices, seen beauty in the same light, endured related pangs, been patient for healing, and bear the same badge with pride. Without much explicit sharing or rolling up of any sleeves, we knew each other’s life stories–in large part …we left the beach having formed a sisterhood. Women are amazing creatures. And adversity is an amazing bonding agent. Autism is like Krazy Glue.

Autism mums can be a diverse lot. Some are angry, some are militant, some are bitter, some are divorced, some depressed.

And yet, some glow.”

Yes.

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21 thoughts on “Mine too

  1. Can I just cut and paste your posts into my blog every Monday Wed. and Friday? 🙂 I loooooove how you write girl! God loves it too. Touching hearts of so many. This is a pat on the back from your Papa via me.

  2. Wow, this gave me chills. It’s so weird because I literally just read this after dropping Ethan off at school. There was a mom there with a son resisting going in the doors, wanting to hug the fire hydrant. I just KNEW. I felt such an instant bond with this woman as she fought to keep him from pressing the intercom button. I told her my son usually liked to hang out at the hydrant, too. “It’s kind of like a security blanket,” I said and she laughed with me. Those were the only words we exchanged, but I walked away feeling lighter, somehow.

  3. You GLOW, Mahi Mahi. You glow.

    Ironically, this morning was ‘Muffins with Mom’ at my son’s typical elementary school and so I was there at an unusual time. The minibus pulled in with the special needs preschoolers (the class my RM used to be in last year) and I was in the right place at the right time as a young man with DS who looked about four was coming off the bus – he was escorted by his para. In such a natural motion, he looked up at me and took my hand – and for a moment he was MY child and I loved him so deeply as I walked with him into the school. He didn’t want to let go. He gave me the biggest smile. And I wished him “a great day at school, Buddy” and then he disappeared down the hall. I physically missed him as I walked to my truck.

    It’s Krazy Glue – it’s His Love :0)

    Thank you, thank you so much for being you.

    XO

  4. The peace the grace in your words. The hope the honesty. This is why I love to read your blog. The gift you gave to that mother in the park. The gift she gave to you. You held out your hand. She took it. Such beauty. Thank you for your words!!!

  5. You are so right, we moms of ASD kids are a diverse bunch, but we all are definitely warriors–dedicated to the cause and always fighting and advocating on their behalf!

  6. I love the unexpected gifts which drop into our lives and reconnect us to the heart of what matters most in our humanity. Thank you for sharing this gift with us today. xoxo

  7. Beautiful, what a great experience! I can totally relate to that “connection” it’s so nice when we have that kind of encounter. And I love that last part. Krazy glue indeed :).

  8. What a beautiful reminder of how Jesus “thought it not robbery to take on human form”, but that he did it willingly because he loved us so he would truly understand us.

    So glad you had such a wonderful encounter with someone who just understood. So glad that you’ve chosen to allow your life situation to give you grace, love, and understanding and not anger, bitterness and depresses. Thank you for taking every opportunity to give God glory through your experiences. I am so very grateful.

    Thank you Lord for bonds, both those that come from similar adversities and from knowing the same God.

    Love you Neily. You’re the best.

  9. Thank you for this….
    I want to glow. I need to turn to Him more when things get rough. No wonder it seems to hard when I just turn in on myself…

  10. I can barely stand the beauty of what I have just read. I just want to cry or something. (And this is not just me being postpartum ha ha)Ok, too late,.. crying. But I need to say something. I just want to say thanks Lord. The work you do in us is so remarkable. Nealls, the piercing love of God is radiating from your words right off of my computer screen. It is in my home now and in my heart. Most days I desperately want for you to never again feel the pain of all your sweet girl has endured. And yet for this moment I am just thankful. And I am learning what that really means from your story. I am learning it from you. Out of your loss we have all received. If that isn’t the work of the cross I don’t know what is.

  11. Pingback: Please Just Cut Us Some Slack | life on the "j" train

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