She Was Me.

by Jo on February 22, 2015

He was supposed to play in his first Challenger baseball game of the new season this morning, but instead we found ourselves at our local Children’s Hospital emergency room, making sure Andrew’s foot wasn’t broken.

(Never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure).

It was there that I first spotted them; a father and son pacing the floors of the ER waiting room.
This was no leisurely walk. Dad was trying desperately to keep his son close by, doubling his stride just to stay beside him.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot lifetime members of your own tribe.

As they got closer to where my husband and I were sitting with Andrew, we immediately recognized the stims, the vocalizations, the desperate and non-stop attempts to flee no matter the danger lurking beyond the safety of his father’s arms; these were as familiar to us as our own arms and legs and when our eyes met the exhausted gaze of this frazzled father we exchanged a look that said more than words ever could.

He was beautiful, this child.
(They all are, you know).

He was also in a hurry, and his dad was getting tired.

“Sit. Just sit for a minute. Just for a minute. Sit. Just stay here. Just one minute.”

And I got the sense that a minute was 60 seconds too long for this kid.

Eventually his mama took over, and dad melted into the nearest chair in search of temporary respite.

It was somewhere between their 47th and 131st lap around the circumference of the room that I was able to stop them long enough to cheer mom on.

“You’re doing great, mama. We’d be right there with you if our son’s foot wasn’t hurt.”

She looked over at Andrew, then back at her own son and the familiarity washed over her too.

Oh how she wanted to stay and talk!

Oh how her beautiful boy wouldn’t let her!

Fifteen seconds later they had spilled outside, beyond the automatic double doors and she was yelling for her husband while trying to shield her son from the busy street ahead with her small frame (you’d be surprised how strong we become when the situation calls for it).

That frenzied dance.

How well I know it.

It was like watching a scene from my very own life unfolding right before me, and for a split-second, it took my breath away.

We are many, according to the CDC, but we are so few Monday thru Sunday, out there in the real world, as we try to appear calm and composed and collected while society stares with it’s mouth agape at our manic efforts.

Coming across a mirror image of yourself like that beyond the confines of your home is like coming face to face with a rare, exotic, endangered species.

Before either my husband or I had a chance to assist, the parents had expertly managed to maneuver their son back inside, where the festering hospital germs didn’t seem nearly as scary as the fast and unforgiving cars outside.

A few minutes later, once her heart rate had returned back to normal and her ragged breath steadied, the mom quickly and quietly made her way towards me and handed me a folded piece of notebook paper.

“I don’t have many friends. I mean, I don’t have any friends. At least none that know what it’s like.”

I didn’t ask if I could hug her. I just wrapped my arms around her and tried not to get my snot bubbles on her shirt.

“Well, now you have at least one,” I told her.

And just like that, the world became a little less lonely for both of us.


{ 1 comment }

We Should Have Had More Kids, Right?

by Jo on October 10, 2014

The panic washes over me suddenly while I’m in the shower.

We should have had more kids, I think to myself.

“WE SHOULD HAVE HAD MORE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I scream to my husband, the words piercing through the hot steam, penetrating my heart, echoing through me until they settle in my soul.

There is silence on the other side of the door.

He must sense my biological clock is not behind this.

He must sense he should tread carefully.

“Why?” he finally asks.

A simple question spoken with hesitation, knowing the answer is likely complicated.

“We should have had more kids. For Ian.”

My voice rises a few octaves as visions of my little sister and I engaged in sibling banter flash across my mind. “He’ll never have a sibling to truly confide in. To count on.”

The truth slips out before I can contain it. I turn the shower knob to HOT.

“Shut up,” he says to me. “Don’t say that.”

I wish I hadn’t.

I try to turn the shower knob again, but it won’t go any higher.

I picture my sister. Our hundreds of fights, thousands of hugs, almost daily phone calls laced with laughter and unsolicited advice.

“WE SHOULD HAVE PLANNED BETTER!” I yell out. “HE WON’T HAVE ANYONE TO HELP HIM WITH ANDREW.”

“He’ll have us,” he responds gently, and I picture grey hair and portable potties and assigned caregivers bumping in crowded hallways as they scurry on their way to assist someone somewhere demanding something.

“We did the right thing by not having more,” he says, refraining from outright reminding me about the statistics and the finances and the fears that occupied every conversation we ever had on the matter.

He’s right.

But I don’t tell him so.

Dammit, I wish the water weren’t so cold.

***

We are piled into the car, all four of us, Andrew strapped into the largest car seat we’ve ever laid eyes on.

Mikey calls it The Recliner.

I can’t see shit to the right of me because of it, crossing my fingers every time I have to change lanes.

But it keeps Andrew safe, keeps him comfortable, keeps him from trying to get out of the car while we’re hurtling down the road at 60 mph.

The ride is quiet, my mind still embroiled in a mental tug 0f war about our grave mistake in not having more children. I feel guilty. For all of it. The thoughts, the decisions, the regrets, the what ifs.

Suddenly, Andrew lets out a wild giggle from The Recliner. Ian soon joins him and the quiet car becomes filled with their laughter; loud, ridiculous heaps of hysteria.

I think of my sister; the many years we spent in the backseat of our parents’ car, laughing uncontrollably at something we knew they’d never understand. The kind of conspiring that can only exist between siblings.

I look in my rearview mirror
and all I see is Love. Companionship. Brotherhood. I see a life spent lifting each other up in the ways they know how, even if one is much stronger than the other. I see a relationship I have no right to define by the constricting parameters of my own anxieties and expectations. I see a bond that is unbreakable, one that will only grow stronger with time.

I look in my rearview mirror

and what I see are two boys navigating a relationship that makes sense to them.

Two futures intertwined with one another, in a world that may not get it. And that’s okay.

What I see are two brothers,

and in this very moment,

with their heads thrown back in euphoric joy in the backseat of my station wagon Volvo,

I know that that’s

more than

enough.

 

 

 

 

{ 4 comments }

The Night Before

It’s the night before Andrew’s first day of school. For many years this night held a mixture of excitement and anxiety for me, and after his new outfit and shoes were laid out, and his lunch box was packed, and his backpack was filled with shiny new school supplies, I would lay wide away in bed, endless questions [...]

Read the full article →

Special Needs Parenting: Don’t Ever Look at My Son That Way Again.

Disclaimer: I don’t care where you stand on the vaccine/autism issue. I have friends on both sides of this heated debate and I have friends who are right down the middle. And if I dislike you, it likely has nothing to do with your opinion on this subject and everything to do with you being [...]

Read the full article →

A Letter to an Impolite Cowboy

Dear Impolite Cowboy: I saw you on the track this morning, wearing your giant hat, walking your tiny dog, sweating through your wrinkled flannel, and I thought nothing of you; just another passerby, enjoying the same space, the same sun, as humans often do. I jogged towards you, my favorite song pulsating in my ears, my [...]

Read the full article →

It’s Not Autism’s Fault Other People Suck

“While I do love my son, I wish we hadn’t had him…. Autism is not a life, it is an existence that hurts everyone involved. I had a retirement to look forward to, now I have a child to take care of until I die and then the government will have him. How is that [...]

Read the full article →

How Autism Has Made Me Aware of More Than Just Autism

It’s Autism Awareness Month again, and since Andrew was diagnosed with autism in March of 2004, this year we mark our 10th Anniversary of being very aware of autism. I could write another post – as I have done in the past -about the various manifestations of autism in our everyday life and the unique [...]

Read the full article →

I’m Not Scared of Autism. I’m Scared that YOU Are.

The CDC just announced the latest autism statistics this morning. 1:68 children are diagnosed with autism. To understand the numbers, you have to understand the many variables at play. First, the data was collected in 2010 using a survey of children residing in 11 states. The previous number, 1:88, was based on a 2008 survey. [...]

Read the full article →

Behold: The Evil iPad at Work!

Behold: The Evil iPad Mini Hard at Work, Giving my Son a Voice from Jo Ashline on Vimeo. Need more info on why I posted this video? Read all about it!

Read the full article →

Why Banning Devices for Kids is a Stupid Idea

So I just finished reading an article on Huffington Post entitled “10 Reasons Why Handheld Devices Should be Banned for Children Under the Age of 12,” and thanks to author Cris Rowan’s compelling arguments, I’ve removed all of the devices from the Ashline household in the hopes that it’s not too late for my precious [...]

Read the full article →