I was having lunch the other day with one of my favorite people, my friend Ellen. She was my piano instructor for years, has since retired, but we meet up every few weeks and yak for hours. We met at our favorite coffee shop on Friday at noon and proceeded to chat until they closed the doors on us at 3:00 pm. Ellen also has a son on the spectrum, B. He is 34, has graduated college, but is still living in her basement. We talked about how mothering a child/adult on the spectrum never ends, they will always need us. This led us to an interesting question, what would our sons be like if they were not on the spectrum? If Boo did not have autism would I recognize him? You only have to spend a few seconds in his presence to know that he is not a neurotypical kid. With B, it takes a little longer, but it soon becomes clear that he marches to the beat of a very different drummer as well. Boo was diagnosed when he was 2, B was diagnosed in his early 30s. Ellen says the diagnosis explains a lot of the difficulties he had as a child and has had as a young adult. For some reason, this got me thinking about the Eric Clapton song, Tears In Heaven. “Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven, would you be the same, if I saw you in heaven?” However, I remembered this first lyric incorrectly and thought it was “Would I know your name, if I saw you in heaven?” If there is a heaven, and everyone is made new and whole, would Boo not be on the spectrum? If he were not on the spectrum, would I know him? Everything about Boo is different, the way he moves, the noises he makes, how he flaps and drums his hands continually, the list goes on and on. Ellen and I wondered if there was a line where the autism stops and our sons start. I don’t think that there is. I think it is all one big gumbo soup. I can’t take the autism out of Boo, and I don’t want to. Someone once asked me if I had a magic wand and could wave it and “cure” Boo, would I do it? The answer is an emphatic no. Boo does not need to be cured because Boo is not sick. Boo is Boo, plain and simple. Now, if I could wave a magic wand and make his life easier and the world more tolerant of differences, I would do it in a heartbeat. Boo and B do not need cures, they need support, empathy and understanding. They need a kinder more gentle world.
So, my thanks to Mr. Clapton for giving me something to think about, even if I remembered his song incorrectly. The song was written for his late son and not about autism, but I think it is still fits. Boo, I will always love you, in heaven and on earth. I pray that I will always know you and you will always know me and feel my love. And, to my readers, if you have some time go to YouTube and pop up some Eric Clapton, he is always a pleasure to listen to.