I met someone recently – actually it was more a “re-meeting.” I’d met him many years back while visiting his studio when Sam was a toddler. Back in the days when we were first becoming acquainted with autism. We spent a delightful hour viewing his paintings. I still remember his patient posture as he bent down to Sam, presenting him with an etching of a dragon that hangs in my home today.
I knew he didn’t remember us. He smiled as I recounted our first meeting and our enjoyment of the day. He was pleased we paired him with a happy memory. He asked about Sam today. “Well, Sam still has autism. And he still enjoys art,” I said adding, “Art is a great outlet.”
His expression changed to concern. “You've had a hard life, then. Certainly raising a child with such challenges is a burden. I know the challenges I’ve faced raising my typical 14-year-old daughter. I can’t imagine how difficult it is.” He said these words carefully, with compassion.
Still, statements like that always catch me unprepared.
I paused before I responded. He was a well-meaning man. I wanted to respect his attempt to connect with our world.
“I think I am incredibly lucky,” I said. “Sam is my great joy. He is responsible for the smile on my face. Everyone faces challenges, don’t they? My real challenge lies in tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? What is it about tomorrow?” he asked. “The same worries you might have,” I responded. “That he will be loved. That life will treat him well. That he will find happiness and feel secure – all that and more. Isn’t that what you hope for?” “Yes,” he acknowledged, “yes, it is.”
“Then we are not so different,” I said.
I hope he understood there isn’t any sadness in my life; that we have known an abundance of laughter, happiness and love as has he. I have never wished for a different child. There have been good days and bad days and days that perplex us, sure. But we are content with who we are.
There is no tragedy here.
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