Tomorrow is my tenth wedding anniversary. It is also World Autism Awareness Day. That, in my life, is befitting.
Having autism, Henry had to learn how to give and receive different emotions. This, for so many of us, is intuitive...or I thought so. But in the process of discovering my son, I realized how little I knew about love. Henry has been my most gentle teacher.
My marriage to my husband nearly dissolved in the first six months of our union. We struggled with one another and battled through the challenges of combining households and lives as if we were fighting for breath itself. Ultimately, we were too very independent people who could only meet in the middle so far without combustion. To this day, we live together with a distance between us that is hard for many to understand but, over the last decade, it has come to be space in which our lives can take shape and our marriage can be at rest. It's where we press against each other only so far before we melt into the same sheet of skin.
When Henry came into the world with autism at his side, I had to love him just because. I had to understand that his future was uncertain...but with that, I realized the uncertainty for us all. I suddenly couldn't afford to love someone because of what they might do in life, or who they might be, or even because they might love me back. In eight years of living, Henry has never uttered the words I hear my daughter speak nearly every day: "I love you, mom."
I had to love him because loving was enough.
And then I had to teach him what that love actually is. Is it a tone or an action? And what if tone means nothing to you? What if touch makes you anxious?
In my life, love has often been the predictability of routine. It has been embodied in silence. It has endured heartbreak and misunderstanding and frustration. It has been holding hands with a weeping child who cannot explain why he is crying. It has been screaming at my husband in exhaustion, and watching him smile peacefully back. It has been patience and calm at times, and then it has been determined and strong when required.
When I think back on the last ten years, I realize it has been a journey to the person I was meant to be. I'm grateful to the two men who brought me here.