I’m heartbroken. Not over a romantic relationship. I’m married and after twenty years our arguments are generally of the more mundane kind. Not the big old heartbreak, crying and wailing into the pillow kind. They ignite slowly. The way arguments in marriages do. Why has hubby stopped loading the dishwasher? Why is wife not instantly in the mood after kids are in bed? One of us knows we should stop but we don’t. We carry on jumping on the branch, willing it to break.
Then the branch snaps. Usually at 8.30pm on a Monday, the one-day of the week when no solace can be found in the half bottle of Pinot leftover on the kitchen bench. The wine got drank the night before and hubby says he’s going to bed. He’ll sleep and I’ll have a restless night and then the next morning one of us will say we’re sorry. We’ll hug, kiss and all will be okay again. No. My heartbreak hasn’t come from my marriage. My heartbreak has come from my eldest boy.
He doesn’t know he’s caused it. For him, it’s life as usual. A constant merry go round of school, handball, Pokémon, guitar, scooter, beach, school and more handball. But for my husband and I, the dreams we had for him, the moment we looked into his beautiful, I’ve been here before so don’t mess with me brown eyes, seem to have crumbled. We found out in November he’s on the Autism spectrum. High functioning - a mild to moderate case. The week after we found out, I lay on our bed and couldn’t move. I was weighted down by all I thought he would be, and all the things I now knew he wouldn’t.
We’re very lucky, I know. He isn’t sick. He goes to school. He sleeps. Things could be a lot worse. Since his diagnosis we’ve had all kinds of opinions. ‘It’s just a word, it doesn’t mean anything.’ ‘There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with him.’ ‘Isn’t every kid a bit autistic these days?’ ‘I’m sure he’ll grown out of it.’ All these have been said by people not meaning to hurt and with our best intentions. But it still does.
He can participate in band and karate. He can make his own scrambled eggs and finishes 200 page novels in one night, but there are many things he struggles with and will continue to struggle with his whole life. His natural tendency to get angry and lash out in anger, his need to control every situation, to play by his rules, to not know when somebody is upset or needs help, or likes him or dislikes him. How he sometimes runs around making funny, strange noises and how this lack of control panics the hell out of us. His inability to relax or to hold a pen properly or write in a straight line. His lack of imagination, his lack of empathy and his fixation with saying the same thing again and again.
I used to worry about him not eating enough greens. Now, I don’t care if he never eats another bloody piece of broccoli again. My new worry is that he may never be able to have a relationship. That he may never fall in love. That he’ll always expect everything to go his way. My mind is full with scenarios of will he be able to look after himself? Hold down a job? Pay bills? Travel? Laugh with friends? Will he have any friends?