That moment. You know, the one when the life you knew and the rest of your life split. That’s the one I want to talk about. We all have one, or if you don’t yet, you will. It is as much a part of the human experience as breathing; trust me on this one.
Perhaps it was the dissolution of a marriage, or an accident, hearing you have C-A-N-C-E-R (mouthed and whispered as my Grandmother’s used to), or the realization that you were different in the way you looked, acted or believed. Maybe a loved one was taken from you far too soon. For many of my brothers and sisters in this extended family of pain we can trace the very moment we knew/heard/felt that life had changed. I know where I was, whom I was with, can smell the room and see what I was wearing. I have talked and written about mine in the past, read it here, if you wish: A Different Anniversary.
My oldest son was diagnosed with autism four days prior to the birth of his younger brother. Simultaneous to my grief I was given a gift of equal emotional weight. Our younger son, Nathan joined our family. Vinnie and I used to say Nathan came to us at the exact right time, our lifesaver, who helped us cope. Brand new humans are among the most helpless mammals on earth, babies cannot survive on their own. In truth, it was me who needed him. I don’t know where I would be without Nathan. At first it was his primal need that sustained me. I remember his first birthday party and feeling weepy all day. I had sleepwalked through his first year of life, going wearily from one therapy to another with our older son, baby in tow, sleep deprived and a bundle of nerves. In fact, most new parents sleepwalk through their children’s first year; being a parent is amazing, but let’s face it, it is exhausting, especially the first year.
Now, Nathan is turning ten; birthdays tend to bring about reflection for me, especially his. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Nathan is: Gift from God. While I have personally grappled with my relationship with God, in this particular instance, if I ever believed S/He was looking out for me, it would be in blessing me with both my children, and my husband. Particularly the timing of Nathan’s arrival and for him being exactly, who he is. As is the case for most children who have siblings that are different, Nathan is one of the most sensitive, caring people I know. He is emotionally tuned in; in a way many adults only aspire to be. He used to cry when other children were hurt on the playground in preschool, and has a hard time hearing stories in the news about people being cruel or worse to one another. Where our oldest son struggles to fully understand emotions (a hallmark of autism), Nathan feels almost too much. We talk often about this. He recently said, “I think I was born to be a grown up.” I don’t think he feels that he is too good for being a kid, rather that he sees things many children do not and that makes being one hard at times.
I am grateful for my family, with all of our imperfections and gifts and for showing me how to love and accept in a way I only dreamed of. Nathan, on your tenth birthday my greatest wish is that you are able to “see” the person you are, as I do. I am so thankful you are in my life and proud that you are my son.
I love you.