"Normal" Is A Dryer Setting

Parenting A Child On The Autism Spectrum


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The Beautiful Surprise

She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them. ~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera 

Parenting has no road map because it is a unique experience for everyone involved. No two relationships are the same, and what works for one child may not work for the other. As we go through life, each of us continually becomes reshaped and redefined based on our environment and our experiences. To have an end goal for raising a child often feels like a moving target to me. When all is said and done, this is what I want for my son Tim:

I want my son

To become a responsible adult

Who is capable of holding a job and living independently

And enjoys life to its fullest

Surrounding himself with people who love him.

As Tim’s mother, I by default am one of those people who love him, and I certainly hope he wants me to be around him. Tim and I have fun together, for example

Tim and me on the way to my youngest brother's wedding.

Tim and me on the way to my youngest brother’s wedding.

We were just getting started on that afternoon. What I love most about being with Tim is that he and I share a special connection. We understand each other’s jokes, moods, body language, and communicate both verbally and nonverbally. We are in sync. We get each other. One afternoon, when I walked through the front door after a long day at work, Tim took one look at me and said, “Mom, you need a hug.” Then this teenager who has a personal space bubble the width of the Grand Canyon proceeded to walk over, put his arms around me, and squeeze. I looked up at him, my son, who is now inches taller than I am, and said, “How did you know I needed that?” He just knew.

Tim and I no longer have a parent-child relationship the way we used to when he was younger. He is the most well behaved teenager I have ever met. When I was fifteen years old my parents probably thought my primary objective was giving them heads full of gray hair and worry lines across their brow. Not the case with Tim. As a result, the relationship he and I share is evolving into something quite unexpected. We are becoming friends.

Being my son’s friend is a strange concept to me. I have always approached our relationship as his parent, which means that I am his

“Friend” was never part of the relationship until recently. Many of the words that I used to define my role as Tim’s parent also overlap with synonyms for friend, such as

Supporter

Advocate

Confidante

Encourager

While I will always be Tim’s parent, the added dimension of friendship provides a depth and roundness to the love that already exists between us. Seeing the first buds of friendship in the relationship that Tim and I share is a most wonderful, delightful, delicious surprise. One of the best that life has offered so far.

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Fragility

I watched you disappear. ~ Little Talks, Of Monsters & Men

I have been procrastinating and decided on my way to climbing tonight that I am not going to procrastinate any longer. Even better yet, while my new climbing partner and I were harnessing-up, if that’s even a term, here is how our conversation went:

Me: So are you a student?

New Climbing Partner: Yep! Full time!

Me: What are you studying?

NCP: Biology.

Me: Oh, hey! That’s awesome! My degree is in cancer biology!

NCP: No way!

Me: Yeah, but I don’t do much of that at my current job. Right now I’m working on wound healing, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum.

NCP: Whoa…that sounds really cool.

And then it was time to climb.

My father (on the right) posing with one of his younger brothers when they were teenagers.

I meant to write on Sunday, when it was Officially Father’s Day, but I didn’t. I didn’t write on Monday, or Tuesday either. Over the years I have become a skilled practitioner at the art of putting things off, and this entry is definitely something that I have been avoiding. I sent my father a card, and called him on Sunday, and emailed him this morning about how I need to replace my furnace, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write on Father’s Day.

Whenever my father and I talk on the phone he asks how work is going. Lately work has been going splendidly well. I am discovering that I love working on wound healing, even with the gory pictures. One of the scientists our team collaborates with at the University of Minnesota told us that she uses Post-It notes to cover up the patient photographs when she reads journal articles related to our project.

I cannot push my team fast enough on this project, and it is beginning to become an underlying source of frustration for me. They are all working their buns off, spinning their scientific wheels some days, having successful experiments on others, but nothing will ever be soon enough. One of the markets that we are targeting are people who have small, nagging, slow to heal wounds, such as diabetic ulcers, road rash, skin tears, burns, and so on. These wounds are irregularly shaped, non-incisional, and often occur in the elderly, the immunocompromised, and people whose health is poor in general.

When I talked to my father a month or so ago I asked him what he uses on his wounds. He told me he uses the New-Skin Liquid Bandage and I tried not to let out a groan since it’s probably not much more than superglue.

My father has palindromic rheumatism, which is a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis that occurs in less than 1% of RA patients. The infrequency of this disease makes it difficult to study since the patient population is so small. The rheumatism itself doesn’t make my father’s skin fragile, but some of the medications he takes do. His skin is like tissue paper. One year when I was visiting him and my mother he flexed his arm and his skin tore. Spring roll wrappers are stronger than my father’s epidermis.

The hard part for me is that I can’t fix this. As both a scientist and a daughter the desire to make everything better is overwhelming. Frustratingly enough, I can’t really do anything at all. My father is organized to a fault and has everything in order. He has and will continue to support my mother for the rest of her life. His house is paid off. He has no debts. He has an extensive network of friends and contacts where he lives whom I have witnessed will drop anything at a moment’s notice to help our family out.

There’s nothing left to do but enjoy the time we have together, and that is a wonderful gift. Here are the times that I have begun to appreciate more due to my father’s influence:

  • Time with my son Timothy. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing.
  • When one or both of my cats decide to snuggle, even if it is 4 am.
  • Running along the lake on a perfect spring day.
  • Cooking one of Daniel’s favorite meals, and then watching his delighted reaction when he sees his plate.
  • Being grateful for my health.
  • Chats with my girlfriends during our monthly suppers out.
  • Watching chickadees at the bird feeder in front of my kitchen window.
  • Picking strawberries from my garden.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! I love you!

For more information on palindromic rheumatism, please visit the following links:


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For My Mom

Why don’t we break the rules already? Some Nights, fun.

Last week I was at a long overdue Ladies’ Lunch Out. We are all scientists at the same company, all women, and we all needed to hop out for a quick break.

As we were eating/inhaling/devouring our food, one of us came up for air and mentioned that she was going to attend her high school reunion at the weekend. My friend sitting across from me turned to Reunion Girl and asked, “What are you going to wear?” Simple question, right? Reunion Girl gazed down at her plate, sighed, and said, “I don’t know. I don’t have anything.”

The rest of us stopped chowing momentarily out of shock because in addition to being very intelligent, beautiful, and having a delightful personality, Reunion Girl is also extremely fashionable. Anyone who can work in a lab all day and still look have runway-ready hair, makeup, and lint-free black slacks has it going on. Reunion Girl was promptly commanded by the entire table to take the afternoon off and go shopping.

She couldn’t. She had too much to do.

Which resulted in a unanimous table-wide decision that well, why don’t we ALL go and help her buy some dressy dresses? I mentioned that the Bettie Page store at the Mall of America has some divinely outstanding dresses that fit amazingly well. I bought a curve-hugging one this past spring that actually intimidated Daniel, alpha-male extraordinaire, the first time I wore it. Reunion Girl sighed again and said no, that’s not her style. I looked at her and said, “You can go as whatever you want,” which was true, since most of her classmates had not seen her in years.

Then the ideas started to fly fast and furious. Should Reunion Girl dress as the stereotypical absent-minded scientist? Or something more sultry? Or wear a granny cardigan and reading glasses attached to a chain around her neck? We were all thinking of ideas until someone yelled out

LEATHER!!! ALL LEATHER!!!

We decided that if Reunion Girl wore a leather bodysuit to her reunion the local news would report that the event was so popular even Catwoman made an appearance. At this point I was laughing so hard I was crying, and we eventually moved on to the next subject, which was Who Is Our Friend Going To Be More Or Less Successful Than At Her Reunion. And that is a mystery we may never find out.

This is my favorite picture of my mother. My father has his eyes shut, probably blinded by her beauty.

My life is so different than my mother’s. I think every woman that I had lunch with that day would agree with me. I’m not saying it’s better, or worse, but just different. Most of my female friends had mothers who were homemakers, like mine. As a child, I did not realize how much my mother sacrificed for me. I did not realize that I should be grateful that her life revolved around her children’s lives and not much else. I don’t think my mother once had lunch with a girlfriend the entire time I was growing up. For me, and for my female friends, we start to complain if we don’t formally get together at least once a month. Forget that we all work together and could see each other every day if we wanted to.

When I was small, I thought my mother was beautiful. She still is, and she will always be. I wanted to be her when I grew up. I would walk around in her shoes, wear her clothes, smell her perfume, try on her jewelry, and beg to play with her makeup. I was in love with the essence of her. Other than Tim, I’m not sure I have ever felt that way about another person.

Me styling it up in my mom’s bathing suit.

One of the things I love most about my mother is what she says about her four children: She doesn’t care what we do as long as we are happy. She doesn’t care whether we marry, divorce, or stay single forever. She doesn’t care how many children we have. She doesn’t care where we live or what we do for work. What she wants is for us to be completely satiated on life. She wants us to feel like we have pursued our dreams and ambitions, even if it is by unconventional means.

My mother is the reason why I am where I am today.

My mom taught me that anything worth doing should be done with all your heart. There is a glass ceiling where I work, not because I am a woman, but for other reasons, and for the first time we have the opportunity to shatter it. I plan on bursting it wide open without minding the cuts and scratches along the way.

My mom is the reason why I have an advanced degree, with a stable job and a comfortable lifestyle. I do not need a partner to support me financially, and I probably never will. This allows me to choose my boyfriends for how they make me feel, not for what they can give me. If I don’t like the way a man is treating me, I can walk away at any time.

My mother taught me by example how to be a mom. This is why Tim is doing exceptionally well for someone with an Asperger’s diagnosis and why I am able to be a good helper for Daniel with Peanut. From her I learned that children need unconditional love, acceptance, and guidance with a firm but gentle hand.

My mother taught me to treasure my female relationships. As I grow older, I have begun to cherish the friendships I have with other women. Having a support network of female friends has proven critical for my emotional and physical well-being. Women should build each other up, not tear each other down.

Mom, I am so happy, even if my life has had its unexpected twists and turns. Thank you so much. I love you.


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室內花卉

I hope the exit is joyful, and I hope never to return. ~ Frida Kahlo

“I call him ‘Indoor Flower’.” This is what one of my coworkers called her husband, and since she is from China, the Chinese characters in the title of this entry say “indoor flower”, at least according to Google Translate. Our cluster was out for lunch, and my coworker seated across the table from me was talking about how she loved to be outside, in nature, walking through the woods. Her husband, however, preferred to stay inside, thus the nickname. My other coworker seated next to me almost spit his food out laughing as we all dissolved into giggles at the thought of this woman calling her beloved husband “室內花卉”.

I went to this same coworker’s wake this morning, where I gave her husband a hug and told him how very sorry I am about her passing. I have shared lab space with her for the past two years, and she was always smiling, always joyful, finding the good side of everything. On the rare occasions where I saw her frustrated or having a bad day, she shook the off part off and continued on with her life. She was also a brilliant scientist, and her office is full of plaques with her name on it for patents, leadership awards, and technical achievements. Last May she went to the doctor for a lump on her leg that turned out to be skin cancer, and unfortunately it had metastasized too far by the time she started to feel ill. Once she left work last spring on long-term disability, she never came back.

When our cluster found out a few weeks ago that she was being put on hospice, one of my lab neighbors and I set up a time to go through her samples. Her lab was full of tubes, films, and reagents, and we needed to sort what to keep and what to dispose of. We didn’t know if anything was hazardous or what the shelf-life was, and we had her former technician come in to help us out. We set this up for last Wednesday, thinking that we would still have time to contact her if we had questions. Even though she had been put on hospice, which is usually end of life care, we all still hoped that she would recover and return to work. Monday afternoon, however, I received a message in my email inbox that she had passed.

With that news, I spent Wednesday afternoon sorting through a dead woman’s belongings. When her technician arrived, she said that most of the samples in question were garbage, either because they were several months old, they didn’t work, or they could easily be made again if need be. We filled up a waste drum, set a few tubes aside at a coworker’s request, and that was that. As I looked into the waste drum before I sealed it up and took it to our building’s loading dock for disposal, I felt as if I had thrown this woman’s career into the garbage. I had minimized her life as a scientist into a single bucket.

My coworker is not the first one of us who has become ill. I have had two other female friends die from cancer over the past few years, and two who have had tumors removed and are currently living normal lives. Most of my female friends in graduate school miscarried during their first pregnancies. What is unclear is whether these occurrences are work-related regarding exposure to chemicals or too much stress, or whether there is no connection. I had my own tumor removed last October, as well, and the past few months I have spent a lot of my time mulling over what my mortality means to me.

One non-negotiable for me is telling Tim, every day, that I love him. He needs to hear it, and I need to hear myself verbalizing it to him. We hear about how love is a verb, and actions speak louder than words, but in this case I think the words are important. Tim and I don’t have many bad days where we are at odds with each other, and I keep waiting for him to hit the teenage years where he shuts me out of his life. It hasn’t happened yet. The worst I have weathered with Tim is, when I tell him I love him, he makes a joke of it and mumbles back, “Yeah…Iluvvvvyewwwtoooo…”.

I have also been thinking about how I spend my time, and whom I spend it with. Am I being real in my relationships, or am I surrounding myself with people who make me feel good in the moment? Am I being supportive of my friends and family, and letting them know how important they are to me? Am I doing everything I want to do, and seeing everything I want to see? Right now I am working on finding a balance between nurturing new friendships while maintaining the well-established ones. The bottom line is to live life to its fullest, the best way I know how, and to make sure Tim is along for the ride as much as possible.


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The Price Tag

Intense love does not measure, it just gives. ~ Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Much-beloved Pudge.

Two of my friends, a married couple I met through work seven years ago, lost one of their dogs earlier this week. He was a much-loved member of their family, and he had been deteriorating for a while, which took an emotional toll on his owners over time. Several of us posted electronic notes of sympathy to our friends, and one comment stood out in particular to me. This person mentioned how the overwhelming grief my friends are experiencing is the price tag we pay for unconditional love.

Daniel had to put his dog to sleep about 2½ years ago. This is the only time I have ever seen him cry. The evening after he euthanized her, I laid him down on the couch, put his head on my chest, and let him begin to process his emotions. Daniel’s dog had lived a long, happy life with him, she had been well-fed, cared for, and loved, and she loved him in return. She lived so long, in fact, that by the time he decided to put her to sleep, she could barely walk, couldn’t control her bowels or bladder, and she, being slim to begin with, had lost most of her body fat. What grieved Daniel so terribly was that this animal had loved him unconditionally and, from his perspective, in his exact words, he responded to that love by killing her. I didn’t tell him he was wrong, or that his perspective was skewed. All I could do was hold him and let him cry until my shirt was soaked.

There are inherent risks when it comes to love. Animals love unconditionally, and it seems impossible not to love a creature back that gives itself to you so freely. Humans are more guarded with each other, aren’t we? A few months ago Daniel was stressing over what would happen if Peanut decides one day that he doesn’t love him, or doesn’t want to spend time with him or come to his house because Dad.Is.Old.And.Boring. I didn’t say much at first, because Peanut will always love Daniel, his father, unless Daniel actively does something to destroy their relationship. But after Daniel brought it up a few times, I finally told him that, yes, honestly there is a risk with loving someone. The risk is that you make yourself vulnerable, and the other person may decide he or she doesn’t love you back. However, I finished by saying that when you love someone with your whole heart, that person usually responds in kind.

As we grow older, we become conditioned to protect our hearts. Friendships stall out when someone goes through a rough patch and the other person isn’t quite sure how far to intervene. Marriages fall apart when one partner hurts another, perhaps inadvertently, but suddenly shields are up and battle lines are drawn. There are also people who are afraid to let themselves be loved, who are unable to accept someone else’s affection. There are both passive and active methods of self-preservation when it comes to love.

There are exceptions to the rule. My son is one of them. So are other individuals with varying special needs that I have encountered throughout my life. My son’s brain, being different from my brain in so many ways, has no control over his heart. He loves without bounds, and when he loves someone or something, he falls hard. He is the most loyal, devoted, affectionate companion a person could wish for. He has no malicious thoughts, words, or intended actions, which makes it all the more difficult for him when he sees his classmates at school teasing each other, pushing people in the hallways, or excluding people from social groups. He doesn’t understand any of that, and, like other Aspies, he spends a good amount of his time watching situational television shows in an attempt to learn about social interaction.

To be loved by someone like my son is the most wonderful feeling in the world. He is completely vulnerable to me, and I could say or do anything to him, and he would still love me. I have to be careful of myself and make sure that my words and actions are kind to him, that I don’t take his love for granted and trample all over it. That I don’t assume he will always feel the same way for me no matter how I behave. People with Asperger’s can form very strong bonds with their pets, and I’m not sure we know why. Based on my observations, I think that people like my son have hearts that are more open than mine is, and like attracts like. Our cats connect with my son more than they connect with me, even though I am their primary caregiver. My son has formed a strong bond with both of them where he understands their meows, plays games with them, and knows what they want before I can figure it out.

What I have to work on is giving the same open, unlimited, vulnerable love to my son that he gives to me. I also have to work on giving that to the other people in my life, even if they never give it back. Life is too short to constantly be shielding your heart in the event that is shattered. I promise that it will be, from time to time, but that is part of the human experience. It is the price we pay.


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The Fear Of Falling

or, perhaps, a more appropriate title for this entry is, “Why I Run”.

My son fell asleep at 7pm tonight while we were watching an episode of  “Chopped” on our DVR. We had been lying on opposite ends of the couch, sharing a blanket, when I made a snarky comment about one of the Mystery Basket ingredients and he did not reply. I looked down to his end and saw that he had drifted off into dreamland. My son has always slept well through the night, but he has never needed as much sleep as other children his age. Now that he is entering his teenage years, he is beginning to need more and more sleep. Like when he was much younger.

Over the weekend I called my father to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving. He asked me how I was recovering, and I told him that at my doctor’s checkup she had declared me A-OK and ready to return to work. He mentioned how he and my mother were both amazed at how quickly I healed after surgery, and he thinks it probably has something to do with all the running. When I went out running one morning while visiting my parents’ house this past summer, my father was puttering in the garage when I returned. He took one look at me and grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator for me to rehydrate. I was fine, just a little hot, but he seemed to have thought that I had just done some really hard thing.

When my father blamed my rapid bouncing back due to running, I told him why I run, and why I do it so often and for as long as I can. I told him it is not an attempt to stay young. I run because I want to stay in as good of a shape as I can for as long as possible in order to make sure I am present for my son. In addition to the obvious physical benefits of regular exercise, it also wards off depression, dementia, and anxiety. Running helps me sleep better, boosts my self-esteem, and helps me deal more effectively with stress. All of this is important in caring for my son because he needs to be the center of my attention, not my bad day at work, my argument with my boyfriend, or the person who cut me off in traffic.

What an amazing sunset!

I have been doing some morning and afternoon runs outside before the weather turns too much colder. Then it is treadmill season for a few months. The morning runs are mentally challenging because I do them in B.C. (Before Coffee) time, and Minnesota mornings are quite nippy in November. Afternoon runs are better because the day has warmed up, but since we are closing in on Winter Solstice, the sun begins setting shortly after lunch. The sunsets this far north, however, are like nothing I have ever seen anywhere else.

When the snow and extreme cold sets in, I would rather run indoors on the treadmill like a hamster than risk slipping on an icy trail. My son would be responsible for somehow getting me back to our house. Even if he called Daniel, Daniel lives 20 miles away from me and is hit-or-miss since he exists in a different sort of B.C. time and, like me, usually does not have his cell phone on him. This type of situation serves as an example of how not to care appropriately for my son, and I try to avoid potential predicaments like these at all costs.

There is something to be said for treasuring another person so much that it makes one treat one’s own body and mind with the utmost of care. Having a child takes the focus completely off yourself, for a bit. In order to be a good parent, at least for me, requires turning that focus back around on myself, on how much energy I have to keep up with him, whether I am mentally in a place of peace and calm, and whether I have tended to my needs so I can fully meet his. It’s similar to the oxygen mask instructions given before a plane flight, that in case of the plane falling out of the sky, you, the adult, need to put your oxygen mask on before your child’s.

My brother, the eternal jokester, asks me what I am running from. It is not what I am running from, but rather what I am running toward that motivates me and brightens my every step.


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The Imperfect Hostess

Your body’s aching. ~ Beat the Devil’s Tattoo, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Amber chillaxin' in the middle of the hall.

My cats have the right idea. They sleep 20 hours a day, anytime, anywhere, getting up only to eat, drink, and make sure the house is still standing. Healing is a slow process, and different parts heal at different rates. A few days ago my entire torso ached, like someone had used me for a punching bag. Then the incisions started to heal, and they felt like five tight stripes down my sides and stomach. Now the final place is the surgical site, which is internal, and pulses with a dull throb. Throughout all of this, I have been awake and alert for a couple of hours, following by crashing out. When my mom sees me tiring she abruptly ends our conversation and tells me to rest.

The capacity of the human body to repair itself so quickly, within a week, is amazing. And I don’t have to lift a finger. The right cells become mobilized to the right places at the right time, and they send out all the right signals, proteins, and other molecules to whip me back into ship-shape. What impresses me the most, and it is something we may not think about often, is how quickly our minds also recover. While I don’t remember the surgery, and a lot of the initial discomfort I felt is already becoming a blurry, my brain has filed away every detail. Even though the anesthesia shut off parts of my brain, it was still functioning on some level.

Smokey the Guard Cat during his wakeful hour of the day.

Let’s forget about physical discomfort for a minute and think about the brain. My brain works differently than my son’s does, and emotional processing is one area in which I see us differing more and more. The day before my surgery my son had a counseling appointment. His counselor asked him if how he was feeling about my surgery. My son responded that he didn’t feel anything. He said that he wasn’t worried because he knew I was going to be fine. His counselor advised him to think about what he said a little more, since surgeries always have risks. I don’t think this comment was too harsh to tell to a 13-year-old. I think it was honest and direct, which is how my son needs people to communicate with him.

My son was worried because the two days I was away from home my mother told me he didn’t eat. Both nights she tried to offer him supper, and he told her he wasn’t hungry. The night I came home from the hospital, however, he ate an entire plateful of spaghetti. The next night he ate a huge portion of pizza. The night after that he ate his body weight in roasted chicken and potatoes, the next night tacos, and tonight he wolfed down the largest hamburger I have ever made for him in under five minutes.

At one point, between cat naps, I asked my son why he hadn’t eaten when I was gone. I asked him if he had been nervous. He said no. I asked him if he had been scared. Again, no. Stressed? No, not at all. He was simply not hungry. I told him I saw the look on his face when I came home from the hospital and walked through the front door, doubled over and panting from the car ride. My version of his look: My son came upstairs from the den and stopped in his tracks, terrified, as I told him to give me a very gentle hug around my shoulders. My son’s version: He was really happy to see me, and why couldn’t I see that on his face.

I am so confused. Something is missing in my son’s brain. What I am observing in him is a genuine disconnect in emotional processing. I believe that he feels the gamut of emotions that we do. There appears to be problems in one of a few areas. Maybe he doesn’t understand what he is feeling. Maybe he understands it but cannot put it into words. Maybe the basic-instinct-survive-at-all-costs part of his brain responds appropriately, but the logical-thinking-intellectual-fancy-schmancy-higher-level part of his brain that interprets those base instincts is malfunctioning. All I know is that he doesn’t understand what he feels when he feels it.

So how is my son supposed to learn from life experiences? How is he supposed to heal from emotional wounds, grow from emotional experiences? Each close relationship I have had, both male and female, platonic and romantic, has taught me something. I have learned how to keep friends, how to lose friends (if one chooses to go that route), when to support other people and when to back away, and how to protect my heart while still giving it away during the natural ups and downs of each relationship. My son will have a hard time with this part of life if he can’t connect to his emotions in the first place.

I gave this entry the title I did because I am understandably not doing anything right now in the way of hospitality. My poor mother has had to figure out how to drive my car, use my dishwasher, run the laundry, and cook meals that my son will eat. This morning I was joking that we have room service here. I suddenly become too tired to talk, and even now I am quickly becoming too tired to type. Yesterday afternoon Daniel and Peanut came over to visit for a couple of hours, most of which I spent draped across my futon while Peanut played with Bionicle and Daniel told me about his most recent business trip. I did not offer them anything to eat or drink, which I would have done under normal circumstances.

What I am discovering is that no one minds not being waited on. Especially my son. I think I have been going about him all wrong up until now. I have always thought of my role as his parent to be someone who navigates him through his life. Since his diagnosis in 2005 I have thought of myself as a conduit to connect the world most of us live in to his. I am the host who introduces him to the neurotypical life. I don’t think he needs that, though, and I also think I am expecting too much of myself. What he needs is to be loved, and supported, and to given time to find his way. He may never learn to process his emotions effectively, but he is the only person who truly knows what he feels, so who am I to say that he is processing them incorrectly or not at all? All that really matters for us, and for any relationship, is that we are together.