The Gifts My Autistic Son Has Given Me
To say I blindly and peacefully accepted Luca and his diagnosis would be dishonest.
It would make for a beautiful story — that he was born and I had no expectations of him, for our relationship, for his life.
But I did.
Or that when we were told he had autism, I didn’t grieve.
But I did.
Or that in the deepest depths of my heart, the part I won’t talk about because it makes me feel guilty and ungrateful, I didn’t ever wish that it were different, that he was different.
But I did.
And there are days that I still do.
I will never have that version of the story where those overwhelming and suffocating moments of sadness and loss and guilt and anger don’t exist.
And while sometimes that takes my breath away, what helps me accept all the ways I haven’t or didn’t love him perfectly, what means more, what I focus on and remember, is everything he has taught me by loving him:
That language doesn’t have to be spoken; that connection can be shown by a pat on the head, a backed in hug, a second of true presence; that words may be few, but when they are, it means they are always honest and genuine.
That friendship comes from listening, from trust, from accepting our differences and finding ways to honor and accept them. That you don’t need the world to love you, just a handful of the best and kindest people who believe in you and know your worth.
That joy can come from the simplest things — a box of Pop-Tarts, a pair of good socks, saltine crackers, sitting in the front seat of the car, eating a $2 bean burrito with people you love.
That love — true, unconditional love — means accepting someone with no limitations, and having no expectations of getting anything back. At all. It can be hard work and frustrating and unnatural. But when you find it, when you feel it, when you know it — it’s a reminder of all of our limitless capabilities to be better and kinder and more patient and understanding and compassionate, and the endless possibilities of making the world good.
Luca hasn’t just taught me all of this. He’s given all of this to me. Unspoken connection. Friendship. Joy. True unconditional love. Every day for the past 15 years.
He is the most beautiful story. He makes this life the most beautiful story.
On Thanksgiving, we always go around the table and say for what we are grateful. This year when it got to Luca, he paused, looked up, and just said, “On this day, in this place, I love you.”
No other words could have been more perfect.
I love you, Luca — in this place, on this day — and every day, forever.
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