Yesterday I took the day off from work to get some much needed rest. I was exhausted from a long weekend of moving and everyone knows how taxing that can be. When I returned, I noticed that I had missed my chance to show my support for National Autism Day. This was especially important to me as I have friends with children who are affected by this. Most of us, whether married or single with kids are completely unaware of how blessed we are. Having a healthy child is a gift that so many people wish they could share. One of my best girlfriends and her husband who live in North Carolina struggle daily with the task of raising their two autistic sons in a world that fails to except anything that seems "abnormal". Although a day late, I share a story from the book "Journeys of Love, Voices of the Heart," that I coauthored with Rose Mitchell. It's my way of offering acknowledgement of a disease that affects millions of men, women and children all over the world. "Bubble" describes a mothers love for her autistic son. To those who are facing this reality remember that you are never alone. Look toward this dew season as God's way of allowing you to experience his extraordinary love. He made all of us in his image, he just gave you someone extra "special".
"Bubble," by Lorena Smith
I listen to my son babble in the bathtub as I’m putting clothes away in the closet. He’s swatting at the bubbles and giggling to himself. I don’t know what he’s trying to say. He’s non verbal. That’s what the “official” report says. The report also states, “Jacob is a physically healthy, non-verbal, seven-year-old autistic child.” It looks so sterile written like that. It looks like it’s just a passing blip. They can’t know how much I long to hear him say something, anything. At this point, I’d settle for him even cursing me out. In all his years, I’ve never heard him spontaneously say to me, “I love you”. I’ve never heard him say what a good mom he thinks I am. I’ve never heard him ask for candy or mumble rude things under his breath because I wouldn’t give it to him.
As I walk up to the bathtub to get him out, he is staring at the big, beautiful, round soap bubble he has caught in his hand. He stares at the little rainbows dancing in the light reflecting off the soapy surface. I put my head close to his.
“Is that a bubble? It’s so pretty,” I say.
I have acquired the habit of just talking around him. I have hours and hours of one-sided conversations, just hoping that something, anything, will stick in his brain and make sense. Then slowly, very slowly he moves his hand so the soap bubble is directly in the middle of us. He moves his head and leans it against mine. We sit there, my son and I, him kneeling in the bathtub and me kneeling on the floor beside him staring at this beautiful bubble, this token of love he wanted to share with me. We’re at the movies my daughter, my son and I. We sit in the very back because there is no way of knowing what he will or will not do. However, today he’s pretty calm. My daughter and I laugh at the movie. It’s very funny. It has a British koala bear in it. Who has ever heard of a British koala bear? Occasionally, I look over at my son. During most of the movie, he has his hands over his ears. He flaps his hands in front of his eyes and focuses on everything but the movie screen. I wish desperately that I could reach into his world and see what he sees. I wish so much that he could connect with my world so we could laugh at the silly lion together. My daughter loves it. She nudges me and giggles at a particularly silly joke in the movie.
When it’s over, I wait for most of the people to exit the theatre and then get up to leave. Then suddenly, I feel his hands on my waist tugging me into the aisle. The credits are rolling and the tune is mellow. He puts his arms around my waist and lays his head on my side. Then he starts swaying to the music. I put my arms around him too, and my son and I have our first dance in the aisle of the movie theater. The girl who cleans comes in to sweep the floor and flips on the light. She sees the streams of tears running down my face and quickly turns them off then quietly closes the door. My son and I continue our first dance until the music stops.
Over the years, I’ve learned that people can’t always express the love they feel with words. And, after having my son, I’ve come to realize that words are overrated anyway. It’s not what you say but what you do; it’s the way you tell someone you love them, even when you don’t have the words. It’s a soap bubble. It’s a dance in the aisle of a movie theater.