This has been a tough year. I hope that explains why this post is several days late, and why there have been few posts in months, but I'm a writer so I should be a bit more specific. It was just over a year ago my son was diagnosed with autism. ASD to be specific: He's "on the spectrum" as they say.
He is gorgeous and looks at you with the most beautiful big hazel eyes, but he's 3 1/2 and and tends to temper tantrum rather than talk. He's brilliantly able to do his alphabet, shapes, numbers and colors, but he does them over and over again in obsessed loops of activity that are hard to break. It started with wheels. Watching them spin round and round and never noticing the people or children around him.
I had my suspicions from when he was 18 months old. He wasn't like the other kids. I blamed it on him being a boy and slow to catch on, but when another boy in mother's group started telling me all the different parts of the car he was playing with and what his favorite cars were when my son could barely say "mama" I knew something was wrong. I had this sinking feeling.
I expected the pediatrician's diagnosis to be a relief, but it was a shock. You never know how you'll deal with these things until they hit you. My way of dealing was to learn everything I could and do everything I could.
A year later, and hundreds of hours of ABA (applied behavioral therapy) later, my son has gone from 30 words to over 350. He's doing amazing...but there's such a long way to go when I see the other 3-year-olds. I basically stopped writing this past year. I'd just completed a fantastic amount of work on my epic fantasy with a professional editor, but I just couldn't write after the diagnosis. I had to put all my effort, all my thoughts and dreams into my son. I couldn't care about anything else.
Now he's doing better, and we've just enrolled him into preschool for next year (a fantastic school with plenty of normal kids but with skilled teachers experienced with autistic and other special needs children). His pediatrician confirmed the early diagnosis and we know we're into this for the long haul. It wasn't simple developmental delay. This is who he is...but I'm okay with that.
All the hours spent working with my son with first shape sorters and then puzzles and later category cards has helped me learn what a tough-willed little guy he is. He has his personality and it's a powerful one. He's incredibly stubborn, yet bright, despite his inability to communicate, and he's so much fun. His laugh warms my soul. I love chasing birds with him in the park and cringing as he climbs too high on the jungle gym. I love him so much I've forgotten about the ASD. It's just become a part of him, and that's the best place for it. Not his 'disease' but just a part of is unique personality.
I've stopped trying to save him and have started just trying to help him learn what he needs in life.
And I've started thinking about me again. Even my amazing husband, who dropped everything to become my son's all day long carer and teacher, has begun to paint again. And I've begun to write again. I can't approach that dark epic fantasy right now, but I rediscovered a fun little gem of a fantasy mystery in my files. I'm finishing it off and self-publishing soon. So watch out! I'm back.
Ok, I'm heading off from Aspiring Author Land here and heading into 'manifesto' territory, but I hope that doesn't forever label me as radical, eccentric, rabble-rouser...what have you. The fact is work and motherhood have temporarily curtailed by authoring time but given me far too much contemplative time (usually while pushing a toddler on a swing for hours on end) to worry about my son's future, the future of his parent's nation and the future of the world in general. And, of course, to contemplate zombies.
I have the benefit of distance, having lived in Australia now for 17 years, to see America as an outsider. Why I still love the motherland to the core of my being, from deserts and fir forests to new England autumn, from the Revolutionary War to the Second World War, I am scared of the direction she's headed. I am a tree hugger yet love to shoot a 9 mm at tin cans. I have family that range from Obama campaigners to Obama-care haters. And I love every one of them, so I listen. I consider myself capable of emotion, logic, and foresight, but all I see is disaster.
When did we start valuing possessions above helping neighbors or creating music for music's sake rather than for profit? When did war ever become an acceptable status quo? Why on earth did we think torture was OK as long as it was on foreign soil - even as the Declaration of Independence quotes 'unalienable rights'?
And then there's the Facebook updates showing my sister's zombie walk costume and how cool the grim reaper is, while my brother on the phone won't tell me his new girlfriend's name until pestered but happily launches into an excited update on the latest Ebola news and death count.
Sometimes I feel that America vanished sometime in 2001. And maybe it did. The Twin Towers changed things, and now the changes have had a generation to set in. No one thinks it's weird that billionaires with conflicts of interest (i.e. corporate and oil interests) can run for president and claim to represent the everyday person. No one thinks it's wrong to send technology and manufacturing capability overseas so corporations get richer while Americans lose their jobs and homes and can't afford healthcare so Doctors Without Borders is forced to come in and treat people, saying that while the illnesses are different, the amount of people in desperate need of aid is no different from what they've seen in Africa. When did it become OK for billionaires to 'trickle down' their scraps to the people while saying "Just buy a lottery ticket and you can be just like us...so don't cut off my head."
Well, I think it's OK because zombification has set in. People are dead already, no dreams for the future or hopes to better themselves and the world. Their soul and passion has been killed by mass marketing, biased media, and the latest celebrity gossip, gore-dripping drama, or reality TV that fulfills the role of Rome's gladiatorial games to pacify the masses. America is dead and loving it. Shambling around like mindless zombies...
Or am I being too critical of my sister's zombie walks and the plethora of child zombie costumes for sale this Halloween? Are zombies not a symbol of the death of society but, instead, a subtle rebellion?
Brain-munching zombies in unstoppable hordes can represent the apocalypse, or they can represent the end product of all the political corruption and corporate greed at work in America. Are these zombie mobs saying "look what you've created - and now we're coming to tear down your society and eat your flesh!" Are they in fact the equivalent of the French revolutionary, the down-trodden peasant whose reply to "Let them eat cake!" is "How about I take your head instead"?
I've been writing all my life (even won a trophy in first grade) but it got shoved to the back of the closet (writing as a priority as well as my trophy) because I was too "levelheaded" for that nonsense. Now, twenty years later, I've learned a flat head isn't all it's cracked up to be. Writing is the one thing I felt I had to do, and I always told myself I'd write a book someday. Well, it IS someday.