“What if…?”

“What if…?”s inhabit a mental space many parents of severely autistic progeny try to avoid. Really, most of the time, we’re so swamped with the realities of what is, we don’t have the time or energy to “go there.” But, at least for me, it is ultimately unavoidable.
What if Ben were “typical?” Friendships, traveling, lovers, conversations, marriage, adventures, sex, parenthood – there are countless joys he will never know. Sometimes I find myself staring at him as we sit in the backseat, trapped in “What if…?”
What if Ben would look over at me and say, “Dad, don’t say anything to this girl that’ll embarrass me because I really like her, so actually, maybe you should just drop me off,” instead of something like, “Go to McDonald’s,” ten times in an hour. What if Ben were the one behind the wheel, laughing, not at some mysterious, internal script, but at his buddy riding shotgun telling a raunchy joke. What if he could play a Schubert impromptu on piano instead of just listening with the rapt attention that tells us he loves it, even if he’ll never perform it himself? What if he could have become a renowned pianist? And dammit, he really might have.
That’s one thing about a chronic, lifelong disorder like severe autism – it never really lets go. Maybe it loosens a bit, but then it’ll remind you of unavoidable realities, and the grip tightens once again.
I feel the grip tightening and realize where my mind’s wandered because my heart is breaking. I try hard to think of other things.

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