I wrote this piece as a reminder that the seeds of hope, though tiny, are tenacious. They've rooted in my soul, and watered by tears, are promises that someday my son will become whole.
My Jeffrey will make me proud some day. Not like my neighbor's children who are the first ones chosen for the soccer game at recess, or like the ones across town that always land the lead role in the school drama, nor like the children who bow at the sound of applause and carry another trophy home for their collection. No. My Jeffrey is autistic. He dances to a foreign song, on a quiet, dim stage far from Hollywood. But his moves amaze me.
You see, my Jeffrey learned to read. He learned to sound out the letters in the word, "Burger King", his favorite place, but not until he learned to muffle the monsters roaring in his ears, to tie them up and throw them in the corner. My Jeffrey learned to multiply and divide, to keep his sixes and nines straight, but not until he determined to defeat the demons growling in his mind. My Jeffrey learned to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for his little sister, to put the peanut butter on first, though he sill doesn't understand why she smiled when he left it on the table for her.
But the climax of his dance, his most difficult move that he held in painful grace, was the day he ran through the porch door, grabbed my arm and held me in his deep blue-eyed grip. "I'm sorry Mom." Three words. But he said it clearly, with quivering lips and tears running down his red cheeks. I heard him rip the chains away from his shackled soul. I felt them rattle and shake in his arms, angry and anxious to strangle his spirit again. But for a few seconds the light that shone from his eyes held me captive. First love. Tender love, set free from his heart, surprised him, and beckoned my breath in a fragile moment. Then the chains, like snakes, hissed their return, and flicked the light from his face. He turned away and ran back to school.
My Jeffrey learned to hug me and say, "I love you Mom," every night at bedtime. It's become a part of his mindless routine that he does after he brushes his teeth and puts on his pajamas.
But someday. Someday. My Jeffrey will grin, look deep into my eyes, and he'll say, "I love you Mom". And he'll mean it. I'll join him in a new dance and he'll understand my tears. The light will resurrect in his eyes. After all, if he muffled monsters, slayed demons, and ripped apart chains, he's nearly there.