Autism : Birthday boy

Yesterday was Ian’s 26th birthday.

I don’t know when he grew up. He just did.

And didn’t, of course. The young man who is also a child, forever straddling the fence of childhood and adulthood, with a foot in each but never truly one thing or the other…

If I think about it too hard, I feel tired, and occasionally a little overwhelmed.

Ian was only ever a blessing to us. Even when it got difficult. Within the sphere of our little family, everything has always run smoothly and easily. Effortlessly, almost. We know how to keep Ian happy, and he knows what is required of him on a day-to-day basis. There is a pattern to the day, and it varies very little from week to week, month to month.

I am older now, just as Ian is. And today I find my head crowded with worries about Ian’s future. Not whether or not he will be cared for and looked after; that is already sorted. More along the lines of who will sing to him when he suggests it? Who will stroke his forehead when he’s tired? Who will hold him when he’s in pain? Who will push him that little bit when he needs reminding to get dressed, or move his chair in at the dinner table, or answer a question properly?

Who will mother the forever child, when his own mother is no longer there?

For this is the crux of our biggest worry : That people with autism have a normal life expectancy. My child could outlive me by decades.

I didn’t mean to get all serious – perhaps even a bit maudlin – when I started this latest blog. These are just the thoughts crowding my head this season of birthdays, both Ian’s and mine. But perhaps they are thoughts worth sharing, as the year winds down and winter (in the northern hemisphere) makes us all more introspective.

Ian had a good birthday, with presents (books, of course) that he was happy to receive, and homemade chocolate cake, and candles to blow out, and singing – which Ian led.

And now my “little angel sent from heaven” is a strapping 26-year-old.

Do you know what makes me happiest when I look at recent photographs of Ian? The laugh lines at the corners of his eyes! There, I can see the joy he takes in life. Evidence of all those times he was happy, and laughing. That’s all we want for our children, isn’t it? To see them happy.

If I have achieved nothing else, I have achieved that.


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