The other day a friend of mine and I got to talking. She also has a child with autism, which means there is rarely a time we run out of (mostly gross) things to discuss. Completely in character considering all the fucked up stuff we talk about, she asks “So, let’s say you and I didn’t have kids with autism. Do you think that would make us …”
“…completely obnoxious and totally self absorbed?” I interrupt, finishing her sentence.
“EXACTLY!” she wholeheartedly agreed. We laughed so hard. Keep in mind that one of my MANY mottos is the horrors of autism momentarily fade mid belly laugh. Hence my constant joking. I can’t speak for my friend, but I know in my heart that without autism, I most definitely would not be the person I am today.
Hold up. Don’t click unsubscribe, defriend, unfollow, or egg my house just yet. Do know this- I would give anything, and I mean anything to be able to live in an autism free household. That’s not to say that I want to run away (okay that’s not true every day) or that I’d pack J.R.’s bags (I’m nearly positive of that). I know I can’t wave a magic wand, so forgive me as I struggle for the words to reflect my wish to send autism straight to hell.
I don’t want to use the term turn back time either. Here’s why: yes I have been to Hades and back trying to gracefully raise J.R. I barely remember enjoying his early years and I think that part hurts the most. On the other hand, getting cheated out of all that time has made me into a mom who wants to relish in every stinkin moment of these years. Your seven year old may say the darndest things, but I guarantee he doesn’t ask if a firefighter is a person who comes to your house to fire you, then beat you up. And that he now knows that is the reason why policemen exist, to protect us from those evil firefighters. CLASSIC! You may not be laughing at this, and believe me, I know how sad it is that he thinks this way (more importantly how lame it is that I haven’t the SLIGHTEST clue where to start in correcting him, ha!). Hear me out. If I allow myself to sweat the small stuff, like J.R.’s (hopefully temporary) confusion as to the role of neighborhood helpers, I will lose my mind. What’s left of it, that is.
The Kristi Vannatta, and even more so the Kristi Kirkham in me wants so badly to worry, fret, and focus on all things negative (thanks for that genetic gem, mom). I’m sure autism offers up a pretty fucking generous serving of negative, so if I don’t make a conscious effort to see the good in just about everything (except grocery shopping; I refuse), again, I will implode. Don’t hate me but I don’t even mind going to the dentist.
Judging by my upbringing (let’s just say I had a pretty impressive handbag collection by the tenth grade) and current penchant for often becoming VERY LOUD at restaurants, obnoxious and self absorbed are terms that haven’t always be left out in an attempt to describe Kristi Kirkham Vannatta. I am not embarrassed to say that autism has grounded me. The message didn’t need to arrive in the shape of a two-ton boulder, but the disorder has nonetheless been effective in reminding me just where to place importance. Without autism, I promise you that not missing a chance to pick up a $100 pair of shoes would have defined SUPER IMPORTANT. And those of you who know me, don’t you dare chime in and accuse me of now referring to that situation as kind of important. I’m trying to make a point here! Hee hee.
On the bright side, autism has allowed me total enjoyment of experiences normal people think of as a chore. Most women my age can’t stand the fact that they have to spend time in front of the mirror every morning, painting on their face. Me? I just learned, at age 41, how to apply makeup- and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! I swear on my son’s ipad that I had barely worn a lick until now. It’s not that I didn’t think I needed any, I just never bothered to learn. I have been a bit busy since 2004, now that I think about it.
Yes, my newly honed concealer application skills come in handy the mornings after I’ve had a little too much wine (or let’s face it, cried myself to sleep). The real reason why I suddenly relate to Max Factor (okay, Mr. Nars)? For the first time I feel like my outer expression has a chance to match my inner one- that of a happy girl who knows where she’s come from, for better or worse knows where she’s been, but hasn’t the slightest clue where she’s going.
That’s the gift I’ve received for absorbing my son into my self. I can’t think of anything more beautiful. And not the slightest bit obnoxious if you ask me.