In my haste not to miss out on the shindig, the shindig that I whined all day about attending, the door closed too fast, or I moved too slow, and the tip of my ring finger remained behind...in the latch...where finger tips aren't suppose to remain. I felt the pain, I saw the blood, and that's when the screaming began.
"Mooooom, I cut my finger off in the door!", I screamed through hysterical sobs. "Calm down, you probably just pinched it, let's go rinse it off." (I was unaware a "pinch" could cause so much blood). "Oh my God, you did cut your finger off!" my mother squealed in a hysterical voice that nearly matched my own. Once I saw the panic in my mother's eyes, I knew neither one of us were equipped to handle such an injury, so through my hysteria, I sobbed, "I want Dad!".
The doctor was right. It's funny how even after 35 years, that finger some days still feels pain that is similar to the day my fingertip was chucked in the hospital waste disposal bag. You would think over time, the pain would dull and those nerve endings would just get used to being a little more exposed and they would sort of toughen up, and I guess in some ways compared to that first day and those first few weeks, the pain has dulled some, but, under certain circumstances, when just the right nerve is hit, the pain is as fresh as it was the day I ruined my favorite light blue terry cloth shorts. Damn, those shorts were cool.
Over the summer, Ryan had an updated psychological evaluation. Ryan had not had any type of assessment since his first diagnosis when he was 5. The evaluation was conducted in order to determine if Ryan's ASD diagnosis was having any type of impact on his learning. Ryan did beautifully in school last year, making the Honor Roll every marking period, but, in order for Ryan to achieve those grades, Ryan's brain has many more obstacles to overcome in an effort to learn than his classmates without an ASD.
Words like "little eye contact", "flicking hands", "language deficits", "executive functioning deficits", "ASD" and struggles like "poor social skills", "anxiety", and "discrepancies between inherent ability and performance" felt like that front door slamming again and again, but, this time, all ten fingers remained intact, it was my heart that was left bleeding in the latch, blood dripping all over my spandex yoga pants, (I gave up terry cloth in 1982). Seeing the words Autism Spectrum Disorder again on paper, the letters and their meaning as evident as my missing fingertip once the blood was washed away, was still painful. Yeah, no matter how much time has passed, it still hurts.
Like I said, there was nothing in that report that surprised me, and no, I didn't think the doctor would say that Ryan no longer had autism.....or did I? Denial was next to me while I read the report and she can be very, very persuasive, so maybe there was just one tiny part of my wounded heart that believed, maybe they got it wrong all those years ago. Maybe, just like I closed our front door too fast, accidentally slamming my finger, maybe someone closed the neurotypical door too fast accidentally slamming my heart? As I sat next to Denial, absorbing every word of that report, I knew no one intentionally hurt my heart, but, I also knew that the ASD diagnosis was right and that no one slammed the neurotoypical door, but, instead, someone opened the autism door and in doing so, opened my heart. A heart that has taken a long time to heal and that occasionally, if poked, slammed, or whacked just the right way, exposes those sensitive nerve endings that still tend to sting a little.
They say "time heals all wounds", but, I don't know if all wounds "heal" or if we just get really good at covering the scars, doing what we can to keep those ever present raw nerve endings tucked right below the surface where they don't hurt so much.
Just like a little whack to my finger triggers a pain from so long ago, that pain also helps remind me that as traumatic as the events of that day were at the time, that I have lived a happy, beautiful life no less wonderful had that finger remained intact, looking just like everyone else's. Without the protection of that much needed fingertip, the nerves of my finger are exposed, sometimes leaving my finger vulnerable to pain, just like Ryan's ASD diagnosis leaves my heart vulnerable to pain sometimes too. However, maybe my heart needs an occasional whack, to remind me how AWEsome and wonderful my life is despite that long ago injury. Sure, there are days that the nerves from that injury are more exposed, the pain bubbling just below the surface, but, most days, the pain is all but gone and I'm left with only the tiniest scar, a mark that only those closest to me can see.
Ironically, just days after I received Ryan's updated psychological evaluation, days after the wound to my heart was re-opened, my heart was triaged by two fabulous teachers (teachers wear many, many hats). These teacher sent me emails that not only shared how well Ryan was doing, but, shared that my son was being a leader, that my son was socializing with peers, that my son was outshining his fellow classmates in both music and computer aided drafting. With every word I read, I felt my wound closing again. A wound that I feared would never heal, with a bandage I did not know existed. The scar is still there, but, with each passing day, it becomes less visible, and I remain grateful for the occasional pain that reminds me of how much healing there has been.