I can see it. I can feel it.
Yet, here I stand watching from the shore, a life preserver at my feet, but, the string not quite long enough to reach him, so I'm helpless to do anything. I yell to him that I want to help, I need to help, but, he tells me I can't. He tells me I don't understand and that he doesn't want my help. "I can manage my own life", he shouts. The life preserver lays on the shore next to me, useless, as if mocking my helplessness as I watch my son struggle. Even if I could toss it to him, even if the rope was long enough, he wants to make it on his own. So I let him.
I watch him go under and pop back up again and again. I'm amazed at his resilience, at how alone he seems out there all by himself and how far under he sometimes goes, yet, he continues to surface time and again. I'm as terrified as I am amazed, but, mostly I just feel helpless at my inability to rescue him.
He wants to blame autism. I get that, and sometimes I do too. After all, he was just walking happily along the shore, autism, although always present, for a while, seemed far away. He was happy. He was eager. Even though change scares him, he was so excited for the start of high school. He was proud to be growing up and moving on. He felt safe and confident...on the surface. Then whoosh, like a rip current lurking in seemingly calm water, he was taken out and under unsuspectingly, and now he is trying to find his way to the surface and safely back to shore.
And I am helpless.
Of course I call out to others asking for help, running up and down the shore trying to find something to help him hang on and make him see that the current will subside and that he will eventually be able to make it safely back to shore, but, he wants no part of my help or anyone else's.
As his mother, it's hard to watch how many times he goes under wanting to rescue him while trying to decipher what took him down in the first place. My number one job is to protect him and make him feel safe, and failing that feels like the current has taken us both under. As much as it hurts to watch him struggle, I am in awe of how he continues to rise up time and time again. I worry each time he goes under that maybe this time, this occasion, will be the one that causes him to sink to the bottom, going deeper than he has gone before. I stand on the shore, a list of what if's goes through my head, as I watch closely and I wait, holding my breath that he will find his way back to the surface again.
And then suddenly, there he is. I see him surface. I see him smile. I hear him script. I know he has made it back.
I can breathe again.
After the end of a very difficult week, it seems that even though he touched bottom, going deeper than he has before, he has risen to the top yet again. I am grateful. I am proud. I am in awe.
I know I will not always be able to rescue him, with my life preserver a stones throw away, which is why he must find his way back to shore on his own, but, that doesn't mean I won't be there waiting to celebrate each and every time he surfaces knowing that when he does, it will be my face he searches for on the shoreline smiling happily that he rose to the top again.
On his own, just like he wanted.