Those two words are a very slippery slope down a path that leads to nowhere, but Guilt Town, Shameville and Regret City. As I watched this confident, handsome teen stroll down the street looking like some cool, hip, Boy Band member, I couldn't help myself. I felt myself slowly start to slip on that cursed slope and rather than turn around and find a more solid foothold on much sturdier ground, I let my mind wonder and I took off full steam ahead on that damn "don't talk about it, don't think about it, don't wonder about it" slope.
Since I have traveled on this slippery slope before, I knew full well I would wind up face first in the mud with the other mothers visiting Guilt Town. And just like those other mothers (who also occasionally slip) that were staring down at me, mud covering their faces, rather than trying to stop myself from falling, rather than trying to turn my brain around, I let the stifled, repressed "I wonder" thought permeate every cell in my brain for a full five minute (give or take) onslaught of, "I wonder....what Ryan would be like....without autism."
Sometimes, I wonder, without autism, would Ryan stroll confidently down the street wearing something other than silky track pants and Reebok Ziggs? I wonder, without autism, would Ryan be walking in a group, perhaps another member of the Boy Band, rather than always walking alone? I wonder, without autism, would Ryan text me from school telling me he was getting off at the neighbor boy's bus stop so they could "chill", talk about girls, video games and walk to Wendy's for some fries, an actual real cheeseburger with meat in it, and a Frosty? I wonder, without autism, would Ryan plop next to me on the couch, look at me full on with those beautiful eyes that he so often keeps from me and say, "Hey Mom, how was your day?" and really, truly mean it? I wonder, without autism, would Ryan let me in, I mean all the way in, so I could finally understand what it is that makes Ryan, Ryan?
Yep, before I knew it, I was full steam ahead slipping, sliding and waiting for the mud to hit me in the face and bring me back to reality. For the guilt from Guilt Town, the shame from Shameville and the regret from Regret City all to catch up to me and hit me like a ton of bricks, almost like that third margaritas does, but guess what? It didn't happen. I did not berate myself and feel the need for a quick cup of tea in Guilt Town. I did not have to pull the van over in Shameville so I could dry my tears. I did not have to buy a bottle of wine in Regret City to ease my remorse for allowing myself to wonder..."without autism". Yeah, sure, I may have felt a small twinge of guilt, shame, and regret for just a brief bit of daydreaming, but, over the years I have stopped beating myself up for it since these days I find myself saying, "I wonder" for very different reasons, much more frequently.
So, you see, I think it's okay to wonder...in both directions....and it's okay to occasionally get a little lost. I have learned that wondering what Ryan would be like without autism, is no worse than wondering how much autism has made him who he is today . For the most part, I avoid that slippery, "I wonder" slope altogether, not because I'm afraid of falling in the mud, not because I'm afraid of getting lost, but, because most days, I don't see autism, I just see Ryan, and wondering what Ryan would be like not being Ryan, well, that's much scarier than being lost or stuck in the mud.
There are some parents who say once they heard The A Word for their child, they had to grieve the child they thought they had been given, and I guess I get that. Yes, I cried, I worried, I shouted "Why?". I blamed myself for not seeing "it" sooner. I blamed the flu shot I had before I knew I was pregnant, the asbestos removal at the school where I was employed, the vaccinations I allowed, and all of this lead to many road trips to Guilt Town, Shameville and Regret City, but, I also tried to remember that there are no guarantees and that at any given moment, some mother would give her soul to have what, and more importantly, who I have.
And on the rare days, when I wonder too far, when I worry that I may be lost, Ryan's smile, his happiness and his knock me down hugs, are all I need to find my way back again.