He was supposed to be in school, not in the car with me driving for six hours to fetch his sister from college. He had a 3d graphics class we’d put him in because I hoped that it would spark an interest in him. I’ve done that a lot in the past few years, had him try out various classes, throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if an interest would stick. If one stuck, then we could seek out mentors. We could parlay interest into ambition and into an adult career or job. At eighteen, finding something my son wants enough to reach for adulthood was the most important task we could face. More important than graduating with his peers. Either the teacher wasn’t right, or the classroom environment wasn’t right, or it was just the wrong direction. Despite his innate capabilities with the software, my son disliked the class. I’ve learned from experience that we were better off letting it go and trying something else rather than trying to fix it. So when he asked to come with me on the trip, I said yes. I’m very glad that I did. Without the two of us pinned in a car, it might have been months before we had the conversation.
The conversation unfolded as soon as we were in the car. It was like all the things that had been pinging around in his head had finally come together into a cohesive whole. Like many of my conversations with him, it started in the middle and I asked questions to gather the missing pieces until I understood the full concept. This conversational mode is so obviously autistic in nature that I wonder why it took me eighteen years to see it. But then I don’t have the pattern recognition skills that my son has. (Him looking at reflective road markers: “I see the pattern now. The yellow ones mark the places where the emergency vehicles can turn.” This dropped into the middle of our conversation just like I’ve dropped the parenthetical into the middle of my story. I never even noticed that the reflectors had different colors, let alone deduced what they were for. This sort of thing grabs at his attention constantly.) My son laid out the pattern before me: A job he would love to have, the things he needs to make it happen, the goals necessary to get the things he needs. Suddenly, click, it is all there. As soon as he told me, I could see it too. Just like the road reflectors. Now he can move forward. He’s been stopped for more than a year, balking at adulthood until he knew how to proceed.
I’m not allowed to say yet what the plan is. It feels too important and fragile to him for it to be public knowledge. I can say that I think it is a good plan and he has a real shot at making it work. I will not be giving him the things he needs for it. I will be giving him encouragement and showing him how to acquire the skills to get the tools to get the things. Triumphs can’t be gifts and I really want him to experience a triumph that is truly his own.
It is possible that the will to move forward won’t stick. It is possible that he’ll give up. But even having this dream at all will help him across some of the road bumps that he wasn’t willing to tackle. For now, I’ll take the hope.