Sunday, December 15, 2013


“I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling twenty-two. Everything will be all right if you keep me next to you.” from “Twenty-two” by Taylor Swift

Dear Alex,
Tomorrow is your twenty-second birthday, but it doesn’t seem that long ago that you arrived in this world on a bitterly cold day. To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for you, thinking that I had nearly a month left to prepare for your birth.  Through the years we have teased you that you didn’t want to wait to be born in January because you didn’t want to miss Christmas, your favorite holiday. Of course, you showed me from the beginning that life with you was going to be an adventure, and my plans were going to need revision.

When you were born, my cousin gave me a book called Love You Forever about the love between a mother and her son over the years. In the book, every night, even when her son is a grown man, the mother sings to him, “As long as I’m living, you’ll my baby be.” This book always makes me cry because it’s so sweet, but I didn’t know how true those words from her song would be. When we found out you have autism, we realized that you were going to be a little boy longer than we anticipated, a Peter Pan who may never grow up.

Even now, as you tower over me in your six-foot tall lanky body, you still rely on your dad and me to help you with seemingly simple tasks. However, we know that we are more fortunate than many parents whose children have autism because you eat and sleep well, know your limitations and never wander from us, and can use the toilet on your own. Most of all, we are blessed that you can speak and tell us what you’re thinking, unlike many children with autism. While we had to wait for you to master many skills, that made those accomplishments even more reason for celebration.

In many ways, you are an interesting mix of your dad and me. Your build is his; your coloring is mine. Your mostly easygoing personality comes from your dad, and your need to make lists and do research comes from me. You have an eclectic taste in music: you enjoy listening to jazz and Bob Dylan with your dad, and you appreciate the Bee Gees and Amy Grant, thanks to me. Of course, you have found your own tastes, as well, choosing Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney as your favorite singers. Whenever you listen to music you love, we watch you smile and sway, and that makes us smile, too.

Two of the qualities that I’d like to think you inherited from me are your tenacity and your abiding faith. To overcome the obstacles autism has put in your way, we’ve had to keep working and working, never giving up. At times when I felt like quitting, I’d watch you try one more time, and I knew that I could keep going, too. What makes me proudest of you is that your faith in God never wavers, and I love that we end our day praying together. You have a lot of questions for God, and while I hope you find the answers in your lifetime, I’m looking forward to the day in heaven when we can ask Him face-to-face all the things that have puzzled us both. I’m grateful that you have no fear of death because you know that you’re going to heaven someday, and as you tell me, you’re looking forward to seeing your beloved Dr. Trowbridge and Jesus. I’m sure that they will be delighted to see you, too. While I still have hope that you will be healed of autism here on earth, I know that you will be healed in heaven, and I look forward to celebrating that day.

Although most children are afraid of imaginary monsters under their beds, you don’t fear things like that. You worry about gas prices, but you seem to trust that God and your dad and I will always take care of you. Maybe because we’ve faced our monster—autism—head on, we don’t worry about the imaginary ones. Sometimes I think that we are like knights trying to slay the dragon as we keep fighting the battle of autism. The words of Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” go through my head as we try to defeat autism, our Jabberwock: “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!” As we keep praying for your healing, I hope for the victorious ending of autism in your life: “And hast thou slain the Jabberwock? Come to my arms, my beamish boy!”

As your mom, like all parents, I’ve made my share of mistakes in raising you. I know that I’ve been overly protective with you, and I’ve overindulged you at times, mainly because of the limitations autism has placed on you. I never wanted you to be hurt by anyone or anything, and I didn’t want you to miss out on the joys in life. Frankly, at times, it was just easier to do things for you than to have to watch you struggle to do it yourself. As your Nanny, my mom, always says, “Any mistakes I’ve made, I’ve made out of love.” Because of that love that surpasses else anything in my life, I’ve wanted you to be the best you can be. Somehow you seem to know that already.

In your twenty-two years, I’ve tried to teach you all the things you’ll need to know in life, and I hope you’ve learned them well. What has surprised me, though, is that you have been one of the best teachers I’ve ever had in my life. Before you came into my life, I saw myself as impatient and not very strong. However, you’ve taught me the value of patience and the lessons we learn while we are waiting. More importantly, you’ve made me realize that I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought I was mainly because I get my strength from God. Through all the trials we’ve lived in these twenty-two years, we’ve gotten better and stronger. 

What more can I say? Your dad and I love you so much and are so proud of the young man you’ve become, and we’re thankful for God’s blessings upon our lives. Whatever the future holds, know that I will be there to cheer you onto victory and to catch you when you fall. Happy Birthday, my precious son!

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.” Philippians 1:3




Bright Side of Life said...

Happy Birthday to your precious Alex. Love your Bitstrips... so addictive! :)

phyllisbizeemom said...

Such a beautiful blog! Happy Birthday to Alex!

-from a Mom & her son in northeast Indiana! :-)

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, my fellow autism moms--far (Bright Side of Life) and near (Phyllisbizeemom)--for your kind words and birthday wishes for Alex! Hope you and your families are doing well.
Take care,