After not being able to blog for almost four months, I finally hauled myself into an imaginary support group meeting with other autism parents. This is how it all played out… in my head.
JH — Hi, I’m Jason, and I’m a lousy autism blogger.
GROUP [in unison] — Hi Jason!
JH — Hey. Thanks. But… It’s just that, I don’t really belong here. In cyberspace, I mean. Writing about autism.
Sweater Guy — Tell us why you feel that way.
JH — Well, for starters, I’m not an autism expert. I know my son, but that’s about it.
Sweater Guy — Are you saying you know Jack, but besides that, you know… Jack?
JH — I see what you did there. Very clever.
Sweater Guy [after a high five from Captain Mustache] — Jason, all of us feel that way. We’re all just–everybody, say it with me:
GROUP — “…On an unplanned trip to Holland.”
JH — Yeah, I’ve heard that line before. I get it, but… you, Steve is it? You lead a coalition to change insurance laws. And you in the green. You have a degree in the childhood development field. I’m just a dad.
Hair-in-Buns Lady — Is there really such thang as an honest-to-goodness expert in autism, Jason Hague? I mean, if you seen one chawld with autism–
JH — “You’ve seen ONE child with autism.” Yeah, I’ve heard that one too. But I don’t know if I even want to write about this.
GROUP — [laughter]
JH — What? What’s so funny?
Captain Mustache — You think we wanted to write about this? Dude, I wanted to write about Pez Dispensers. I have the best collection, as far as I know, on the west —
[Sweater Guy clears his throat loudly. Silence follows.]
Captain Mustache — Sorry, sorry. We’ve been working on that… I wanted to write about Pez, but I found out other parents needed what I had.
JH — You have a degree?
Captain Mustache — No. I have experience, dude. Experience with my son’s emper tantrums. Early diagnosis. Expectations. Pediatricians. Special schools. Social Stories. You’ve got some of those same experiences, dude. People want to hear about it. Young parents, especially.
JH — Well, my wife does a better job of writing advice like that. She’s super mom. No, seriously. She wears the suit to bed and everything.
Hair-in-Buns Lady — That might be true, but you have thangs to say, too, hon. As a dad you get pretty personal when you write about your Jackson. How does that make you feel?
JH — [Shrugs] It stings. Every time I do it, it stings. Because whenever I put myself out there like that, I start to think about the whole thing more. All that Jack is missing out on. All he might miss out on.
Spaghetti-Straps Grandma — Is that why you haven’t written for nearly four months?
JH — I don’t know. Yeah, maybe. But… It’s just… When I write about autism, I’m really not writing about autism. I’m writing about my son, and our life with him. I haven’t tried to give advice or anything. I just try to tell our story, and people still get…
Spaghetti-Straps Grandma — What? Pissed off?
JH — Yes. Thank you. That’s what drives me crazy about this subject. There’s so much bickering, it’s unreal! I thought we were all on the same team here! I once implied that dealing with Jack’s hard times was like suffering, and I was mobbed by an angry Facebook group who said I had insulted them. Why? Because a doctor told them that they sit under the same metaphorical umbrella as the one my son sits under.
Sweater Guy — The Autism Spectrum.
JH — Yeah. And for the record, I think it’s a stupid method of classification that has to change. Seriously, it’s way too broad. My son doesn’t speak, doesn’t stay close to us, he has no fear of moving vehicles, and he may never be able to groom himself let alone live an independent, adult life. If people can offer intricate, verbose arguments about why they are the same as he is, they have proved my point, and I have nothing to say. It’s apples to oranges. I would give anything for Jack to be able to speak and reason like that. To have passion for something besides the shelf of Bush’s Beans at Safeway.
Spaghetti-Straps Grandma — We hear you.
JH — No, I don’t think you do. Because you’re telling me to keep writing, and I’m trying to tell you I don’t want to write about autism. I am sick of the labels and all the yelling about them. I am sick of the gotcha posts and endless vaccine debates and all the political stuff that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for advocates, but I don’t want to be one. Can’t I just leave autism out of it? Can’t I just write about my son, who mysteriously had his speech stolen from him? Most of his relational capacities, stolen from him? His future… stolen–
Sweater Guy — NO! You don’t know that! Don’t go there! Anything could happen.
Spaghetti-Straps Grandma — You’re a pastor, aren’t you? Don’t you believe that God could heal him?
JH — Well, theoretically, yeah.
Captain Mustache — And lots of kids have breakthroughs later on, bro. There are tons of examples.
Hair-in-Buns Lady — What about the therapies that haven’t even been developed yet?
JH — I know. You guys are right. And I’m not giving up. But I have to write about other stuff.
Sweater Guy — You have already. Lots of times, even on this blog. You can write whatever you want. It’s your blog. Your story.
Sweater Guy — But Jason? You won’t be able stop writing about autism. This journey is in your bones now. Your son is too deep inside you.
JH [Nods] — I know.
[Stands up slowly and walks to the door. Stops. Turns around.]
JH — Jack ran off in May, you know. Freaked us out. He was trying to get to our old house. We found him four blocks up the road, on the sidewalk. Not the street. The sidewalk.
That counts for something, doesn’t it…