Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Letting Go

The other day I discovered a new blog: The A-Word.  (Good stuff!  Heather St. Clair is one to follow.)  Anyway...the first post I read was "A Common Theme".  It was basically a post of pictures of Heather, her husband and two sons.  In every picture Heather has one arm wrapped around her son, Brian.  She writes:
I'm afraid Brian will see something he likes and bolt for it.

I'm afraid I won't see him leave and then when I do and start to yell his name I'll be overwhelmed realizing Brian doesn't respond to his name.

I'm afraid he'll realize he's lost but not be able to tell anyone his name, age, or where he lives.

I'm afraid he'll go to any adult that offers him a smile and a hand to hold on to.
Sound familiar?  I have these same fears.  I'm sure many of us do.

Holding on for dear life at The Magic Kingdom
Her post really struck me because we have so many pictures where I'm holding on to (more like clutching) The Boy for dear life.  Pictures where my hand is clamped tightly around his wrist, as his hand can so easily slip out of mine.  I hardly ever let go of The Boy when out in public.  When we take the busy NYC subways, I hold on to him with both hands while walking on the platform.  I often wonder: When is it safe to let go? Will I always have to hold his hand? 

Last week while we were walking into The Magic Kingdom, I saw a grandmother walking with her grandson.  The grandmother was small, frail, her back slightly bent from age.  She moved slowly, taking small cautious steps.  Her grandson was taller than her, probably about fifteen.  His steps were just as cautious and slow, he wore a silver medical bracelet around his wrist, he looked all around, but focused on nothing in particular - he was clearly special needs.  And the grandmother was holding her grandson's hand.  I don't think there was any chance he would run away, and if he did - the grandmother certainly wasn't chasing after him.  She wasn't squeezing his hand in fear, but holding it loosely, loving, the way I hold The Boy's hand when we're walking in the neighborhood.  As if it were the most natural thing in the world for this young man to be holding his grandmother's hand for support, without any shame or teenage embarrassment.  The sight of them - the sweet gentility of such a gesture between grandmother and grandson, was so poignant, so tender that I felt invasive and forced myself to look away.      

Had this been a "typical" teenage boy, there is no way he would be holding his grandmother's hand.  Especially in a place like Walt Disney World.  I remember my brother as a teenager, he wouldn't even kiss my mother hello in public, let alone hold her hand.

And I realized in a strange way, we are lucky.  Yes, we fear the possibility of letting go.  But there is something beautiful and almost reassuring in knowing, that we get to hold on for a little bit longer.    

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AutismWonderland - written by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez - is a personal blog chronicling a NYC family's journey with autism, while also sharing local resources for children/families with special needs.