I saw them as I drove out of the Target parking lot. Two little boys, rolling down a grassy hill, squealing in delight as their momma waited at the bus stop nearby.
Such a simple little scene…
But I felt like I couldn’t breathe, watching the oldest boy roll with abandon and wild joy. Tears immediately began to flow, and I actually had to pull over the car for a moment, just to get myself together.
When I was a little girl, my grandma used to take us to our little, small town zoo. We would eat pink popcorn bricks and drink too much coke. My sister and I would make up stories about the all the animals, and how we would rescue them and take them to Africa one day. I remember the smell, the paths, the exact lay-out of that zoo.
And the one thing I remember more clearly than any other memory?
At the end of the day, when we were tired, smelly and sticky, my grandma would take us to this big hill, right outside the zoo entrance. She would smile and then let us roll down that hill for as long as we liked. We would run to the top, as fast as we could, lie down in the prickly grass, some of it sticking to the leftover sugar on our faces and hands, and we would roll and roll and roll. When we got to the bottom, we would laugh and race each other run back up to the top to do it all over again.
It is one of my favorite childhood memories.
When I Mourn the Mundane
My son has never rolled down a hill. Not one time in twelve years. He probably never will.
It shouldn’t matter. He doesn’t want to roll down a grassy hill. He hates touching grass. It is painful to him – of course he wouldn’t choose to put his whole body on it and roll. It wouldn’t be remotely fun for him.
So it doesn’t matter to my boy – not at all.
I am grateful he doesn’t feel bad or left out or different or less. He just logically looks at something like rolling down a hill and says, “No thank you.”
But when I saw those little boys, playing on that hill by the bus stop, I felt an ache so deep, it literally knocked the wind out of me. The loss of something so small and so simple, somehow felt worse to me in that moment than all the other trials, all the struggles, and all the painful reminders of how different our life can be.
This is about me. This is about my expectations of how it was going to be, how it was supposed to be. This is about my momma’s heart being reminded once again of the loss of the mundane – rolling down hills and playing in the mud and eating sticky cotton candy and going barefoot on the beach and running until you are so sweaty you can’t catch your breath, and riding on all the roller coasters no matter how loud they are – these are parts of life that my son cannot enjoy.
It breaks my heart.
Grief, Loss and Special Needs Motherhood
I finally got myself together and started to drive once again. As I turned the corner, in my rear view mirror I saw that momma and her little boys. I prayed that she might take a moment to just enjoy them, all sweaty and smelling of grass.
Then, I thought of my son at home, probably reading an adult level, technical book about reef aquariums. I had to smile. The ache subsided and my prayer turned instead to this –
Thank you for making my son, exactly as he is. Thank you for the story you whisper to me everyday through him. Thank you that he is smart, and funny, and so affectionate. Thank you that he can talk, that he can walk, that he can read and think deep thoughts. Thank you that he is here with us, teaching all of us more about You.
Thank you for reminding me that rolling down a hill, although sweet, is nothing compared to the joy and love and understanding and grace you bring to my life every single day without fail, not in spite of my son’s uniqueness, but because of it.
Thank you for the conviction that even if I could, I would never change a thing about him.
I brought the groceries in, and my sweet son put down his book and ran over to me. He said, “Momma, Momma, Momma,” over and over again, jumping up and down, thrilled that I was home and excited to share all the things he had learned while I was gone.
I hugged him, and lingered for a moment. I kissed his forehead and told him I was glad to be home.
He took my hand and walked me over to the couch. We snuggled up and he started to tell me all about his new book. It occurred to me after about ten minutes of coral reefs and salinity levels, that this is his hill.
How blessed I am that he delights in rolling down it with me.
This post originally appeared here on Not The Former Things in January of 2015.
Looking for More Autism and Special Needs Resources?