Why the title “My Son Has Autism”

My title [i.e., the name of my first blog, My Son Has Autism] may seem blunt. It’s a phrase I’ve said countless times over these past six years, and with increasing ease. I’ve said it at the pool when the lifeguard is blowing his whistle at Charlie, who’s been standing and bouncing on the end of the diving board for five minutes. I’ve said it when calling potential gymnastic centers, piano teachers, babysitters; at the airline counter so we can pre-board. I’ve said it to strangers in the elevator whose mouths have twisted in puzzlement at the soft noises Charlie makes, standing before the two doors. I said it on the platform of the Newark train station as Charlie bucked and back-arched and wailed in my arms over a manhole cover, to the ring of bystanders whose mouths were silent, horrified O’s.
And I said it one cold March afternoon in the Toys R Us parking lot. As some of you know, Charlie began 2005 with a serious regression and while, by March, we know what we had to do, we were still walking in the dark as to how to do it. He got through his school day and, since it was too cold for anything but a brief walk, I figured we could go to Toys R Us and wander around, get out of the house.
I am spatially challenged when it comes to parking, in even a reasonably sized lot. Tired and relieved just to have made it to the store, I pulled in our Subaru wagon (“green car,” to Charlie) and we headed into the mammoth store, immediately comforted by the fluorescent lights and the endless displays of toys you could get for cheaper online. We made the rounds and ended up in the video/DVD section where we could see the first five minutes of The Wiggles’ “Live Hot Potatoes” DVD (live from Sydney!). Charlie chose a DVD and we slumped back to the car.
He had seat-belted himself and I was just about to get into my seat when a voice from the minivan next to us asked, “Do you know how close you parked to my car?”
I had indeed parked too close to the white line. I started to note this and to pull out the spatially challenged business but the woman kept talking.
“Do you realize that I did not have any room to get the baby in? Do you realize that?” I sighted her infant in the kind of half-egged shaped carrier Jim used to ferry Charlie around in.
“Yeah, I guess it is kind of close…..”
“Do you realize how close you parked? I could barely get the baby in, do you realize this? Do you?”
“Do you realize how close you parked and I could not get the baby in? Do you realize this?”
“Yes, I—”
“Do you realize you parked too close? _Too close_. Do you realize what you’ve done?”
I sighed. I said, “My son has autism and he’s been having—-”
“We all have our problems,” was the quick response. Then, with another “do you realize how close you parked?”, she was in the driver’s seat, revving up the engine and steaming away.
I got into my own car and looked back at Charlie.
“Well, what can you do,” I said to him. “You know what, sweetie? It is NEVER a problem.”
I turned the key in the ignition and reminded myself, maybe it’s post-partum depression, I was parked really close to her car, she could have temporarily put the baby in the front seat and just pulled the car forward enough to open the side door full and wide, maybe she’s having a bad day. Or bad days. Too.
Charlie and I drove home and the next day I knew I had a title for my book.

One Response to “Why the title “My Son Has Autism””
  1. Jill says:

    I think I’ve met the “Do You Realize” woman a few times myself. I love your blog. You’re a great mom.

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