The first eighteen months of my little boy’s life are snapshots of knowing. They are photographs I do not want to treasure or put into a really cute baby album.
I grip the pictures in my hands, not afraid that they will be ruined. The sacred treasures float down to the hardwood floor where they answer the question that haunts my soul. How did you know?
Maybe I knew when he came into this world. The way he stared at the ceiling fan when I fed him, his eyes gazing up at those twirling blades and not at my face. Was this the first sign?
Maybe it was the way he laid on his play mat looking up at the black, white, and red toys. Not grabbing or kicking at the rattles or reaching for the mirror that showed his little face and blue eyes.
Maybe, just maybe, it was when I had to take his hand and wave bye-bye for him when we left playgroup. His fingers were limp, his face turned away from the other children in the room.
Could it have been the times I sat in my car unable to breathe. My fingers gripping the steering wheel, staring at my child through the rear view mirror. Because I knew, yes I knew, something was not right.
Click. Click. Click.
Maybe it was when he could not play peek-a-boo or point to anything to get my attention. Stroller rides in the neighborhood, birds chirping, airplanes flying overhead and my sweet boy was staring off, his eyes looking to a place that I did not know.
Maybe it was how he found comfort lying on the floor on his side. Taking toys in his hand and dropping them in front of his eyes over and over again.
Could it be because there were no words coming from his lips. No words. No sounds. Nothing.
Click. Click. Click. Click.
Maybe it was when I would call his name and he would not turn his head. “Dawson! Dawson! Dawson!” My voice was strong. Desperate. Yearning for my child to run into my arms. To miss me. To know me.
But he was not there.
He was gone.
Gone to a place where I could not reach him.
To a place that he knew.
Where we were not allowed.
They tell the story.
How did you know your son had autism?
I just knew.
So the pictures are scattered on the floor. They delicately answer the question.
How did you know?
I bend over. I pick up the photographs.
And among the pictures that are dark and gray.
Among the photographs that I want to rip to shreds.
There are other moments.
Memories captured of his first words when he was five years old.
And the sacred moment caught on film when he whispered the sound, “Mommy hug” and reached out for me to hold him.
And the click of the camera the day he jumped off the diving board and looked me right in the eye when he popped out of the water.
And when the days of autism are dark.
When he is curled up naked on his floor because his pinwheel broke.
When his hand hits my arm, stinging my heart because his Baby Neptune video skipped.
I will look at the photographs.
And when I am asked, “How do you know?”
I will look at all the pictures.
The ones that are dark and gray.
The ones full of light and hope.
And I will see.
That these photographs, they must be placed together in the album.
They can’t stand alone.
They are the answer to the question.
How do you know?
Copyright Cheairs Graves May 13, 2012