Redefining Typical

A Mother, A Son, A Journey…..with Autism

Ten more sleep nights November 14, 2012

Filed under: autism — Cheairs @ 8:35 pm
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Ten more sleep nights.

Just ten more.

And he will be nine years old.

The emotions of looking back and seeing where he has been.

And the fear of where he will be.

Rain down on me like fall leaves.

And I look up.

And there are the leaves that are crumpled.


Falling into a pile that is wet and damp from the rain.

I catch them in my palms and I crinkle them together.

The damp dust staining my hands.

I am filled with memories of where he has not been and choking on the sadness of where he is now.


Then I reach out my hands.

Catching the leaves that are colorful and bright.

A smile on my sweet boy’s face as he counts down the days until his big day.

The touch of his fingers as he pulls me to the computer to show me the toy that he wants from the Baby Shakespeare video.

And the time, it is marked.

The leaves.

The days.

The years.

Yes, in ten more sleep nights he will be nine years old.


She brings home her assignment from first grade.

To create a timeline.

Marking each year of her life.

I sit down with her at the table.

I read the instructions.

Please help your child record a significant event for each year of their life.

And my throat is too tight.

The tears are too hot.

Because her years are marked by what they should not be marked with.


Her mommy drinking.

Kissing her goodnight with wine on my breath.

Ignoring her pleas to lie down with her.

Because my wine, my sweet friend, was more important than her.

The wine that was choking me.

I picked it before her.

I can’t remember the milestones.

They are a blur.

And they are not wrapped beautifully in a photo album.

They are as cold and as hard as the tiles of our bathroom floor.

I am sick to my stomach because I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

I can’t see the sweet memories for her.

I just see the pain.

The pain of those first years of her life.

Please help your child record a significant event for each year of their life.

Trips with mommy to the grocery store so that she could get her wine.

Being pushed down the wine and beer aisle with her pretty pink bow in her hair.

Please help your child record a significant event for each year of their life.

The long isolated days at home.

Mommy always having to “check on her brother” to make sure he was “okay” — leaving her all alone with her puzzle or picture.

Please help your child record a significant event for each year of their life.

A stark realization at the tender age of two that her brother did not talk like she talked.

And she sits in the bathtub.

Her thirty-month-old voice rings out.

“Mommy, I want Dawson to talk.”

“Sweetie, he can say some words but he can’t talk like you.”

She splashes the water with her hands.

“But I want him to talk.”

“Mae Mae, I want him to talk more too. But he can’t. It is Dawson’s autism. That’s why he can’t talk like you right now.”

Her little two-year-old voice.

So high.

“I don’t like Dawson’s autism. Make it go away.”

And I sit next to both of my children in the tub.

My wine in the next room calling my name.

The golden liquid whispers.

Come hither, my friend.

I know it is too much.

Your sweet little girl’s words are too real.

Too painful.

And my Mae Mae splashes the water.

And she sings a two-year-old’s song.

One that she has made up.

“Go away autism. Go away. Go away autism. Go away!”

And I look at her.

But I hear the wine.

It says

Come here.

I will comfort you.

I will bring you peace.

She finishes her song.

“Mommy, the autism is all gone now. I sang the song. It is all gone now.”

I don’t let myself cry.

I won’t let her see my pain.

I am not supposed to do that.

She cannot know how much I am breaking.

I stand up.

I walk to the kitchen.

And I drink.


But maybe she will remember.

Maybe he will remember.

June 2009.

The summer that Mommy stopped drinking.

Maybe the timeline will be marked with the hot night in July 2009. When she held hands with her mommy at a square dance in the mountains of North Carolina.  The feel of two sticky hands intertwined as she promenaded with her mama around the grand circle to the sounds of a fiddle and rustling creek.

Maybe it will be marked with her mommy lying next her at night after she says, “Mommy, I need you. Please lie down with me.”

Maybe a line will be drawn on her timeline. The time that she sat in my lap. The time that we cried together because it was too much.  When I held her and she held me and we rode the wave of sadness together.

And maybe, just maybe, it will be marked with a family movie night in the playroom. Blankets, popcorn, Goldfish crackers, and sitting on a couch.  The comfort, warmth, and love of being on the sofa together as a family.


In ten more sleep nights he turns nine years old.

And his timeline will be marked.




With the leaves that are faded and moldy.

With the foliage that is bright and full of hope.

Because the lines.

The years.

They are marked with both.

And I stand.

Hands in the air.

Catching the leaves.

And I cry.

Because she has taught me.

He has taught me.

That I.

That we.

Can do both.

And together

With markers, crayons, paints, pens, glitter, and glue.

With smudges, smears, stars, and hearts.

We will mark our lines.

Recording the significant events for each year of her life.

Our life.

And I will say.




13 Responses to “Ten more sleep nights”

  1. Jan Says:

    a beautiful and perfect picture….your heart speaks(hugs)

  2. Kate Says:

    Every single time, you make me cry a little. Every single time. Mae Mae will always have good memories, because she is loved, alot. Love wins. Always.

  3. Kim Says:

    This is beautifully written. Brave and honest. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Ms. T. Says:


    My timeline is certainly marked with a heart over 2006-2008– the incredible years I spent with you and your lovely family. From you, I learned how to advocate, love endlessly, and how find grace in the depths of struggle. That time may be cloudy for you, in regards to Mae-Mae’s life, so I leave you with these gifts:

    I fondly remember….
    * Chasing Mae-Mae around the smaller play-yard, outside the playroom as she endlessly asked to me to blow bubbles and push her down the slide.
    * Cuddling with Mae-Mae and Dawson under his comforter as we all watched Baby Einstein videos together, belly laughing as a group.
    * Holding Mae-Mae’s hand as she toddled around the backyard, desperate to keep up with Dawson.
    * Drawing “beautiful pictures” with rainbows and stickers with Mae-Mae at the kitchen table while Dawson sought solace in his room.
    * Coming in to get Mae-Mae up from a nap and watching her face brighten as she reached for me, her lovey in hand.

    You guys are a wonderful, beautiful family. I love you all.


    • Cheairs Says:

      Your words…..such a gift to me….to us…..I thank….I am going print your comment and treasure it forever….

      • Debbie Allen Says:

        What a precious gift from Ms. T. So thankful she shared!! YOu are definitely a women of courage as you walk this journey. You express yourself in a way that brings me right into your journey however painful and then hopeful it is. You have had victory over despair and have found hope in walking the road laid before you even though that road is difficult. Because you share so truthfully, you give hope for whatever the future holds for each of us. Your compassion for others runneth over and you have blessed my life and many others, too. Love you cousin/friend!! Debbie

  5. Gatewood Says:

    Your words and your beautiful honesty never fail to absolutely bring me to my knees. Your powerful words are like a magical potion of heartbreak and healing all rolled into one. You are an inspiration to your children and to all those that know you and are so lucky to be loved by you.

  6. Diane Says:

    Mae Mae will remember what a loving, caring, concerned, involved, wonderful Mom you were. Her memories will be good memories of all the important moments passing, with you by her side. No parent is perfect, we all struggle and often fail. Thank Goodness God made our children resilient, strong and forgiving.

  7. Sue Says:

    They will remember the love of a mother who faught to overcome alcoholism for them. They will remember this much more than anything else. They will remember all the times you were there for them. I had a wonderful father, but he also was a functional alcoholic until I was in my twenties. Yet, there were many times he was still there for my brothers and me. There are always shades of gray. You are a wonderful mother and that is what they will remember.

  8. Sue Says:

    Happy Birthday Dawson!

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