The Last Time

As I watched this video by Scary Mommy writer Kate Swenson I felt as though I’d gotten the wind knocked out of me. Three simple words – “The Last Time” – instantly transported me back several months to my own “last time”.

My special kiddo is 13 years old, his diagnoses four years in the past now. We’re not new to this. But when you’re a parent, it can take an awfully long time for your heart to catch up to your head.

I remember walking into my counselor’s office and saying something like, “I realized something this week.” That something was what I now recognize as the last time.

Somewhere in that week I was hit by the crushing realization that my clever, creative inventor (I’ve always called him my little engineer) would not likely achieve the kinds of dreams I once had for him, and way more importantly, the dreams he has for himself.

Kate opens this topic up wide in her video. As an autism parent, the last time means your thoughts suddenly shift from “normal” hopes and dreams to hoping for quality of life. You hope for happiness, maybe a job that provides some fulfillment.

Hearing Kate pour out her raw truth took me right back down that road to the day that I came to my counselor, shell-shocked by the obvious, and said “This is what is. This is our life. There will never be ‘normal’ for us.”

What brings on “the last time”? It can be anything or nothing. For me, it could have been a conversation with my son’s case manager, during which she mentioned something about “deciding about guardianship” in a few years, when he’s closer to being a legal adult.

When you’re just living, and coping, and focusing so intently on day-to-day life, celebrating progress and winding your way around obstacles, the big picture can be elusive. And then the “last time” happens. In a split second, the future in your head – whatever that image may have been – is suddenly replaced by something completely different.

There is beauty in the transition.  That “something different” can be something wonderful. That space between expectations and reality is rife with possibilities. That is the space which a parent’s heart instantly fills with all of their child’s strengths, talents, efforts, and gifts.

My son knows he has different abilities and that his path may be difficult, and that it may not be the one he would have chosen for himself if he were neurotypical. For both of us, the future is an amalgam of dreams, fears, uncertainty, and hope.

For now, we’re trying to take one challenge – and victory! – at a time. Any moment could be the last time, for anyone. This moment – this one right now – is the one that matters.