You are five now. Five! Today as I watched you run free through the grass and circle the house, here in one of the most lovely places on earth, I realized that for so long I have kept you tethered to me. I realized that my grip on you must loosen and give, that I must live with my fear of losing you. I know, you’re still only five for pete’s sake, but I must give you both room to be. Despite autism, I have to let you breathe.
Sam, you talk non-stop, it is your favorite sport. You roll words on your tongue and at times, pelt me with them. You are quite capable of making a deal. I know that when I tell you to stay close to the house where I can see you, you will (grudgingly) do it. You will parry and counter-offer, but so what. We are communicating and I know you’ll stay near, stay safe.
John, for so so long, a wide open space has seemed to mean the freedom to run away from me. Or perhaps it was simply your running to something — the sound of the wind, your face upturned to the sky, squinting at the sun. Whether a parking lot or a field, you were off, oblivious to danger. And there I was, sprinting behind you, scared and trying to stop you. Knowing that I had to catch you, while panic chased me. I have never felt that you were safe if your hand was not tightly clasped in mine.
Today was so sudden, you escaped together. We pulled into the drive with a car full of groceries and after getting out, my arms full of bags, you took off. Together you took off up the yard laughing. I yelled, “Sam!” and of course you ignored me. John, you soon disappeared around the garden and behind a tree. I dropped the bags and started after you, a tight knot forming in my chest. I yelled again, “Sam! Help me find your brother!” and you were great, you did, I think sensing my urgency.
There you were, John, up at the garden, going around the perimeter studying the beautiful lines of its fence. I saw the pure joy on your face as you squinted and flapped. You did not take off down the driveway and down the street where I imagined you would. I guess that’s when I started to breathe again myself, hot and sweaty from the effort but so relieved that you were still here.
I wish that you could parry with me like your brother, that I could know that you understand. But I think I’m beginning to see that you do, even if just a little bit. I’m afraid, though, that I will still always reach for your hands. My gorgeous, gorgeous boys — I love you enough to start letting go. And I realized this today, the day you turned five.