Other lessons stated out loud

“Our children are not us … and yet we are our children; the reality of being a parent never leaves those who have braved the metamorphosis.” – Andrew Solomon, Far From the Tree.

 There are so many lessons from life with a child with autism, it seems important to share at least some of them.

I have two other children who make it into these pages in ancillary ways, but that is not an accurate reflection – at all – of their presence in our family.

Many things that happen in our lives are examined in thoughtful ways, but not everything that happens to our family gets lived out loud. I want my children to have their own lives.

For this little essay, I’m making an exception. Two years ago around Halloween, something happened to Michael that needs to be lived out loud.

He took a date to a costume party, and he’s alive today because technically he and the girl weren’t “dating.”

(Confession: I don’t understand kids and dating these days.)

He had graduated college earlier that year. His date was in her senior year, so the party they attended was full of college-aged kids.

As they were about to leave, someone handed his date a glass of champagne. She wasn’t a fan, so they shared it.

His date lived about 30 minutes out of town. A family friend happened to be at the party, so she rode home with him.

Michael hopped in his car and drove the 5-minute trip back to his apartment.

A minute or two after he got home, he knew he was in trouble. He stumbled to his room, vomited, passed out on his bed, and woke up at noon, although he was groggy and out of sorts all day.

His date, by the way, passed out on the way home. The family friend had to carry her to the house.

Michael didn’t tell me what had happened to them until weeks later.

The glass they shared, as near as he can guess, was laced with something meant to knock her out.

(Confession: I asked him the classic victim-blaming question, don’t you all know not to accept a drink like that, along with a thousand other questions that had few satisfying answers. It wasn’t hard to imagine a drastically different outcome had he driven his date home.)

This was not the first time something horrible happened to Michael and I was not to find out until hours after the real danger had passed.

That is how it is when you send your children out into the world.

It is not a good feeling.

Some of us parented our kids to know that life is not a stage and all the men and women in it merely players.

Clearly, some parents did not.

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