Hello everyone! Yesterday was my birthday! I am now 45 years old. WoW! It is a little hard to believe. As I sit here in front of my computer smoking a cigarette and sipping on a beer, it seems like a good time to reflect on the "what ifs".
When I found out at nearly forty years old that I was expecting another baby, I completely lost it. I was not planning on another nor wanting another one. I had finally finished college complete with two degrees in GeoSciences, one in History and one in Liberal Arts. I was ready to embark on a new chapter of my life involving research and environment. What I got was a new chapter in what I now know as the world of autism.
I will admit, we talked about ending the pregnancy. It was a difficult discussion. Of course, we had no idea at the time that our precious son had autism. This was not just a purely "we did not plan on this" discussion. We knew that at our ages, the risk of birth defects increase. "What if" we had a child with a defect that would lead to this baby having a life of hell? "What if" we had a child whose defects led us to a life of constant medical bills that bankrupt us? After all, they can not test for all defects as we know. Would we be doing the child and Ms. Maxie a favor by not putting our family through something like that? Obviously in the end, we did not end the pregnancy.
We are so glad about the decision we made. Sir Dantes has taught us so much! We adore him and love him so much, and quite frankly, I can not imagine our life without him. But, the "what ifs" remain...
According to the Centers For Disease Control, the average life expectancy rate in the United States is 78.5 years. So, I am already past middle age. Let's see...that leaves me about (on average) thirty-three years left to go. Realistically, Sir Dantes could only be about thirty-three years old when I die. The same age of all of Tom Cruises' ex-wives when they divorced him. Ha! We have to take into account that I have been a smoker since I was 16 and have high-blood pressure. I also like beer. So, we could probably decrease my life expectancy by about 10 years. That would put Sir Dantes around 23 years old. I did not take into account the stress that autism adds.
That does leave me much time to secure his future. Mmmm....
The "what ifs" mount up. You, as a parent, can't help but wonder about their future. I have life insurance, but who knows if it will be enough. I have caught myself buying more scratch-offs lately in hope of winning a huge sum of money! Every now and then I purchase a lotto ticket. Someone has to win, right? My hope is that Sir Dantes will grow into leading a life of self-sufficiency but I can't know that right now.
Monday we are taking to enroll him in school. Admittedly, I expect that he do well. He is very smart. But, "what if" he doesn't? There could be all sorts of problems. Mainly, I get concerned about his meltdowns. "What if" they tell us that they can't handle him? I should do my best to erase this from my mind. He did very well when he was going to the pre-school while covered under the program from Tennessee Early Intervention. "What if" the only way to keep him in school is to put him on behavioral drugs? Would we do it or decided to home-school instead? If we home-school, will he get the social interaction that he needs?
So many "what ifs".
If he does well at school, and graduates on time it will be 12 years from now and I will be 57. That's cool. I don't think I will be using a walker by then or an oxygen tank. However, I won't be retired. How well will I be at working and taking care of an autistic child at nearly sixty years of age? Will I be able to handle it? I already have achy joints and fatigue after a long week or even a really busy day. I already find that my brain is not quite as sharp as it use to be.
Please don't give me the, "well, you should start doing this and stop doing that" advise. I already know it. Trust me, I have already been making changes to my diet, cut down on my smoking and stuff. I get plenty of activity to keep my heart strong and I drink my milk and water. You can slow the aging process but you can't stop it. Every time I go to the doctor for a physical, all is alright. There are no immediate concerns except the ones that exist in my head.
Regardless of the outcome, I have to admit I am a better person for having Sir Dantes in my life. The "what ifs" of having him in my life do include some positives.
"What if" I have never learned the joys of hearing "I love you" from a child who is basically non-verbal? I use to take these words for granted. "What if" I had never learned to appreciate and celebrate the small accomplishments? "What if" I had never had the opportunity to fight for something that not only means a lot to me, but a lot to the other parents out there who have a child with autism? "What if" I had never been able to see that huge smile on his face when he's really happy about whatever it may be?
My birthday...a time to reflect.
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