In my life pre-autism, I would’ve read the title of this blog and imagined a couple sneaking off to a chapel in Vegas or a resort in Cancun to tie the knot. In the last few years of my life, however, this word has come to mean something completely different.
Webster’s defines eloping as running away with a lover. If you continue reading past that first definition, though, you will come to the second definition. Number two says that eloping means to “slip away: ESCAPE”.
That last word, ESCAPE, is the word that consumes my days and nights. It worries me more than any other thing about Austin.
Most parents deal with this to some extent with young toddlers who may get distracted and wander off. At some point though, kids usually develop a fear of being lost or separated from their parents.
Austin simply doesn’t comprehend this.
He has no concept of danger.
He is oblivious to the hot stop top while I’m cooking dinner. His mind is absorbed with the desire to throw whatever he can get his hands on (my cell phone included) into the pots boiling on the stove.
I cannot ever, not for a single second, let go of him when we’re out and about. He will take off running, with no understanding that he could be injured, or killed. He wouldn’t hesitate to approach a body of water if he got away from me for long enough. His fascination and stims with water would pull him to it with an irresistable force like a magnet.
I live with the fear that if I ever make a mistake and lose track of him, or don’t hold his hand tightly enough, or don’t notice him slip out of the stroller, that I will lose him forever.
I’m not a negative person, but this is the reality that is autism, and I would be in denial to ignore it. It’s in the news all too often. Another person with autism is lost. And unfortunately, many times, that person will be found dead in a body of water.
My mind has to stay alert to where Austin is at all times. It doesn’t matter if I slept for 8 hours, or got bits of broken sleep, I have to be “on” 24/7. As he gets older, smarter, faster, this task becomes that much more difficult.
This past weekend Mike came by his parents house where we were having pizza. He was on duty, and was only there briefly. When he left, I followed him out, closing the door firmly behind me.
I just needed a hug from him and a few minutes alone. It had been a long and incredibly trying day with Austin. I was in his arms for about a minute before I heard him say with absolute fear and panic in his voice “Austin’s out!”
I felt instant fear and adrenaline. My whole body was shaking as I turned and ran trying to find him. It was dark outside, and I didn’t see Austin anywhere. My in-laws currently live on the corner of a very busy 4 lane road, and if he went that way, the consequences would be unthinkable.
Thankfully, he turned the other way and Mike was able to catch him in the middle of the street in front of the house.
The image of my vulnerable 4 year old standing in the middle of a dark street with his favorite picture card in his little hand is one I won’t soon forget. It hit me that night when he was safe in his bed cuddling his favorite monkey blankets, and I lost it.
If Austin had been hurt or killed that night, I would’ve had to live with the fact that I should have asked someone to keep an eye on him while I went out. I knew he would run out if I left the door open, but didn’t dream he’d open a closed door and take off. Regardless, that is the type of mistake I simply can’t make.
Ultimately I have to remind myself that Austin’s life is in the hands of the God who created Him, the God who is sovereign over our lives. I have to do my part to keep my boy safe, but I also have to acknowledge that I am not in control of Austin’s life, or my life, or anything else.
It’s easy to type that, but it’s not easy to live.
It has been a long time since I updated here. Long story short, autism affects many, many, things about our lives. It’s hard to comprehend if you don’t live it daily. It has created a huge strain on relationships, and brought stress and tension to our home. I didn’t feel like I was in a place to write these past few months, but I want to continue my blog, for my sake as well as anyone else who might benefit from what I write.