The Apartment

Ian was home for the weekend. Even though he's been living in his apartment for a year now, and is doing well, saying goodbye is still kind of hard. But it's nothing like that first night . . .



Dropping my daughter off at college was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. The day was meant to be a joyful transition - campus tours, entertainment, a barbecue dinner for the families. Everyone seemed happy and excited.  Kaylee and I were alone together for dinner.  My wife, Michelle, had left earlier in the day.  She was teaching a new beginners dance class, and that evening was the first session.  Unable to eat, Kaylee walked me to my truck to delay the inevitable goodbye.  I will never forget watching her walk away, arms folded across her chest as though holding herself in, vulnerable, and so very alone.


***


It was a room of impermanence.  Collapsible camping chairs stood haphazardly around the living room, starkly blue against the practical beige of the carpet.  An airbed lay on the bedroom floor, the smell of new paint was in the air.  My son stood in the midst of it all – my son, and his autism.  

It had been a long time since I’d seen Ian’s autism like that, separate and looming.  Over the years it had gone from a feared ‘other’ to simply a part of him, a beautiful part, as much a part of him as his fingers or his toes.  But suddenly here it was again, separate, staring me in the face, confronting me.  

“You’ll be gone, but I’ll remain,” It said.  “I will be there when he shops for his food, when he pays his rent, when he meets a stranger in the street.  I will tangle his words, and trouble his thoughts.  I will touch everything.  You have accepted the gifts that I bring him, but you have forgotten the challenges I bring as well.”

They stood there, my son and his autism –side by side as Michelle and I said goodbye.  Then the door thumped closed behind us, and the deadbolt clicked.


***


Dropping my daughter at college was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  With my son, there is a whole other world to it.