June 8th, 2010

I like to joke around a lot.  Most of my posts have been and will continue to be lighthearted and humorous.  I come from a family where everyone’s more comfortable making a joke than acknowledging a real emotion.  When I was growing up, no one ever cried out of happiness, and milestones were considered nothing more than a step along the way to bigger things.   We’re a family of cynics, and we roll our eyes when the music turns mushy at the end of a movie.

To put it simply: no one in my family is the slightest bit sentimental.

So . . . I attended my oldest son’s high school graduation yesterday.

Pretty much anyone reading this–fan or friend–knows something of my son’s history.  He was a healthy beautiful baby boy who turned into a gorgeous toddler with big blue eyes and curly blond hair and an inability to acquire language or make eye contact.  At 2 1/2 he was diagnosed with autism and we were thrown headlong into a world we never expected to know, a world filled with phrases like “behavioral interventions,” “self-management,” “language processing issues,” and “occupational therapy.”  No one could give us a prognosis.  No one knew what the future held for the little boy we adored.

We were lucky.  And not just because our son did well with the program of behavioral interventions we implemented (see, I learned to talk the lingo).   We were lucky because at every step of the way, he was a kid who was easy to love: goodhearted, sweet, affectionate, gentle, hardworking . . .  We were lucky because our three other kids respected, admired, and loved their big brother.  We were lucky because we could afford to do what needed to be done.  We were lucky.   Which didn’t mean things weren’t hard.  It just means things gradually got a lot better.

So there I was this weekend, watching my son graduate from the “regular” high school he’s attended for the last four years. He’s had his struggles there, but he survived them all, made friends, kept his head above water academically, and got into the college of his choice.  At the end of the summer, he’ll move into a dorm over 2000 miles away from us.

As the director of the school called the kids, one by one, in alphabetical order, to come get their diplomas, each row stood up in turn.  My son stood up with his row.  I saw him there waiting patiently and happily for his name to be called–

And suddenly I felt a huge, racking sob rip through my chest.  The kind we cynical, unsentimental people aren’t supposed to get.  It was like an alien had invaded my body.  One second I was sitting there and the next I was sobbing like a baby.

I’m tearing up again just writing this.  Silly, I know.

Turns out I’m kind of sentimental.   Please don’t tell my family.