I’ve had this simple silver necklace for years. I can’t recall where it came from. I’m not sure if it was a gift or thrift, as it certainly wasn’t expensive. I’ve held onto it though, as I tend to hold onto things. Especially if they hold sentimental value which is my favored currency. When my son, Ethan, was young I wore it quite often. Our conversation regarding it repeated nearly every time I wore it.
“What does it say mama?” His chubby thumb pinching it as he inquired. His white blonde hair brushing my face as he looked closer. Inspecting the letters with interest.
“It says Je t’aime” I would reply.
“My thumb?” He would ask, staring quizzically at his digit, not understanding the language only grasping at familiar sounding pronunciation.
“It means I love you.” Then I would laugh and tickle him and we would continue on until the next time he asked.
It would be more than a decade before I fully understood how much he couldn’t understand those words. Not just the translation but the energy and context those words are meant to convey.
Even then I knew he was different
Of course even then I knew he was different, special. His mind working in fantastically advanced ways, his heart shielded even from me. It was not until after his attempt to leave us did we learn why he felt so alone. Twenty years ago Aspergers and Autism spectrum disorders were not discussed. Information and education on these subjects not common place. Aspergers made him feel alien and utterly alone, his family spoke a language of feelings as foreign to him as the French on my necklace.
We have come a long way from those toddler years, from his attempt and from the subsequent diagnosis. While he still feels alien, he now knows he has a reason for it. While he still struggles to understand emotions, he better understands why we are overcome by them. He has struggled yet he remains strong. His path is fraught with difficulties but he trudges on. His mind a battlefield constantly engaged. His body a war zone of scars and collateral damages. As his mom I wish I could scoop him up into my arms and whisk him back to that simpler time. Transporting us back to fingers that are fully functioning and questions we were too naive to even think to ask.
Reminder of Hope
Today I’m wearing this necklace as a reminder. This journey as long as it has been is far from over. His life holds much more story to be told and together we will continue to face what comes.
Today I’m wearing those necklace with hope. He is in surgery and again his place is ahead of his time. Twenty years from now there will be more information and education on stem cells, his brain and the effects of this trial. Twenty years from now I will still tell him I love you, right down to his thumbs.