...The Big Appointment.

"Ready, set..." I said with anticipation.

"GAH!" Gus screamed.  With his hands firmly gripped in our own, my husband and I laughed and lifted Gus through the air, swinging him forward and plopping his two feet back onto the ground.  He shuffled forward in his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sneakers and looked up at me with a dimpled grin.  "Ready, set..." I said again.

We walked across the whole parking lot in this manner as we headed to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism, a low building that appeared stark white against the threatening gray sky.

As we sat in the waiting room for the final appointment in Gus' autism screening, we watched him run in circles around the line of chairs, giggling and grunting with a car in each hand.  He stopped once in a while to throw himself dramatically on the ground, or to squat before the doors, or to run his car over the edge of a chair.  I watched the clock tick off the seconds, the minutes.  That skinny black hand seemed to tick in time with the light anxiety in my belly.

Finally, the doctor came to get us.  In a small room with some toys for Gus, we were handed a stack of papers detailing the various evaluations that he went through.  She discussed with us very kindly the methodologies, the observations, the details.

She used words like, "challenges," and "difficulties," even the word "weakness" a few times.  She was describing my son - his personality, his habits, his attitude.  Everything that makes that precious boy who he is, described as a "challenge" and a "difficulty" and a "weakness."  I thought I had prepared myself, but you can never really prepare yourself - not to hear the clinical interpretation of your child's being.  Tears welled in my eyes and she handed me a tissue. 

After sitting and listening, and reading through a packet, I finally asked, "So, what is the official diagnosis?"

She nodded slowly, "Autism."  Then she went on to describe what everyone has come to know as the spectrum.  I kind of started to tune out a little bit.  At this point, I knew that she had said he scored below certain thresholds, that his development wasn't where it should be.  I'm sure she had said "autistic" several times, and while I expected it, it didn't quite register.

The doctor left the room for a few moments, and Gus came up to me.  Snot was dripping from his face and I tenderly wiped it away as I drew his face close to mine and gave him a big sloppy kiss.  His dimples and his smile were the same they were an hour before; a day before.

When the doctor returned, she had a very big packet of information for us.  She discussed our therapeutic options, education, financial aid.  More things to digest than I could swallow at once.  As we left, we scheduled a second appointment to follow up and make sure we're able to get the help we need.

I broke down in the car.  I bawled as we drove east on Shaker.  No, you really can't prepare yourself even when you instinctively know what someone is going to tell you.  It's not easy to hear, not from a professional.  It is so final now, so real.

It started to rain as we drove home.  When we got there, Evelyn rushed up to me as she always does when I cry and immediately asked me what was wrong.  "Nothing, baby," I said as we embraced.  "Nothing."

And really, nothing is wrong.  Life will go on as it always has, only it will probably be busier from here on out.  He's still the same Gus, we're still the same family.  He's still my little boy, laying on the floor pushing his Matchbox cars back and forth, the same boy who smiles this impossibly big smile when I walk through the door.  The same boy who presses his soft little lips against my neck as we rock to sleep.

A few days later, today, I'm comfortable and I'm ready to tackle the hurdles that may stand before us.  I'm ready to be his biggest advocate, his biggest supporter.  I'm more in love with him today than ever before, but that's nothing new either - I love him more every day than I did the day before.  In other words, I'm ready to keep being his mom.  Autism won't define our family, and it won't define him.  


  1. God takes care of us all. Gus will be what he is meant to be. A blessing to us all.


"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts." - Buddha