A couple of weeks ago, I was out in the waiting room of a clinic, waiting for our appointment with the doctor. Nothing serious, I just needed him to check a bump on the Baby Miss's head. She had a nasty fall last November, and although the lump healed well enough, I noticed that I could feel a small bump under her skin and was worried. Turns out it is nothing but scar tissue and won't get any bigger or cause any problems.
Anyway, Baby Miss made herself busy playing with the activities provided there, as I sat down to wait. Almost immediately, I noticed a young man who was sitting opposite me and to the left. My heart caught in my throat as I looked at him. He reminded me so much of my son. So much. It was like seeing a vision of the future.
This young man stood out from everyone else, to me at least. He was quite tall, I could tell that even with him sitting. He looked somewhere between 18 and 22 years old. The clothes he was wearing, were not the sort of thing you would expect to see on young adults these days. Clean, but worn and very basic in design. Black trackpants with double white stripes down the sides - a little too short for him, and a plain light blue t-shirt. Short socks and runners. His hair was not styled in any particular way, it was just a normal sort of cut. Kind of curly. Not short in the strictest sense, but certainly not long either. Even if he were from a financially struggling background, you would not expect to see a young person so plainly dressed.
But more than his attire, it was his demeanour - his manner - that captured me.
The way he sat, the way he moved his hands and placed his fingers, the way he looked around. The slackness around his cheeks. And the occasional smile and talking to himself quietly. To me, he was very sweet to look at.
Now, I can't say for sure, and I certainly don't wish to offend anyone by assuming anything; but I would have loved to know if this young man was autistic. Desperate to know, actually. There was just something about him that struck me so. I wanted very much to go over and ask. And if he answered 'yes', I wanted to ask a million things more:
When did you learn to use the toilet? If it took you a long time to learn, what went through your mind in regards to it?
Did you ever abscond from parents/home/teacher/carer? If so, what were you thinking!?
Can you drive?
Do you work?
Can you write?
Can you cross the road by yourself?
Do you shave yourself or does someone help you?
Can you brush your teeth? Oooh! - do you go to the dentist?
Oh, so many personal and terribly inappropriate questions, I wanted to ask! But instead, I sat quietly (well, as quietly as I could with a sparkly four-year-old!), and entertained my daughter as we waited for our turn with the doctor.
Finally we were called in, and I took the Baby Miss and left the waiting room.
I often think about what things will be like as my son gets older; How he will look, if he will be able to speak, who will shave him or shower him as the case may be, what he will do with his life, what we will do with ours. I don't worry about it, and I try not to dwell on it. But it would be remiss of me as a parent if I did not think of the future ever and try to make plans for our lives. I have no idea what will become of us. None whatsoever. I can only hope that my son is happy and fulfilled in his life, whatever he chooses to do (or we choose for him if he cannot). I can only hope that as he grows up and my husband and I grow older, that he is able to take on more of his own care and live an independent life. I can only hope that when we are gone, he will be ok. Of course he will always have his sisters to help and care for him, but I would rather them not have to become his 'carer' as such. I already know they would not mind - they love him so much. But they deserve to be able to chase their own dreams and make their own lives without having to shoulder that responsibility. And whatever happens, I know that God's got him. He will never leave him. And should any disaster befall, I know that my son won't be autistic in heaven anyway. None of that will matter up there.
In truth, I know absolutely nothing about this young man who struck me so profoundly. Nothing at all. But seeing him certainly evoked the vision of a potential future for my son. I don't think I will forget this stranger for a very long time.