He looked at me as his bus pulled away this morning, and before I even got to do it, he blew me a kiss. And I started crying.
I cried because with that kiss, eight years of heartbreak and desperate attempts came rushing back, completely overwhelming me. Eight years of blowing kisses when I said goodbye, only to receive a blank stare back. Eight years of thinking that maybe tomorrow will be the day he does it. Eight years of silently begging him to put his hand to his mouth and blow on it.
Eight years of knowing that a blown kiss means nothing, yet means everything.
When James was a baby, we tried to get him to play peek-a-boo and blow kisses when “that book” said he would be able to do so. He never did. I just thought he was disinterested, but as he grew, I noticed other things he didn’t do. Play patty-cake, blow bubbles, roll down a hill, and jump from the lowest step.
And he wasn’t reacting to the world around him like he should have been. I watched my husband’s face light up every night when he walked in the door, and then immediately become sad, every night, when the excited “Daddy’s home!” rush into his waiting arms never came.
We worked constantly to help James figure out how to do things that came effortlessly to other children. As we struggled to help him, his baby brother Johnny started doing things on his own, just like that book said he would. And when Johnny blew me an unsolicited kiss for the first time, I cried, tears both of relief and of sorrow.
We see the constant inner turmoil that debilitates James. His autism spectrum disorder fights against his sensory processing disorder, and they both gang up on his severe anxiety. We’ve never known what the leading force is, if there even is one, but it is clear anxiety often loses.
Because of that battle, I’ve never been able to determine if he knows the kiss is important to me and just can’t do it, or if he can do it but doesn’t understand that it is important, or if he wants to do it and can, but is too anxious to do so.
I can’t imagine having to go through that every second of every day. Just to react to the world. Just to be.
James has received amazing services that have helped him learn how to take control of his own body and respond to other people around him. While he still can’t blow bubbles, he is able to do most things, even if they require a great deal of work. And even if he doesn’t rush into his Dad’s arms at the end of the day, James looks up and acknowledges him, maybe even gives Dad a high five as he runs a lap past him.
But with all the progress over the past eight years, there was still something James never responded to. That kiss. That simple gesture that shows he understands I love him and will be waiting for him.
For a split second today, that internal battle came to a ceasefire, and he was able to do exactly what he wanted and intended to do. He looked at me, put his hand to his mouth, and blew me a kiss.
And that kiss blew me away.