Several weeks ago, I made an appointment for October 21st. So that I wouldn’t forget that appointment, I opened the calendar app on my phone to enter the information. I could see that I had another event scheduled for that day already. I thought, Huh? I don’t remember making an appointment.
Doc Brown and Marty McFly did.
Back to the Future has been a family favorite since it was on the big screen in 1985. I was still in high school then. Clueless about autism, vaccines, and parenting a child with special needs, I had other thoughts about the future. I imagined I’d be traveling, exploring, and surrounding myself with friends. Fast forward to when Marty McFly went to the future (which was actually 2015, the calendar app celebrates the anniversary of that event) and I am much less clueless about autism, vaccines, and parenting Ronan.
I know more than a thing or two about autism now. I am sought out by new moms for my vaccine knowledge now, and I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping Ronan happy and healthy, too. Life’s been very different and a little more frustrating than I imagined it would be, but it’s also been much more enlightening and surprisingly rewarding than I realized it could be. That’s because…
I never understood how strong a mother’s bond could be until I became a mother.
I never knew what parenting entailed until my own kids came along.
I never knew how important mother’s instinct was until I didn’t use mine.
I never knew what I needed to know about my kids’ health until irreversible damage was done to their health.
I never knew how to use my voice until my son lost his.
I never worried about the future until my child’s future was compromised.
Some days, when I take a mental sneak peek into the future, I see Ronan as fully healed. Seizures. Sensory problems. Cognitive delays. Language struggles. Those are all gone. The many medical issues that currently plague his growth and development are replaced. Instead of being non-verbal, he’s chatty. Instead of dealing with the exhaustion from a mito crash, he’s playing basketball with friends. Instead of struggling with simple tasks, he’s tinkering in the shop rebuilding motorcycles with his Dad.
I like thinking about those versions because looking towards Ronan’s future can be somewhat daunting. If he follows the path he’s on now, as much as I’d like to always be hopeful about the future, I know that life may be peppered with some struggles, with some complications, and with some disappointments. Those disappointments are never - and will never be - directed toward Ronan himself but toward the situation that brought on those awful seizures, those paralyzing sensory problems, those frustrating cognitive delays, and the on-going language struggles he deals with on a daily basis.
Would I, if I could, go back and do things differently?
Would I, if I could, go back and take it all away?
Would I, if I could, prevent this future for another family?
To go time traveling, either to the past or to the future, isn’t an option. Some days, I actually think that isn’t a bad thing. The events from the past led to making changes, good changes, for my entire family. So while the past led to a future that I never dreamt I’d be living, I still do my best to find something positive, to find something hopeful, and to also be the light for those around me.
This week, as I checked the phone calendar for some upcoming events we have to get to, I was reminded of that Back to the Future calendar entry and laughed again. As long I find time to laugh, and as long as I let my light shine, it doesn’t matter which path I’m on. I’ll keep my footing, I’ll find my way, and also I’ll remember to use Ronan as my guide. Even with the many challenges his condition brings, he’s always been my glimmer of hope. No matter where his future takes him, I’m happy knowing that we have the chance to go toward it together.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.