On January 3, 2011 when as a family we spent the entire day, my Birthday, downtown as our son Matt went through the enlistment process for the U.S. Navy, - that casually remarked August 16th "Ship off to Boot Camp" date seemed so very far away. But now, 150 days is awfully close to only 100 days. Then 50 days. Then 10 days. Then 1 day.
And so I find myself both laughing and crying on this "150 days to go" day, about all that "150" symbolizes to us, to me...
We, Todd and I, - refer to Matt lovingly and jokingly as "GT-150".
The "GT" being how gifted and talented he truly is. Academically, physically, mentally, emotionally. His IQ test results in the superior range, athletic ability in the amazing range of how effortlessly, beautifully, and fast he swims through the water. In how he is so much more mature in so many ways than his peers, and in how he just gets things. I have always been truly confident that you could take Matt and dump him anywhere in the world, and he would find a way to survive. He just has that much common sense and McGyver'ism about him. If he were captured or kidnapped, he would talk them to death about anything and everything, and then he could escape.
The "150" being well....the other end of that. The goofiness, those moments when we wonder if the IQ test person somehow got some numbers mixed up or something. Those moments when he's his father's son and not mine! The time at a swim meet when he was swimming the 200 freestyle, in first place, but for whatever reason when the million other things he thinks about while swimming a race distracted him to where he lost count of what lap he was on, caused him to think he was done after swimming only 150 meters of the race. Where he proceeded to take off his cap and goggles and wait for the others to finish. When he realized what he did, he turned around and swam the last 50 meters and still placed.
That's when "GT-150" was born. He can, and did, score in the top 95% of the nation in academic tests for the Navy, scoring high enough to qualify for the highest job there, Nuclear Engineering; - but yet forgets how many laps are in a 200 meter race, or where he put his wallet.
Yep, that's our son.
The one I love, we love...
The baby who was a joyous miracle to me. The toddler who exhausted me with his energizer, inquisitive self. The child who amazed and amused me. The teenager who (how much space do I have?) angered me, sharpened me, taught me, bewildered me, had patience with me, - made me proud, made me want to hang on tighter when I knew I should be gradually letting go, - and the young man now at eighteen years old and enlisted in the Navy, who in 150 days and counting, will dare to test even further the limits of my mental and physically abilities to recover from him leaving for longer than he's ever been away from us in his entire life to this point!
All I can think about is whether or not in the time I had with him, I impressed those whispers of wisdom deep enough in his mind, in his heart, in his soul, - for him to hear when I'm not there to remind him?
Did I focus too much on the times we yelled at times like when he and his friends threw a gatorade cap into a room full of testing students making them think a grenade just rolled in and was about to explode?" (These and other brilliant spur-of-the-moment antics recorded on "The Chronicles of Guppy" at Goodson Middle School)
Did I tell him enough how proud I am of him in that he isn't someone disturbed who would actually throw a grenade in a classroom?
The culmination of eighteen years of parenting coming down to the last 150 days, until like it or not, that switch from being parent, to hopefully friend, is forever flipped.
Did I do it right? Did God really entrust such a precious, perfect life, to someone as imperfect as me?
Did I focus too much on him being at church versus ensuring my house and how we lived, was a church? So that wherever he finds himself with the Navy, or as a Seal, he will know and feel God's presence outside of a church he may not have the opportunity to attend?
More than whatever scripture he may or may not have memorized, did he memorize faith? That when he's seemingly a lifetime away, perhaps feeling homesick, things aren't going his way, he will have that to cling to when no words come to mind?
And in this fast approaching adulthood, did we talk enough about the fact that you marry not just someone your flesh may desire, but someone who your heart cannot beat without? A woman so closely connected to God that you would have to more fully seek Him to find her?
Somehow worrying if he would go to Kindergarten in pull-ups or whether or not he had on clean underwear and remembered to wash behind his ears -- seems so silly now!
How could I possibly pass a parenting final exam when there never were any "Parenting for Dummies" guides to study from? I'm thinking that's where the Bible comes in as the ultimate parenting manual. We have tried to convey to Matt to live for God, do as God did, think as God would. Because if he tries to live for anything or anyone but God, do anything God wouldn't do, think as the world not God would, - then he'll find himself in more trouble than his Seal instructor or boss could ever dish out!
In wondering if eighteen years is enough time to do all a parent must do, I'm comforted by the fact that I've had just enough time to do it. Each day with my son, is just enough time to make the most of.
And I'm equally comforted by the fact that for as many mistakes as we may have made as parents, me as his mother especially, I feel we did some things right.
Going against those standards of rush, rush, rush....have, have, have....
Choosing simplicity over complexity.
We held him back from starting school just as soon as the state said he could start, giving him an extra year to be a boy. Figuring he had the rest of his life to be a man!
Teaching him to not be so materialistic in thinking that things matter, but rather knowing just how much people matter.
Not allowing summer school to keep up with the standards set by....someone's standards. In that life is all about academics and graduating with the most credits, the highest GPA.
Those things are important, but they're not everything.
Especially when you start viewing them as the only thing.
No, there's more to life.
There's the exploration of being a Tom Sawyer in the summer at Grandma's, - playing in the creek, laying on a log dangling over the creek. There's the summer school of life. Taking apart a washer to see how it works. Helping his dad fix cars, computers, plumbing, electrical outlets - so that he will know how to things other than take tests and do book reports.
I like to think we, meaning his father, did that part really well.
But even with that, I feel that the most credit for the man our son has become is of course God, but perhaps a close second to that, his brother's Autism.
It's taught him everything we never would have known to.
It's taught him everything he will need for the rest of his life.
It's taught him what even the most academic of academics can't!
It's taught him how to view others, who matters, what matters, how to overcome challenges, and most importantly it's taught him how to survive and how not to quit.
His brother has never, ever had the opportunity to quit autism. His brother has never, ever had the opportunity to wake up thinking, "Screw this, it's too hard, not gonna do it, I quit...." It's taught him that there are no mental health days for autism, no sick days from autism, no vacation away from autism, and no opportunity to just go AWOL from autism.
Knowing that right there, separates him from most adults who think they can just leave a financial burden, job, marriage, family, even their own life, -- when the going gets tough.
And so I feel confident that 150 days from now, when Matt's father (and the military personnel there that day available to help him), attempt to rip him out of my arms when it's time for him to walk out that door -- he too will know that no matter what situation he is in, no matter how many mistakes he's made, no matter how bleak the outlook is, no matter how many times he's tried and failed, and no matter how much pain he's in causing him to want to give up and quit --- he won't quit.
Funny how that fine print of autism is something that much like every other fine print, you don't ever notice or pay much attention to when you first read it.
How for us it has prevented one from possibly ever having the independence to leave home, while being the one thing that has truly equipped the other to live independently.
Damn you autism, thank you autism.
Tick tock, tick tock....