Life is partly what we make of it, and partly what is made by the friends whom we choose.
-- Teyhi Hsieh
Tomorrow is Daniel's birthday.
He will be eight-years-old.
Autism has been with us the entire time, introducing itself during what should have been such happy days, hanging on like a pit-bull, throwing daggers and stealing dreams.
I haven't had the parenting experience I once envisioned. (I know, I know -- who does? But some of us get thrown more curve balls than average. And I was never good at catching.)
I haven't had the marital experience I once envisioned. (And I truly believe that my husband and I had much love for each other when we married. It is amazing how autism can put the spotlight on the weakest parts of a marriage and open the door to so much pain.)
And I haven't had the career I once envisioned. (Although maybe some day...)
But, as I search for silver-linings -- and don't we all need to do that sometimes -- I gotta say that I have been very fortunate when it comes to knowing some kick-ass gals.
I have some very good friends.
There are special things about each stupendous chic who has been a part of my life these past few years -- years when life was turned upside down by things that could have destroyed me if it weren't for some very terrific women (and some very supportive parents).
There is the woman I just happened to meet on a playground one day, who asked about the school across the street from the swings and slides where our children played. It was my children's preschool. I told her about the school's inclusive programming for children with autism -- the reason my son attended. Who knew that she would enroll her child, that we would connect through that decision, that a chance meeting on a playground would lead to a relationship that I value so very much. I admire her for the way she searches for the best in people, for the way she always tries to uplift. It is as natural to her as breathing.
There is the mom whom I met shortly after moving to DFW, at a time when I was feeling lonely and uncertain. Her son, who also has autism, started at the same preschool at the same time as my son. And even though I was not then at a point where I felt comfortable speaking freely about autism and how it affected my son, even though a part of me just wanted to crawl into a hole and ignore the world, I couldn't help but be drawn to her. I am amazed at everything she does for her son. If someone told her she could help her son by moving a mountain, she would exhaust herself looking for a way to lift it upon her shoulders.
There is the friend from back home, my son's Godmother, who manages to remove layers of stress each time I see her. When I am with her, I feel young again. I laugh like a girl, like the girl I once was.
There is the childhood friend who now lives not too far up these congested DFW roads -- a woman who has felt too much pain, pain that was not deserved, pain that is particularly tortuous because it came from the actions of someone she loved with her whole heart. I admire how much she does, without help, for her children. She plays a role in my life that is unmatched by anyone, because hers is the strongest voice counseling forgiveness, urging patience, promoting love.
And there is the woman who has been there for me like no other, through layer upon layer of crap -- the woman who recruited me to run my first half-marathon, who consistently answered her phone in the middle of the night when I literally thought I couldn't take one more bit of pain, who sat with me in my car and cried after I learned an awful, unthinkable truth. What I would do for her .... I love how she listens and cares. I love how she tells me things I need to hear even when she knows I probably do not want to hear them. She could teach a seminar on what it means to truly be a friend.
There are other great women too ...
... the childhood friend who says both her first and last name every time she leaves a message on my voice mail, even though she is one in a million. She is getting married this fall. It will be the first time in such a long time that I have been excited about going to a wedding...
... my daughter's Godmother, with a soul so pure and nurturing, who one day -- back when I was pregnant with Olivia and so worried about what doctors were telling us -- made me laugh and feel good about myself with words I will never forget...
... the gal across town who looks like she just stepped out of a catalogue and says what she thinks without apologies. She reminds me of myself when I had more energy, NOT because I ever once looked like I stepped out of a catalogue, but because I once spoke with the same zeal. She can always be counted on for a favor, and, wow, if only I could organize my life half as well as she organizes a party...
...another autism mom whom I have known for a while but am just now getting the chance to really know. She understands way too much, which, unfortunately, is an indicator of how much she has had to endure. But, oh, how I am so grateful to know someone who understands my life on so many levels. She is such an example of dignity, such a model of strength ...
... the moms I have met through this blog, through autism. May God bless them all, and their precious children. The women who, like me, find some solace in the written word, who strive for a way to make sense of a disorder that has robbed our children of way too much, who pour out their fears, their heartaches and their joys in this great big blogosphere because therapy is expensive, and Lord knows we need as much therapeutic release as we can get, in whatever form we can get it.
My life is not exactly how I envisioned it would be, not even close.
But these women, these wonderful mothers, are so much more than I could have hoped for when it comes to friends.
You know who you are ... love to each of you ...