I knew that day was going to be different….. I just knew it.. Everything looked brighter - and boldly outlined. Almost as if the universe was saying "This is your "before" life, honey - remember all of it, and print it on your mind, because tomorrow everything will be different.
As I drove to that doctors appointment with my 2 - year old daughter chirping in the back seat of my Ford Escort station wagon in the ash gray winter of 1990 my life was careening toward the black hole I would come to know as autism, only I didn't know it then. I just knew something was wrong and I knew it was my job to fix it, because that’s what mothers do.
I turned up the car heater as I made my way through traffic. I was cold all the time now, chilled to some aching place in my soul by the misty haze clouding my daughter' eyes.
She didn't talk anymore, she didn't play anymore, she didn’t really even look at me anymore, she just sat, waving a red and white shampoo bottle at dancing dust particles in shimmering sunbeams, trying frantically to conduct the invisible orchestra of her mind… Rocking to a beat only she could hear.
That beat was getting steadily louder now and it was drowning us all out. All I could do was stand and watch like some crazed traveler frantically trying to stop a train as it pulled out of the station. The train was moving and she was on it and she was leaving me ….she was leaving me..
I was left standing and crying as she was slowly swallowed by the horizon. All I could do was pray she would just turn around and come home.
The doctor's appointment didn't take that long.. The pediatric neuro developmentalist slowly turned the pages of our daughters rapidly growing medical file, all the tests were there…and they were all normal. The only abnormal thing in the stifling room was the frenzied girl, arms held out like tree branches snapped in a storm, twirling just out of reach of the doctor as she clapped her hands almost pleading "Stephanie look at me, look at me."
I walked back to the car holding Stephanie by the hand as she struggled to look over her shoulder…… at absolutely nothing. She was still the same child, but now she was an autistic child. We had a name, but no one knew what caused it, or what to do about it, they just knew it was forever.
I felt the horizon swallow me up on that ash gray day in the winter of 1990. The train had left the station, and I could almost see it in the gray clouds swirling across the January sky. And right there standing brightly on the caboose platform was my daughter, the daughter of my dreams and the daughter of my future smiling a bright crystal smile with bright eyes. Smiling with love and loss as she waved good-bye.