On Friday, Alex turned twenty years old. While reaching this two-decade mark should be a cause for celebration, his recent issues with anxiety prompted Ed and me to keep his birthday as low key as possible. Of course, we have never made a big deal of his birthday for fear of overwhelming him (hence, no clowns or magicians), but this year we were especially careful to avoid anything that might agitate him. Carefully selecting a birthday card, wrapping paper, and gifts that were not likely to upset him, we hoped that he would be able to enjoy his special day. I even decided to forgo getting special number candles since he informed us the other day that he wished he were two years old again. I could picture him hurling the zero candle to pretend that he really was two instead; in fact, we decided against any candles on his birthday cake since fire and fiery temper didn’t seem to be a good mix. As far as birthdays go, this one ranked right up there with the one my mom had in her thirties when she had to pick up all the dog droppings in the yard because our dog had worms or my thirty-fifth birthday when I had a thyroid biopsy that involved having a needle stuck in my neck a dozen times to rule out cancer. Although Ed and I were disappointed that Alex’s apparently jangled nerves interfered with his ability to enjoy his birthday, I heard three songs on the radio that day that especially resonated with me and reaffirmed the depth of our love for him.
I’ve always loved the haunting beauty of the Beatles’ song “The Long and Winding Road,” and as I listened to it again on Alex’s birthday, some of its lyrics held special meaning for me, thinking about how we have striven to help Alex overcome autism that would isolate him from us and everyone else:
“Many times I’ve been alone, and many times I’ve cried. Anyway, you’ll never know the many ways I’ve tried. And still they lead me back to the long, winding road. You left me standing here a long, long time ago. Don’t leave me waiting here. Lead me to your door.”
Another one of my favorite songs is Garth Brooks’ version of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love,” which I also listened to on Alex’s birthday. Because of Alex’s sensory defensiveness, he never initiates physical affection, and I often wonder if he truly knows how much we love him. The lyrics of this song made me think again of how we would do anything to convey our unconditional love for Alex:
“There ain’t nothing that I wouldn’t do, go to the ends of the earth for you. Make you happy, make your dreams come true to make you feel my love.”
As Ed and I pull together in our concerns for Alex, we share a frustration of wondering whether there is something we should be doing, something we shouldn’t be doing, or whether we just need to ride out this current phase patiently. Since the latter is usually the best option, we reassure each other with faith that Alex will get better. In the meantime, I’m grateful for Ed’s love and support, and some of the lyrics of Blake Shelton’s new song, “God Gave Me You” express how thankful I feel knowing that I can always depend on him:
“But you stay right here beside me and watch as the storm blows through, and I need you. ‘Cause God gave me you for the ups and downs. God gave me you for the days of doubt. And for when I think I lost my way, there are no words here left to say; it’s true, God gave me you.”
While we wait for this current annoying phase to pass, we pray for patience and wisdom, and we pray for Alex’s healing so that he can enjoy being twenty more than he enjoyed turning twenty.
“All who have reached their twentieth birthday must give this sacred offering to the Lord.” Exodus 30:14