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My Autistic Angels This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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A piercing wail startles me out of my daydream as I lie on my bed, unwinding after a long day at school. I groan and crank up the volume on my iPod.

“Fighting the storm/into the blue/and when I lose myself I think of you.”

Yup, I'm fighting a storm all right. My sanity is on edge. My rage is thundering darkly. Why can't they all shut up and go away? Grr.

I swing down from my bunk and march into their room. They're fighting, destroying my peace, driving me over the edge.

“Shut up,” I snarl. Three sets of eyes turn toward me, wary. One set is red and watery. “You all behave,” I say, my voice softer. “Be nice.”

Yeah, right. They are like chickens in a coop, fighting over every little thing.

Autism.

I hate it. It rules the lives of two of my four siblings: Kiara and Matthew. God spared Sandra, Zibs, and me. Kiara and Matthew didn't deserve their fate, nor did the rest of us.

Kiara is wailing, and Matthew is wailing along with her. I throw in “Finding Nemo” for Matthew; he is easy to calm. But Kiara? Good luck, I think bitterly.

I try. I really do. I try everything I can think of. I massage her with her favorite yellow blanket. I hold her hand, stroking her thumb. I give her a sippy cup. I promise her macaroni and cheese for supper. Nothing works. Nothing ever does.

“Sandra!” I yell, my voice desperate. She's a few years younger than me and is great with kids. Maybe she can work a miracle. The reluctant patter of feet thumps above us, coming down the stairs in no great hurry.

This is the story of everyday life in my home. I smile sadly, letting the sun's rays warm me from the window as I melt into my bed. For a while, I can be myself and take off the mask I wear to appear brave for those around me. For a little while, I can be myself by myself.

Autism.

Can't you smell it? It is the putrid stench of fear that engulfs so many parents; the young, old, the experienced and new. Their babies cannot deal with life the way “normal” kids can. So little is known about autism. To doctors, teachers, parents, and psychologists it is a void of unknown. Little things, like tickles or bumps in socks, can cause extraordinary pain to the autistic. They cannot cope with life the way most of us can, so they handle things inappropriately, screaming, flapping their arms, hurting themselves, hitting, and kicking. They are not retarded; most autistic people are geniuses, understanding so much more about certain things than the average Joe. But their sensory perception is damaged somehow, and they struggle with social interaction.

“Saa-ra!”

Crap. A moment of peace? Please? Sweet Jesus, please let this be a hallucination. Maybe my ears are ringing. I tug at my headphones.

“Saa-ra!”

Not a hallucination.

I drag my body out of my room, through the hall, down the stairs, and into the kitchen.

“Set the table.” Mom is in a hurry; supper is late. I plunk the white plates on our battered table.

Dinner passes quietly for once … until Kiara squirts ketchup in her lap.

“Ew!” Sandra shrieks. “Go wash that off! It's revolting.”

Kiara breaks into hysterics and Matthew giggles. Zibs doesn't notice. Dad snorts and Mom sighs. I fade away. I usually enjoy these skirmishes, but tonight, I need my music. Tokio Hotel? Evanescence? I'm not sure who is calling for me tonight.

“Sara.” Everyone is staring at me.

“It's time to pray.”

I bow my head and fold my hands.

Hmm … Linkin Park might fit my mood.

“… for he is good and his mercy endures forever. Amen.”

“Amen,” I echo. “Kiara,” I say, rising from my seat. “Clean off the table.”

A whimper escapes her lips.

“Kiara.” My voice surprises me. I'm not putting up with anything tonight. I just want peace.

“I d-d-don't w-want to!” she wails, tears forming in her big blue eyes. Good grief. Just be normal for a moment, kid. Why can't you be normal? And stop pulling your hair out. I watch her pull on her thick mop of black hair.

“The whole world can go to hell/for all I care tonight.”

Why is it that songs pop into my head when I need them most?

“Now.” She looks defeated for a moment, then gets to work.

That night, when Matthew runs to my parents' room screaming at the “scary” train going by, I smile. I cannot change my autistic siblings, but I worry about them. Will Matthew be shunned by the girls in high school? Will Kiara be bullied for being in special ed? Will they get dates to the prom? Will Zibs, only three now, be forced to grow up too fast caring for her older siblings? I don't know.

“Maybe we've been living with our eyes half open/maybe we're bent and broken.”

My life is bent and I was broken long ago. But I've learned that I no longer need to be broken. I've learned to love the toughest people in my life to love: my autistic angels.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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@rT$y_and_@We$()mE said...
Jan. 26, 2010 at 9:19 am:
wow.... strong amazng.... i have a loved one with a simular condition.... brought tears.... beautiful
 
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