One of the first poems from my memoir in verse currently untitled about raising a child with autism with the man I love.
Let’s sit down on a park bench away from the house, watch the sun set, and Hayes run around. Look at that tree with the big knot in it. Did you know that he has run circles around that same tree since he was two. I like this part of the park with the peach trees and open space. I bring Hayes here when he’s had a bad day, so he still gets outside, but he doesn’t have the playground and other children to play with. We also come to the Peach Tree park just to walk. I’ve wanted you to come, too, Ben.
Ben, hold my hand because I know the news isn’t easy to hear. You’ve questioned yourself as a father over and over again. Don’t think back to the day when you told the older boys about me, about Hayes, and how you thought they’d never speak to you again. Don’t think: How am I going to do this? The way we raise Hayes will be different. No, I don’t know what will happen now.
Elevator music on the phone line. Wait five more minutes until someone can talk. Someone answers and says, “Our office hasn’t yet received your son’s papers from the doctor.”
I don’t know all of the answers. What does it mean to raise a child with autism? The doctor said, “He just sees the world differently.” I think, Ben, if your mother was here, she’d tell you, “It will be okay.” Just hold my hand, sweetheart. You overthink like me, and it only makes you depressed. See Hayes run to the tree with a knothole. He picks up a branch. He says, “It’s my walking stick.” Honey, remember only two years ago, he would’ve hit the tree with the branch.
“I guess I just had higher expectations,” you said. “What higher expectations are you talking about?” I said. “Just because my parents didn’t raise me the same as yours: to do every chore right then.” “Why are you yelling?” you said.
Carl Sanburg. Yes, you know him. My favorite poet once wrote, “I wish to God I never saw you, Mag./ I wish you never quit your job and came along with me./… I wish the kids had never come/ And rent and coal and clothes to pay for/ And a grocery man calling for cash.” But, there are always groceries, and one day we’ll have a rent or a mortgage to pay for when we get out of my parents’ house.
“Hello, Mrs. Dickinson, this is a call. You are aware you owe back rent at this time. We’ll move forward to see what we can take.”
You said just the other day, “No one has ever loved me the way you do.” I told you the same. There is no one like you, Ben. Damn, I hate those dreamy-eyed love poems about romance, but you know, Carl Sanburg got something wrong. I’m glad you came, Ben. I’m glad the kids came, too.
Hayes sees the world a different way, and we’ll help him. He has both of us. Honey, look over your shoulder, and see all that has passed. We got through tornadoes holding hands and kissing lips. We’ll go through it again.
Rebecca T. Dickinson