To My Grandson on the Autism Spectrum on Your 3rd Birthday

My dearest Noah,

You are 3 years old now and I can honestly say I’ve never met another little boy like you. Your striking blue eyes and beautiful blonde hair makes you look angelic. But looks can be deceiving.

You are fiercely independent. In a way I’ve never seen before. Your refusal to ask for help can sometimes get you into trouble, too. If you see a cookie on a counter that is out of reach, it becomes your mission to acquire that sweet treat. You become James Bond. I can hear the “Mission Impossible” theme song running in my head as I watch your little mind figure it out. Only no mission is impossible. I’ve never seen a child who can scale a cabinet wall like you. You will use the drawer handles like rungs on a ladder and be on the kitchen counter in a matter of seconds. I’ve even walked in several times to find you standing on the breakfast table, holding your hands up to literally hang from the chandelier. It’s very scary for us but you seem like you are not only fearless but completely at ease with heights. You seem to have no sense of danger. Even after you get hurt.

Your insatiable desire to go outside is another constant worry of mine because you will walk out the door and just run if you find the tiniest opportunity at any time of the day. You just run. Down the street. Laughing and giggling and going as fast as your little legs will allow. I know. It’s happened. Your mommy has turned around to see the front door open and ran out to find you two houses down like you had just escaped from an enclosure and were feeling freedom for the first time.

One of the many thing you’ve learned this year is to stroke a persons cheek as a sign that means, “I love you.” Just the other day while playing, you stopped in your tracks, looked me directly in the eye and stroked my cheek ever so gently, “I love you.” It makes my heart skip a beat every time you do it. Your eyes seem to see straight to my soul. It is truly incredible.

You are a light, my dear little wonder boy. A light that shines brightly. I am in awe of you. And it seems that, just like light, you are everywhere all at once. All the time. You are like a stealthy little cat that finds it’s way into situations that are unbelievably remarkable or dangerous or sometimes just plain gross. The problem is, you don’t have nine lives.

You are a conundrum of sorts. An enigma. You have a different way of communicating with us. Why do you run endless loops around our living room? Why do you giggle hysterically while you do it? Why do you speak gibberish to the fingers on your right hand, as if you were having a conversation with it? Why do you sometimes sink back into your world and seem not to notice us anymore? When will you talk?

My mind races when I think about your future and all the possibilities it holds. And the impossibilities. I think about all the doors that will have to open for you, and of course, all the doors that might remain shut. I think about the difficult road you have ahead and relish in the fact that right now, you are only 3 years old. You are happy. Centered. Whole. Healthy. And so full of joy. The world has not shown you it’s cruel hand yet. I hope we can protect you from it for as long as possible.

I think you have secrets. Secrets to happiness. And the rest of us want to know what they are.

I love you my little Noah.

Happy Birthday.

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