the speed of dark
February 13, 2011 by Normal is a Dryer Setting
“I do not think God makes bad things happen just so that people can grow spiritually. Bad parents do that, my mother said. Bad parents make things hard and painful for their children and then say it was to help them grow. Growing and living are hard enough already; children do not need things to be harder. I think this is true even for normal children. I have watched little children learning to walk; they all struggle and fall down many times. Their faces show that it is not easy. It would be stupid to tie bricks on them to make it harder. If that is true for learning to walk, then I think it is true for other growing and learning as well.
God is supposed to be the good parent, the Father. So I think God would not make things harder than they are. I do not think I am autistic because God thought my parents needed a challenge or I needed a challenge. I think it is like if I were a baby and a rock fell on me and broke my leg. Whatever caused it was an accident. God did not prevent the accident, but He did not cause it, either…. I think my autism is an accident, but what I do with it is me.”
~ Lou Arrendale in The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
The Speed of Dark is the only book I can think of that, when I got to the end, I was so disappointed there was no more to read that I just turned back to the beginning and started reading it again. I’ve re-read it a bunch of times since; it takes place in 2030 or so and its protagonist is Lou, a man with high-functioning autism who must decide whether or not to undergo a new procedure which can make him “normal.” I got the title of this blog from that book. I’ve thought a lot about what it is to be “normal,” and what that choice must have been like for Lou.
Sometimes I wonder what Andy and I would do if there was a procedure like that available right now – something that could make Jonah “normal.” I suppose most people would be surprised that I really don’t know…that it would not be an easy choice…that although I can’t answer for Andy, I actually might not be able to choose to make him “normal.” And I don’t really even know why. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a “normal” child and don’t quite know what kind of mother I’d be to one.
Jonah — the way he is and all that he is — is all I know. I suppose if I could have every bit of him except the violence and aggression, that’s what I’d choose. I don’t know if I want to eliminate the part of him that has autism. There is something magic in that. Something pure. Unassuming. Uninhibited, nonjudgmental, and innocent. I’d want to keep all that.
This weekend M has his kids, one boy (N, age 11) and one girl (J, age 6), Jonah aged right in the middle of the two. I get along fine with both kids but am continually amazed at what they know- how they act – what they say and think and do. I try to imagine what it would be like if Jonah could be here too…if he were like the other kids. Would he play with N, since they’re close in age?
What kinds of things would Jonah like to do? Would he still want to swim and sled and sing? Would he still like the same things to eat? What would he be able to say to me? What subjects would he be best at in school?
I’d have a million questions and no answers. Nothing new about that…