This post is by Hannah Brown. Her first novel, If I Could Tell You, will be published at the end of March by Vantage Point Books and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Hannah’s website is www.hannahbrownbooks.com.
Whenever I get a text message with one of those little hearts, I know it’s from my friend, Sara. And I know it will be incredibly mushy, and will say something like, “I can’t live another day without you, Gorgeous.”
Whenever I send a message like that, it’s to Sara. No, we’re not lovers. We just do this to show each other how much we care. With our crazy schedules, we rarely have time to meet, but we are incredibly close. That’s because we’ve ridden what I like to call the Autism Cyclone roller coaster together.
We met over a decade ago, when my autistic son was four and hers was two. Mine was hyper-active and talked non-stop but could only repeat phrases he had heard. Hers was two, silent and still. Our boys were both in home-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs run by someone who thought that we could be a mini-support group for each other. So we got together.
How right he was.
We had an instant rapport. By simply connecting, we helped each other enormously. And we were able to join forces when we realized that the ABA program was hurting, not helping our very different sons.
We are very different, too. Sara is organized and neat. I am, well, let’s say, a bit messy. She is naturally slim, blond, and never leaves the house without makeup. This does not exactly describe me. In fact, we are so dissimilar that were it not for our boys’ autism, we probably never would have met, much less become close. But our lives swerved with our sons’ diagnoses and we found ourselves suddenly on the same track. And we’ve been there for the ups and downs. We consoled each other when we understood that ABA would not bring our sons the recovery we had dreamed about. We held each others' hands through our respective divorces. As I struggled to make a living on a journalist’s salary, she lost her home due to the large sums of money she had spent on ABA. We worried that we were neglecting our non-autistic children. Eventually, we started dating... only to learn that men tend to lose interest as soon as they find out that we have children with autism.
So what’s with the romantic texts between me and Sara? Well, we’ve both become very pragmatic over the years. We do whatever works. And although we’ve both had romantic relationships off and on, we realized at a certain point that sweet nothings would have to come from each other. It may seem silly, but it’s so nice to get these sappy messages. It’s great to have someone who makes me smile and laugh. Who gets what I’m going through. Who understands.
So many of the close friends I’ve made over the last decade have come through autism support groups, both formal and informal. These friends inspired me to write a novel, If I Could Tell You, about four women who meet at a support group for parents of autistic children.
Sara was front and center in my mind as I wrote it. In some ways, I wrote it for her. And the next time I get a message, I’ll be hoping it’s from her.