It was a random phone conversation of no significance. She mentioned the big dance at a local boy’s school: the first big dance of the year.
I didn’t know about the dance. I listened to who was going, names of kids I knew and some, some only vaguely. “It’s a pretty big deal, it kicks off the social for the whole school year. You remember how it was about the first dance.”I smile to myself. Yes, I remember.
A couple of names were presented as not going. I suggest they are only freshman. Maybe they are just not emotionally ready. “No,” she responds. “They really should go. They meet other kids. Those social connections are important.”
Though Sam is the same age as most of the kids named, he isn’t going. He has never gone. But I don’t say those words out loud. The obvious reason is that he doesn’t go to the school and boys outside the school are not invited.
But that isn’t the only reason of course. Quite unexpectedly I feel a brief waive of nausea. I want to stop listening but I don’t. I realize I have stopped breathing for a moment.
It’s just a dance, I remind myself. Just a dance with teenage kids.
But neatly tucked away are my youthful memories of The First Dance. All the excitement; the emotional roller coaster ride of adolescence - the delight, the terror, crushes and heartbreak; the tentative steps into a more adult world of emotion. That right of passage that most of us experience.
I want Sam to experience that. But he likely can’t. He likely won’t. Why does this particular milestone catch me by surprise? I don’t want to care. But I do.
I keep the conversation moving and ask a mindless question. This time convincing myself, it’s just a dance. Just a dance.
As I hang up the phone and walk to the kitchen, Sam is playing music. We dance with abandon as we often do. And though it isn’t the same; or even close, I hear his laughter as we twirl. I find myself smiling and realize, it will do.
“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.