By James Buchanan
Web Exclusive December 3, 2007
I believe in my son.
He is a good boy, but not like other kids.
As I write I watch him spin, then run from one corner of my small “divorced dad” apartment to another. Exhalations of energy and sound come from him. He is in his world, which is a place I cannot even begin to see or know. It is a world unto himself that I can only hope is inhabited by daydreams of soaring feats and loving friends.
My son has been diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome, which is something akin to having one’s mind resting, precariously, on the doorway to autism. My son is not fully taken by his own mental world, but it is one he often retreats into.
For some time I have euphemistically called his gyrations and lurching movements the “Quincy dance.” By calling it a “dance” I felt that he was unique rather than different.
Then his first grade teacher stated the obvious, that Quincy is different. “Damn straight,” I thought. “He is caring and gentle and smart and interesting and, and, and, so much more.” But while these adjectives may be true, I would be deluding myself to think he does not face very unique challenges.
For quite awhile I worried that perhaps this was my fault. I imagined that if I’d been more insistent in encouraging his mother to heed the midwives suggestion to transfer to the hospital during his birth that perhaps Quincy could have been spared his dance.
I worried too that the turmoil of his parents’ marriage, played out before him, and our eventual divorce had irrevocably pushed him into his inner-world.
And I continue to worry that my cancer diagnosis and year-long, very painful treatment was maybe the last little push causing my little Sisyphus to stop rolling his rock continually up the hill.
I worried so much that I sunk into my own despair and depression. I cried at the thought that I had irrevocably scarred his life; that I had caused his life to fall to the ground even before he could live it. Then one day he announced he wanted to join the Cub Scouts. So I signed him up and his mother bought him his uniform. On the night of his first den meeting he put on his shirt and yellow kerchief. Then he put his blue and yellow hat on. He said, “Look Dad,” and he stood at attention and gave me the two-fingered Cub Scout salute. He smiled broadly and every part of him exuded pride and joy.
Over the next couple of weeks we worked on his first merit badge. When he received it in front of his fellow scouts his pride and joy ran through him to overflowing. I was never more proud of him.
It was also at that point that I realized more fully than I had before the strength of his character. I looked at this smiling little scout and I felt the greatest sense of contentment.
Quincy will live a full life and he will succeed. His life may face a few more challenges than most people face, but it may also be more unique than most. What makes him different will make him strong.
My seven year old little boy taught me to believe in my son.