We have been home from our big trip to the family reunion for over a week now, and I've not said a thing about it. I have wanted to. But it is just so big. There is so much. My heart is so full. I don't know how to tell you or where to start. Boo was amazing. Awesome. Incredible. But what I saw last weekend was that he comes from a deep and rich background of amazing, awesome, and incredible. The time we spent there was fabulous, partly because I know Boo, how far I can push him, and when to stop pushing. Partly because Boo knows me. He knows he can push himself, and that his mom will always be there to run back to if he goes too far or gets too uncomfortable. Partly because Mammo and Grams are phenomenal. They know how and when to support, and when to back up. They can step in and do the explaining while I step out and do the calming. But here's the real key. Here's what made that weekend go from successful to incredible. My entire family is loving, accepting, happy, and eager to understand and help. Some of them already have a pretty good grasp on what autism looks and feels like, and some just got their first introduction. But every single one of them without exception gave me the distinct sense that they wanted to get it. They wanted to try. They wanted to help, to encourage, to understand, to connect. They didn't get scared or intimidated. They didn't ignore us or leave us out. They were oh so gently inclusive. Encouraging Boo without overwhelming him. Loving him without smothering him. Graciously giving him space and time when he needed it.
I have long said that my family is the stuff that soap operas are made of. We jokingly say that we put the "fun" in dysfunctional, but it is achingly true. There isn't a drama, a crisis, a breakup, a makeup, a trial or a joy that some member of my family hasn't been through. We're messy, we're sticky, we're crazy, and we drive each other nuts. But let me tell you something about my family; when it comes to love, we have the market cornered. There isn't anything we can't love each other through. No one can mess up badly enough, be emotionally screwed up enough, or behave badly enough that we stop loving them and supporting them. As a family, we are not defined by our missteps and mishaps. We are re-shaped by them. But we are defined by our recoveries, our victories, and our triumphs. Sure we get irritated with one another, we get angry, some of us go long periods without talking. But we get past it. We move on. We realize that we aren't responsible for each other and we can't change each other, so we might as well just enjoy each other. So even though some of us drink too much, and some of us talk too much, and some of us laugh too loudly, and some of us roll our eyes too frequently, and some of us can never arrive on time...we can still all get together and sit in a huge circle on a big stone patio and sing Amazing Grace together. We accept each other. We value each other. We love each other. This isn't something new we've started. It's woven into the fabric of who we are as a family. It's not just what we do, it's who we are. So dealing with Boo, learning how to be with him, how to make him comfortable, how to include him...it was second nature. It was seamless. I shouldn't have been worried leading up to the trip, and I shouldn't have been surprised by how it turned out.
There are so many small stories encompassed in the larger one. So many special moments. Difficult moments that we navigated with the gentle loving help of the family, and amazingly victorious moments facilitated by the very nature of their love. They made my Boo feel comfortable in their midst, despite the fact that he was in a strange place, surrounded by strangers, and following nothing at all resembling his normal routine or schedule. He soared. And the palpable love and acceptance of everyone who was there helped give him the wings. I would like to tell you all the little things that happened. For now, to attempt that feels overwhelming. So I will try to put the small stories in subsequent posts for you. Today, I'm still just marveling at the joy of the entire experience. And I am praising God for giving me the phenomenal family He did. I am very blessed.