Being away from Casey after growing up with him for almost 20 years is difficult. I worry about him, and sometimes, the worry clouds the way I see him.
But when I left home, strangely, so did that confidence in his abilities. Over the years, in my mind he’s become “more autistic” and less adept. I, like a lot of people, have watered him down, letting the title of “autism” do more work than the core of who Casey is. Going back to help with the family felt like an intimidating first look at a future I’d agreed to as a child: one day, you’ll be responsible for taking care of Casey. As a kid, that promise is very sweet, but as I wade further into my thirties, it’s becoming more real. Casey is great, but I want my own life. How do you say that to someone? Can you?
He has hurdles that we will have to eventually address. He doesn’t drive, though he’s taken lessons in the past. He’s never lived on his own, but he’s familiar with buying groceries and paying bills. Sometimes, I wonder if we’ve done more damage to Casey by suggesting he can’t do things instead of pushing him. Enough to realize it was time to have a conversation with him about what life he wants, as opposed to the plan that we’ve chosen for him.
When Nonna’s memory fails her, she returns to familiar gestures. On a weekend afternoon in winter 2021, she offers me a piece of hard licorice...