In 30 months of weekly blogging about Dar and his autism, I’ve never broached today’s subject: his face and body.
I have a confession to make to you. Dar’s physical appearance, from forehead to feet, is a balm. It’s a comfort. It’s a relief, when his communication progress seems to be going nowhere.
Considering Dar was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was barely 2 years old – like autism, a diagnosis that is for life – we have been extremely lucky, luckier than a lot of other CP families. Yes, Dar’s left side is still non-favored, but no one notices that on an initial meeting with him.
Dar’s kindergarten class had a “run-a-thon” day this school year. I missed the event, but when I came to pick up Dar from school, no fewer than seven adults (parents and teachers) approached me to say how wonderfully Dar ran. I can’t personally chase Dar and get him to run, but when his brother and I play-chase, he always runs after us. It’s a slight skip-run, but is that CP? A lot of kids his age skip-run; I barely notice it. I imagine him doing that chase after twenty of his fellow kindergarteners and I smile.
And his swimming and climbing and sliding are also going well. Biking, not so much. But when I come to praise his physicality, I’m not really talking about his abilities so much as his looks.
I know this may come off like white privilege, but when we’re talking about a six-year-old who has never spoken, he’s not exactly maintaining the heteronormative patriarchy. To be real, we don’t post the photos where Dar looks…well, disabled. I know how often he “passes,” because I know how often strangers ask him questions.
My wife gets this look of love whenever Dar is down to underwear. “He’s so lean!” she marvels. I’m like, yeah, I looked like this until I turned thirty, too bad you didn’t get to meet me without the love handles. She admires his washboard abs. She wonders if we’re feeding him enough, almost as a joke, because he eats all day. The last two days were his first of summer vacation, and he went through 18 “cups” of yogurt EACH DAY. This is not an exaggeration. (We have tried buying larger containers of yogurt, but he’ll only eat it in the Stonyfield mini-six-packs. Because autism.) I’d make jokes about a hollow leg, but the truth is I’m still cleaning up the area where it all comes out. Sigh.
He’ll turn seven in October and he still hasn’t lost a tooth. Not that there’s anything wrong with a missing-tooth smile, but it’s weird that it hasn’t happened yet. Almost like God is giving us a few more months to enjoy the look of his smile with his baby teeth. (And we know God exists, because of how He reacted to Dar’s name.) Dar would ask for the tooth fairy about as quickly as he’d ask for trigonometry. I used to worry about Dar swallowing his teeth, but my fellow autism parents assure me that it’s no big. As I just said, I’ll be seeing it on the other end, from where it will land promptly in his diaper-genie.
Outside his diapers, Dar has a lovely appearance, he just does. He no longer rocks the awesome Jew-fro that he had when he was half his current age, but his brown hair has settled into a lustrous sheen. Brown hair, nice blue eyes: we joke that he could look like Paul Rudd or Jon Stewart when he grows up. Yay recessive genes!
We recently had a visit from an out-of-town friend who has known me since we were six. He was blown away by Dar’s resemblance to me at the same age. Huh. Well, I guess that explains why wifey always loves Dar’s looks, heh.
Dar tans, at least a little. I don’t, not even the tiniest little. Call me an alabaster basterd. No part of my skin has ever been the shade of any coffee you’ve ever had, no matter how much milk you put into it. (My skin is the color of milk with zero coffee in it.) I always remember to slather Dar’s face with sunscreen, but on occasion I’ve forgotten to apply the stuff to his neck. He ain’t no redneck, like me. It turns a warm café au lait.
Dar has good feet. He’s got those kind of toes with the nice slow 30-degree bend about halfway. They’re better than my feet in that department.
This all works out well, because Dar loves, loves, loves to be naked. In our backyard. In full view of our neighbors. Who have rented their house as an airbnb seven times in the last year (we read the online reviews). I suppose it’s not a big deal when you’re looking at a naked six-year-old. When he turns 13, I wonder.
I guess every parent should believe their child is beautiful without putting that child through some nightmare “Toddlers and Tiaras”-flavored pageant. I’m not saying that Ramsey Bolton was named after JonBenet’s parents, I’m just not not saying it. I’m not telling parents not to look at other kids and say “oh my kid is better-looking than HIM.” But shouldn’t you keep it to yourself?
And shouldn’t I keep this blog post to myself? Maybe. But Dar’s attractiveness helps me on those cold winter, and hot summer, nights of autism worries. It’s a positive entry on the Dar ledger. Sometimes I need to look at those. Thanks for indulging me.