Joseph is five. It’s just hit me recently that, when I was five, my best friend meant everything to me. I lived and breathed Gina, as she did me; we were — to borrow a phrase from Mr. Gump — like peas and carrots.

And now my kid is five. He has no best friend. He has an occasional playdate, and he has kids at school who are slowly figuring out how to interact with him.

But he has no friends.

He has autism.

And, as much as I like to stay optimistic and cheerful and think that it’s going to work out, sometimes the realization hits me like a punch in the stomach. My god, he has autism.

At five Gina and I were confidently exploring the world. We talked endlessly about the giant who lived in the forest behind my backyard. Once we even found his footprint. We froze in the snow waiting for our sisters to get out of school and had to go to a neighbor’s for help. Our imaginations ran wild,  dancing, swirling and feeding off each other. There was no place we couldn’t go when we were together.

Joseph doesn’t have that. Any of it. No child calls us to say, in that lilting, timid voice, “Can Joseph play?” We didn’t even bother to attend the last time we were invited to a birthday party, because the concept of Joseph trying to cope in a new house with new kids was just too much to face.

Some five year olds are starting to sleep over at their friend’s homes, and their parents get a night to themselves.

Not us. We have autism.

But I’ll try to stay cheerful and optimistic. Maybe I’m just a little low tonight. Maybe, if we keep working on it as crazily as we have been, it’ll turn out better than I think.

I think now I’m going to try not to think. It’s not doing me any good tonight.

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