I had dinner with an old friend this weekend. We were great friends in college. He was funny and charming, sweet and thoughtful. He was friends with everyone and always the life of the party. He’s the kind of person you’d want to be stuck in an elevator with because, somehow, he would make it fun. We haven’t seen each other in a while. We both had kids. Life got busy. It’s nice to pick up where we left off… when we aren’t being Mommy and Daddy.
Like many parents, I am surely not alone when I admit that we have gone way too long without doing something just for us. Thankfully, my sister and her husband were so unbelievably generous and gave us a hotel stay and dinner in Philly, so we had no excuse! Our babysitter (and practically a part of our family) even drove home from college to stay with the troops. So, despite three ear infections, one croupy sounding cough, a mean case of diaper rash and my own miserable cold, we went away anyway. No more excuses. We literally have never been away from the kids by ourselves since Charlie was born 7 1/2 years ago. This was clearly uncharted water.
Before we left, I told my sister that I wasn’t going to talk about autism or the Child Study Team for the entire night. I joked about a good friend of ours who was preparing for a long awaited night out with her husband in which she swore she wouldn’t talk about their son. She packed some magazines for entertainment when the conversation lagged. I wasn’t sure how my ban on autism was going to go, but I felt like I owed it to Joe to try my best. After much consideration, I decided to leave the magazines at home.
I didn’t tell Joe the details about our night away. I just told him to be home right after work. As we drove to the city, I started to let the guilt of leaving the kids dissolve. The further we drove, the more I felt the weight of my daily stress lift. I wasn’t scripting future IEP meetings in my head. I wasn’t planning the next doctor’s appointment for Henry. I wasn’t making a mental note to Google something later. Joe and I had a great, uninterrupted conversation all the way to the hotel. We got to the hotel and were practically giddy when we realized that we didn’t need a bellhop to unload our two Pack and Plays (which remain a permanent fixture in my car), four bags, four pillows, backpacks, stuffed animals, blankets and cooler. We could, in fact, carry our ONE bag by ourselves to the room. As we walked through Liberty Place, we realized we could do WHATEVER we wanted! The night was literally ours for the taking. It must be how I felt in college only I was too naive to really appreciate it for what it was. Today, I can only liken it to that feeling when I realize I am alone in the car alone and I can turn Pearl Jam up as loud as I want. Well, this was that feeling… on Crack!
Thanks to the amazing hook-up of my very posh sister and brother-in-law, we ate at Osteria. It, in a word, was amazeballs. Second only to my dinner companion and our conversation! It was nice to reconnect with my best friend. It was nice to eat a meal without crunching french fries underfoot. It was nice to not have to apologize to the server (and our fellow diners) as we slinkered out the door as not to draw more attention to our circus! We ate amazing food. We drank adult beverages (which I literally haven’t had since approximately May of 2010). We talked to each other.
It turns out, Autism did creep into our conversation, but I’m pretty sure Joe didn’t mind. Much like we can’t strip the autism out of Finn and still have the same person, nor can you strip the autism out of his parents. It is woven into the fabric of our family in subtle and indelible ways. And we are both ok with that. It turns out, that it wasn’t what we talked about that was so important it was just that we talked. We listened. We heard each other. We laughed. It was exactly what we needed.
I only hope it won’t be another seven years before we do it again! It was nice to reconnect with my old friend. I missed him. After ten years of marriage and so many hurdles, I am still happy to be exactly where I am… on this journey with my old friend.