Her voice drifts across the many miles via the telephone and I don’t have to wonder what kind of day she has had. “It’s one of those days,” she says, “where she does whatever she can think to do.” She sighs wearily, then laughs. “You won’t believe the very last thing she did.”

“She got the almost new jar of mustard out of the refrigerator,” she continues, “and painted the garage door with it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get mustard off of anything?” She went on to say, “Your Dad is now out there right now, trying to clean it off.”

Things like lotions and dishwashing soaps have to be kept up high as well. To Lauryn, if a little is good, a lot is better. Suffice it to say, her dolls will never have to worry about dry skin.

Nine years ago my Mom and Dad traded in a life of leisure for a life filled with the Sprout’s channel, Barney and the Wiggles. They couldn’t stand the thought of their only Grandchild going to daycare, so at ages 74 and 75, they became caregivers again.

As time went on, things that should have come easily for Lauryn, didn’t. “Mildly autistic” was the conclusion that came at the end of a million tests.

All those little things that parents take for granted, like eating, sleeping, potty training, talking? They became major accomplishments. You want to shout each one from the rooftops, hold them up to the light for the miracles they are. The ones that understand celebrate along with you.

And you suffer a silent grief when others tell you how their 3 year old eats anything you put in front of him, when your child at seven, just won’t eat. There were so many things to learn along the way.

They had to steer clear of bearded men for a long time, including Santa Claus. And they had to learn early on they couldn’t go a different way home. Autistic kids don’t like change. And they like to know the rules, cast of characters, and place well in advance. A surprise trip will elicit, “No me, no me! In other words, “I am not going, no way, no how.”

And you have to learn the difference between the things they are doing because they simply can’t help themselves, and when they just want their own way, like any other kid pushing the limits.

As the Auntie, I have watched from the sidelines as Lauryn sailed over so many challenges. And in my drawers are all the cards I have written her ever since she was born. The ones I will someday read to her, when she can understand. Like how I prayed for the day she would invite me all the way into her circle. The first time she ran to me at the airport, jumped into my arms at the pool, talked to me on the phone. All those things I treasured, an Oscar wouldn’t have meant as much.

People ask my Mom and Dad how they do what they do and they say, “It’s Jesus, only with Jesus.” And I’ve been witness to this, how the sun has barely risen over their little house but my Mom is up already. And she sighs, and prays, thanks God for her health, and asks Him for strength for just this one day because at 83 every day is a day of grace. And he waits on the porch for “his girl.” At 84, she is his life’s work until such time as God calls him home.

And in both of their hearts is the prayer that when they are gone, she will remember them and how they loved her with their lives.

Lauryn has taught us that every accomplishment is really a miracle, and that your heart can always hold more love than you think.

And that when life gets crazy, maybe painting the garage with mustard is all you can do.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” (Albert Einstein)

on autism and painting the garage with mustard

by Lori time to read: 4 min