Ann Bauer lights up Salon
Over the years Salon has carried a number of excellent, iconoclastic, groundbreaking pieces on two subjects: motherhood and autism. Today the online magazine offers an essay by novelist and Minnesota Monthly writer Ann Bauer on what her autistic son taught her. It's far, far from the sappy triumph-over-adversity story that nutshell description might suggest.
"I'm trying to talk more," my son abruptly volunteered. The dining room was staticky with midmorning noise -- babies chattering, tables of women laughing, couples shuffling large sheets of newspaper back and forth between them -- but his voice pierced through all of it, low and clear. He'd eaten his breakfast quickly and I'd given him mine to finish. He picked up my fork and wiped it carefully with his napkin, turned his head and coughed, then cleared his throat and returned to the plate but stopped, fork aloft, to look at me. I tried not to move. "It's hard," he said, finally.
I struggled to find an answer. But he was still, holding my eyes in a rare and brave way, forging contact through the air over the tabletop. And I realized he had not asked a question but simply stated a fact. I nodded and he nodded back, then bowed his head over my eggs.
I have studied and battled and revered this child. The main character in my novel is not precisely my son: Things happen to Edward (the boy in my story) that did not occur in real life. But it is certainly my older son's spirit that carries the book, his profound remove and sense of quiet. The way he hovers, perplexed but dignified, on the edge of this tangled, noisy world.
It's a compelling, touching read; Minnesota Monthly would do well to free Bauer from some of her dining-with-yokels duties and let her do more of this kind of thing.