Raymond Burnes, Allison’s son and the young man I have proudly claimed and loved as my own family for 9 years, has come to the decision that he’s going to live with his father in Nashville. He leaves tomorrow.
We knew he would leave someday. It was inevitable. The problem is the way he’s doing it. It seems engineered to inflict maximum pain. After spending two weeks or so talking about this — not with us, but with his father and other family members — he finally informed Allison last night … 48 hours before he is to leave. We were, apparently by design, literally the last to know.
My response isn’t the ideal, adult, proper one. I’m angry. Angry that his mother and I weren’t even part of the discussion. Angry that my wife is so upset she can’t function. Angry that he’s turning his back on people who love him and care about him in such a callous, hateful way.
He chose to have this conversation with Allison last night, while I was at a rehearsal. I came home to the mess he made, to an inconsolable wife, to a feeling of total betrayal. He hasn’t even seen fit to speak to me. That’s probably good … last night I would have been too irate to talk and might not have chosen my words well. Allison needed my attention more.
And under the anger there is hurt and sadness. When the anger fades, I am sure that will take over. I’m already looking at photos like the one above and feeling weepy and nostalgic and confused. His mother is already past the anger. She quite rightly feels disrespected and disregarded. She’s spent the last few months dealing with the harsh facts of her parents’ ill health and advancing age, and applying herself to ensuring that their life is the best it can be. The strain of that, combined with the daily pressure of keeping Raymond and I and our household afloat, topped off with the health challenges Allison herself faces — all of these things have taken their toll. And the hits just keep coming. At a time when she needs her family most, her son is walking out the door. I didn’t think he had this kind of selfishness in him. Not only leaving his mother at a time when she’ll ill-prepared to handle another loss, but doing it in a way that adds to her heartache! Maybe I didn’t know him after all. I thought I did.
Beneath both the anger and the hurt lie worry, anguish, concern. He thinks his whole life will change if he runs away. But as Harry Chapin so eloquently put it, you can travel on 10,000 miles and still stay where you are. If he’s not happy with where his life is, a move is just geography. He’s running away from the only person on this planet who truly understands him, who can care for him when the world knocks him down, who has been by his side his whole life. He has the benefit of a mother who is probably better equipped to understand his autism than anyone else in the eastern US, and he’s kicking her to the curb and moving many hours away where she will be unable to be of much help at all.
This post isn’t aimed at Raymond. I’ve taken steps to see he’s not pointed to it. I’m not being passive-aggressive. I’m venting. Better I let this out here, among friends, than go getting confrontational with him. He’s made his choice and we all must live with it. I think he’s making a terrible, life-changing mistake, but he’s technically an adult and makes his own choices. All we can do is pray, adjust, and gain perspective.