Brandon was an unusually quiet child. So much so that his mother began to worry he might be deaf. He always responded to hand claps and her talking to him though, so she figured it probably wasn’t that. She wanted to take him to see a specialist, but was still waiting on the state to help her collect the child support from his deadbeat father. His regular pediatrician was convinced Brandon was autistic, but he socialized so well with the other children, even though he didn’t talk as much as them; that she figured it couldn’t be. Although because of the ever-expanding autism spectrum, she had to admit that she didn’t really know much about it anymore.
Brandon wasn’t totally mute either. He was just very quiet. He would occasionally say “mom” or “food”. His pronunciation was fine, and he sounded like a little man when he did talk. His mannerisms were also that of a much older being. Very reserved, always observing, quick to make peace between combatants over toys in the schoolyard of his preschool, etc. He had many friends and seemed to actually be somewhat of their leader, despite the fact that he had probably only said two or three words to any of them. He was an expert in non-verbal communication and almost seemed to be able to convey what he wanted without so much as a gesture. Amber wondered if her son didn’t have some sort of telepathic ability. She dismissed her thoughts as wild fantasies to hide her worry, and waited for the support check so she could know why her child was so different.
His differences did not weaken their bond, however. If anything, they strengthened it. She often thought to herself that a single mother never had it so good. He never cried when he was an infant. She just kind of knew when he needed to be fed or when a diaper would need changing. He also learned to use the bathroom at a very early age, at least in comparison to the other children she knew of. Now that he was a toddler, they would go on adventures and nature walks. He was so well-behaved, it was like having an adult friend along with her. She took great lengths not to criticize his asshole father in front of him, but she got the sense that he understood the situation he had left them in. She talked to him like an intelligent person, because she really believed he was. When she would talk, he would listen intently, making all the right facial expressions at the right times. One day, she told him a very emotionally charged story in complete monotone, just to see if he was reacting to her non-verbal cues. It became clear to Amber that her son understood all the words and their meanings. At 2 and 1/2.
It was about a year later when she got the check in the mail. An online banking draft for the support for the next year, all of the back support, and the statutory interest. Amber was not expecting it at all, and had been working her ass off to get to the point where she wouldn’t ever need it. She had made the appointment with the specialist out of her own money, and was just waiting for an opening when the check arrived. There was a handwritten letter, in the asshole’s sloppy handwriting she recognized so well. It said, “I’m sorry this has taken so long. I don’t want forgiveness, or thanks, I should have met my obligations. I am awful for leaving you and him in that position. More to come.”
She was stunned. She hopped on her computer and decided to email the asshole, thanking him for showing some humanity. She turned on her computer and went to type in the email address. It didn’t auto-fill like it normally does and she couldn’t remember it. She instead wrote a snail-mail letter back to him and sent it to the return address. She got up and took the check to her bank and made the deposit.
The specialist appointment came two days prior to his 4th birthday. He met with the doctor alone, for about 45 minutes. She was right outside the door, and heard Brandon laughing at jokes the doctor was telling. The doctor was doing was doing his best to not use any comedic timing and talk in a monotone. But through the door she could hear the jokes and knew Brandon understood. It was after the joke about the two chemists ordering water after work and the failed assassination attempt that she could bear it no longer. She got up and knocked on the door.
The door opened. “I was just coming to get you,” said the doctor. “I’ve never seen anything like this before. In my professional opinion, there is absolutely nothing developmentally wrong with your son. In fact, I would say your son is a genius with a mind the levels of which may not have been encountered before. As for his lack of verbalizing, it may be psychological, or it may be that he simply does not feel the need to speak very often. He is sharper than a razor blade, and probably more intelligent than you or I. I would do everything I could to make sure he has the tools he wants to continue learning, discovering, and inventing as much as possible. He’ll figure out a way to do it without you, but in my opinion it would be helpful to you both if you assisted him. I’m serious when I say that your son will win a Nobel Prize someday.”
Her mouth dropped to the floor. Her son was a genius. There was nothing at all wrong with him. He had the potential to change the world for the better. What mother wouldn’t want to hear that about her only son? Her shocked look soon formed into a very proud smile. She looked down at Brandon and asked, “It is up to you. I know it is not great for you, but I think this calls for some ice cream.”
Brandon looked up at his mom and smiled. Then he opened his mouth and said, “Well mom, I would prefer frozen yogurt; if you don’t mind. Having some every once in a while isn’t going to kill us faster than normal aging would anyway. You know what they say…everything in moderation. Thank you for the delightful offer.”