10 January 2012

the man with the plan

Last fall, I was sitting in the local autism support group meeting, listening to the guest speaker, and I came to a realization.

I can't ever die.

The speaker at that meeting happened to be a financial planner who's devoted his career to helping parents of kids with special needs make plans for their children's futures.

"What would your child's life look like if you weren't here tomorrow?" he asked the room. It was a verbal gut-punch. It's kept me up at night more than once since then, because the answer to that question is pretty bleak.

Laws of metaphysics and life expectancy aside, I'm kind of serious. I have to be here. I'd never want to imagine my world without my Emma, but it's just as impossible to imagine hers without me.

Don't get me wrong: Emma is loved. Oh, my girl is loved, and well, by pretty much everyone who knows her. That's the thing, though -- who knows her like I do?

I know that she needs to have her green apples peeled, or else she'll carefully chew off the skin and bring it to you in tiny pieces, smooshing it into your hand (never the carpet). I know that there are three things she can't fall asleep without: her Nemo, her penguin and her phone. And I know that sometimes when she stands in front of me silently, not asking for a snack or a drink or a movie, what she wants is a hug.

Now I'm not the only one who knows those things -- you're taking notes, right? -- but that's the tip of this 6-year-old iceberg. The what-ifs are unthinkable, but not thinking about them is worse.

Normally, I'm a fairly terrible planner. It's not my thing, it doesn't pique my interest, it's best left to someone else. Emma, of course, is the exception to that (and so many other) rules.

I'm going to see that speaker from last fall tomorrow.