Instead of a long litany of every challenge we've faced, and there are many, I want to celebrate who she is and what makes her so special.
Let's start with the blunt, honest, and often painful acknowledgement that unlike many of the children and teens I meet when speaking, I have been fortunate enough to meet someone, care for her, and to be cared for by her. Some autism self-advocates forget how rare it is for autistic people to form lasting bonds with a life partner. For reasons ranging from physical challenges to cognitive ones, some autistic people will never have the opportunity I have to be with a great friend and partner.
Also, there are those autistics with no desire for life-long romantic relationships. Parents tell me that they can't imagine a teen with no interest in romance. Well, that's simply how some of us are wired. It is ironic that people tell us that "the spectrum" affects empathy, while at the same time "normal people" cannot imagine we live fulfilled, content, and even happy lives without the extreme passion seen in the media. People can't seem to "empathize" with someone comfortable with a calm, quiet existence.
What makes my wife special…
She is an introvert, never forcing me to be social when social isn't possible. She's content sitting on the couch with a book, our cats, and me watching the latest History Channel marathon.
She loves knowledge. She reads more science news than I do, and she loves every new bit of information. It isn't trivia, it is knowledge! From wanting to know the local wildlife to the science of cooking, she tries to learn everything about the world around us.
She appreciates art and music, even if we differ on specifics. We both love museums, and I'm sure she'd love a great philharmonic performance. The notion that "geeks" and "nerds" don't appreciate art is ignorant, at best. Art and music are scientific -- it would be impossible to love science and not appreciate the applied technologies that create works of art.
She loves crafts. Sewing, quilting, beading, knitting, stitching, and more, she loves to work with her hands and create something. Things you make are always better than things you buy.
She is organized. Trust me, being organized is essential to life with me. I like order, but I seem incapable of maintaining it. She likes lists, spreadsheets, databases, and plans more than I do. Maybe that's the nature of a good engineer and technical writer. She likes things to be labeled and in their proper places.
She loves cooking. Not every experiment works, but we try. If she had more free time, I know she'd try more recipes from her collection of cookbooks. And yes, her recipes are in a database.
She loves animals. I could never understand someone without a soft spot for cats, dogs, and all other cute little furry animals. I can't imagine what life would have been like without our "kids."
She doesn't "need" anyone. There's nothing she couldn't do alone, but she chooses to be with me. That's pretty amazing.
Hopefully, I'm going to be able to do everything for her she deserves in coming years. It looks like she'll finally be able to relax a little, after being the primary support for our household. Now that I'm done with my doctoral studies and a great university position seems likely, my wife can finally enjoy some time to pursue her interests.
Nothing would make me happier than to know she's enjoying a garden, some time to cook, and lots of time for reading.