Beloved: A Poem For My Son Who Has Autism.

jack cariello

What did you do today?

Your question for me.

A good question.

A curious question.

Nonetheless, I found myself

without an answer.


What did I do?

Well, I did nothing.

And I did everything.


I remade a bed so the sheets were pulled extra-tight.

I noticed a broken window blind,

and made an appointment for the eye doctor.

I went to yoga.

I put gas in the car and mailed a package.


What did you do today?

Everything and nothing.

Nothing and everything.

I filled out a form,

found a library book,

and sent some emails.


I thought about Christmas.


I wrote a check for the school fundraiser,

and coaxed heartworm medicine into a reluctant puppy.


In the store, I searched for

kind-of-green-not-yet-yellow bananas.

I bought avocados.

I smiled at the cashier and nodded hello to a neighbor and loaded the bags into the car.


Home again, I assembled dinner

long before I was hungry to eat.

Chicken, potatoes, carrots.


Then I folded.

I folded sweatshirts and pajamas and shorts.

Khaki pants for the high-schooler

suddenly interested in his appearance.

Star Wars shirts for the fourth-grader.

Nike shorts for the seventh-grader.

A soft pink sweater for a girl named Rose.


After the folding, I sat at my desk.

I looked out the window.

I watched a red bird flutter between branches.

I saw a squirrel dart between trees.

I chased a deadline.

As I struggled to bring words to life on the page,

I listened for the school bus to roar up the street.


Then, at exactly 2:45 in the afternoon,

chatter breaking into my silent bubble.






At 3:05, I waited for the white van

declaring Safewheels on the side of the doors

to deliver a tall boy at the bottom of the driveway.




The same question about dinner

90 million times in an hour.


The same argument about YouTube

90 million times in a row.




Baking. A suggestion. A distraction.

The smell of chocolate cake in the oven.



Once the cake was done, I started to drive.

Art class and baseball practice and the library.

Across town and back again,

the proverbial yo-yo in a red Toyota.




Nothing and everything.

Everything and nothing.


What did you do today?

I thought about you,

my child.

I thought about each of you,

my children.

All day long, you dance across the horizon of my mind,

like colorful, ethereal butterflies.

Middle school drama.

Flu shots.

Travel basketball, social media, driver’s ed.



What did you do today?

Today, I worried.

I worried about how I will take care of my child

once he is no longer a child.


Ideas danced across the horizon of my mind.


Colorful, ethereal butterflies.


Long-term residential care.

Adult services.

Waiting lists.



Get him on Medicaid,

they say.

But why,

I say.

We can pay,

I say.

It is not for you,

they say.

It is for him.


It is for him.


But what was the point

of the work ethic,

and the degrees,

and the jobs and the dental school.


If we cannot provide for our own child?



A slippery riddle without an answer.


What did you do today?

I hoped.

I hoped that one day,

whoever you are.




colorful, ethereal butterfly.


And wherever you go.


Big city.

Small town.

Residential housing.


You will remember the warm sheets at night,

the roasted chicken on white plates,

and the songs we sang in the car.




And when you hear a certain song on the radio,

or smell the delicious smell of warm chocolate cake,

or wake up in the morning and pull your own sheets tight.


You will think to yourself.


In some small way,

I am who I am,

because of my mom.

This story originally appeared on

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