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Last night Patty was very upset because she found out she needed at least two years of a foreign language in order to be accepted into a history graduate program. She just finished up her junior year last week, and she will not have the language requirement completed if she graduates next year. She has one year of Arabic, but she needs an Indo-European language in order to do graduate work in American History.

So she was in despair last night. My suggestions were met with resistance. I said she could take German courses next year, and finish up after she graduates at the community college. She said she needs to finish the requirement before she graduates, which would be very expensive because her scholarship is good for only four years.

Ralph suggested that she work for a year while completing the language requirement at the local community college. Then she could also save some money for grad school.

She countered, “I don’t want to go to work full time. I want to go straight to grad school. If I get a job, I’ll probably meet some guy and get married, and I don’t want to have kids. I don’t want to spend my life raising autistic children like you did, Mom. If I have kids, I won’t be able go on to school. I feel that God is calling me to teach history at the college level. And if I don’t go, I’ll miss my calling. I don’t want to get married just because everyone my age is getting married. I have other goals.”

“I don’t want to be like you, Mom. Will can get married and have grand kids for you.”

Blinking back tears, I said, “It’s not important for me to have grandchildren. I know you want to go to grad school. I have never pushed you about getting married and having children. You put that on yourself.”

Ralph added, “Not everything goes as we plan. My life didn’t turn out the way that I wanted. But I met your Mom and that is the most important thing to me. I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world. Maybe you will get married. Don’t close that door. You should continue along the path you are going. This is just a bump in the road. Keep on trying.”

Patty has told me many times that she doesn’t want to spend her life the way that I did – raising autistic children. She is afraid that if she has children, they will have autism. That is a reasonable fear because her brother and sister have a genetic form of autism. (She also has a few autistic traits, but we don’t know if the traits are genetic or environmental.)

I have very mixed feelings regarding the subject of grandchildren. It is very likely that there will be no natural grandchildren in our lives. The realization of this loss struck me about eight years ago when my friends would show me pictures of their grandchildren. Then my younger sister began having grandchildren. She has eight now. On the other hand, what if one of my kids does get married and have children, and what if one of their children also has autism?

I would love that grandchild with all my heart. That is what would happen.