The world changed the year Brian was born and most folks likely thing that is a coincidence. The world changed for me that year into a place I didn’t have to be so lost in, didn’t have to be so afraid of, didn’t have to be someone else in. Maybe the world hit a tipping point in the paradigm shift from old-school to new-school outlook or maybe it’s the end of the world. Ever notice how your last few days at a previously unbearable job or house or relationship are not so unbearable? Maybe that’s what happened to little planet earth that year; it became less unbearable.

Brian was born into a large extended family (mine) where might was right, kids were to be seen and not heard, and various forms of intimidation were perceived as good leadership, but Brian doesn’t respond to any of that. Brian is four years old and they say he lives with autism. I happen to think Brian lives with himself, but there is no doubt that his family lives with autism.

I remember the picnic that his mom and I had by the water. You will likely think it harsh that I took Stella the wonder dog off of her 20-foot leash and clipped it to Brian’s backpack. We tied it to a tree half way between the picnic blanket and the water and talked about how odd it was that the dog wont run away but the boy will. I still think of Katherine as my little cousin though she is Brian’s mom now, and though she never cries about how hard it is, she did that day – it was the first time she didn’t have to chase him since who knows when. Wouldn’t we all run away without our leashes?

At each visit Brian warms up slowly and I rejoice that unlike the old-school days, the family members compete for his attention and affection on his terms. He responds to music and texture. He loves books. Cindy Currie will be glad to hear that those romance novels are among his favourites. He pours over each page carefully like he is examining a microfiche and then tears them out one by one. We wonder if he could read pictographs or hieroglyphs and where we could find someone to teach him how.

In all kinds of mythology /religions/beliefs they talk about heroes being born in the future who will change the world, change us. Brian was born into the future four years ago and is changing us – our values, our perceptions, our sense of normal – and consequently the world around us just by being himself.

Would that more of us could do that.

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