Well….I guess we might as well start here and get it out there. Of all the writing I have done so far, this post was the most difficult. How to say the things that need to be said without hurting people? I guess having a background in communication is quite helpful…so I’ll give it my best attempt.
Families are where we find unconditional love. That is what we are taught anyway – but there are times. Times that it is just darned difficult. Don’t get me wrong I have a wonderful family, but often it is a reminder of how autism can be ‘silent.’ Often it is difficult to notice – my child ‘looks’ normal. He doesn’t have physical indicators. He can talk, he doesn’t rock in a corner or mimic sounds. However, he is very different and at times this is difficult for people to understand. Especially the generation of my parents.
Our parents went to schools that had separate classrooms. That is probably where Tucker would have been. Well, either there or he would have just been the ‘naughty’ kid in class.
This is one of the very reasons I decided to write. For people like my parents, my aunts and uncles. My grandparents weren’t alive long enough to get to know Tucker, but I’m positive he would have driven them crazy. All of these people are wonderful, well-intending –but they haven’t always ‘got it.’ I think they would admit that too, they love him unconditionally – but sometimes it’s tough to understand.
It’s hard to admit that your grandchild isn’t so ‘perfect.’ It is especially hard when you want your own child’s life to be easier than yours. When you, as a grandparent, see your own children struggle with your grandchildren it has to be a double sword to the heart. Once, because your own child’s life has added difficulty. Twice, because you feel at a different level…you feel your grandchild’s pain and your child’s. So, all you want is for it all to get better.
But it won’t, mom and dad. It doesn’t get ‘better,’ it doesn’t ‘heal,’ it doesn’t ‘go away.’ It’s not a cold or the flu. It’s a reality.
Many spectrum children can (and do) develop amazing coping skills. If treated with kindness, calmness, and respect many can learn but it will never be okay for them, ever. No matter how much you want, how much you pray, how much you hope. This is your entire family’s reality.
It has to be hard to be there for your own child when you, yourself, are not really sure what is going on. It’s hard to say the right things…especially when you may not understand. While writing I am often brought to tears with memories of how far we have come and sometimes how far we have yet to go. Four hours ago, I was brought to tears thinking about the well-intending words and phrases that came from folks in this generation. Words that sometimes cut like a knife – but never intentionally hurtful. I’ve always understood that they were not said with malice. They were said from a place of love, a place where there was simply a lack of understanding.
Then I sent the blog link to my parents. Sweating a bit because I know they will read this blog often. Sweating because I know they have struggled at times.
Then, my dad forwards me a message he sent to his Pastor friend.
I sometimes don’t have the best memory so if I am wrong please forgive me, but I think your wife shared with us that your daughter had autism of the same nature as my grandson. If that is so I think the two of you will find the work that my daughter has done interesting. Now this is very dangerous, but when you are close to autism you recognize the symptoms, there is a great young family that many times has sat just ahead of us on Sunday at worship. They have two young boys, the older of which I would guess has some form of autism if I am wrong I beg you forgiveness. If you know who I mean and you think they would take it positive please share the link with them as well. I know it is my daughter’s work but she has done a great job with my grandson and with the story.
With tears streaming down my face I proclaim, ‘That is MY dad.’ That is Tucker’s Grandfather. That is a 60-something year old man who learned and now reaches out to others. Please teach others about autism. Please teach them it’s not something to be ashamed and afraid of. It’s something to be celebrated – celebration of the very special and unique gift that God has entrusted to us. My family. Your family. My community. Your community.
That is, without a doubt, unconditional love.
For his grandson…
and his daughter.