Scenes From a Life
Overheard from the back seat today while driving Attie's friend home from a playdate...
Attie: You know how I have autism?
Attie: Well sometimes if things change it makes my body feel weird.
Friend: Yeah? Like what...
Attie: Like I usually wear the sleeves of this shirt rolled down but this morning my mum rolled them up. It's making me feel weird.
Friend: Really? So if I do this does it make you feel weird? (moves a book off the seat)
Attie (giggles): No
Friend: What about this... (rolls down the window)
Attie: (laughing) No! Just stuff that is around all the time. Like in my bedroom I have a stack of games on the shelf, I've looked at them a zillion times, it's how I go to sleep.
Friend: Cool. I do that sometimes too.
Attie: Cool. Did I tell you about that thing I made in Minecraft...
There's so much that I love about this. That Attie has a friend. That he talks so comfortably about being autistic, and that his friend wanted to know what it was like for him. That they found a common ground, and then segued back to their Minecraft conversation like it was no big thing.
Meanwhile Max was sitting in the front seat, listening as he always does. I wanted to know what he thought. Is that how he feels when things change? I know that it bothers him of course, but I wonder if he feels it in the same way as Attie.
But today more importantly I want to know... does it bother him that Attie has a friend? Their bond is so tight, like twins despite being years apart in age. They understand and complement each other - Attie does the talking and Max does the thinking. It's the way it's always been. So how does Max feel now that someone else has come into that mix? Does he feel jealous? Is he lonely without a friend of his own? Does it make him feel bad seeing other kids have friends, knowing that he's never had someone to chat with like that?
It occurs to me that I may never know the answers to any of those questions, because Max doesn't communicate that way. Not to me, at least. It's Attie who acts as translator, tuning into Max's feelings almost instinctively and sharing them with me when Max is upset or has something to say. But today Attie's attentions are elsewhere.
And so Max and I drive on in silence, listening to the happy goings-on in the back seat. I look over and notice that he's gripping the leg of his pants and twisting it into a knot. I have one too, in my stomach, the same one I get whenever I glimpse how much this kid wants a friend and how hard it is for him to have one.
Alone again in the car on our way home, Attie is chirpy and bright recounting the fun that he's had. In that moment I'm torn between the two of them, struggling to share in their emotions without hurting the other - Attie's joy from things found and Max's pain from things missing.
I decide that this is Attie's moment, so I smile and let him tell me every detail of the last two hours. When he's done, I turn to Max and say "Hey, when we get home can I play Lego Rock Band with you?" He nods quickly, and I think I catch the flicker of a smile before he turns away to look out the window. His hand relaxes, the knot unwinds.
And life goes on.
Labels: Stuff About Us
- ▼ June (9)