Last week Emma began crying and said, “Go back to hotel.” Richard felt she was missing me, as I had to leave my family to return to Colorado for work when we left California instead of returning with them to New York City. We also felt she was wishing we could have stayed longer and spent more time with my extended family, all of whom she loves being with. She had such a wonderful time with so many family present at the Bed & Breakfast in Napa, California where we stayed for my brother’s wedding.
There’s a mistaken thought by many people that because a great number of children and adults with autism cannot express themselves well and often do not show tremendous emotional attachment to those they love, that they do not love. Some people believe they do not feel the same intensity of emotion that we neuro-typicals do. I disagree with this thinking. I believe Emma loves and misses people as much as any neuro-typical child. I believe she misses them with the same aching as any of us do. The difference is, Emma doesn’t have the same neuro circuitry or the ability to put into words her feelings. She lives in a world that must be incredibly confusing so much of the time.
I wonder, when I get on the phone with her, how much does she understand? Does she understand that I am in Colorado and not in New York with her, Nic and Richard because I have to work? Because time is a difficult concept for her, does she really understand when I will be returning? When she wakes up in the morning does she wonder if I might be there only to find I’m not? Our phone conversations are limited. When speaking with Nic, I can reassure him that I will be home in another couple of weeks. We can discuss what he did, he can describe the breakfast he fixed for his dad yesterday for Father’s Day. We can talk about things. With Emma, who does not and cannot ask questions, I ask – How are you? She tells me she’s fine, even if she isn’t, because it’s the conversation we always have on the phone. She may add some random thing such as – “Seal park, Chelsea piers carousel” and I can deduce that Richard took the children there yesterday. I always ask her – What did you do today? To which I can receive an accurate list of what she did, but just as easily I can receive a somewhat confusing version of events that may or may not have taken place. I then will verify with Richard to get a clearer idea.
Yesterday was Father’s Day and Richard spent it with the children. There was no sleeping in for Richard as I’m not there to give him a break. Nic made him a special breakfast and then Richard took the children to various parks. I know it wasn’t the day Richard would have liked. I know how hard it is being the sole parent taking care of everything, especially for such an extended period of time. And particularly tough when it’s a day designated to celebrate fatherhood. When I spoke to Emma yesterday I said, “Be sure to tell Daddy – Happy Father’s Day and give him a hug, Em.”
“Happy Father’s Day,” Emma said into the phone. I have no idea where Richard was or if he overheard her. I can only hope he did. I know Emma loves her dad. She isn’t able to express it in the typical ways we are used to, but she does.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com