I flew back to Aspen, Colorado yesterday, alone. Explaining to Emma why I had to return so quickly was difficult. First of all I don’t know how much she understands and since she cannot ask me questions the way her older, neuro-typical, brother, Nic does, I cannot know what goes through her mind. So when I told both children ten days ago that I was going to have to go back to Aspen because of my store, Nic said, “NOOOOOO! You only just came home! That’s so unfair, Mom. Why do you have to go back?”
Emma remained silent. I explained that there were things I needed to take care of at the store, that it was part of the deal with owning one’s own business, it’s just what one has to do. After awhile, Emma wandered away muttering, “Sleep, wake up, camp on the lake, sleep, wake up, get on airplane.”
Nic meanwhile was angry, then teary, then resigned. “I know, honey. It’s a drag. But you, Daddy and Em will come out in August so it won’t be so long this time that we’re all apart.”
“No Mom. It’s not a drag. This sucks,” he said, before turning away from me, his arms crossed, to stare out the window.
“I’m so sorry, Nicky.”
And as sorry as I was that Nic was upset, I wondered what was going on through Emma’s mind. Was she just accepting that this was how things were, did she have questions? What was she feeling?
Impossible for me to know.
This past weekend I pulled out a calendar and went over it with Nic and Emma. Pointing to various dates, I said, “Okay so this is when I have to leave.”
“Get on airplane, fly back to Aspen,” Emma said, looking at the box with the number 19 on it where my finger was positioned.
“Yeah. That’s right Em. That’s the day I have to go back.”
“Sleep, wake up, get on airplane,” she said.
“Just me, Em. You guys are going to go to camp and stay in New York with Daddy,” I explained. “Then look, on this day you, Daddy, Nic and Jackie are going to fly out to Aspen. That’s in twelve days. And here, this is when Joe comes out and Jackie has to go back, then here is when we all fly back to New York together.” I looked at both of them. “Okay?”
“I don’t want you to go again. We’ve only had you for like three days,” Nic said.
“Two weeks.” I put my arm around him. “I know. I know.”
“It’s not fair,” Nic said.
“Sleep, wake up, sleep wake up…” Emma began, counting on her fingers how many sleep, wake ups it would be before they flew out to Aspen to meet me. “Go to YMCA with just Mommy?” Emma said after she had finished counting out 12 “sleep, wake ups”.
“No, Em. But Daddy will take you.”
“Go to YMCA with just Daddy,” she repeated and then scooted away on her scooter.
Yesterday morning as I was gathering my things to go downstairs, Emma ran over to me and threw her arms around me. “Bye Mommy!” She said, burying her face into me.
“I’m going to miss you so much, Em.”
“Miss you,” she said, before pulling away.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com