I’ve noticed something interesting in the last year since the Roc has been diagnosed with Autism. Almost all my friendships have all changed. Some for the better and some…not so much. There have been two distinct reactions to the announcement of “my son has Autism.”
The first being either an immediate or a slightly delayed response, as I did tell a lot of friends over email because I was too emotional to say the word out loud, and I usually choked on my own tears and snot so much that it was hard to form a coherent sentence. I had a hard time, and still do, expressing my overwhelming fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, rage, disbelief, all encompassing and ongoing grief at what has happened to my little family. How our dreams have changed, how my fears for my son have changed, how everything going forward has changed. I’ve had quite a few friends who have tried to understand and continue to check up on us.
The second reaction is the one I was not expecting. The deafening silence to my announcement surprised and cut me deeply. I’ve thought about it a lot lately as it is happening again when I reconnect with people I knew in another lifetime on Facebook. We chat back and forth a few times and then as soon as I mention the “A” word all communication stops. It’s an interesting phenomenon and since it has happened with people I consider real-life friends I wasn’t really shocked when it happened with those past-life friends. There have been a few of my past-life friends who are just like they were back then, lovely and caring (hats off to you miss Candi!), and I know that we were/are friends for a reason.
My best guess is that most people are just at a total loss for words about what to say in the face of this kind of pain, and many people carry their own heartaches and sorrows. They cannot offer me a solution, relieve my suffering, so they pretend it’s not there. I’ve gotten together with friends I haven’t seen for a long time and they finally ask about my son as I’m gathering my purse and coat to leave, or if we’re on the phone they ask right after they’ve told me they have to go soon, like he is an afterthought. I’ve even have a friend talk to me as if I don’t have a child of my own and make no move to connect with him.
He is real! Please don’t ignore him! He is himself and a delightful child! I AM a mommy, just like you! Our paths are different and the same!
If I sound mad, I’m not. Oops, that’s a lie. Being spoken too like I didn’t ever have a baby of my own and watch other people physically ignore my son DID piss me off. But I understand the fear of saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to do around a child like mine. I’ve been there. I’ve stumbled around with words or sat with my fingers paralyzed over the keyboard. I’m not the most wonderful friend in the world. I’ve ignored, taken too long to respond to email, haven’t used my calling card enough, taken for granted, forgotten birthdays, missed important celebrations. I know this and I’m sorry.
I guess the point of this post is one, to get this off my chest because I have too much other stuff I’m carrying and I really need to lighten the load. Second, I’ve learned some important lessons about friendship in the last year and I am trying to get better. We all need friends and I need mine desperately. Thanks for your emails and your phone calls. Thanks for letting me spill my guts, complain about how hard this is, agonize over things that might seem little to you. I’ll never forget the kindness.
If you’ve been silent, I understand and I’m still here. I don’t hold a grudge. I’ve been there too. Maybe we will find our way back to each other one day.