I have spent a lot of time analyzing my relationships. From the cradle to the grave, we all work hard to figure out who people are to us and what role they really play in our lives.
Some friends come with hidden daggers, ready to plunge them into your skin when you’re not looking. They speak with forked tongues, firmly planted in their cheeks, and look at you from a side-eyed view even when dealing with you straight-on. You never know where you stand with them and, just as you think you do, they pull the rug out from under you.
Others might not even be friends at all. They want something and try to work you for it like an old school carny fishing a mark from the crowd of rubes. Extry, extry – Come one, come all. You buy their snake oil, but soon find yourself penniless, figuratively and sometimes literally. By the time they skip town with your emotional currency, you barely realized it happened.
Don’t forget about the takers, consumers, and the pitiful guilt-mongers. They devour your kindness, deplete your energy, and take whatever you have to give. The moment you stop, they cry to others about your cruelty. People like that are walking life lessons.
The irony is that these types of relationships are “typical”. These individuals come and go out of our lives on a regular basis and, even as I write them, I know there are people out there nodding along. Oh, that’s Uncle Rufus. He’s just like that. It’s something that, as bizarre as it sounds on paper, is strangely common in life.
Then, there’s the relationship I have with my son, Lucas. It doesn’t fit any of those molds. Actually, it doesn’t fit any molds at all.
Lucas is nine, non-verbal, and has autism. He is unlike the carnies, undercover enemies, and emotional manipulators above. There is no duplicity in his actions and his hugs aren’t given so he can trick me into buying him a pony. With my boy, what you see is what you get. It’s one of the best qualities of anyone I know.
I have an unspoken bond with Lucas. If I walk into the den and he’s sitting on the couch, I just need to stop short, hunch over, and let out a big smile. He will look up from what he is doing and give me a scrunched-up wave of the hand. If I walk over and lean in, he’ll kiss me on the cheek. If I put my hand out, he’ll put his hand in it. For all of these things to happen, I don’t need to even say a word. It’s just understood.
The fact that he doesn’t say words has forced me to know him on a level unlike anyone else. I can sense when he is hungry or tired. I can predict what foods he wants to eat and what shows he wants to watch. When he is on the verge of a meltdown, I can feel it in the air. I just need to look his direction to get a sense of how he is feeling. I can’t really explain it. I just feel it.
In creating that bond, I’ve grown close to my son in ways that stretch far beyond any superficial interactions. It’s allowed us to have a relationship on the same level that I have with his sister, Olivia, who is a neurotypical twelve year old and, no matter what she might say in front of her little Tik Tocky pals, is my best friend. I consider them completely equal in my eyes and Lucas has never even had to say a word to make it happen. That’s impressive.
That’s what makes it so unique. It’s pure, beautiful, and based on love rather than perception. I don’t misconstrue anything about him because everything he is and what we are is right there on the table. He hugs me because he wants to. He trusts me because he knows me. He loves me because I earned it.
And, here’s the irony of it all. This pure, unfiltered, and shining relationship is the one that most people can’t understand.
It’s the whole reason I started this blog and a theme that, for years, I have tried to put into words. I don’t love Lucas despite his Autism. In many ways, I love him because of it. I have been given the gift of a personal connection unlike any other. Most people will go their entire lives and never have what he and I have. Most people would never even understand it.
So, I try to put it into words whenever I can but, as we all see here and there, there are some who will never understand. They still will offer misplaced pity, prayers for a cure, or a rude comment here or there. For them, I offer prayers and pity back. It’s sad that some are so blind to something so perfect that they can only see the flaws.
Lucas makes me proud to be a Dad and the bond we have is my gift from the universe. I wish the world could know how lucky I truly am. But, if they never do, that’s fine too. I know and so does he. That’s all that matters.