Someone once told me I’m an “upholder”. It’s supposed to be a personality type that follows through on the things they promise and performs benevolent acts for others. If I’m being honest, it’s a pretty accurate description.
Most of my life has been spent trying to fix things and keep my word. If I tell you I’ll be somewhere at noon, I’m there at 11:55. If I tell you that I’ll help you move, I’ll carry your ratty couch. If I tell you I’ll be your friend forever, I’ll do whatever I can to ensure that happens.
The issue isn’t me, though. The issue is other people. I may be an upholder, but the world is full of slashers, burners, and general destroyers of good graces. In other words, the world would be so much easier to interact with if it was nearly empty of all the other people.
I sometimes feel like an alien learning about human culture. The selfish actions of others still provide a shock and I can’t really wrap my head around how people can not just put themselves first, but put other people last. It’s especially shocking when the people they put last are the ones who always have their best interests at heart. Even when the snake shows me who they are, I still take a few more bites to register the message. I’m working on that. I promise.
It’s made my life difficult in many ways, not just because of the snakes either. It’s made my life difficult when the good ones come along too. Like a stray dog that’s been hit too many times or the dog-lover who’s been bit too many times, I find it difficult to give my all to those who deserve it. Luckily, I’m recognizing that too. Every day is a learning experience.
There’s always been one person in my life who flies in the face of that dog-bite mentality. My non-verbal son, Lucas is not an upholder. He’s not a rebel or an obliger or a questioner. He’s a Lucas. He’s his own person. Autism contributes to that unique sense of self and it’s what makes me love him on a level so unique that I’ve never experienced it with anyone else.
My son doesn’t appreciate things in the same way that others do. Handing him a cookie doesn’t elicit some grand gesture of thanks. He doesn’t sing my false praises or drop to the floor in a showy display of gratitude. In fact, many times, he snatches it from my hand and shoves it into his mouth as he walks away.
By the same token, he doesn’t gaslight me about it. He doesn’t turn around in a week and say, “You made me eat that cookie. I didn’t even want it.” He doesn’t tell people that he did it to appease me. He doesn’t break my heart through lack of appreciation, because I never expect him to show any appreciation. Any gesture of thanks is more than I ever anticipate.
There are many things about my relationship with my son that may feel, to others, one-sided. He doesn’t always return a hello. He doesn’t even return a glance sometimes. His time is important to him and rewatching the same iPad video might be prioritized more than greeting you at the door after a long trip. The food on his plate means more than acknowledging the people who gave it him. The new toy or outfit you bought might not be something he even cares to look at. Material things tend to matter very little and the giver’s feelings of appreciation matter even less. What you see is what you get. The things I do for him are done for him without anything expected in return.
And it’s refreshing as hell.
There is nothing duplicitous about Lucas. I have never found myself saying, “He’s acting like a completely different person than I thought he was.” That’s something that I have said, at one time or another, about nearly everyone I have ever met. His personality is on the table. His life is an open book.
He asks for nothing and expects nothing and that’s why I want to give him everything. There are no cringy expressions of mock sweetness to garner a present. He doesn’t tell me how nice my hair is in order to wring money from my wallet. He’s not fake to get the things he wants. He doesn’t know how to be fake. He only knows how to be himself and that person is someone I love.
There are many days when my son is my saving grace. When those around me are shedding their snakeskins and revealing their true colors, he remains true to who he is. I’m never surprised, let down, or shocked. Lucas is Lucas. Lucas is awesome.
So, if you see me with my boy in public and he appears disinterested in me or what we’re doing, please don’t feel pity or sadness. I have no need for it. Neither does he. We’re great.
Everyone should have a Lucas in their life. You don’t realize how broken so many other people are until you have a kid like mine.