Fathers For Autism
I am a road-worn father of an amazing autistic daughter and NT son. I started this blog to provide information, a sounding board and a voice for fathers of autistic children.
More to see on my Facebook page.
Friday, February 8, 2013
I'm having lunch with an old friend tomorrow. He and I have been friends since just after High School (20+ years) and have drifted apart over the last 5-6 years.
The same period of time since my daughter was diagnosed as autistic.
We used to hang out all the time. We got together for holidays, sporting events, Birthdays, or just to simply enjoy each other's company. He hosted my daughter's first Birthday party at his house and we used to talk on the phone at least every other day.
So, what happened? What changed?
I imagine many of you have already considered the potential answer: my daughter's autistic and he couldn't deal with it. Possibly. My group of friends has definitely diminished over the years and I am not so affable a guy that I give people the benefit of the doubt when the evidence is so damning.
But, is that a fair conclusion? Am I simply condemning him without trial, without confrontation, without proof? What other reasons could there be?
As with all things, I first looked at myself. As a mere human, I am incapable of forcing someone to think, decide or act a certain way. I can present my arguments, provide direction, and even try to manipulate a response, but I can't bend people's minds to my will.
Yoda, I am not.
So, what about me? What did I do, what actions did I take, how did I change and how could that have had an impact on our friendship?
Once I asked these questions, I instantly came up with a hundred answers. The most glaring is my forced isolation due to the chaos associated with an autistic household. My house was a wreck in the early days. Total, complete nightmare. I never let anyone over and was always too busy to go anywhere but work/therapy/grocery/home.
I also didn't call as much. Mostly because I was so scattered that I usually remembered my friends during the last 4 minutes before I passed out for the day. When I did finally talk to him, my conversations were usually autism-centric and complaint-driven. I must have been a blast to talk to.
In retrospect, I wouldn't have wanted to hang out with me much either. That said, the person I am today, after going through this journey for a while, would have fought to maintain the friendship regardless of the challenges. Friends are simply too rare and too valuable.
The big question is: Do I let him off the hook?
Of course I do.
I always have to remember that my friends, who do not have autistic children, couldn't possibly understand the life I live. Unless you have gone through the inner turmoil, fear, doubt, mistakes, small victories, meltdowns, breakdowns, rebirth, growth, and daily mental arm wrestling that we have, you just don't get it. You can't. It's not fair for me to assume you can.
Could he have done more? Absolutely.
If I was him, having never lived this life, would I have done more? No idea.
The fact remains: Friends are too rare and too valuable. They are often flawed humans who don't understand, but the good ones want to and the great ones will always be there for you, even if they have no clue how to help.