Saturday, June 9, 2012

Hopeful Friendship

I remember one of the ways I processed my feelings a few months after my son’s autism diagnosis.

Process being a euphemism.

I sort of paced-stomped around from room to room like my house was a pinball machine and I was the hard, cold ball inside trying to stay out of the gutter by reverberating off anything in site, clutching my cell phone and spewing anxiety to one of my longest-time friends three thousand miles away.

I kept explaining, and reiterating that there was no way I could explain, what I felt.
I kept yelling and crying and complaining, using verbs like HATE, TRYING, FEELING, and words like CAN’T, WON’T, MUST. These words had no relationship to my son; my verbs for him, like love, protect, worry, treasure, and hope, were too fragile to see the light then, and I kept them tucked inside. The words I spewed were about ME, about my experience in the pinball machine.

What could my friend say? I have no idea, because I could not hear her. I am quite sure she spoke. I am quite sure it helped. Not the words, themselves, but that she would bear witness to my whirling, spinning, shooting madness and let me have an experience not about autism or my son, but how I felt about it, how I processed it.

We had been friends for 25 years at that point, and that in and of itself is what we had in common. Maybe not the sum total, but far and away the biggest thing, the important thing. I knew she would handle it differently in my place, of course, and so did she -- we had no illusions about our vast differences in temperament -- but this was not a time for judgment of me or my process. It was five years ago.

Now, my friend and I have another thing in common. And we were right to know she would handle it differently. She is not a pinball. She does not call to talk about it, and when I call her, she does not describe how she is feeling, so much as how her son is doing, and what she is doing to protect him, what she hopes for him. She texts and emails, saying things like, “It’s kind of odd when I think about it that I’ve talked to you the least, really, about our concerns about our little man’s development...” Of course, her experiences bring to mind my own, of course, bring me back to where I am and where I have been with autism, and her son makes me think about my little guy, but her story is not mine, her son is not mine.

And I’m not going to judge her process.

I’m not sure exactly what to say, but I am guessing the what matters much less than the being a friend.

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Rooster's Mom is a parent, educator, wife, mom, and writer. She blogs at

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