There is a common misconception among the neurotypical population that people with ASD do not, or cannot form bonds with others. But they can and they do.
Cody has people in his life with whom he is extremely close. His great-grandmother, or “Grammy” as he likes to call her, is one of them. It began from the time he was born and since then, it has only grown in strength and intensity.
Cody and Grammy have a standing date each Tuesday. During their time together they start by having lunch at a restaurant. Usually Cody’s Grandma Jo, his Aunt Carolyn, Aunt Judy and sometimes Uncle Zenith, join them for this part of the day. It is understood by all that Cody gets to choose the restaurant. He has his list of faves that everyone knows and so one person goes down the list naming them off while Cody either replies with an unyielding, “NOT!” or he will say, “We’ll just go there!”
It is also understood that Cody’s seat at the table is the chair next to Grammy. This is a subject that is not up for debate or negotiation.
A large appetizer is ordered before lunch is served. Grammy makes sure Cody is not only consulted about this matter but that he has the final word. When the server takes the order it is usually one who knows Cody and his cohorts on a first name basis. The servers make sure they greet Cody with happy and hardy hellos and how are yous! Most of them know his favorite menu items and they ask him if he would like the fish dinner today or perhaps the quesadillas. Grammy sits quietly by and beams her proudest smile.
During lunch, Cody enjoys everyone’s talking and laughter but when lunch is over and they return to Grammy’s house then Cody believes it is time for everyone else to be on their merry way. To him, this is his time with Grammy and his, alone!
Cody has even been known to send Aunt Carolyn to her room. Fortunately, Carolyn is good-natured about it and doesn’t mind because she knows how special the bond is between Cody and his Grammy.
When they spend their time together, Cody and Grammy often talk quietly about whatever subject Cody chooses. He likes it when he can talk to her because she makes a great effort to understand what he is trying to say. Sometimes they watch TV. Game shows are a big hit with both of them. They both cheer for the contestants from their front row seats in front of the television. Cody watches the weather channel and then gives Grammy a full report of what the coming weather will be in the days ahead. She listens to him with both attention and appreciation. And he thrives on it! Those tend to be more lively conversations. But there is also a quiet understanding between Cody and his Grammy.
Sadly, several years ago Granddad Geren, Grammy’s husband, passed away. His was the first funeral Cody ever attended. When we arrived at the funeral home for the wake, Cody promptly went to Grammy’s side and sat there the entire evening. He didn’t say much; he simply sat and held her hand. The comfort that the two of them gleaned from this was visible to all. It was nearly palpable.
I saw my son transform into a very different person for that short period of time. I think if people did not already know, they would have never have guessed that autism was or ever had been a part of his life. He was very quiet, very solemn. His behavior was very mature and very loving and comforting toward his grandmother. I sat toward the back of the chapel and watched the two of them in great wonder. It was a moment so poignant I could never forget it.
Since then, Grammy has had some health issues of her own. There have been several times when she has been hospitalized and each time Cody is always extremely anxious to talk to her just to be able to hear her voice. Grammy perks up when she hears Cody is on the phone as well!
Cody and his Grammy are kindred spirits. The kind of bond between them is a phenomenon that is rarely seen or noticed in our fast-paced world today. I think it is things like this that make me believe that sometimes ASD, for my son, has actually been a blessing in disguise.