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Family Ties

Blogger Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty writes about a special moment between her son, who has autism, and his uncle.

At first Justin brushes by my little brother, barely gives him a glance as he makes his way across the kitchen to the family room, intent on a destination known only to him. I’d hoped for more recognition on Justin’s part, although my sole sibling only makes it up for a visit about once or twice a year.

Since I’ve been too afraid to try a plane ride with my eldest, they really don’t know each other very well. Still, they had forged a true connection this past summer, Justin standing at his uncle’s side, occasionally looking at him to share the joy of a particularly engaging scene on his DVD player. I’d thought he’d at least be happy to see him, would show some sign of pleasure at his presence in our home.

And just then, my oldest child stops, pivots, runs back to my brother, puts his hands on either side of his face, and looks at him with the most intense gaze I’ve ever seen.

I take a few steps toward them, careful not to disturb their time together. Justin smiles up at his newly discovered relative, then looks at me. Again, he looks at my brother, then regards my face. He jumps up and down with joy, emits his standard “eee” for excitement, then disengages from my brother’s embrace. The moment is over.

But I know in my mother’s soul that I’ve just witnessed a connection made, a cognitive leap in my boy. He may not comprehend exactly who this tall man is to him. He has however recognized the similarities in our faces, the features we share that make our blood tie unmistakable. On some level, I am certain Justin gets that we “go together”.

And he also gets that this is one more person in his life who loves him.

I can’t prove any of this of course. If I directed him to his iPad he wouldn’t type out “this is mommy’s brother”, or show his comprehension in any other form. I know he understands this man is family just the same. And while I’m thrilled that he’s made this connection, it just makes me wonder how much else he knows that he’s unable to share.

This awareness of the gap between what he understands and my ability to discern that understanding remains a sore spot for me, although I continue to hope that chasm will continue to close. He’s made such progress with his new technological device in school, and it’s finally begun to spill over a bit into our home. I’m hoping that his need to connect through the written word will increase over time. All we can do is give him opportunities, and wait.

I put those thoughts aside however, because at the moment we’re engaged in a rare opportunity in and of itself- my mother, my brother, my husband and my children all in the same space, willing and able to interact with one another. It’s about as rare an occasion as a solar eclipse, or my going an entire day without consuming chocolate. I need to get back into this moment, to recognize its incalculable worth, and just enjoy.

And as I watch my oldest son return to his uncle for a second round of hugs, I do just that.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Nancy Mastola January 25, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I relate with tears of both happiness and sorrow. I have a son with autism as well who is non-verbal. He is the most loving child in the world and will sit on his uncle's lap who he hasn't seen in years either. I guess Nicholas thinks if he's here with mommy, he must be an okay guy.
Kimberlee Rutan McCafferty February 03, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I think our kids really know who loves them. Thanks for reading this and leaving a comment!

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