Thursday, June 16, 2016

On Being an Autism Grandfather

For some time I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about my grand-daughter. She was our first grandchild. When we heard some 16 years ago that we had a grand-daughter we were excited. We looked forward expectantly to the Grandparents role with all the assumptions of normalcy; a grand-daughter who I could bounce on my knee, we could buy fancy dolls for, who we would read stories to and all the normal things a Grandfather does with a Grand-daughter.

But our Grand-daughter was not normal. Our daughter, her mother, noticed it when our first grandson came along. He developed differently than his older sister. She was obviously not where she should be in terms of “normal” development. And so we entered the world of autism. Our expectations of “normalcy” in relation to our grand-daughter were shattered. I have grieved and still to some degree grieve what could have been but was not.

We always hear of the "success stories"; the autistic children that respond well to this therapy or that therapy or some "miracle program" and we are happy for them. But as our grand-daughter grew older, hope for "the miracle" has faded considerably. I don't totally rule out a miracle, but neither do I hold my breath waiting and hoping for one.

We observed the strain her autism has been on our daughter’s family as well as ourselves. Her sibling brother at an early age sensed and felt the anxiety and uncertainty autism brought into his family. He too shared the emotional burden and psychological strain. We often were there to provide much needed respite time for her mother. There were some very extremely difficult times, but somehow by the mercy and grace of God we as an extended family pulled through.

Yes I do love her; autism and all. She is very very special. I think she knows I love her, and in her own way has expressed her love for me. If she was on the verbal end of the autism spectrum perhaps it would have been a little easier, but she is on the non-verbal part of the autism spectrum, and though there has been speech therapy and other things, she remains non-verbal. I have never heard her say, “I love you Grandpa…” She has expressed love to me in other ways and for that I am thankful, but I still feel a loss.

I don’t know why this happened. It just is, and despite all, she was created in God’s image and as such, her life has meaning, purpose and value in and of herself as a being created in the image of God. I pray for her just as much as I pray for her two younger “normal” brothers. My hope is that in the resurrection when all things are restored to the fullness of what they were meant to be, that I will finally hear those words I have so longed to hear…

“I love you Grandpa…”


Anonymous said...

You will hear those words! I know some of the struggles you and your family have experienced. Both of my sons were born deaf; their sister is not. There have been times of struggle and pain, but I have always thought, "It could have been worse." My youngest, now 35, looks forward to heaven and the day when he will hear all that he has missed and his speech will be perfect. Right now, we just enjoy him as he is. Barb Bowman

Anonymous said...

Bill, I feel your pain. Our first granddaughter was born with cerebral palsy. She was very severe. Abigail could not see, hear, walk or speak. She would smile(that is what we called it) if you brushed her hair, played with her hands, or patted her back. But God used her as an instrument of his love. And brought me to my knees. For that i am forever thankful. Abigail lived for 3 years. She would be 25 now. This verse is very dear to my heart. Isaiah 35:5/6. And the eyes of the blind shall be opened and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing. Some day I shall hear her say "I love you grandma". Cheryl.