Tonight, I checked in on Natalie, an hour after she had been put to bed. She was still awake, sitting on her bed, 'reading' a book, in the dark. I lay down beside her and she snuggled up against me.
We talked, meaning I asked her yes or no questions. Her answers became shorter, and her voice drifted away. She would soon be asleep. I kept talking to feel the emptiness in the room. After a few moments, she slowly lifted her hand up and put it over my mouth.
"Do you want me to stop talking?" I asked.
"Yes," she said.
"Do you want me to leave?" I asked.
"No," she said; I held her, both my arms wrapped around her, and she fell asleep.
This is the thing I dread the most: that, as she grows older, she will grow more distant. Oftentimes, I go into her room before I turn in for the night and kiss her cheek, and whisper into her ear, "Come back to us."
I fear the gap that autism can place between a parent and his child. I fear that one day, she will no longer want to be kissed or hugged or held, that she will push her parents away on last time. and not come back to us.
That she will still tell us she loves us, that she will still want a hug, will still want to be picked up and held. That is my selfish wish.
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