Special needs, Special feelings

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2022….time flies!

Every January, I like to take a little time to reflect on the previous year. It’s important for me to remember all of the good from the previous year and to consider all of the things I would like to improve upon. There was SO much good for our family in 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic. However, it was also a very heavy year and it ended with the passing of Luca’s grandpa – my dad. My dad fought a valiant and courageous battle with Stage IV pancreatic cancer for 18 months. He fought so hard and had so many awful days, but he always somehow managed to be his best self whenever his grandkids were around.

While my heart is broken, it leads to me to wonder how Luca feels. For the most part, I’m envious of Luca. He seems to be unaffected and grief is not something that he’s struggling with like myself and the rest of my family. How much does he understand about death?? I can’t really explain it to him since I’m not sure WHAT exactly he understands and comprehends in general. I’m sure he sensed some sort of change while my whole family was in Ohio for the funeral, but he didn’t seem to express it and maybe he didn’t understand what changed himself? While we all FELT the missing piece of our family, Luca just seemed to be oblivious to it. Maybe it was because the chaos of so many people in the house, maybe watching his grandpa get weaker over time somehow prepared him, maybe he just doesn’t feel the deep sadness the the rest of us feel? Unfortunately, I will never know what Luca feels because he does not speak. I do firmly believe he knows more than everyone thinks, but getting it out is a whole different story. Moments like this are when I feel the HUGE difference between Luca and my youngest son, Landon.

Some children with autism can lack empathy and sympathy. Not all, just some. I do believe that Luca somewhat falls into this category. (For more on that, this article is interesting.) I think that he just doesn’t understand it and as his mom, I certainly don’t want to project all of my feelings on him to try to teach him. However, I’m not sure sure this totally bad since he is able to escape some of the difficult feelings that come with empathy and sympathy. Luca lives and will always live in a safe environment with people who understand him and who won’t have these expectations. I like to say that he will be my roommate for life! 😉 On a serious note, this likely helps him to not feel the deep sadness that is typical when someone we love dies and for that, I do think it’s a blessing for him. He has SO many obstacles that he encounters daily, adding difficult and heavy emotions on top would be so challenging for him.

All of that being said, he sure did love his grandpa though! Love is an emotion I’m VERY sure he feels. He loves his family, his therapists and teachers. So even if he doesn’t feel all emotions, I’m extremely grateful that he does feel love!!! Although we live outside of Chicago and Luca’s grandma and grandpa live in Ohio, he always managed to have a special relationship with his grandpa via FaceTime. My dad was always able to connect with him just be doing silly things that Luca loved with his hands or making sounds to make Luca smile. Luca almost always ended up in some serious sensory overload, but it was so special to watch how excited he would get during his FaceTime calls with grandpa. He also knows that grandma and grandpa have the BEST toys at their house: a gator side by side, four wheelers, a tractor and a golf cart! When we are in Ohio, he knows where they are stored and has no shame with grabbing anyone’s hand that he can to drag them out to where they are stored as a way of letting us know he wants a ride 😉 These are all cherished memories for me and I can only hope that these happy thoughts pass through Luca’s mind sometimes. Maybe they don’t and that’s why he doesn’t seem to feel sadness on the same level that most of us do? Again, who knows!!

Luca is a mystery to me and as much as it pains me to say it, the silver lining to death is that my dad is now our angel in heaven and he finally has the understanding of Luca that we all wish we had. He’s in on the secret and perhaps Luca will have a new special bond with is angel that none of us will ever know. I do know that my dad will be watching over him and guiding us all in helping to give him the best care. He loved Luca beyond words and had a special place in his heart for him. “I can only imagine” is my new favorite phrase. Why? Because it’s true….there are so many things that I really can only imagine!

Here are some pictures of the two of them. So many good memories that I can only hope that Luca has as well!

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