The girls and I are driving to the mall. It’s a rare mid-week outing. God-willing, it will be quick and at least mostly painless.
Out of nowhere Brooke asks,”What’s hatred?”
The question sounds deep, but it’s part of a script. Last year, she sang a song in the second grade chorus that included the word. She’s been asking what it means approximately once a week ever since.
I give her the same answer that I have offered at least fifty-two times before. “Hatred is the opposite of love, baby girl.”
I’ve tried to explain hatred conceptually, but I lost her somewhere in the middle of ‘really, really, reeeeeally don’t like …” She understands opposites. They’re concrete. They make sense to her. They are always the same. And so the answer is – hatred is the opposite of love.
But this time the conversation takes a different turn.
Katie chimes in.
“Hatred is when people forget about love, Brooke. And it’s really sad when that happens. We don’t hate anybody, right Mama?”
I chuckle to myself. Welllllll ….
“No, baby, we don’t hate anybody,” I say.
We don’t like everybody either, I think, but I keep it to myself. High road and all.
“You know what I think the opposite of hate is, Brooke?” Katie asks.
The little voice from the seat behind me says, “Whut?”
I revel in the word. “Whut?” The way she enunciates the “Wh” with a long breath around the “H”. The lilt in that fabulous little voice. And the interaction between my girls – however small it may seem. A question. A response. A CONVERSATION. By God it was – it is – so hard-won.
“I think the opposite of hatred is family. Cause family is love, ya know?”
Brooke has gone somewhere else. She no longer appears to be listening.
“Brooke, do you think so too?”
She doesn’t answer.
“I think we lost her Mama,” Katie says, “but that’s OK. Don’t worry, Brooke, it’s OK.”
She knows. Even though Brooke no longer appears to be listening, Katie knows she’s still taking it all in. She’s always taking it all in. My heart swells and breaks and swells again.
“Well, YOU know what I mean, right Mama?” she asks. “Don’t you think that family is the opposite of hatred?”
I cock the rear view mirror down – first to the left and then the right. I look at my beautiful girls. Katie’s face is so eager, waiting for an answer. Brooke has begun to softly stim next to her – the familiar high-pitched hum that is such a part of our family’s soundtrack. She is methodically pulling threads out of her leggings. I anticipate yet another seam will have bitten the dust by the time we get home.
“Oh, baby,” I say. “I do. I really do.”
Ed note: I am so grateful to WordPress, Autism Speaks and so many others who helped bring yesterday’s post ‘A Ding in the Universe‘ to such a wide audience. I am humbled by the response to it and grateful that through it so many people outside the autism community were able to gain some insight into the tremendous impact that Steve Jobs had on people with autism.
To those who came back again today to continue to read,
Thank you and Welcome.
As my dear friend Mom-NOS would say, I welcome you to this, my virtual living room. I think you’ll find it’s a pretty comfortable place. We’re not much for standing on ceremony around here, so kick off your shoes, let the dogs up on the couches and settle in for a while. I’ll get the coffee brewing and we can get to know one another.
If you’d like to explore, by all means do. You’ve got the run of the place. If you’d prefer the nickel tour, the following links (in blue) might be some good places to start.
If your kid is annoying the crap out of you. Mom, Watch This.
If you have a child with a disability, recently diagnosed or otherwise. Welcome to the Club.
If you are struggling. Avalanche.
If you want to know why I think disclosure is so important – and why the ‘label’ itself may be the ticket to community for people with autism. The Conversation Revisited.
If you want to know how connections can be made in the unlikeliest of places. Babe.
If you want to know why my eight year-old is obsessed with a 1970′s movie. Godspell Part One.
If you want to know why I really want you to read this: Veteran’s Day.
If you want to know where your money goes when you donate to autism research. What I heard.
If you want to know why perception matters. MIT.
If you want to know why the president needs to light the White House blue in April. This is My Autism.
If you want to know how loving someone with autism changes you. Real.
If you want to know why I’d prefer you not use the R word. That’s Retarded.
If you think autistic people lack empathy. Autistic People Lack Empathy – Except Not.
If you want to learn about autism self-advocacy. ASAN
Oh geez. I guess the nickel tour turned into a quarter, huh? Sorry about that. It’s just that, well, it’s a pretty big house. So what say I leave you to it? Coffee’s almost up. I’ll grab the cups. In the meantime, I really hope you’ll make yourself at home.