On January 31, I got the phone call that you always dread, at the what I’ve been dreading for nearly 10 years- that call at 4 in the morning. Long story short, I learned that my father had died. As Daniel and I got ready to fly from Minnesota to Michigan, I left a text with John Paulson just letting him know I wasn’t going to be at church this Sunday. I don’t know what all John did, but he was able to marshall the forces of the church to make sure church went on smoothly. Retired Pastor Paul Ficzeri preached in my stead.
My Dad had been in declining health for years. Congestive Heart Failure and COPD wore him down. He entered the hospital on New Year’s Day with really low blood pressure. He was taken to a transitional care facility to recuperate and hopefully get well enough to go back home. His time at the facility wasn’t easy. Unlike other hospital stays, he wasn’t bouncing back. I had started to think he might end up at this facility permanently- something Mom had wondered as well.
He actually was feeling better the day before he died, my Mom said. She offered to stay the night, but he wanted her home. A nurse came into wake him up on that Saturday morning to get him ready for the day and he didn’t respond. Dad had died in his sleep after 85 years on this earth.
Grief is something that always fascinates me. I’ve always wondered how different folk grieve a loss. I’ve also been interested in how someone on the autistic spectrum mourns. People might think that those on the spectrum don’t feel anything, but the fact of the matter is we feel a lot.
My sign of mourning is a physical one: I feel what I can only explain as a heaviness of heart, as if my heart is crying even though I’m not visibly crying. I felt that way a few years ago when my Uncle David died, and I felt it again when my cat Morris died a few months later. When my other cat, Felix died a year later, the heavy heart was there again.
Over the last week, I noticed that my heart was truly heavy again. I might not be crying up a storm, but my heart was…is weeping for my Dad.
I share this because we all do grieve differently. For some grief is a slow process and for others it’s “faster.” Some people cry visibly, others cry in secret. Those of us with Aspergers also grieve in ways that might seem odd, but it is grief.
I miss my Dad. I think that my heavy heart will come and go for a time. But a smile comes to my face as well: my heavy heart is a sign that I am truly human after all.
Note: The top photo was taken by my husband, Daniel shortly after we arrived at my parent’s apartment. On one of the bed posts were my baby shoes. This is what Daniel wrote on Facebook describing the photo: “A father’s love for his son…hanging on his father’s bedpost are Dennis’ childhood shoes.”
The bottom photo was taken with my Dad in November 2013.
This post is actually an update of a post I wrote back in 2009.
I’m not a big fan of phones. In fact, it would be safe to say, I have a phobia when it comes to phones.
At work, I can have a message on my phone that takes forever for me to check. I love my parents, but loathe having to make a phone call. In fact, I’ve tried to get my dear mother to use email to no avail. Since I have aging parents, I have to call more frequently than I used to and it means I have to gather up all my stregnth to dial those numbers.
If it comes down to talking to someone on the phone or by email, I would chose email all the time.
It’s a wonder that I was a customer phone representative for four years. Four years! Maybe that’s why I see those four years in such a negative light.
For persons with Aspergers, dealing with what might seem to be a regular social interaction can seem like trying to climb Mount Everest. I know that it’s quite common for aspies to have a fear of phones for the same reason some aspies hate being in crowds or going to parties: it means social interaction, something we are not good at.
For me, being on the phone is basically the same as engaging in small talk with someone at a party (another thing I have difficulty navigating). I never know when to talk and when not to talk. I have to learn to employ more small talk skills that I don’t have to use in emails. Penelope Trunk describes what it’s like for an aspie to deal with the phone:
For some reason, people feel that a phone call does not have to stay on topic. In fact, people open up a phone call by talking with you about the thing that is not the topic. For example, “How have you been?” This question is disconcerting for me. Is the person really calling to talk about our mental state? Or do they mean our physical state? Or is that a fake question and the real topic is coming. I get nervous immediately because I don’t know what we are talking about. In an email, though, I can read through the whole thing, get to the topic, and respond directly to the topic. Email is so straightforward, and even if it’s not, it’s asynchronous, so I can ask for help.
Of course, I can’t use autism as an excuse. Most people use the phone for communication and I have to learn to control my fear. The fact is, I have to use the phone especially when it comes to being a pastor. A ton of pastoral work takes place on the phone, things that real can’t be done with an email…at least right now.
So, I have to buckle down and deal with the phone. I have to learn some ways of dealing with and bypassing the fear of being on a phone. It’s not what I want, but it’s the cards that I’m dealt. It it might mean writing down what I want to say and even learning to only be on the phone for short bursts of time. But since I can’t control the world, I have to learn to live with it as it is.
Just another one of my quirks…
(For the record, I have a smartphone, an iPhone. I like to check my email , surf the web , check Facebook and text people I know. I love my phone for all the cool things it does, except the fuction that makes a phone a phone.)