Look is enough. It is enough

Published 12:43 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2013

“Hi, I haven’t seen you in a long time.”

I looked at the person ringing up my purchases. At first, I didn’t recognize her. Then she told me her name and I remembered.

“It has been a long time,” I said, thinking about the last time I saw her.

She was about 14 and in Girl Scouts with my youngest daughter, Mikelyn. Most of the girls in the troop were a school year ahead of my child and moving into that teenager mindset.

We gave Girl Scouts a try hoping it would help Mikelyn with social interactions, something challenging for kids with autism. The first year the other members were not yet into the stuff that comes with adolescence. Mikelyn did pretty well relating to them even though she was watching more than participating.

The second year, the girls’ interests shifted and Mikelyn was not connecting much as they laughed about boys and other things going on in school. She wanted to go to the meetings in the beginning. Now she said no when it was time to go.

Finally, we stopped going and she lost contact with the girls. Occasionally, we’d see one of them and they always spoke to Mikelyn, showing the same kindness they did at troop meetings. Now here was one of those girls grown up and smiling at me as she bagged my cat food.

“How is your daughter?” she asked. “Does she still have some of the problems she had? Is she better now?”

I saw genuine interest in the young woman’s eyes. So I thought about how to answer those questions, how to I describe my child now that she is an adult.

“Yes,” I said. “She still has some things that are hard for her, like language. Some things are better and she is happy most of the time.”

She said she was glad Mikelyn is happy. Then she told me that she has two kids. We talked for another minute and then I headed to my car.

This morning she sent me a friend request on Facebook and I saw pictures of her husband and her beautiful children. As I was responding, I heard my daughter’s bedroom door open. She was chattering to herself, repeating pieces of commercials or sentences she heard on a favorite television show.

I asked her it she was ready to eat or wanted to wait.

“Want to wait,” she said, as she went back into her room and closed the door.

I settled into a chair at my bedroom window thinking about my encounter with the girl from my daughter’s past and how different their lives are today. There was a part of me that questioned what Mikelyn would be like if she didn‘t have autism. Would she be in college or even thinking about marriage and a family?

What would it be like to have a conversation with her like I did with the young woman at the checkout? How would it feel to know what my child thinks and desires from her life?

I’ll admit there was a hint of sadness to my thoughts. Well, perhaps sadness isn’t the right word. Maybe it was more bittersweet wondering.

Most days I never think about how different my daughter’s life is and how different our family’s life is too. Seeing someone from her past reminded me that we live in a place that is indeed different, not bad, just different.

From behind her door, I heard my daughter. She laughed, and then jumped up and down before settling down for a little more rest before breakfast.

I love her laugh and I love when she looks straight into my eyes and I feel the connection we share. We may never have a conversation like I had with her grownup friend, but I know Mikelyn is happy. And we communicate even if words don’t pass between us, and for me that is enough. That is enough.