Human relations are complicated. Even the closest bonds may be marked by conflict and confusion.
As our older son got ready to move away to London for his job, our severely autistic younger son Sean sensed it. We didn’t subject him to repeated announcements that his brother was leaving. We knew from experience that could make stress levels skyrocket. Sean understood by osmosis. Bags being packed and a different vibe around the house meant a big change was afoot.
On our last big family outing, a day trip to Stinson Beach, our older son walked hand in hand with his little brother as he usually does. When my husband or I reach for Sean’s hand, he pushes us away, always preferring his big brother.
That day as they walked together on the beach, Sean stopped several times and grabbed his brother’s arm and tried to bite it. This was a flashback to long-past behavior. We learned when he was younger that Sean lashing out to bite or hit indicated physical pain or emotional distress, and the frustration of not having language to express that.
We were surprised and disheartened, but realized that Sean might be angry and confused about his brother leaving, even without understanding it precisely. Days later, the morning of our older son’s departure to London, Sean hugged his big brother with a big smile, eyes sparkling as he engaged his brother in long gazes. This kind of intense connection over an extended time is unusual for Sean, whose autism makes it hard for him to interact in many ways.
Though Sean didn’t explicitly understand that his brother would be gone when he came home from his special needs program that day, he was powerfully communicating in his nonverbal way how much he loves his big brother.
I look at this photo of my sons on Stinson Beach, connected by hands in both figure and shadow, and am grateful to have them in this world, complicated and full of ups and downs as human relations may be.
This week’s Hike Notes, Stinson Beach, brings readers to an iconic beach on the Marin County Coast with plenty of space for long walks.
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Hike Notes 147: Stinson Beach
12/5/2021 03:26:57 am
I wish you all the best in this situation. Very difficult. Steve
12/5/2021 05:46:05 am
This one brought me to tears. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
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