Sunday, April 19, 2009

Listening With All My Heart

I was reminded this weekend of a poem by Shel Silverstein, from the book A Light in the Attic, about communication differences.

Deaf Donald by Shel Silverstein

Here's the text if it's a little hard to read in the image:

Deaf Donald

Deaf Donald met Talkie Sue
But [signed: I Love You] was all he could do.
And Sue said, "Donald, I sure do like you."
But [signed: I Love You] was all he could do.
And Sue asked Donald, "Do you like me too?"
But [signed: I Love You] was all he could do.
"Good-bye then, Donald, I’m leaving you."
But [signed: I Love You] was all he did do.
And she left forever and she never knew
That [signed: I Love You] means I love you.

Talkie Sue may have been a talker, but she surely wasn't much of a listener.

After reading the latest from Rhemashope over at Autism in a Word (more on that later), I found myself trying to remember:

Did Joy ever say or echo anything resembling "I love you"?

It doesn't seem like something that one could possibly forget. But it's been SO long since we've heard those 80-some words that she used to speak, once upon a time. Among all the people who are working with her now, only Lynda at daycare and one of her school-district people have known her long enough to remember hearing her use words. Right now she has no spoken words at all, communicating via her photo cards when we ask her to, or her push-button when it's available, or the occasional "more" sign, but mostly just actions and glances and gestures.

I asked JoyDad, and he set me straight right away. "No, she never did." He had worked more deliberately than I to try to get an echo of "Love you!" back when there were more words floating about, and it just never came.

But here's what she DOES do:

Hug from Joy

When he goes to pick her up at daycare, she comes running up to him and gives him a great big hug, and sometimes even gives him a little pat-pat-pat on the back.

She gives kisses upon request, and sometimes initiates little puckery kissie-kissie motions.

And remember the Popeye Sighting?

It's no wonder I got confused about how I heard, or didn't hear, the "I love you" a year and a half ago or more. I've been hearing it a lot lately, listening with all my heart. It just hasn't been verbal.

Rhemashope didn't need to hear the words spoken either, but I'm surely rejoicing with her about what happened the other night at bedtime.

Someday. Someday.


Anonymous said...

Thank you, JoyMama. Lots of good feelings expressed and felt with this and Rhema's post. Barbara

Osh said...

beautiful post

Anonymous said...

I've been hearing it a lot lately, listening with all my heart

beautiful. and where it matters most.

i read the following in 'lamb' this weekend and it really struck me. paraphrasing from memory ..

'love is not something you think about. rather, it is a place in which you dwell.'

no accidents :)

Anonymous said...

Tears again. That picture of Joy and JoyDad is so beautiful and *speaks* volumes about their love.

And how sweet that she initiates kisses. (I'm still waiting for kisses -- someday). Perhaps God has given us such a gift in that we get to treasure these things so much more than others. I know you'll keep listening with all your heart.


AuntieS said...

I have been fortunate, on many occasions, to be the recipient of Joy's nonverbal "I Love You" and it is wonderful. At Christmastime, when we all gathered at my dad's place (Joy's grandparents), Joy was in an especially lovey mood. I got many hugs and snuggles from her, some that I initiated and some that she initiated. It felt good and I definitely could "read" the message she was giving. She was certainly feeling loved and loving with all of the family that were there that day. I too would certainly be thrilled to hear Joy say the words, but I am glad that I have opportunities to feel loved by her in whatever way she is able to express it.

mama edge said...

I've seen Joy expressing her love to her mama, and it is beautiful beyond words.

Quirky Mom said...

The pats on the back mean so much more than the words.

I once saw a bumper sticker (cafe press?) that says "Someone with autism loves me", and I adore that sticker SO much more than the overplayed "I love my autistic son/daughter/whoever." I think you and JoyDad each need one of those stickers.

Andrea said...

love it! we have a friend who says talking isn't all it's cracked up to be! good we can show love in other ways. and there is another famous quote I can't rightly attribute but: just because I don't talk doesn't mean I don't have something to say"

Lynda said...

Andrea, I love those quotes adn plan on passing them on!

Unknown said...

thanks for this. It is a nice reminder to find joy in the silent messages.

it's my first time reading your blog, but i will be back. my son is mostly non-verbal and the words he does say are often difficult to understand.