What if somehow, I could ask Janey all the things I wonder about her, and she could answer me, answer me clearly and fully? I have a store of questions a hundred pages long. Here's a few of them.
Do you like school? I hear from your teachers if you had a good or bad day, what activities you had, some of what you learn. But no-one but you can really tell me if you are happy at school, or tell me how you feel about the types of things your brothers told me---what kid in the class annoys you, what lunch is like and who you sat with, a funny thing that happened in class, a moment you felt scared there about something. I don't have any idea what school really feels like for you.
What makes you like certain movies and TV shows so much? I certainly know what you like to watch, but I often wonder---why those particular videos or shows? Why do you watch "The Goofy Movie", with the story of father son bonding and a road trip, over and over? Why is your favorite Disney movie "Hercules", a movie most people think is one of their weakest offerings? What is it about that certain episode of Little Bear where Uncle Rusty babysits that makes you want to see it over and over, and makes you scream if I try to put on a new episode? I would love so much to know what you like about the shows that you like.
When your appendix burst, how did it feel? How could we have not known how much pain you must have been in? That one haunts me. We think Janey's appendix had been ruptured for three days before it was removed. The pain must have been incredible. We knew she was sick, enough that we took her twice to the emergency room, but neither us nor the medical professionals at one of the best hospitals in the world knew how serious it was, not until a CAT scan was done. How could that be? Do you feel pain differently? Did you think we did know somehow and just weren't doing anything?
Do you understand at all why people come and go? You miss Daddy so much every day while he is at work. Do you have any notion what "work" is, why he has to sometimes leave for the day? We say your brothers are at college, and you have seen their rooms, but do you get at all why part of the year, they go to live someplace else? You ask for Auntie Carrie, for Nana and Grandpa, for Auntie Rose. Do you get that they have their own houses, some of them very far from us?
Why do you scream? I know there might be all kinds of answers to that one, but what most upsets you? Why can you be happily watching a movie and suddenly, you scream, like you are in horrible pain? Are you? Is it when you don't understand something? How can we help?
Why do you say "duck" between thoughts? This is one I wonder about a great deal, although it's not as big an issue as some of the others. You use the word "duck" like a divider, like a period or a dash, or a repeat sign. You'll say something like "I know what you mean, but it's just not funny! DUCK. I know what you mean, but it's just not funny! DUCK You stole my pencil! DUCK I can write your name better than you can!" All quotes from one of your favorite episodes of The Simpsons, but why the Duck in-between parts? What does it mean? How did it get started?
What could I do to make your life happier? That is what I want to know the most, Janey. I wish you could tell me all the little things and big things that would make you happy. What could I get for you? Where do you want to go? What are your dreams? Do you have dreams? I guess at these things; I try as hard as I can to make your life as meaningful as I can. But the truth is, there is so much about you I just don't know. I love you so intensely, Janey, but I often feel like I have failed you. Without the ability to communicate verbally at more than a basic level, without another form of communication, I am so often left guessing. I can read about people with autism that have learned to communicate, and I can get some ideas, but they are not you, Janey. You are, like every person with autism, like every person in the world, a unique, fascinating, complex person, and in so many ways, Janey, I don't know you.