So this morning as the kids and I trekked across KC on our thrice-weekly school vs home commute, Jack all of the sudden burst into tears. I did that swerving-thing where you spin around in your seat and try to gauge based on sight if he’s just upset or if he’s bleeding or on fire or something. He had his head tipped back as far into his hood as he could, and tears were just streaming down his face. When I finally got him to answer my pleas for an explanation he said he wanted to know why Lucky had died. And where he had gone. And who took him there. And what he did there. And if his mom was sad. And if that meant that great-grandpa Woody or Grandpa Great were going to go, too. And last of all if heaven was on the moon.

Jesus Christ, I hadn’t even started drinking my coffee yet.

So I scrambled (because in the end all parents know that most life-defining moments sprung on them are flat-out scrambling), and quickly tried to weigh validating his sadness with how much time we could really spend on this if he had to go to school. Also up there is the fact that validating Jack’s anxieties too much might have him spin out completely, and he was already having one hellaciously kind of existential crisis for 7:40 in the morning.

I told him that Lucky had been sick and old, but that he was happy now.  “With Nana’s dog, right?”  Yes.  “Is he with God?”  Ummm… do you think so?  “Yes.”  OK, then he is.  “Are they in heaven?”  Sure.  “What’s God doing with him?”

“Feeding him treats”, Lorelei said, completely unfazed and never turning from the window.

He told me that he knew he needed to calm down before school, but that ‘the tears keep coming out of my eyes’. I pulled over so I could give him a proper hug before dropping him off, but he just seemed miserable; it’s a sad truth that platitudes really are worthless when someone is grieving. And I really wish I knew what had sparked it. My thought is a dream he might have had, with that sucker punch realization thinking about it later that the details are either totally true or completely the opposite of whatever you’d dreamt. Who knows. He couldn’t tell me. I mean, he didn’t even realize Lucky was even missing from the house until a Wii Fit pet roundup produced an AWOL member two weeks ago, two months after Lucky had died. Jack’s mind fascinates me.

In the end he seemed to find some peace when he declared he wanted to write Lucky a letter to send to him in heaven (on the moon). To tell Lucky that he was a good cat, even though he bit sometimes, and that we all hope he feels better from his sickness by taking lots of naps. I told Jack that that was a great idea, and that I loved him as much as anyone could possibly ever love another person.

And that is all I can do.

Don’t EVER let anyone you know assume that all autistics are unable to feel empathy. Ever.

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