Living with Dani's Autism is like a strip of velcro, soft smooth loops on one side and contrasting prickly spurs on the other. With odd, freakish, and rather effortless skill, her disability manages to evoke a perplexing mix of frustration and fascination in her father and me even still today.
As an example, she is in essence a geographical savant with regards to knowing her way around the Kansas City area. It takes but one visit to any spot in town to burn a permanent memory into her mind, lending her precise recall of what transpired at that particular location. At 22 years old she still points out places I took her when she was only five. It's utterly amazing but only the smooth loops of her sticky Velcro life. There's a knottier and much more complex side.
Like the time Jimmy took her to the grocery store she's frequented with us nearly every week of her life. Thinking he'd kill two birds with one stone, he assigned her a job to do while he finished up at the check out counter. Her task was simple, return the cart to its corral that was within eye shot, no more than 20 feet away. It was a no-brainer for a geographic guru, or so you'd think. Seems after releasing the cart to its pen, the trek back was more than she could handle. With a surge of panic washing over her like a tidal wave, she franticly began searching for the one counter that lodged her dad, which had mysteriously dissolved into a sea of checkouts. Putting his exchange on hold, he ran to her aid, thus rescuing her from thorny side of Autism.
The human race is both complex and amazing as a general rule, while those with developmental disabilities are a more advanced race you might say. Possessing clear deficiencies on one hand, they can display unmistakeable intelligence just as easily on the other. Many are as complex as they are simple, and for me, Dani's simplicity is her most fascinating feature. She can watch a favorite children's video hundreds of times, with each session bewitchingly newer than the one before. While she has the capacity to suffer boredom like anyone else, she never seems to tire of her videos.
Her simplicity used to bug the tar out of me back in the days when developmental delay poked at my hidden fear she'd never be normal. Every time she'd burst into tears because I asked her to do something as simple as hand me the remote that was less than 12" from her hand, I'd want to bellow "why can't you do the simplest thing!" Her increasingly palpable impairment was scaring me to death as it aimed me toward a future I surely dreaded. Through the years, however, I've grown accustom to her elementary ways and find they bring a strange peace into my own rather tricky life.
This picture of her on Saint Patrick's day, for example,refreshes my soul as I survey the joy this green flower lei and shamrock bedazzled tiara brings to her. Truth is they won't last long and she most likely did not construct the accessories herself, but these fine details don't dampen her delight. No gift of gold could bring her greater joy because God has entitled her with an ability to see the world with a heart that understands less is genuinely more. Mercy sakes alive. How I need this precious daily reminder.
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. ~ Leonardo DaVinci