The breaking TV news about the suicide of Robin Williams stopped Melissa and me in mid-conversation. It just shut us up and made us sad. At least one newscaster looked like she’d been in tears.
Over dinner as a family, as Joey downed two big Jimmy John’s tuna subs, we realized that we would not have to explain this to him. I thought I should say something (boy, how many disasters start that way), but thank God I refrained.
One of the strange blessings of his autism is that Joey will not be part of generalized human sorrow. As long as he has TV, video, DVD, YouTube or whatever technology comes along, he’ll have Robin Williams. He has no reference points to comprehend “That face you see and voice you hear isn’t with us anymore.”
Cold, clinical explanations are clear that autistic people tend to lack empathy. So, Joey won’t be moved to grief (or, for that matter, anger or any other strong feeling) by the news of the day.
In some ways, that can be reinterpreted as a blessing. He won’t live in fear of Ebola or whatever the news says he should fear. He won’t be whipped into a frenzy against any particular group of people.
I’m rambling, I know. No deep conclusions in this – just some observations. And I’m glad I shut up and just observed and didn’t fill the dinner conversation with useless words. And I’m glad that Joey isn’t twisted this way and that by all of the stuff that twists the rest of us.