Saturday, April 2, 2022

Autism Answer: Chatting about Love with my Granddaughter in a Dream


A pic my granddaughter took while we were video chatting

In my dream I was chatting with my oldest granddaughter, Nevaeh, who is four, almost five. 
She was looking up at me from the water of our swimming pool, standing on the stairs holding onto the rail. I was sitting on the edge leaning back on my hands, my legs straight out along the side and not in the water because, even in my dreams, I don't want to remove my roller skates. 
We were chatting about love.
"But, grandma," she was asking, "is it okay that I still love grampa?" 
"Of course! It's wonderful that you love grampa. And your grampa will always love you." 
She smiled at me with that special smirk of hers. "I know he'll always love me. But if you aren't still married to grampa do I still call him grampa? And what do I call the new grampa? Is he new grampa?" 
The dream was so vivid I swear I could feel the weight of roller skates on my feet. A weight that gives me the gift of moving in a way that feels weightless. 
"Grampa is your grampa and you can always call him grampa. Ian is grandma's love and you can figure out with him what to call him. You know what, Nevaeh? That's a cool part about love. There are so many kinds! And the more you love the more kinds of love you'll find." 
And suddenly, as happens in dreams, so many of our different loves began to come and go in ghost like form, appearing on the edge of the pool in a variety of snapshots that nearly came into focus and then disappeared, all around the pool they came and went and we pointed and talked about different kinds of love and what it can look like. Also, what maybe it shouldn't look like. 
"Look!" Nevaeh cried out at one point, turning her head and pointing her still slightly chubby fingers toward the deep end, "Look! There's my Tia! I love her but different than I love Serenity." 
"Right!" I said, laughing and feeling such joy to be spending this time with my granddaughter, who I love. "And even though you love Serenity, you fight with her sometimes. So love can have fighting in it." I said that because, to be honest, it was kind of a new learning for me. I'd been thinking about the times I fought with my mom as a child and how my willingness to fight with mom stemmed from my absolute certainty that she loved me and that I loved her. How it had often grown out of my certainty that we could push and pull at each other without ever breaking. 
But my granddaughter looked at me with confusion. "Like how mommy and daddy fight?" Oops.
"No, that's different," I had to admit. "When they fight it isn't coming from a place of love. I think they are fighting because they want to hurt each other and, even if it is some kind of love, it isn't a safe or healthy love." 
The dream wanted to turn dark, and for a moment snapshots of my son's wife screaming at him threatened to materialize, but I spoke with the intention of diverting the dream back to a lighter feel. 
"Love can have fighting in it, but love isn't full of fighting. Think about how it feels when you love. How it feels when you snuggle Dramma or when your daddy plays with you. Are you feeling it?"
Her blue eyes were closed and she was hugging herself, her bathing suit danced with colors and her small body swayed happily. "It feels good!" 
"Does it feel safe?" I asked. 
"Yes! I feel safe with Dramma snuggling me!"
"And do you feel like you and the person you love both matter?"
"Daddy matters! He's playing with me because I matter and because it's fun!" 
"Who else do you love? Different from Dramma or Daddy?"
Nevaeh did a jump for joy, "Uncle Dar! I love uncle Dar!" 
"That's a really good one! You love uncle Dar even though he doesn't play or talk in a usual way."
"Because Uncle Dar matters and I matter! And he likes to be on the swings! Wait, grandma! I know something!" She looked at me with such force I almost reached out to hold her but stopped myself. In my dreams, sometimes the attempt at touch wakes me up and I was not ready to wake from this. Neveah continued, "Sometimes when Uncle Dar is cranky Dramma talks to him in a fighting way. But it's because she loves him and wants to help him calm down. It's like they're working together. That's the kind of fighting love can have!" 
We talked a little more about different kind of love. About the crushes she had, the kinds of love we can feel for things like swimming and roller skating, the love we can have for the world. (Gotta love the attention span of my dream granddaughter! Giggle!) 
Just as I felt myself begin to wake - I admit I fought it because it is only in my dreams I can spend this kind of time with my grandchildren who live in California while I live in Quebec - we returned to the love she has for her grampa. 
"So you won't be mad if I keep loving my grampa?"
"Sweet, sweet, sweet Nevaeh," I was able to tell her in the dream, "I want you to keep loving grampa. I love your grampa, just not as my husband. Ian is my love that way. But it isn't because your grampa is not someone to love, it is because Ian is my someone to be in love with. So, yes! Love all the grandpas you want!" 
I could feel my eyelids begin to open, I stayed as long as I could in that world between two worlds, my granddaughter in the pool and Ian in the bed beside me, I wanted him to see Nevaeh and let her know it was okay to love him and my ex-husband. I wanted Nevaeh to see him and know how much he feels like home to me. How comfortable I am being all of me here. I wanted her here. 
When I could no longer keep myself in that space, where I was everywhere at once, I whispered to her, gathering as much love as I had time to gather before the dream was completely unreachable and packing it into that whisper, "I love you, Nevaeh." 
For the next two days I went in and out of that dream. Talking about love with my oldest grandchild. Remembering that as we adults teach our children we are never done learning and shifting and changing ourselves, so we will always have new and different kinds of love to talk about. And to example. 
My son and his wife are struggling to change their situation in order to become better examples for their children; in order to be better (and happier) people themselves. 
At the same time love is evolving, growing stronger or simply different, with everyone else in our family. 
And I had the pleasure of discussing the ever evolving love in our lives with my four year old granddaughter. Yes, it was in a dream. But it is also in my memory. A memory of discussing love with my granddaughter in a dream. 
Which is also a memory of the very real love I have for my granddaughter. 
There are so many kinds of love.
That is something I love. 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!
INVITATION TO PARTY WITH MY FAMILY: Today is my mom's birthday!!! I invite you to join our family party by watching this fun video of mom, my brother Dar, and the great-grandkids playing together. And to make it extraordinarily pertinent to mom on her birthday, which is also World Autism Awareness Day, you get a tip for engaging in play with your autistic loved ones while encouraging social skills. It's a perfect party celebration and I love that you're here with us!