Donald: I had a very nice Thanksgiving. Very quiet and restful. How about you?
Jamie: I had a very good Thanksgiving except I'm having problems with my sister.
So began an intermittent online chat that has continued for six years with Jamie, the adult autistic son of very old and dear friends of mine. Every few weeks or so Jamie will send me a message on Facebook, often just to say hello or wish me the best for a holiday season.
Jamie: Hey, Donald. Happy New Year!
Donald: All the best to you in the next year. Jamie.
I've known Jamie since he was a very young boy. He is now thirty years old but will never grow emotionally or intellectually beyond the confused and fragile state of a young teenager. His life and schedule is as structured as his parents can allow. The TV game shows Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are an absolute must-see every evening they are aired. If his schedule is changed or interrupted he will fly into uncontrollable bouts of anger and tears. His autism affects his life daily, how he processes information, how he perceives the world around him. He has extreme difficulty dealing with other people. He becomes anxious that he is doing or saying the wrong thing. Jamie can never live on his own. He must always be cared for.
Occasionally Jamie will ask to chat about current events.
Jamie: Hi, Donald.
Donald: Hi, Jamie. How are you?
Jamie: Not good today. I'm depressed.
Donald: Oh, no! Why?
Jamie: Whitney Houston went kaput.
Donald: That is very sad.
Jamie: Yeah. I was crying like crazy
Donald: Well, we still have her music, right? That means she'll never really die.
Jamie: Yeah! I never thought of that! Thanks!
And so our chats continued, tiny conversations scattered over the months and years that often brightened my day and my outlook on life.
One evening I received this message;
Jamie: Hey, Donald. Do you think North Korea is really gonna hurt our beloved country?
Donald: I don't think that will happen, Jamie. It's all a lot of bluster between military powers. I think we'll be fine.
Jamie: Okay. I'm sorry. I get scared so easily.
Donald: It's fine, really. These are scary times for all of us.
Jamie: Thanks, Donald!
I immediately messaged his mother, letting her know that Jamie seemed to be unduly worried about events he could neither control nor fully understand. She told me he had been watching the news and reading articles online and was becoming increasingly frightened by world events. I asked her how I could best handle his questions, if more were asked. She reminded me that he is really just a child in many ways and should be treated gently and calmly.
Jamie: Do you suppose Obamacare will still be around?
Donald: I hope something like it gets passed. To many people depend on it.
Jamie: Yeah. I hope so, too.
I now found myself to be an online conduit for my confused and frightened friend.
Jamie: Hey, Donald. Is it true that the stars up in the sky will actually explode in 2022?
Donald: My goodness, Jamie. Where ever did you hear that?
Donald: I think the stars a gonna be around for a very long time, Jaime.
Jamie: I guess YouTube videos were making these things up.
I looked it up myself and discovered that two stars were, indeed, predicted to explode in 2022 but with no more consequence to us than a momentary flash of light in the sky. I told Jaime what I learned.
Jamie: Maybe bright enough for us to see something in the dark?
Donald: Yup, but it will not be the end of the world.
Jaime: I had a feeling you would say that. Thanks, Donald! I guess the end of the world is only a legend and a myth.
Donald: I hope so. I kinda like this old world.
Jamie: Me, too.
Except for a few more short greetings from Jamie the above is the most recent chat we've had.
I hope I'm serving this man well. I hope I'm allaying his fears a little bit. I hope, more than anything, that my words are true, that North Korea will not blast us off the face of the planet, that medical care in America will remain a constant. I hope Whitney Houston's music is forever played. I hope the exploding stars will give us a light show to remember.
I hope Jamie lives a long and happy life, full of music and game shows.