When You Have to Say Goodbye

Patricia Leonard-Toomey

“Goodbye Granddad’s house.
It is me, Devon
I am really going to miss you.”
So began the end of an era.
My Mother passed away suddenly eleven years ago.
My Father passed away quite suddenly after excessive shoveling during the winter storms of 2015.
Nothing has been the same since then. For those of you who have been around for a while, and remember some of the discussions on whether or not people with ASD exhibit grief and understand when someone has died and they will not see them again, please let me put in my two cents. In my house, the grieving process for two of the most important people in Devon’s life carries on to this day. There are weekly discussions about whether or not my mother and father will “come back” for Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Devon’s birthday. There are episodes of crying because she misses them so much. As difficult as it is to hear how upset she is about this loss, I think it is wonderful that she is able to express herself so clearly and we can talk about all of the good memories we have and how much she and her sister meant to them.
And now for the house. There are only two places in the world that Devon has felt truly comfortable and less anxious. When she is at our home with her family and all of her “things,” and when she was at my parent’s house. It has never really been just a place we would visit; it has been more of a second home. We have never had Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthday parties, Graduation Parties, etc. anywhere else. Their home was a more central location, could accommodate more people, and it was just a wonderful place to be. For almost all of Devon’s life, we would go there every Saturday to see Nini and Granddad. This was her place, and these were certainly her people.
After my father died, my sister, brother and I were able to have the house updated before we put it on the market for sale. The changes inside were pretty substantial. When we took Devon for what would turn out to be her last visit to Quincy, she initially refused to go past the front hall because she said this was not Granddad’s house, this house was broken. She sat on the front porch for most of the afternoon. It is a great front porch and she always enjoyed sitting there.
When I was finally able to get her into the house, we went upstairs to see the bedrooms and that was when she told the house she would miss it. This was what I had been dreading all along. This was not just the fact that now my parents were gone, or that the house would go on the market and we would no longer be able to visit. This is a total change of a way of life. This means that our options are now more limited than they were before. If you only have two places where you are comfortable, and one is gone, there is no way that could be considered a good thing. I am certain that some people would be able to adapt and make new opportunities. Life is not that easy for us, and I struggle to see this as a way to create new memories. The old memories were working.
We closed on the house September 29th. It is no longer our family home.
I am concerned about Thanksgiving. This will be the first real test of how the rest of our lives will go. It will be interesting.
Goodbye Nini and Granddad’s house. We will all miss you, forever and ever.

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