Each and every Thanksgiving, the White House turkey is pardoned and rather than lopping off it's head, the President opts to use his free Giant Turkey coupon after scoring so many Giant Bonus Points and allows this turkey designee to spend it's Golden Years roaming the turkey pen at Mt. Vernon.
A pardon is forgiving someone for an "error" or "offense". And don't you think that most people before pardoning someone, wait to hear the words, "I'm sorry" or "forgive me" or at the very least, "wow, what I did sucked" from the wrongdoer? Does the White House turkey show remorse or apologize for being who he is? He can't help it he was born a turkey. He shouldn't have to apologize for tasting so good next to your stuffing and mashed potatoes, but, if this turkey is being pardoned then surely he must have done something wrong, right?
I can't help but wonder if this lucky bird has to apologize in order to, literally, save his head or is it just assumed he is seeking forgiveness since, after all, he lives in Washington and so many folks living there feel remorseful for their wrongdoings without every uttering an, "I'm sorry" (Bill Clinton aside)? What about all the other turkeys? The turkeys in Idaho and Maine? The middle class turkeys who are equally as guilty of being exactly who they are meant to be, who can't utter an "I'm sorry" and whose address alone will not get them a pardon?
My point is, when Ryan commits an "offense", an "error" or some type of "wrongdoing", getting him to apologize in order to receive a pardon is like getting a turkey to talk. There is some part of autism that grabs hold of Ryan's mouth and clamps it closed and will NOT allow the words, "I'm sorry" to come out. I wholeheartedly believe Ryan feels remorse when he hurts someone....sometimes, but, saying he's sorry is extremely difficult. I don't know if admitting wrongdoing is hard because understanding the social implications of his offense or error is difficult to grasp and he believes what he did was "right", or if somehow in Ryan's mind, uttering the words, "I'm sorry", is relinquishing one of the few forms of control he has in an otherwise chaotic world. The control of being "right".
It could be something as minor as ramming my heels with the grocery cart. After I stop cursing, Ryan may mumble, "You were in the way." or "I didn't do that on purpose.", but, he will not say, "I'm sorry.". Is that enough remorse for a pardon? Then there are bigger errors, like when Ryan slapped his sister's four leaf clover right out of her hand when she was just happily and proudly sharing her good fortune with him because he doesn't "believe in clover bringing good luck". When such an offense caused his sister's heart to fill with sadness and her eyes to fill with tears and he refused to apologize regardless of our "intervention", ok, fine our threats of removing all electronic devices, yet, still no apology, should Ryan be pardoned?
For Ryan, "I'm sorry" is like talking turkey, if he doesn't believe he has committed an offense why should he say something he doesn't mean? We have all been there, the one to "give in", the one to "say it first", but, even if it's like swallowing a turkey bone, we can say the words, "I'm sorry" when we believe it and even when we don't because we know it is either the right thing to do, or the thing that brings peace back into the house.
I believe that 90% of the time Ryan does understand his offense and I believe he is "sorry", but, just like so many other emotions when it comes to autism, how Ryan shows this remorse, looks "different, not less". As Ryan gets older, he is getting wiser. He understands that sometime he has to do and say things that may not feel comfortable for him, but, in order to move on, he may need to feel a little uncomfortable.
Just like the turkey can't help who he is and where his place is in the world, or on your dinner table, people with autism can no more help who they are either. Not showing remorse does not mean they don't feel it. The words "I'm sorry" may not come out of their mouth, but, the White House turkey doesn't say them either and they still get a break. Just like the Presidents of the past and the Presidents for years to come will continue to show compassion to a turkey and pardon said turkey for being who they are, we too must show compassion for people living with autism. We must try to understand and pardon them when they may not be able to find the words I'm sorry when they ram us with a shopping cart, but, can find the exact words to let us know how hideous we look with our latest hair style.
Unlike the Thanksgiving Day turkey, Ryan is remorseful when he has done something wrong and he can sometimes quietly, in a barely audible voice, and typically in a scripted language, say the words, "I'm sorry" even if it feels like someone is pulling his wing off.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I'm not trying to make you feel guilty when you eat your unpardoned turkey, but, I'm asking you to take just a moment to remember that the turkey can't help who he is and he may not have been able to apologize in order to get his pardon, but, that doesn't mean the turkey isn't sorry that today, of all days, he couldn't find the words, "I'm sorry". If I have instilled a little turkey guilt, you might just want to stick with the sweet potatoes, I hear they show no remorse....ever.