There is the grab a bottle of wine friend who helps you connect with Denial when you want to shut it all out and drown your problems with wine, cheese, chocolate and idle chit chat. There is the friend who takes that bottle of wine and beats you over the head with it and tells you to "suck it up" and helps you put your big girl pants on while silmutaneously dragging you kicking and screaming into your wine free reality. There is the friend who makes things happen and gets things done when you don't, when you can't, when you won't. Then there is the friend who just knows, who gets it, who gets you. The friend whose soul is so similar to your own that you are convinced you most assuredly were friends, if not sisters, in another lifetime. The friend you share a quiet connection with, a deep rooted bond based on hearts and minds that are so alike. The friend who hears what you don't say.
All of these friends matter. All of these friends are needed. All of these friends hear you. All of these friends play a vital role in who and what you are, but, the friend who understands from just a look, a gesture, or what you don't say, sometimes hears your silence the loudest.
As I stared at my sign, that hangs on my most favorite place in the world, my beloved back porch, where I spend many summer days and nights, I couldn't help but compare this unique, wordless bond I share with my friend to the quiet bond I share with Ryan. Of course Ryan would never call me his "friend" let alone his "best friend" because, well, I'm just Mom, but, my connection with Ryan is equally unique, and just like my friend and I, sometimes I can hear Ryan without him saying a word.
With Ryan, there also is no, "Hey Mom, how are you? How was your day?" coming from his mouth. That is not to say he doesn't care about me or my day, but, autism makes that social back and forth exchange difficult for him, so it's easier not to ask. Not asking, does not equal not caring.
As I sat swaying back and forth on my porch swing, recognizing the parallels between my friendship with my girlfriend and my relationship with my son, I couldn't help but smile. In that moment I realized that most of the time, even through the silence, I hear what Ryan doesn't say.
And although Ryan may not directly ask me about my day, when he catches me silently crying, he will snuggle close and even though he does not utter a word, I can feel his "I'm sorry you're sad mom" in his knock me down hug. I can see Ryan's compassion and his sympathy for my sorrow when a tear or two falls to match my own. I can hear his joy when he laughs with me even if he has no idea what I am laughing about. Yes, Ryan hears what I don't say too.
So, just like with my bestie, I have that quiet, unspoken connection with Ryan too. And I know he has that quiet connection with me. Ryan shares his life, his joy, his accomplishments, and his heartache with me. I just have to see it, I have to feel it, and I have to hear it, even when he says nothing at all.
As I relax on my back porch swing, wine in hand listening to the crickets and the sound of Ryan scripting the latest Minecraft Youtuber coming from his bathroom window, I look at the sign and smile. "Best friends hear what you don't say..." helps me to remember that although Ryan will never refer to me as his "best friend", I will always hear him. Even as my little boy slowly morphs into a full fledged, silent, brooding teenager, in those moments where I worry he is slipping away from me, if I listen closely, I can still hear what he doesn't say.
Autism sometimes makes it hard to hear Ryan. His silence can be offputting or confusing. This silence makes finding a connection with a friend hard. Ryan may not have a friend who will stop by with a 2 liter bottle of soda and some idle chit chat (chances are he wouldn't even let them in the house if he knew "chit chat" was on the agenda), Ryan may not have a friend who tells him to "suck it up and put on his big girl pants" (Suck what up? And why would I wear girls clothing?) and face what lies ahead, but, if Ryan finds one friend who sees him, who feels him and who hears him when he doesn't say a word, I believe they will both be happy, secure and comfortable in their silence.
In a world that is busy, loud and full of noise, sometimes a best friend (or a mom) really can hear you without any words spoken, without any connection from your mouth to their ears. All anyone needs is a connection to your heart and they will always be able to hear what you don't say.