My father was a classic example of Asperger's. My oldest son has high-functioning autism - essentially Asperger's. My father wasn't emotionally absent, and neither is my son. My father didn't withhold affection, and neither does my son. My father wanted to hug and tickle. He wasn't aware of when he was being too rough. He couldn't read my cues to back off, or to stop. My son is the same way. He wants to hug and cuddle and jump on me, but isn't able to tell when I've had too much and need him to back off. I have to repeat myself several times, and sometimes yell, so that he will hear and understand me. My father loved me. So does my son.
My father wasn't able to understand when I needed supportive words or comfort. He was very logic-minded. That's how he made sense of the world. But the world was often overwhelming, and he would lose his temper or shut down. My son has the same difficulty.
While trying to understand my son and what he goes through every day, why he acts the ways that he does, I've been able to finally understand my father. My father has been dead since 1998, so that understanding doesn't do him any good. But it has helped me. I have to take my son to occupational therapy twice a week, and it's still not enough to meet his needs. He's in a social skills group. We're looking into regular therapy and speech therapy for him as well. He's on supplements and digestive enzymes. And I organize my days around what he can deal with. I can do all of this because I can understand what my son is experiencing, and I can learn from what various doctors have discovered. My grandmother didn't have the same knowledge to use with her oldest son, my father. My father didn't go to therapies. He didn't have extra help for the areas he struggled with. He became an alcoholic. He suffered from depression and schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. He had OCD- hoarder's. He ended up in a group home as an adult.
Having a diagnosis for my son, and understanding the family history of mental illness, puts me in a good position to help my children in ways that my grandmother couldn't help hers. I was angry with my father for a very, very long time for behaviors that I thought he chose, or could have prevented. I now know that being angry with my father for his Asperger's and mental illnesses and how they affected his behavior would be like being angry with someone for having no legs and not being able to walk. I see my father in my son, and am able to forgive and understand. I just need to forgive myself now. And I need to do right by my son, and hope he is able to succeed.