The letter you always wanted to write
It has taken me 30-odd years of marriage to realise this, but the clues have always been there. There are the many car journeys where you will drive, and I will spend hours bashing the console and rearranging the door-pocket, in search of a minute noise that I can hardly hear but that is driving you mad.
Or there are the special dinners I cook for you, after which you will say, Not my favourite. At my hurt look, you will add: Well, if I said I liked it, you would only spend hours cooking it again, which wouldnt do either of us much good.
Or darker times, such as when my mum died and you genuinely couldnt understand the depths of grief to which I was dragged. A bewildering, solitary time for us both.
You think babies are incredibly selfish you have a much better relationship with our three children now they are adults. You expect from the dog the kind of intellectual rigour that would secure it a place on University Challenge whereas the children and I know the dog spends most of its time in a state of happy bafflement.
Yet you are clever. You are funny. And I only have to whisper, Oh, my daddy! My daddy! (Robertas scene in the Railway Children) for you to burst into tears. You get up early on icy mornings to defrost my car. If I have to drive anywhere complicated, you set my satnav and ensure I have change for the car park.
(Though I vividly recall, early in our relationship, when I had to drive a long distance, solo, you leaning in the car window a look of deep concern on your face saying, Drive carefully! Touched, I assured you I would, as you continued, Because you will stress the engine if you use the wrong gear.)
I should have clocked what was going on earlier. The big clues have always been when we sit together on the sofa in the evenings, me curled up with a book, you watching some spy drama on TV. And we frequently have the following conversation:
You: Why did he just say that?
Me: Im not watching. Im reading.
Pause. What did she just hand over to him?
I have no idea.
Sometimes, for the sake of peace, Ill randomly reply along the lines of, Because his cousins horse was sold to him by the German ambassadors mistress, who had shot the man with the bad haircut on Brighton Pavilion after hed discovered his wife was a lesbian. To which youll reply, with interest, A lesbian?
Other times, Ill counter with, What did it say in that paragraph Ive just read? Whereupon you will look at me as if Ive gone bonkers.
Then you did that online test, and came out with pretty startling marks that indicated autism. Suddenly, your world made sense to me. We talked about it about the fact that, sometimes, you think all minds are like yours, that yours is the one way of doing things, that if you feel something, then so does everyone else.
Maybe one day you will want to investigate this further even though you have spent your whole life not investigating it further. Maybe.
In the meantime, I want to say: I understand that you dont always understand. I know that small noises genuinely drive you mad. I know that if I spend ages doing something for you, you will still be searingly honest about the result. I know we have had our ups and downs but that, generally, these have blissfully passed you by.
I also know that I have never had to defrost my car in the morning. And I want you to know I appreciate that as a sincere and genuine act of love. Thank you. It means the world to me.
Wed love to hear your stories
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