Autism Today

The Art of Cruel Apathy

My daughter is an amazing person.

She has overcome so much, and for those who think it cruel to have implemented a behavioral program for her, even though she could not speak or understand the world around her, well, this post is not for you.

As I have written in the past, my daughter is my hero. I’ve tried to do what was best for her, and I messed up a few times along the way, but she is now and has always been a delight. I feel privileged to know her, and to those who have never taken the time to know her, namely her family, have not only missed out, but they’ve also shown themselves to be the heartless people I always suspected they were.

This cruel act originates from those who are aware of her existence. I’m not talking about innuendo, whispers, or even insults. That would require others to take the time to know her, which would require communication.

No, this form of cruelty is insidious. It’s also easy. It requires no effort, no mental exertion on the apathetic—or should I say pathetic?—individuals who practice their indifference every day.

Take the brother—along with his wife—of my daughter’s father (and we’ll get to him in a moment). They live in another state and were never ones to take an interest in her, and after many years of their silence, I finally emailed them. I reminded them of their arrogance toward me years ago and wondered if they ever thought about their niece. They believe because they receive periodic updates of my daughter from a third party that they do, indeed, take an interest in her.

Their communication has improved slightly since then.

My husband’s family, namely his grown children, are experts in the art of cruel apathy.

In the last 16 years, I can count on two hands the number of times they have reached out. Since our return to this state (4 years ago), none of his children have expressed interest in visiting with her. One has extended invitations to events, but since other toxic members of that family would also be there, we have passed. My husband has tried to encourage visits, but to no avail. I have long ago decided I would not want my daughter to associate with such people, but I wonder what it would have been like if they had taken an interest in their stepsister.

I’ve arrived at perhaps the most grievous individual whose long-term cruelty has morphed into something unimaginable.

Her father always put his work above all else. Always. From not wanting to drive our newborn daughter and me home from the hospital because of an “important” meeting to refusing to stay home when I was sick—I could barely move—and by pulling a lounge chair into the kitchen so that I could supervise my daughter, who was about three years old, in “comfort,” he made it clear we were secondary.

Of course, I should have known this would become my reality when I found an envelope with his will, stating everything he owned would go to his best friend. And, no, that wasn’t me. The reason for the note? I had become pregnant.

After our divorce, I had high hopes he would want to keep in contact with his daughter. He did—approximately once every three weeks or so he would have dinner with her. About an hour of his time.

Throughout the time we lived in a number of different states, he managed to talk with her in the time it took to cook a five-minute egg. And that was every two weeks or so.

Since our return, he has visited with her a handful of times. The pandemic, of course, curtailed the in-person contact, yet he has visited with her once in the last year and a half. Telephone calls occur perhaps once every three weeks or so and last five minutes or less.

Within the last six months, he has become more indifferent than I thought possible. Before, he would send my daughter periodic gift cards so she could buy her favorite books. Since then, even though he makes more money than ever, he has offered her nothing. My daughter will call him, and he might return the phone call days later—or he might not. And work is always the excuse as to why he must hang up after five minutes—if he even does return the phone call. My daughter has done many things that she has not bothered to tell him about because he’s always in a rush to get off the phone. He doesn’t know her anymore, and he doesn’t seem to care.

When my daughter makes excuses for him, my heart breaks. It breaks because so many people who could have made a difference in her life have instead ignored her.

And just recently she donned a Halloween costume for a child’s group where she works. Not one person commented on the costume. No one could be bothered to utter a few encouraging words that would have made her day. She was bothered by it, and when I posted her picture with her in costume on Twitter, I was happy that my two dearest friends, plus other caring folks, either replied or liked the post. It made her happy, which made me happy, that people had responded kindly.

I am proud that she has had a string of wonderful jobs, received a certificate from Nashville State Community College, and has taken classes to become a Microsoft specialist. She has worked with people who have treated her wonderfully, and I am grateful for that.

My daughter has been disregarded for years by people who should know better—and who should actually know her better.

Is it because her familial units are comprised of heartless people? Do they think her autism prevents her from feeling badly about their cruelty? These same people would be devastated (and angry) if the cruelness were directed toward them or a member of their family.

Whatever their reasons, I’ve finally come to the conclusion they don’t deserve to know her.

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