A Home for Jonathan

by Terry Burlingame

My son, Jonathan, is 43 years old, severely impaired with autism and non-verbal. My wife, Barbara, and I wonder what he thinks, how he feels and if he is hurting, happy or sad. Over the years we have learned to discern some of his thoughts and feelings from his expressions, yet sometimes we just don’t know.

To leave Jonathan under the care of others always comes with emotions and questions.

Will they understand him?
Will they be kind and sensitive to his needs?
Will they be patient when he demonstrates frustration?
Will they provide loving care for him?
If something were to happen to us as his parents, is he with someone who will provide and care for him as if we were there?

Sometimes these questions go unanswered. Sometimes there are no answers.

Knowing Jonathan’s autism impacts every hour of his every day—paired with his obsessive, compulsive actions—can make for very challenging days. Some days are difficult as Jonathan and others try to help him control his expressed emotions without an understanding of what is happening within him. Sometimes his idiosyncrasies are unnoticed as the sweet, helpful and compliant side of Jonathan comes to the forefront.  Though we would like to call him on the phone and ask how his day is going, we have to rely upon the responses of others who speak for him.

One of the things we are confident of is Jonathan’s eagerness to come back to his “home.” After Jonathan visits us and we mention to him that it’s time to go back, he eagerly puts on his shoes and gets in the car. Though he may be “sober-faced” on the 12-minute ride back to David’s House, he begins to smile as soon as we turn onto Banner Drive. Parking in front of House 4, he is quickly out of the car and eagerly walking toward his “home.”

Though we may not know what Jonathan is thinking, we are ever-thankful for his willingness to return to David’s House. Along with this, we are ever-thankful for the staff at David’s House and their loving care and kindness shown to our son—whether he is having one of his more “difficult” days or one of his “good” days.

David’s House has become Jonathan’s home, and we are confident this is a good place for him to be.

Terry Burlingame is a professional counselor, former pastor and former Army chaplain. Terry serves as Secretary on David’s House Ministries’ Board of Directors.

Read Terry and Barbara’s moving poem for their son here.