Katie is Joe’s only daughter. Before she was born, Marilyn and Joe had three boys, then two miscarriages, and finally Katie. She is the undisputed princess of the family.
You won’t find a more devoted father. Joe is a great dad to all his kids, but Katie is special. She has a generous heart, an even temper, and an upbeat personality. There’s no one who doesn’t love Katie after spending even five minutes in her company.
That’s why Joe was completely bewildered when his “little girl” fell in love with Doug.
The first time Doug came home with Katie for a weekend, was when the entire family got together to throw a retirement party for Joe. He and Marilyn were finally ready to enjoy a new season in their life. One where they could take it easy, enjoy their hobbies and spend time with their kids and grandkids.
When Katie introduced Doug to her brothers and sister-in-laws, it was a lukewarm reception by all the parties. Her nieces and nephews called Doug “creepy”, Grandma Mary forgot her manners and gave a disapproving scowl, Marilyn was reserved and Joe was deeply disappointed.
Doug is quiet. Silent is more accurate. He doesn’t speak comfortably and it is so painful to hold even a brief conversation with him that most everyone gives up after receiving a few forced syllables.
Katie’s boyfriend has even less than that going for him: He is not good looking. Next to Katie whose star shines so brightly, Doug is duller than dull. He has zero sense of style and dresses like a blind man raided a Goodwill.
So the whirlwind weekend continued with Doug being invisible to nearly all of the family – except for Katie.
It was obvious to everyone Katie adored her new boyfriend. She gave Doug long loving looks, they held quiet intimate conversations, he made her laugh.
Joe was the one watching most closely. He was baffled by the connection. He thought he knew his princess so well, and Doug was not the Prince Charming he expected to capture his daughter’s heart.
The retirement weekend came and went. Everyone went back to their own lives until the next reason for a family get-together: Thanksgiving 2012.
The football games, the big meal, the happy camaraderie. Katie back in the family circle, Doug by her side.
Joe went out of his way to be friendly to Doug, but Doug wasn’t having it. He wouldn’t hang out with the menfolk and stuck to quiet corners whenever Katie was out of sight. He was a fish out of water.
“There is something odd about Katie’s young man” Joe kept saying to Marilyn. And Marilyn always nodded in agreement.
Joe had time on his hands since his retirement and he decided to visit Katie in Kansas City where she lived with Doug. He was hoping for some one on one time with his daughter.
Joe and Katie met for lunch and they talked. “Tell me about Doug” Joe said.
Katie told him about his kindness. His gentle manner. How, when he listened to her speak she feels heard.
“He pays attention to me. He gets me. He brings out the best in me.”
In a typically fatherly way, Joe asked whether Doug is a good provider. Does he have a good job, does he contribute financially to a shared household budget?
Katie bowed her head and was quiet for a very long time. “Dad,” she said, “there’s something you should know about Doug.”
She raised her head to speak.
“Doug is on the spectrum. He has autism. The qualities I love about him are the very same qualities that come along with his being autistic. He is not very verbal, and when he is, it’s with pure honesty – he only speaks to get to a point or to make a point.”
She continued. “Doug has immovable focus. He cannot be distracted in his attention to me and to his work. He is a genius in both.”
Katie was speaking passionately.
“Daddy, I know with absolute certainty, God sent Doug to me and me alone. Doug is my destiny, and I am his. because I am chosen to be the object of Doug’s love.”
Joe wiped the tears from his eyes. He presumed a much different explanation for Doug’s unusual personality. He was ashamed for jumping to conclusions.
“And Daddy, you are sweet to worry about our finances, but there’s no cause. Doug’s keen focus is greatly rewarded in the workplace. He is a statistician and he has a very good job.”
With all of Joe’s fatherly questions answered, he was ready to enjoy his visit and spend quality time with his daughter and her boyfriend in a setting much better suited for Doug’s comfort.
It turns out loving Doug is easy once you understand how, and being loved by Doug, is indeed as Katie described, a gift from God.