I know what I miss the most, the silliness, the laughter and love filling the house. Instead, if there is a moment of play with Chico, it is instantly followed by the stark awareness that the echo of another’s laughter will not bounce into the space. That the light-hearted moments that bring laughter into life, heart and home are on hold.

People are reluctant to visit, they miss the presence of my advice giving wife. They will come in briefly and leave with awkward kindness. There are exceptions, people who will share a meal, sit on the deck, cuddle the dog. When laughter comes out of joy, it is healing of heart, mending of relationships and caressing of the soul.

Many years ago, a friend stayed with us and was astounded by how natural and authentic both Jane and I were, in our home and with each other. Part of that authenticity was lots of silliness. Jane used humour to educate and share her skills and knowledge and I use, or rather used to use, silliness to de-stress, to bring some joy and laughter to both of us. When we were dating, Jane said jokingly that she didn’t like giggly ‘girts’, then kissed me and said that she loved me. We shared a love of learning, knowledge and trying to make the world a better place, which can be heartbreaking and hard. And we shared laughs and giggles, silly dances and singing to manage that heartbreak.

Now the heartbreak is mine alone, though shared with others who have loved and lost. The laughs stop short of real and have no power to heal. People think that kindness is only gentle and fleeting, but it sometimes needs to be intense and filled with laughter.

I don’t understand many people’s jokes. My autism brings with it some interesting communication difficulties that are not easily visible and often misunderstood. Much like my inability to get most people’s humour, learning as a child to laugh when the people around laughed. As a young adult, I discovered that some people got me and I understood them, I could laugh with them, not behind them.

Jane similarly found her tribe eventually, found her home, where her heart could be heavy or light and she was still understood and loved, and cajoled into laughing and dancing or singing. We were a tribe of three, though we teased our son that he was only number two or three son (depending on how many dogs we had), and he had left home leaving just the fur kid and us.

Jane bought the tiny fur kid a t-shirt with ‘security dog’ written on and joked about his security dog skills. Currently, he doesn’t even need the t-shirt to be a guard dog. Jane would be so proud. He springs around the park like a weird rabbit, which brings me a smile. When Jane was really ill and couldn’t work, she grew fond of the tiny dog. He made her smile when she was struggling, just like he does for me now.

As she got better, she would play with him, just as I do now, and small giggles of joy would erupt, then be echoed back as my heart filled with joy, seeing Jane laughing and leaping around with Chico. Take those minute moments of everyday happiness and really be present for them, for when they are gone, if you were not present, your memories will be lesser, and your life less rich that it could have been.