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Autism: Far From Home

05 Feb

I am nearly 40 years old, and it was my choice to move away nearly 16 years ago. I don’t see the future well, and had no concept that I would not be able to visit often, or that I would miss her that much – but I do. I miss my mom.

As is true for everyone, she had to prioritize where she is needed, and my brothers need her more. I know this. It has often been the case, or at least it appears that way. It isn’t that I don’t need her, too, but… they didn’t move away. I did. I made that choice long ago, and now I have to live with it.

True, I am home and struggling, but I also have one brother who has never been able to live on his own, and another who’s wife is very sick, and unable to move – with three young children to care for. I need her, but they need her more, and she can’t be in two places at once. My fault. I moved away. But I miss her.

Children shouldn’t grow up without their mother. I have believed that my entire life. For my fifth birthday, my parents and one of my aunts took me to see The Fox and the Hound in the movie theatres. At the beginning of the movie, the fox’s mother is shot, and I wailed. I cried through the whole thing, and they had to take me out of the theatre. No one should have to grow up without their mom. That was my thought.

But I am not a child now. Frequently I still feel like a child, completely unprepared for life as an adult. Sometimes I wish I were a child – when I still believed that even though things were really bad, they had to get better someday. But no matter how much I wish, feel, or even act like a child, I am not. So I have no real claim to my mother’s time.

She used to fly in to visit us. I bought the tickets, but she made the time, and she would come to help me with my children. She would stay for about 6 weeks at a time, and visit us twice a year. It wasn’t a lot, but I really appreciated the time. Then my kids were taken, and she hasn’t been back since.

Five years later, I was finally able to get the time, money, and courage to fly home for my mother’s 60th birthday. We had a wonderful, but exhausting 3 weeks together, while I helped her to take care of my niece and nephews, and to clean my older brother’s house. Leaving was painful, but though it hadn’t been possible before, I left believing it wouldn’t be too hard to get back there each year. I had a job, and they let me have the time off that fall, why wouldn’t they do it again?

Only by the next summer, I was taken off of work, and put on disability. Once again it seems impossible to return for a visit – and even if she could get the time away (my sister in law’s disability became much more debilitating in the years after my children were taken) neither of us has the money now to afford it.

And though as an adult I can understand the reasoning behind how we ended up so far apart, and why it is so difficult to get together, the child in me still feels lost, and confused, and perhaps even abandoned – even knowing it was my choice, and my fault – much like I felt the first time I remember having to be away from her.

She was pregnant with my brother, and needed a break before he was born. I remember the explanation, but it didn’t remove my fears. As is true of many of my earliest memories, I don’t remember how I got there, and I don’t remember leaving. Like a snapshot, I see my mother in front of me, the cabin she was going to stay in, and I see that she was sitting down. It may have been a bed, or a couch, it doesn’t really matter. What my three year old self took from this was that she was staying there, and I was not, and I did not understand.

As a stay at home mom, she wasn’t often away from my older brother and I. She may have left us with babysitters before this day, but as it stands out so significantly in my mind, I imagine it must have been the longest we had been apart up until this point in my life. It certainly wasn’t what I wanted, so I couldn’t understand why she did.

We must have gone home with my father, and at that time in my life, I do not remember any strong fears of being with him. My anxiety was entirely caught up in the fact that I was going to be away from her. As far as I was concerned, that in itself was a tragedy.

And that is where the memory ends. She was sitting, and I was standing looking at her, and I was being told that she needed a break before the baby was born. I felt abandoned, afraid, and confused.

Every child should have a mother. But that need doesn’t end as we grow older. I still need my mother, and so often I wish I had never moved so far away.

 

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