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Autism: Age Is Just A Number

My husband is twenty four years older than me. Twenty four. He was born the same year as my father – though my father died of cancer just as we started dating (so they were never really the same age.) Age is an abstract concept, much like time and distance. One of those things that when I am pretending to be ‘normal’ I also pretend to understand, though in actual fact I do not understand. These things are too abstract for me.

So while we were dating there were a lot of people who disapproved of our relationship. “She just wants someone to marry,” they would say – or, “One day she will wake up and realize this isn’t what she wanted.” But age is a number; an abstract concept. It isn’t a thought I can hold in my mind long enough to matter.

The difference in our ages only registers in my mind when I think about things like how we couldn’t have children, or when I was considering his retirement and panicking at the thought that being the income earner would be my responsibility (and I can’t even support myself, let alone my family.) But then I know people who married people their own age and couldn’t have children, or one was unable to work due to health issues or something. These issues aren’t exclusive to us with the age gap.

There was a time in our marriage that it did seem to register – but that was when I felt we were failing the children we were trying to adopt. We had been asked to adopt their younger brother as well. I wanted to, my husband didn’t, and I felt a failure as their mother. The thought came strong in my mind that if my husband had been my father, perhaps I wouldn’t fail my children.

That thought did a lot of damage in my mind and in my marriage – yet I couldn’t shake it. My husband was a ‘good’ husband. He would have made a ‘good’ father – much better than mine was; in the things that broke me anyway. But if my husband was my father… well, like I said, that thought did a lot of damage.

Probably I was seeking a ‘good’ father in my relationship with my husband – but that had nothing to do with his age. That question comes through my mind often with men that I… almost trust and feel safe with: “If I were a child, would you adopt me?” Would I be too much? Would you want me?

Forget the ‘adult’ relationship that people assume I am seeking when I am drawn to a man – what I am begging to know is if they would want me, accept me, love me – but as a child, not an adult. And that is as true of men my age as it is of men so much older than I am. It isn’t an age thing; it is a trauma thing, I guess.

However that wasn’t what I was thinking when I started dating my husband. I did want to be married. I did want a father for my son. I did want more children, and a family. I wanted those things. I imagine most people do want such things when they get involved in serious relationships.

I had never dated anyone much older than me before him – but as I said, age was just a number; an abstract concept I could not hold on to long enough for it to matter. He felt safe. He felt comfortable. When I went out with him and couldn’t talk (which was a lot of the time) he didn’t seem bothered by it. That is why I stayed with him.

It wasn’t until I started to feel I was failing my children that it even crossed my mind as an issue – and even then I am sure the thought of “if I had a good father…” would have done as much damage to a marriage to someone my age as it did with my husband – for my grip on the difference between fantasy and reality is not very strong, and I know that the thought “if my husband had been my father,” would cause me as much struggle with someone my age.

For the relationship of a husband has to be different than the relationship of a father. It has to. So the challenge to my marriage – contrary to popular belief before we were married – is not age, but is in my trauma, in my fixation on whether a ‘good’ man would have wanted to be my father, and my inability to separate that from my need to be in a safe and accepting marriage.

Age itself is just a number.

Easter 2015

 

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Autism: Crates and Pens

Well, there we were; three days before my husband’s vacation started, and I was feeling particularly bad. Though I was thankful at first he understood why I thought I couldn’t go – I was also emotionally struggling with the fact that he didn’t seem to care, and didn’t seem to be trying to find a solution. Suddenly I really did want to go (mainly because I had found out his sister wouldn’t likely be able to come into town to visit; and we don’t see her often since she lives kind of far; and she has health issues; and…)

I had spent most of the morning picking cherries off our backyard cherry tree. It is north of our carport, in probably the worst possible location for it. It is loaded with cherries, but they tend to be quite wormy. After harvesting, I took them inside, and spent most of the afternoon cutting and pitting them, and removing worms. Gross.

And then the phone rang.

It was my husband. He works at the thrift store, and right before he phoned, a large metal dog crate had been dropped off. “It is 4′ x 2.5’” he told me. Did I want it?

Now, that isn’t huge, but my dogs are small. A crate with a roof meant that I could take my dogs camping, and still keep them safe from eagles, osprey, and owls that might like to eat them. It would also keep them from chasing all the people, bikes, cars, dogs, cows! And other animals they saw – so keeping them and others safe.

The phone call was brief, yet it changed all of my plans – and I was very happy!

Yet I still wasn’t sure my husband wanted me to go with him. “So we can come with you?” I asked when he brought it home. Yet his response (while admittedly it might have meant nothing of the sort) didn’t confirm to me that he was thrilled with the prospect.

Still I carried on packing.

That evening, neighbours came by. I had the crate set up (to ensure I could) and they offered the use of their hex pen as well. The hex pen was the same height as the crate (3′) and had 8 2′ sections with a door in one. Perfect!

I guess that my husband saw my excitement at that point in the idea of being able to go up to the lake – and whether it was something he wanted, or didn’t, he did accept it then.

Still I worried. I don’t want to be where I am not wanted, yet… I really do want my husband to want me there. I really do want my husband to love me. And as I packed, I was not convinced. I suppose I should be one way or another – but my husband and I were… thrown onto different wavelengths when our children were moved. I guess that is the best way to describe it. Sometimes I really believe he wants me around. The rest? I guess I am convinced he wishes we never met. I suppose it is the same for him.

We did end up going camping. We did end up having a good time. And for the most part? He seemed happy to have us there with him.

July 2017 015

 

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Autism: Apologies

There is this thought that continues to creep into my mind that I don’t love my husband as I should. Perhaps that isn’t the best way to put it, as once written, I suddenly get a picture in my mind of shocked responses from the people who are reading it. I do love my husband. I even like my husband. But I still don’t think I love him as I should.

Easter 2015

The thought grew stronger after I had written my post about wet gloves. Though all I wrote was true, and reflected accurately my experience of the situation, it wasn’t… edifying is the word that comes to mind – towards him.

So I had this constant though in my mind that I should revise the wording of that post. I went away camping for a week, and all the time fully intended to alter it when I got back home, before its scheduled release the following Monday. When I got home, however, I re-read the post and concluded that it was an accurate portrayal of my experience, and to alter it would be… almost a lie. I couldn’t do that.

While I don’t think my response to the situation – though admittedly much more intense than other people might have responded – requires my apology (I stick to what I wrote, and what I felt about that) I do believe I need to apologize for the way he came across – not only in my post, but in my thoughts as well.

It is difficult for people to understand struggles outside of their experiences. It is difficult for people to be able to consider how what they do might strongly affect another person. Especially in terms of such things that most people don’t have strong reactions to – such as heightened sensory issues, or even allergies.

For instance, I have a severe egg allergy. Every year when I go camping, and other people are around, the others seem to have a really difficult time understanding the allergy. They want eggs for breakfast. Pancakes are cooking on the grill. They want to add eggs to a different section of the grill. They don’t understand why I ask them to wait until my food is finished cooking before they add theirs. It isn’t that they are meaning to hurt me, but that they honestly can’t see why this is a problem.

It is the same with wet rubber gloves. Most people do not have sensory issues to the extreme where a bit of water accidentally dripped inside of rubber gloves will cause a full meltdown. It isn’t that when such things happen people are intentionally doing something to hurt me. I know this. It still hurts, but I know it isn’t on purpose.

So when I wrote, I wrote from my experience. My sensory issues cause me pain. Real pain. So it possibly comes across as the person who caused me that pain maybe should have known better. Maybe should have understood. It isn’t… edifying.

The thought continues to come through my head that I don’t love my husband as I should. So how should I love my husband?

Unconditionally.

Yet unconditional love is hard. Really hard. Nearly impossible for an easily hurt, easily offended sinner such as I am. In fact, for all relationships I have had, there is only one person I can think of that I have even come close for – and that is my son.

When my son does something that upsets me; or does things I wish he wouldn’t; or does something that hurts me, or someone else, or himself; or takes the wrong path, or… in that moment what I want most for him is that he overcomes the issue and does better next time. What I feel is a strong desire to reconcile that drowns out all thoughts of pain, or hurt, or anything negative. “See what you have done. Overcome it. Let it go.”

I think everyone should be love like that. I think that is the love my husband should have from me. So I pray, “Please Lord, teach me to love my husband as I love my son.” And I say to my husband, “I am sorry for not loving you like I should. Please be patient with me. God isn’t finished with me yet.”

 

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Autism: Time Flies

Well… I didn’t do so well, and that is the truth. I pushed myself, and tried, and tried again, and failed.

At least when I gave up, I was still a week ahead of ‘the end.’ They may not have been my best posts, either – since thinking wasn’t an easy thing during that time. They may not have been my best, but I do know I did my best. I guess that is supposed to help me feel better knowing that or something, but… it just is. A failure is a failure, and while I am pretty good at giving grace to others who tried (even if they failed) I am not so good at giving the same to myself.

Well the time is over, and things return to ‘normal’ I suppose. So I will try again to write, and I will try to get ahead again – and since I am mostly alone, I guess that will work.

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Those were probably some of the fastest eight weeks I have ever experienced. It seemed so long at first, but…

Today we dropped my mom off at the airport. A little over an hour to the airport. A little over an hour back. And as I sit typing, my mom begins the 5 hour layover in Calgary. I know she made it there. 40 minutes ago. I know. I checked the flight status.

When we booked the flight, the layover was supposed to be less, and the entire flight was supposed to be earlier. But then it changed. And it changed again. And just when we thought we knew what was going on, we reached the check in kiosks and found her second flight was delayed again. I believe she was supposed to reach Ontario mid-afternoon when we first booked the flight, but now she won’t get there until after 2am!

Well, it is only a day – and we had eight weeks.

I am thankful for those eight weeks. I really am. But… like all good things, it ended too soon.

And once again I look around and wonder how I got here – and why I ever believed it was a good idea to move so far from home. And my mind can’t seem to understand. Was she really here, or was it just a dream? And if it wasn’t a dream, how is it possible she is gone now?

Time and distance. Two abstract concepts I have all but given up trying to understand, for they are well beyond me.

 

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Autism: Dirty Lazy Slob

It isn’t just him. In fact, there is only one person in the world that this doesn’t happen with, and that is my son. The thing is, though, that since we have been married for 13 years, I would have hoped this would have worn off by now… but it hasn’t. Obviously, it hasn’t.

I suppose the only way for me to be fully comfortable with a person is for me to have them constantly in my life from their infancy. There seems to be no other way around it. Had he gone to school, I am most certain I wouldn’t have been comfortable with my son, either.

I knew that from the time I was young, and that is the reason I wanted children so bad: because I couldn’t get close enough, or feel safe enough with people any other way. Only to reach that point in a relationship takes a lot of years, and likely too much attention on my part – and not enough socializing for them, I guess. Likely not a great situation for most children, though my son would not have accepted things any other way (I suppose because he is Autistic as well, and refused school and other places where he was away from home, with many other children, or otherwise uncomfortable.)

When I first left home, I lived with room mates – a friend, and my son’s father to be exact. Since none of us worked or went to school during that time, we were pretty much always together. Of course, that meant shared housework, and for my part, I couldn’t… I just couldn’t. They believed I was… “dirty” was the word they used, only we all knew I didn’t like the mess, and was very particular about cleanliness… “lazy,”is the other word and they likely believed it; and I believed them.

For years I believed this about myself; that I was a dirty, lazy, slob. The thing was that I hated the mess, the clutter, the things left undone. I HATED it! But rather than be able to clean due to that hatred, the environment drained me; so then I felt lazy, which reinforced what they were telling me.

And then I lived on my own, and suddenly for the most part, my home was clean; and I was the one cleaning it! Yes I was tired, and yes sometimes things were untidy (by that point I had a 1 year old to care for) but things were getting done… until depression hit, that was. I just couldn’t overcome the exhaustion of depression to keep up with more than caring for my son. The housework was just too much. Once again they labeled me: “Lazy,” “doesn’t care,” “dirty.”

Yet still I hated the mess, I just couldn’t overcome it. Once more, the environment drained me. Yet their labels stuck in my head, and though I fought them, I still believed them.

Until I overcome the depression (which returns in cycles that can last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of years depending on the situation that set it off) and once more my house was clean, and I was cleaning it… all by myself.

For years I ran a daycare, and had my foster children, and my house was clean… but the thing was that when adults were around (or even older children and teens) I still couldn’t clean. I couldn’t cook, I couldn’t tidy, I could hardly move.

Though it has been 23 years since I first left home, I now know that if I were in that situation again – the one where people were around me all the time, and I was required to clean and do my part with them there, I still couldn’t do it. The labels would be repeated, and the people would believe them, and what is more, I would believe them… almost.

But the truth is I am not lazy (though my energy is extremely low, and I get overwhelmed easy) I am not dirty, and I do care very much! The more fitting description is that I become paralyzed, and unable to function with anyone over about 4 years old around me – and that is as true with my husband of 13 years as it is with a stranger that comes to help; and there really isn’t anything that can be done about that, for no amount of years, or practice, or immersion into those things has had any effect at all on my ability to function in that situation. So I can only hope that those who matter will understand, and give me the space to get things done.

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Autism: Dream Within a Dream Within

I had a dream, within a dream, within a dream last night. It isn’t so clear now, but I suddenly found myself in Toronto – like I had teleported there, or something. There was this… ride a bunch of us were told we had to try; a “flying experience” I think they said.

It was like Ferris wheel seating, joined together in a train like a roller coaster, but without a track. It flew above the Toronto skyline, past the top of the CN Tower. It dipped, and turned, and twisted – but the seats tipped, and only had the front bar to hold us in. It was really scary.

Then I was in an airport, watching people moving around. I saw a young couple with a baby from my church. They asked me why I was there, but I really didn’t know. I went down an escalator. There were many floors below me.

I walked into an office with glass walls, and sat down by a desk. I was having an adoption home study interview. When the interview was over, I went to another floor, which was a museum, and started looking around. Some people I went to cadets with came up to me and started talking to me. They were warning me against a person I was supposed to meet, as the person had changed from when I knew them so long ago, and it would be dangerous; but I knew the person was struggling, and I knew why. It made me sad, and I wanted to help.

I walked away from them, and was on a deserted street with a large mountain on my right side, and several shop like stands, and other things I couldn’t see so well. It was Canada’s Wonderland closed down for the season – only the colours were dulled.

I was really nervous. Scared even; for this person I was supposed to meet was coming around a corner towards me. I could hear their footsteps, though I couldn’t yet see them, and I was afraid I wasn’t strong enough for this.

There was a cold stone bench, and I sat on it to wait, trying not to look nervous. Wonderland turned into a Sea Cadet camp (which is in BC, but I was still in Toronto – this I knew) which was also deserted. The person was still coming, and I was rehearsing in my head what I would say.

For the whole dream, I kept thinking: “This should be a dream, but it feels real,” and I was sure that it was.

Then I woke up on a bench at the airport in Toronto, and I saw the couple from my church, and told them I had a dream, and I was sure it was real until I woke up on the bench in the airport. I said I didn’t remember arriving at the airport, but it was okay, because I could get home from Toronto (meaning Hamilton where my family is) and would go see my mom.

When I left them, I repeated the dream I had had before, certain that this time it was real, only to wake up in my bed with my dog crawling out from under my blankets and asking if it was time for breakfast (cute squiggly, wiggly girl!)

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The day after wasn’t great as I was so exhausted, but I love it when my dreams are so real it confuses me while I am dreaming.

 

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Autism: My Maternal Grandmother

When I was about 7, I remember the day that my family was sitting in our car. The car was stopped at the side of the road, and I was thinking of how often we visited with my father’s family – yet we didn’t know my mother’s family at all. Speaking was an extreme rarity for me at the time: I was both too shy, and unable for the most part to form the connections to get the words out. On this day, however, I was able to get my thoughts and my words together to speak in a car full of people.

me at 7

“Why don’t we ever visit your grandma (meaning mom),” I asked my mother.

I don’t remember the words that they spoke, but I do remember how uncomfortable my parents seemed in trying to explain the reason for this. It was many years before I got the real reason, but shortly after this, we began visiting my mother’s family again.

At the time, my maternal grandmother and my mom’s youngest sister, lived in a house below the “mountain” in Hamilton, Ontario. It was a Victorian style house, different from any that I had known. Everyone else I knew lived “on the mountain” (the way Hamiltonians describe the escarpment that splits the city in two) and there were no houses like that up there.

The house had a spiral staircase, and the only bathroom was at the top. It was such fun to slide down those spiral stairs, but the adults in the house felt that wasn’t safe, so we were always stopped.

It was in that house where I also met another aunt and the only cousin on that side that I had at the time. She was a year younger than myself, and I later found out that her mother was 16 when she was born, and my parents were asked to adopt her – but it was decided last minute that was wrong, and my mother’s family were upset with her for considering it (or something like that.) That was the reason that we had so little contact with them until that time.

The differences were set aside, though, and after that, we visited several times a year. We spent part of that Christmas in my maternal grandmother’s house, and I remember that year I was given a very large teddy bear. I named him “Bear.” Bear is gone now, and I don’t remember when he was lost. In fact, it was thoughts on Bear that inspired me to write this post.

Sometime shortly after, my grandmother and aunt moved to an apartment in the same area of town, and there they both stayed until my maternal grandmother died of lung cancer when I was 23.

My grandma liked to have the heat high in her apartment. We were always hot there, and so even when we went at Christmas, we would have the sliding doors to the balcony wide open, and we would spend time out there (without coats even.) She didn’t have toys, but she always had lots of scrap paper and some crayons that we would use to entertain ourselves.

My cousin and I often spent a lot of time in my aunt’s bedroom trying on her clothes. That was quite a lot of fun. Although I was very shy, and not really one to play with other children, my cousin was quite the opposite. She was loud, and bold, and quite pushy. She was also aggressive (she once punched my cabbage patch kid, and threw her across the room – I was horrified) and she swore! The kids I knew didn’t do that in those days.

Often the television would be on at my grandma’s house. She watched soap operas, and I never remember her talking about anything else. It always seemed strange to me that her conversations were always about fake people from the TV. Above that, I wasn’t allowed to watch soap operas. My mom told me they would poison my mind, and to this day I can’t watch them.

My grandma rarely left the house, and never went on vacation. Very different from my father’s family, who were always going places, and visiting, and traveling, and social. She sat in her living room, and would cook for us at Christmas (and the turkey was always pink, but her potatoes and gravy were the best!) She would watch her shows, and speak only of these, and when she died the only people at her funeral were her six children, three children in law (my mothers other three siblings were hermits… quite odd, and likely autistic as well) six of her eight grandchildren, and one neighbour that had lost touch with her years ago when she moved from the Victorian house.

Sixteen people at her funeral. Sixteen. It made me feel really sad. But that was my grandma. She kept her life private, and didn’t let people in. She wasn’t Autistic (or I don’t believe she was) but I can see where it came from. She was strange, and she was quiet, and she didn’t have any friends – but I loved her, and am glad that my family were able to put aside their differences so that I could know them.

 

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Autism: Mourning

My grandmother was in the hospital the summer I was thirteen. My mom was working, and it was my job many nights to cook for my grandfather. My mom would leave me written instructions on what I was to make, and how to cook it, and that is what I would do. It helped that we had cooking classes with Sea Cadets that past year, and that Home-EC was my favourite course at the time (and also the only one in which I received honours marks for my eighth grade graduation.)

There was the one day – and it must have happened often, as I was not surprised or thrown off by it – that my cousin was with us for dinner as well. It was July 3rd. I won’t forget that, as the whole time I was cooking and cleaning up after, I was thinking, I know this day is special – only I couldn’t think why.

July 3rd was his birthday, and always after I felt really bad for not wishing him a happy birthday. I think I made Pigs in a Blanket with mashed potatoes and tomato soup sauce (I also think I added water to the soup, making it too runny to use as sauce.) For years after, every time I saw him, or thought of him, I remembered that day and felt bad – but talking, even to my cousins, was still very hard for me. I never did tell him I was sorry.

On the day that my grandmother was released from the hospital, I was supposed to make roast beef and mashed potatoes. The trouble was, I had stayed up the entire night the night before (something I have never in my life been able to handle.) It wasn’t on purpose. It was the result of a bunch of thirteen/fourteen year old girls getting together for a sleepover birthday party. Even then, we would have slept – only horror movies were “in” at the time, and we were too scared after to go to sleep.

So I was peeling the potatoes, feeling very sick and exhausted from lack of sleep, when I cut my thumb with the potato peeler. I don’t remember ever doing it before or after, but in that moment, I passed out on the kitchen floor – and that is where my grandmother found me. Despite the fact that she had just been released from the hospital after a heart attack, she finished preparing the meal for me, and wasn’t even upset.

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It has been nearly 26 years, and all of these people are gone now. My cousin, and his younger sister, had Cystic Fibrosis, which claimed his life at the age of 26, and hers at 21. I put a birthday card in his casket, apologizing for that time that I forgot. It may not help him, but it was something I had to do.

It doesn’t seem so long ago. Not really. Yet so much has changed from those days. I miss my family. More than anything, I miss my family. And this passing time, that continues to take people from me – as it does for all of us, I suppose – breaks my heart.

I have Aspergers. I have Autism. But that doesn’t mean I cannot love, or feel attached to my family. And it is times like this, when I am mourning the loss of my grandmother, and all of those taken before her, that I know. I know that in this, I am much like everyone else.

 

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RIP Grandma

My grandmother died last night, and I am 4000km away. I woke up this morning (after a very poor and fitful sleep) and researched if there was any possible way for me to return to the funeral – but last minute travel is unreasonably expensive, and would cost nearly four times what we have paid in the past, the few times we could afford even that. The truth is, I should have gone back last fall as I had planned; or I should have made plans to fly back last winter when I heard how poorly she was doing; or, as I have thought so many times for so many years, I should never have moved away – then I would have had almost sixteen more years with her.

But life doesn’t get lived backwards. All I know is that she is gone now, and I lost my chance, sitting here pretty much on the other side of the world. And though I am far enough away that I can at moments deny the truth of this, it still hurts. It hurts a lot. I miss my grandma. I have missed my grandma for years, and now no amount of money, time, or desire, will bring us together again.

My grandparents were the joy of my childhood – visits, and camping trips, and family gatherings. They were my strength, and I would have done anything for them (including suffer silently through years of abuse so that they wouldn’t feel bad over what their son was doing – and I did, though it would have hurt them to know it.)

Until my 12th birthday, they lived close to us. Then my grandfather retired, and they spent half of the year in Florida. I cried when they left. I cried every time they left. But for the next three years (we bought their house on ¾ of an acre from them) they lived the other half of the year in a trailer on our driveway.

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My first stop on coming home from school each day during those years was to visit my grandparents, and I spent weekends visiting them, too. There were very few moments in my life when I was as happy as during those days, despite what I was experiencing outside of their visits.

And then, when my son was born, I spent the first week of his life living with them. I don’t think I ever told them just how much I appreciated their help, their support, their love and acceptance of us. I guess I always just thought they knew, and speaking was never a strong skill of mine – though I did write them letters often.

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They were married for 50 years, before my grandfather passed away – and there was never, not once, any doubt of their love for each other. He has been gone for 18 years now…

But then I moved away, and I have only been able to get back for visits four times in the past sixteen years – for a week when my brother was married, for a couple of days for my father’s funeral (which my church paid to get me to), for just under three months with my kids in 2008 (just before they were moved), and then for 3 weeks in 2014 for my mom’s 60th birthday.

I knew those last two times, that I might never see her again – but there was always hope… until even that was taken away. I said, “good-bye” during that last visit with pain and longing in my heart, and a strong wish that I didn’t have to leave – but I did.

In tears I left, and in tears I got on the plane (such heavy tears, that the airline decided I might be a risk, and had me go through a scan to ensure I wasn’t a danger.) And though I left, again fully intending to return soon (it always seems easiest when I have just made the trip, but then life gets in the way,) that was the last time I saw her.

My counselor tells me that having that as my last memory of her might help in time, as I never saw her when she was really sick – but at the same time, it feels wrong, somehow, to miss the funeral… to miss any of it, but really, there is no choice.

 

 

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Autism: Far From Home

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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