All over the world, you will see blue lighting up buildings to show they are advocating for autism.
A month ago, I would never have heard of this.
Yesterday my younger daughter, mother of Andrew, emailed to tell me that today was the day. Autism Awareness Day. I was touched that she knew.
We are patching the rough spots in our mother/daughter relationship, and Saturday I will get to see Andrew.
Funny how much can change in a month’s time.
I felt rather celebratory for having done so. I had taken a few steps toward normalcy and breaking out of my self-made prison.
Yesterday I went to Barnes & Noble, gathered some books from the Bargain/Clearance section, and sat on the floor with them. One book I chose was called “Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend.” I started reading it last night.
It is about a young boy with autism. But the narrator, the main character, is the imaginary friend who protects him from a world that he can’t handle alone.
I look up into the trees, which are leafing out quickly, and try to pinpoint the birds I hear.
I think back all those years ago, when I was a little girl, writing down words from the dictionary into a notebook. I would choose the word based on instinct.
For instance, “anathema” would have been a word I chose, writing it down neatly with my pencil, and then the subsequent meaning.
And though I didn’t fully understand its meaning, I liked the word because it had soft edges, if that makes sense.
The spelling indicated a word that, if it had been a stone in a river, it would have been cleansed by many a current, year after year. The stone would be soft to the touch and shiny from the daily water sluicing over it.
“On the spectrum” is something you hear often with autism.
As that child writing in my notebook, I would never have chosen the word “spectrum”, because it sounds clinical somehow.
Harsh, just the way it is spelled and sounded out. I would have judged it by this. I would have turned the page looking for another word.
Living in your head, sometimes totally unaware of the world around you but for the sounds that hurt your ears, these things made sense to me. How to choose words that for some reason appealed to me, even if I did not understand their meaning.
Just like I know how to be quiet and watch others.
Sometimes I would see a child being mean and hateful to his/her mother. And I wanted to go jerk the child aside and say: “You have a mother. Be nice to her. She will look out for you. And every time you say Mom, she will turn at the sound of your voice.”
Sometimes I will be in the middle of something, and I will freeze. I have suddenly forgotten how to do something I’ve done hundreds of times. I will have to wait until the mechanics come back to me.
The more uptight and anxious I become, the longer it takes to break through.
Somehow it floats out of reach. Until time brings it back to me.
I think I have been able to go out more because I know what the problem is now. And though going out often makes it worse, it is reassuring that I have the answer symbolically clutched in my hand. Where before I just thought I was somewhat stupid and possibly worse.
Having that answer clutched in my hand gives me a certain strength. It tells me that my brain is simply different in the way it processes things. And not understanding that, I’ve shamed myself for it all these years.
I’ve hidden things I can’t begin to do from others. Ashamed to tell the truth. Like not being able to, at the end of a work day, balance a register. No matter how many times they would try to teach me, they might as well have been speaking a foreign language. And I’d quit the job because I knew I would soon be fired anyway.
I have been judged for these things, often very harshly. Why couldn’t I just hang on to a job? What was wrong with me?
I’ve tried for weeks, sometimes a few months, to handle what other people do every work day, without alarm. Like greet people on the phone. And even worse, when they walk in the door.
I felt so utterly exposed during those times, and before long I would have a sort of melt down from all the sounds and expectations and leave, never to return. But inside, I would be telling myself I was just stupid and couldn’t learn.
I want my children to know that I tried. I really did. Tried to be a good mother. A normal mother.
How many times did I hear the familiar refrain: “Why can’t you be normal like other mothers?” “Why can’t you talk like normal mothers? They don’t use such big words.”
Oh, but the words have been with me for so long. Ever since I wrote them down ever so neatly in my notebook. I would sound them out. And hope that one day I would find a use for them. Because words didn’t make me anxious, like numbers did.
I really tried to be like everyone else. I just couldn’t manage to do it. And I hope my girls will forgive me that.
I haven’t felt a lot of things I think most people do, and I’ve felt other things I think others never have. But I felt true love for my children, even if I wasn’t able to adequately show it.
I wish they knew that. I hope they figure that out.
I hope they can forgive me that transgression. So that maybe, possibly, I can forgive myself.