My therapy session on Tuesday left me feeling reflective. We talked about my family members who have died. I shared with her why I cried for a year after my brother died, and told her about him. I think she really understood why I loved him so much. I had never done that before. Even thinking about it now has me smiling. It was incredibly healing. He visited my dreams last night, but I don’t remember the circumstances. Just that I was glad to see him, and was aware it was a dream. He’s never far from my thoughts.
I’ve also shared with her aspects of my relationship with my Mom that have previously been private. I feel like my Mom is with me 24/7. Not a physical presence, but a lifelong acknowledgement. For my entire life, I’ve been in an ongoing internal conversation with my Mom. It’s so seamless, it’s like breathing. Even before I could speak, I thought my thoughts to her, and accepted her words as her answer. It wasn’t always logical, sometimes was hilarious, but was most often effective. When I left to serve in the Army, I continued. I had a good idea by then what my Mom would say in many situations. When we talked on the phone, I would report the incidents in which I used her “voice” to guide me through a tough situation.
It probably hasn’t been helpful when I talk to other people, though. I struggle with conversations. It’s a sophisticated dance between controlling my anxiety, and comprehending/staying present well enough to remain on topic in real time. In my eyes, I come off to others as having a low intellect, and an intermittent ability to connect with others. I know that in actuality, I have a high intellect, and suck at conversations. I do far better when I can type versus speaking aloud. But texting is ideal. I text back as soon as I notice. This could be immediately, or a few days. The time it takes to respond means nothing negative. I have 2 phones. I only give out the number for 1 of them. The other is an extension of my brain. I don’t even know the number for that phone.
Therapy is exhausting, but that’s not really a con. I’ve been sleeping regularly. Every single night I sleep now. For between 4 and 6 hours. I haven’t done that since I was in the Army. It’s a combination of a new sleeping med, having the mountain on my back excised, being drained from therapy, and not being afraid to go to sleep. The fact that I can run outside now is probably contributing as well. I like the awake me better. I despise feeling sluggish. It’s a panic trigger, which becomes a twisted level of hell, Dante style, when I don’t sleep. Fuck that. So I’m pleased with how it’s going.
I just found out that Prince is dead. I’m going for a run.
It’s nice today, but windy. I slept really hard for 2 nights in a row now. Yay. I don’t feel as floaty. I used my weighted blanket on top of a quilt. The glass beads inside make my weighted blanket stay cool, which is awesome in summer. I’m so hot blooded, so it’s good to have an alternative to central air at night. If I hated the planet, I’d set my thermostat at 67 all summer, and 65 all winter. But I love the planet, so I set it at 70 all summer, and 63 all winter. But I am big on windows being open as much as possible. Even when it’s -20 F outside, I will crack a window for a few minutes just to get the fresh air exchange.
Friday night, I didn’t dream or even roll over during my sleep. Last night, I remember having a panic dream where I made a serious coding error in a situation with dire consequences. I have that dream scenario about as much as the one where my cat is in peril, and I can’t save her. Fortunately, they’re easy to break free from. I went back to sleep fairly quickly afterward. I still feel a little tired, but much better overall. Insomnia is expensive in ways I haven’t even pinpointed yet. I hate to admit this, but the more tired I become, the more visible my Autism becomes, and I don’t like that. I want to say I have absolutely no shame about being Autistic. But obviously I can’t, because I still engage in passing as neurotypical in certain situations. So I guess it’s more like, I’m striving to let go of any semblance of shame surrounding my Autism.
I love black and white, but my life is mostly grey. I agree that forcing myself to hide my Autistic traits from others is less than ideal. Passing as neurotypical takes a huge toll on my energy levels, and it can take weeks to recover. Stimming in public can result in encounters with assholes. Neither option is ideal for every situation. I fall back on my Mom’s advice in this regard. I take a time-out, and put the world on mute for a while to regroup. My Mom figured out how to help me cope as a kid. She didn’t know my diagnosis, but she wasn’t exactly new at parenting when I came along. Between that, and her experience with the foster babies, she was prepared to help me navigate this world. Some of her methods unsettle some of my Autistic friends when we talk about it. They see it as her pushing me to pass as neurotypical.
To me, it was my Mom parenting me specifically. Pushing me to expand my world was necessary for me. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. I suspect I was content in my own little world, and would have been fine to remain there. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an option. I grew up in a big house with lots of siblings and only 2 parents. I needed to expand my world in order to get my needs met, so my Mom gently pushed me. Each time, I became upset and miserable for a bit, then adjusted. Then I would recognize my Mom’s wisdom in pushing me. I do recall feeling singled out when I was 10ish. Why does Mom only push me, but Heather and Steve can do what they want? Typing that made me giggle. I sent my Mom a typed note asking her this question, and she saved it. I still have it. And a few other notes I sent during my childhood. The first one I hand wrote, and it said, “I hayte you, I hayte you, I hayte you.” When I first found that note in my Mom’s stuff after she died, it upset me. But now, it amuses me. My Mom knew I loved her.
I’ve never been sophisticated. Not even close. My Mom knew me well, and could often tell what I was thinking, much to my frustration. I remember being so angry that she could read me like a book when I was a teenager. It wasn’t the same as Heather speaking for me as a child. It was like my Mom could read my mind. It felt like she knew me better than I knew myself, which is what angered me. It felt incredibly audacious of her to me. “How dare you tell me what I’m thinking!” I can laugh about it now. My brother, Gar, has always been into photography and videography. There’s a lot of footage of me from the time I arrived at 3 days old, till I was 15. I saw myself as a 5-year-old walk up to my Mom, ask her a question, then turn around and high-step march to my room. It’s hilarious to me, but it doesn’t register that it’s me. Spaz4Life should be my nickname. We got it all transferred to DVD’s a while ago, but most of it is with the Dr. who diagnosed my Autism. She uses them for training or a study or something.
I’ll be going to the office to work tomorrow instead of working from home. I hope it goes well. Then I’ll get groceries on my way home. I’ll work on visualizing it going well later. The book I’m reading now is intriguing. Menagerie by Rachel Vincent. It reminds me of that HBO show Carnivalè in that so far it’s in a similar setting, but in the 1980’s. I bailed on the series before finishing because it was too tense, but I liked it. Very well cast show. This book is dark in different ways so far. The lore isn’t original, but that hasn’t detracted in the least. I like the writing style, too. I got hooked quickly. That’s always nice. I’m off to the gym.
When I was a kid, I asked my mom if god was real. She told me not to take the bible too literally. That was the extent of my mom’s teachings regarding religion. I think it was good advice. My family attended a Lutheran church until I was 10. We were asked not to return after my brother, Steve, swallowed the Sunday School goldfish on a dare. There were several similar antics that led up to this dismissal. After that, we didn’t go to church anymore.
I thought the entire episode was hilarious, and am guilty of being extremely pleased when Steve met the dare without hesitation. He was two years older than me, and for the first 15 years of my life, I thought he was the coolest person on the planet. I went along with his schemes, even though they usually ended with a spanking. He was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which meant he had no ability to foresee the consequences of his actions. I still can’t believe some of the things we did as kids.
In our neighborhood, there was only one rule. You all play together, or you don’t play at all. In hindsight, I’m thankful for that rule. I know now that I drove the neighbor kids nuts with my weirdness. Playing barbies was a big thing, and there were so many accessories that you could add. While my little sister, Heather, play acted out stories about being married and having babies, I would sort their stuff. I loved to arrange their shoes and clothing. I would align them and have a fit if anyone moved something once I placed it neatly.
That’s a neighbor girl, Greta, me, Steve, and a neighbor boy in the photo. My mom is peeking out the door. This is before my parents remodeled our house. I remember the shoes I’m wearing. When I outgrew them and had to get new ones, I had a meltdown at the shoe store. I still dream about that sometimes. It really shook me up. I called them “my buckle shoes”. I eventually learned how to avoid becoming attached to shoes.
I need to scan some photos of Heather. She was so cute. She died in 2005 from bilateral pulmonary emboli. She was coming to visit me the next day, which would have been her birthday. It was shocking, and I found out from her best friend over the phone. When Steve had his last open heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in 2001, he never regained consciousness. I found out from his fiance over the phone. When my mom died in 2001, after hospice care gave her a lethal dose of morphine to relieve her pain from terminal cancer, my sister, Gayle, called me on the phone and told me.
I hate the telephone. I don’t care that it’s an unreasonable, displaced response to my losses. Hate it. My dad also died in 2005, but I found out in person from his widow. Losing so much of my family in such a short span of time took a heavy toll on me. It was a strange toll, though. When Steve died, it leveled me. I fell apart immediately and wept for what seemed like a year. He was my best friend throughout my entire life up to that point. He stood up for me when kids called me a nigger. He was my partner in crime. He used to make me laugh so hard I’d throw up. He was my protector, and my anchor to this world.
When my mom died, she’d been sick for over a year. When she was first diagnosed with colon cancer, she told me, and then told me not to tell anyone else. I kept the secret for a year while driving her to her chemo appointments. I would take her home and do her laundry and clean her house. It was a secret that weighed heavily on me. After she had surgery, I was beside her in recovery, and the doctor told me “I can’t cure her”. I couldn’t process those words. I seriously wanted to fight him.
He wanted to try more chemo, but my mom refused. She told her siblings, and mine after that. They all came and stayed until she passed. The last time I saw her, she grabbed my arm and told me it hurt so much. That was it for me. I wanted hospice to deal with her pain no matter what. My oldest sister, Gayle, wasn’t ready. I remember wanting to fight her too. It was so hard to reason out that she didn’t get to spend the time with her that I had. That she was my mom’s first born, and knew her way longer than I’d even been alive.
I did understand this, but it didn’t matter to me as much as I needed my mom not to hurt anymore. I screamed at them to give her the morphine. Then I left and never went back. I couldn’t stand to be around anyone who would allow her to suffer a moment longer. Gayle called me later that day to tell me she’d passed. I was standing outside in the rain, looking at a butterfly, wondering what it was doing out in the rain. A part of me deep inside knew my mom was gone. I can’t explain how. She was my adopted mom. There was no blood relation between us. I just knew.
I didn’t cry. I just went on existing, even though I couldn’t fathom doing so without a mom. There were many times that something would happen, and I’d want to talk to my mom about it after she was gone. She was always the person who knew what was right. We had some intense moments between us that I have never shared with anyone. She treated me differently than my other siblings. More like I was an adult, now that I look back. She would tell me what she was thinking, even if it wasn’t something you should ever share with a child.
Sometimes I think it was because I was so introverted that she would forget that I could comprehend what she was saying. Some of the things she told me still haunt me. Sometimes I’m angry that she told me things that forced me to see her not just as my mom, but as a woman with way too many people depending on her at all times. The responsibility she carried was immense, and even today is awe inspiring. Most people would cringe at being a single parent with six teenagers at the same time. Add six severely disabled foster children who often couldn’t even roll over without assistance, and you start to see what I mean.
I always helped my mom as much as I could. She never forced us to help. It was very clear to us that it was voluntary. Of all my siblings, only me, Kevin, and Greta chose to help. For me, it was a huge privilege to be trusted to hold one of the foster babies. I spent a great deal of time doing slapstick to entertain them. I would be so delighted when I could get them to laugh. Especially when my mom told me that the child had only a brain stem, or was blind or deaf.
Some of the foster kids were children of Vietnam veterans who were exposed to agent orange. My mom always told me what was wrong, and why if she knew. I remember all of them. I loved them. When my mom brought home a little girl who was blind, deaf, and had severe facial deformities surrounding a cleft palette, my brothers and sisters were nervous. I remember looking at her very closely, and realizing it was nowhere near as horrific as I had anticipated.
She was without a doubt the most affectionate of all the foster kids my mom cared for. Her eyes never opened and were sealed with skin, but her right eye had a tiny slit where you could just make out that she had deep blue eyes. She had bright red hair, and the typical soft, sweet smelling skin of an infant. My mom told me that she was mentally retarded, but I think that was a misdiagnosis. When I played with her, she responded like any other baby. She loved to touch my afro, and could identify me by it.
When I picked her up, she would wrap her arms around me and pat me on the back. She was blind and deaf, but she was bright and loving. It was easy to get her to giggle. I remember being so eager to get home to play with her after school. I got in my first fist fight with a neighbor boy because he called her ugly. I think that was the most offensive thing I’d ever encountered at that point.
I run into a few of the kids who fostered with us now as adults. The native american man who lived with us until he was 10. He has cerebral palsy. He plays drums in a heavy metal band now, despite being wheelchair bound. A native american woman who used to babysit me when I was little, who is mildly retarded. She always gives me a big hug when I see her. She’s married now.
Many of them died since then. Some died in our home. I wish I didn’t remember that part. But many of them lived a lot longer than predicted, which was always a victory to my mom. I think my unique childhood played a big factor in who I am today.
I know there is always more to people than what my eyes show me. I automatically have a deep respect for mothers. Unless they’re insane and hurt kids, of course. I’m an atheist, but don’t disrespect the beliefs of others. I don’t feel anxious around children, but do around adults I don’t know well. Everybody dies, and it hurts. Life goes on, even if you don’t want it to. If and when your mom dies, you have to take what she showed you, and use it to be your own mother. Everyone needs a mother, even if you have to be your own.