Love Goes Deeper

Filed Under (Acceptance, Adam, Communication) by Estee on 08-03-2010

Eustacia Cutler is the mother of Temple Grandin. With the recent HBO program lately on her, I returned to Eustacia’s book, A Thorn In My Pocket: Temple Grandin’s Mother Tells The Family Story.

It’s not all that easy to read in this day and age of watching our words regarding “struggle” and “fight,” so overused and sensationalized in the media to the detriment of autistic individuals. She uses these words more often although the tone of acceptance runs throughout, and this is a point I like to make often about autism acceptance: it doesn’t come without facing our inner doubts. If it were, it would lack real meaning and substance. Acceptance is something we must earn by facing them.

Adam spends some weekends with his father. This particular weekend, I caught the the stomach flu. Alone and sick (thus feeling particularly so…it always happens when we’re not feeling well), I yearned to speak Adam more often and to ask how his day went.  I was yearning for connection and I was also feeling guilty of not being able to take Adam back on Sunday night, when I would typically after a full weekend with his dad.  I wished to explain this to him, but Adam does not love sticking the telephone to his ear. In fact, he is exceptionally averse to it. My mother says Adam lives in the right era with all the technology that can help him. I’m not certain it is as good as we yet want it to be, but one thing’s for sure — thank goodness for Skype.

Skype is a recent life-saver. Adam’s dad and I have begun using it often and Adam holds his attention longer than using a telephone, as the visual is easier for him to understand. I can see him and he can see me and I feel a sense of huge relief. Then I wondered if Adam did too as he had to stay two extra nights with his dad because I did not want him to catch this outrageous flu. He loves his dad, but I wondered if he had natural questions about what was happening to his routine, and his mommy.

It was in Eustacia’s introduction that I tried to seek solace from this weekend. She said, “I’ve learned how the parents of autistic children suffer from a loss of their own sense of self. We all know that a baby needs a mother to know she’s a baby, but, equally true, a mother needs a baby to know she’s a mother.”

My friends and family, even my ex, all assure me that Adam knows I’m his mother during my more vulnerable moments, like this past weekend. I asked his aide today to help him understand that Adam would have to wait one more day to see mommy  — as I was hoping he could come home, but I am still too ill (do you understand how worried I was about this yet?). Adam texted me the following, I’m fairly sure, with a few reminders from his aide:

hi mommy

i like mommy

i like dinosaurs

mommy feeling sick. Feel happy. Feel better

i had chocolate after lunch

bye mommy

love you

Adam

I’ll take it. Yet I wondered today if Adam really missed me. It’s a natural wonder, I think. Even parents of neurotypical children might wonder the same when their children are with another parent, or with friends. We too need to receive love. We need these expressions of love that we have become so used to.

Later on Skype this afternoon and evening, I had a virtual “dinner” with Adam, thanks to his dad who put the camera straight on him.  After he became upset later in the evening, his dad put him in front of the camera. When he saw me, he calmed right down and smiled again. I spoke to him softly in my mother-voice, reminding him that I will see him again tomorrow. Again another smile; crying abated. That is the mother’s reward — her ability to calm her child. I completely understand the angst mothers feel when they do not feel they can appease their child’s pain or distress because I too have been through that.

So I am elated for it’s what I get — not yet the long drawn out conversations about what is happening, what may be confusing him, what he is excited about. Yet I think I can decipher it enough. We are communicating. Indeed, I need to remind myself of this in such times when I think of Adam as a person and his future, and my future as Adam’s mother.

“Think of me as your future,” says Eustacia. “I am where you will be many years from now, when you know how it all played out, when ‘what will be’ has turned into ‘what was,’ and you will have to come to terms with it.

Perhaps not in the way you thought you would, but you’ll no longer feel trapped in a morass of angst and guilt. You will have resolved your child’s future and your own. You’ll know you’ve given full measure, and the measure you’re given has never been pointless.

I offer you my story as a promise of that: an overall insight to carry with you as a talisman. And I promise that, in the future, to your surprise, your dreams will have changed and changed you.

I know that’s not what you want.

What you want is a real talisman, a magic something you think I conjured up to coax Temple into joining life, as you hope your child will. There was no magic; there was just doing the best I could. That’s the point; that’s the talisman.”

I’ve understood my son. Maybe he understands me better than I can know in the obvious, typical way. For certain, love goes deeper.

And it is louder than words.

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About Me


ESTÉE KLAR

I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (www.taaproject.com), and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.