Susan's Blog

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Distance Speaks

Perspective is a gift of getting older. More and more, I understand why my dad reminds me of how he struggled with certain issues when he was my age, and how getting older grants you the ability to see beyond them, and to let go, even with a smile. It is true: I remember how, years ago, my therapist told me to picture that younger me, struggling with something or other, and asked what I would say to her now, if I could. I felt so much compassion for that more innocent self. I felt like my own mother.

When Nat calls these days, our phone conversations are very different from any other interaction we had shared before his move-out. He never says, “No talk to Mommy.” He gets right on the phone, and even though his voice trembles with some emotion, he always talks to me now and answers my questions. He provides content, which is a very new development. It is as if, by leaving, he has been propelled to another level, where he actually feels the need to communicate with me in a way I will understand. He needs, more than ever, to connect and he seems to be aware of that. He did not ask for our street the last time we talked. Instead, he told me about going running with Jack, and how he had had Chinese food for dinner. His voice was small and a little sad — or something — but he was talking to me because he wanted to.

Last night I got a call at 11 p.m. from Max, who had forgotten to call during the day. He is in Vermont with Hannah and her family. I put him on a greyhound Monday morning, reaching up to hug his hard broad shoulders and to kiss his impassive face. Even though I felt some trepidation for him, traveling four hours on his own among strangers, I also felt the excitement he must be feeling, setting out on his first journey alone, to be with his very favorite person. I remember being nineteen, and getting on the train at Stamford, to make the four-hour journey up to Boston to spend time with my amazing boyfriend Ned. The breathless moment of stepping off the train and spotting his handsome face in his ratty clothes. Knowing we had all that time just to be together, in this fantastic fun town. My head swims with the high of that moment.

Max was a little sheepish at first, knowing that he had not done what I had asked him to do. But there was something else that shaped his tone, a softness, a curl of happiness that I had never heard from him on the phone, or perhaps had not heard in a long time. What surprised and touched me even more was the content. He kept offering information, descriptions. He told me how cows were “really disgusting, because they lick their noses, and so their faces are always wet with either saliva or snot.” And laughed. He described a beautiful large house, an icy cold pond. Crazy stars.

When I got off the phone, I felt happy, full. I think it was because for the first time in a long time, Max really wanted to talk to me.

3 comments

When I lived at home with my parents I took them for granted and got really sick of being around them. Once I moved out, I appreciated them so much more, and even missed them sleeping down the hall from me at night. From my own perspective, living with people, family included, can get “ordinary” at times. Although it’s a cliche, absence does seem to make the heart grow fonder.

— added by Candy on Wednesday, August 27, 2008 at 11:16 pm

“You don’t miss your water til the well runs dry.”

We never take conversation for granted, do we?

— added by r.b. on Friday, August 29, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Perspective is a wonderful thing. This time last year, my son’s autism had just been diagnosed. I was scared, anxious, suffering from information overload, and generally running around like a chicken without a head. I was grieving the loss of a “normal” family life, and I had this bottomless sense of sadness for my son. Now, I look at my son, and in addition to seeing the hard work that lies ahead, I see all the good and wonderful things about him. With one year providing a gap between then and now, I can say to myself, “So he has autism. He’s still a beautiful, affectionate, determined child, and he deserves every ounce of hard work that we will be putting into him.”

— added by Kirsten on Sunday, August 31, 2008 at 10:30 pm

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