Susan's Blog

Friday, March 10, 2006

Blue Birthday

Yesterday was the bluest I have felt in a very long time. Even though it was Max’s birthday — or maybe because it was. This is interesting to me because I used to feel the bluest on Nat’s birthday, in fact I started my book with the confession that November 15 is the saddest day of the year. Well, it may have been that March 9 was, this time. Just goes to show you, why blame autism for your unhappiness? There’s plenty to be unhappy about in this life!

I guess it’s because Max and I have drifted a little. He is now 14, and still a sweet, caring boy, but a teenager nevertheless and that means he has little overt use for his mother. It also means that I have a tough time finding things in common with him, or even understanding half of what he says. Not only is his voice very low and rumbly, so it is difficult to actually hear him; the stuff he talks about is either computer-related or Myst/Uru-related. I only know how to use computers, not program them, and I can’t keep up with Uru Obsession, the chat-game-hacking he does nightly.

All week, particularly yesterday, I did my usual birthday song-and-dance. Conferring constantly with Ned, I planned two cakes (actual birthday and party); I planned a party (Saturday, 3 boys sleeping over); in addition to Ned and Ben’s gifts Godless, by Pete Hautman, and Matt Groening’s Huge Book of Hell), I bought presents (3 funny XL tee-shirts, a silly tie, $50 I-Tunes card); I decorated the playroom to look like something out of Riven, a sequel to Myst; and Ben and I hid tiny birthday cards all over the house for Max to find.

When Max clomped in at around 3:30, Ben and I were all eager for it all to begin. But just then the phone rang; it was Max’s girlfriend, who is currently living in Norway (yes, Norway! and she calls frequently!) So when Max walked into the decorated playroom, he was — needless to say — distracted. By the time I could explain what it was I had done to the place, it was a bit anticlimactic.

“I like it!” Max said cheerfully, good naturedly. He was humoring me a little, I think. I went upstairs, suddenly overwhelmed with the desire to cry. I couldn’t help but remember his fourth birthday, when I had converted the whole living room into a pirate world, complete with a ship (the coffee table, which has a knot hole in the middle, and I stuck a broom in it to form the mast). Back then I suppose I was a goddess. Now I was just what? Dear Old Mom.

I pulled myself together in time to make the cake with Nat, who loves batter. There was a moment when I thought trouble would erupt because this time I only gave Nat the mixer to lick, and I gave Max the bowl and spoon (Benj doesn’t like batter). Max said, “Really? I get the whole thing?” Another thing that made me want to cry. All along I have been just giving the batter to mostly Nat, who is to share it with anyone else who wants any. But Max, mellow, non-confrontational guy that he is, never insists on his share. Max’s joy at having the bowl to himself stabbed me in the guilt-gut.

Finally Ned came home, and I felt some of my ill-timed misery lift as it does when he walks in, shouting, “Yo!” Comes upstairs, kisses me hard on the lips and takes over. Into the back part of the kitchen we went, squeezed in with Ben and Nat, working on the cake, which was — what else? A scene from Riven, of a golden dome split in half, with kind of a round thing peeping out (so many subtly vaginal images in that game, no wonder it is so popular with teenage boys), and a long phallic bridge leading up to it, and stones with symbols on them. We frosted a tiny muffin to be the dome, split in half, with a tiny clitoral chocolate truffle inside,and made everything else out of Hershey bars.

Max was delighted. I had to content myself with smelling all the sugary chocolate, because I’m still trying to lose 5 pounds. More torture. Still, the cake came out pretty good! And my smile was genuine.


I just finished reading your book and was finally happy to see someone who took delight in their autistic child. I am the godmother of an autistic boy. Althogh I wish he could be different I wouldn’t change Jordan or Caleb(he is also autistic, he was diagnosed with PDD.)for anything. The joy that they show in the world is more than enough to make up for the fact that they will never be “normal”(I hate that term).

Since Jordan’s diagnosis, and finally finding out that there is a reason for the way he acts it made it easier to understand him and the things that he does.

No matter what i will always love him just the way he is. Thank you again for standing up and talking about autism.

— added by Linda on Friday, March 10, 2006 at 10:33 am

Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but it sounds like Max is right where he is supposed to be. He sound like a bright loving young man and you sound like a supportive caring Mom. It doesn’t get any better. I’d worry if he wanted to hang with his Mom all the time!

I too have had “cake batter” scenes that just break my heart.

— added by Susan on Friday, March 10, 2006 at 1:54 pm

I am already blown away with the fact that my oldest will be five in May. I am sure that when he is a teenager I will experience the same emotions that you are now with Max. I could cry now just thinking about it. Wish we could keep them forever young…not really.

— added by Eileen on Friday, March 10, 2006 at 5:46 pm