Susan's Blog

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crossroads — Seem To Come and Go

I used to be so sad on Nat’s birthday. In fact, the way I began the first (2005) edition of Making Peace With Autism was, “The saddest day of the year for me is November 15, Nat’s birthday.” It was true then. Back then, and all the years leading up to then, I would feel as if I’d been hit by a train. I had to act happy, but I was not.

I was still living in the world of young motherhood, where you are surrounded by the noise and need of children, the early days of everything, the busy, the breathless, the feeling of eternal family life. Living within the unconscious, sweet narcissism of young parents, who believe they own these beings they’ve given birth to.

By the time the 2006 edition came out, I had asked my publisher to change the first line but they couldn’t. Not sure why. But I knew that it was no longer true, and it wasn’t fair to Nat to have those lines in there. So I am sorry they are in there.

I was much more careful writing this second book (Autism Mom’s Survival Guide (for Dads, too!). I wrote it thinking that I didn’t know what Nat would think of it, and therefore I wanted to be careful. I was honest — I’m always that — but respectful.

No, the dark magic of Nat’s birthday no longer has any power here. I don’t need my young man to be eager for presents, or care about cards. I don’t need him even to like the cake (he didn’t this time, not sure why, probably because he is still a little sick). I did need him to hug me tight when he left to go back to The House, but he did not want to. That made me cry, but only a little bit.

In true maudlin style, I determined to have a good cry, so I broke out the Allman’s Sweet Melissa, which I think of as Nat’s song, and I played it, holding a wad of paper towel in my hand for the tears. But I only cried a little, before I felt silly. Nat is not a Melissa. Back then when I was pregnant, I thought I was going to have a girl, and that I would call her Melissa. That was just the beginning of life not giving me what I had planned for.

When Nat was around 5, I remember telling Grandma that his birthday always made me sad. “Why?” she asked.
“Oh, because — you know — ” I stammered. “It makes me think of how he’s — you know…”
“Why would you be sad on his birthday?” Grandma just did not get it; she would not hear of it.
This pissed me off back then.

Not now. I get it now. She knew so much that I didn’t know.

Nat is not Sweet Melissa, and Nat is not a sweet baby and Nat does not care about his birthday and he requested to go back to The House and he does not really want to hug me, but — okay. I’ll live. That’s who he is. It’s not who I am, it is who he is. He has a right to be that, and not to be changed. He’s 20. He’s an adult. I’ve got to stand back, and let him live his life the way he wants to. Happy Birthday, Nat.


Happy Birthday Nat!!

— added by S on Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 6:13 pm

What a wonderful birthday gift you have given Nat, just by you being you, realizing all that you have realized. Respecting him, his growth, his uniqueness, his ability to be all himself, all the time. That's a gift you know, Susan, what you have said in these paragraphs – a gift to Nat and a gift to yourself.
Happy Birthday Nat.
Happy Birth-Day Susan.

— added by Penny on Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Happy 20th anniversary as a mom! ~ Cathy in CT

P.S. I find birthday so hard… Compounded by having to make the typical hype and Jack doesn't care — but it's important to his siblings to see it.

— added by Cathby on Sunday, November 15, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I don't get sad on my child's birthday, I get scared. Seriously. The closer she gets to reaching age 21 the more I am terrified of what will happen to her once the school district is no longer responsible for her education. All that education wasted? Will she just come home and sit? Sad no…terrified yes! For her and all of our kids!

— added by Anonymous on Monday, November 16, 2009 at 9:53 am

Hmmm… that does sound scary. I don't blame you. If I felt that all of Nat's education had been wasted, I'd be angry, for sure! I am forever thankful that he has had a terrific education that has taught him not only how to hold four jobs, but also to manage so many aspects of his life. He may not be independent at 22, but he will have a life. I sincerely hope the same is for all of our kids.

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, November 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm

What I can't help being stuck by is how nice it is that Nat wanted to go back to The House. You agonized over whether or not you were doing the right thing in letting him go there and whether he was going to be happy, and it looks like he must be.

— added by VAB on Monday, November 16, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Thank you, VAB, for saying that. You, too, Penny. Thanks for noticing that stuff.

— added by Susan Senator on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 11:08 am