Susan's Blog

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Something So Right

You got the cool water

when the fever runs high.

–Paul Simon

In the book I’m reading the character Nana says, “All my life it took me two tries to get anything right. And all of a sudden I’m old.” But she wasn’t sad, because this made it all the sweeter.  I feel that this must be one of the themes running through my life.  When I was coming back from my honeymoon, for instance, I turned to Ned, a propos to nothing, and said, “I don’t think I want to be married.”  I really felt this way, coming back from two weeks in Italy.  I was terrified.  It may have all been about anticipating the roaches that I suspected were all over our new apartment.  It may have been the foreign sturdiness of the word, “wife.”  It may have been my fears about starting grad school soon.  But there it was.  Into my heart/head and out of my mouth.

Ned is not one of those people like me who needs to be wrong a few times to understand what right is; he is much clearer and steadier.  Ned’s words and thoughts are, to me, like a deep underground mountain spring:  not easily visible, but clean and bright when it surfaces.  So Ned knew, he just knew, that I was being me even though I did not.  He did not take my statement seriously — well, he did, in that he listened and respected my feelings and doubts — but he dipped into his deep well of knowledge, his feelings about me, and he did just the right thing.  He did nothing.  The feeling passed, and so did our plane ride.  I’d like to say that this was the last time I ever had doubts about my married and grown-up self, but it was not.  And all through these ugly periods, Ned has stood by me, while I make my damned mistakes, keeping me from drowning.  Because that is how I get my knowledge.  My certainty comes from fucking up numerous times.  Not that Ned doesn’t make mistakes; it’s just that he learns about life differently than I do.

The mother role was no less difficult for me.  After we brought Baby Nat home from the hospital, I remember thinking, “Now what?”  The pregnancy had had all of its drama of anticipation, the birth even more so, but now here I was with this little guy and long days stretched ahead of me.  And this little guy did not act the way I expected him to.  “Something’s wrong,” I said to Ned.  “It feels like he doesn’t need me or something.”

“What can you expect a baby to need from you?”  Ned asked logically.  And there you have it, the polar difference between us.  I voice the dangerous rumblings in the earth and he stays safe in his pool.  The beauty of our relationship is that we don’t stay apart in those places.  We mix it up, he gets dirty, I get clean.  The truth about Nat was somewhere in between.  There was something different about him, even as an infant.  Autism.  But it’s taken me so many times to understand that this difference was not something wrong.


I love your honesty.

— added by Autismville on Saturday, July 17, 2010 at 8:56 am

I loved that line, “we mix it up, he gets dirty, I get clean”. It’s so important to figure out what works in our marriages, particularly with the struggles so inherent in the not-so-typical autism family. You have certainly made that connection!

— added by kim mccafferty on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

I myself experienced this same situation, somewhat. In December, 1996, I had twins, a boy and a girl. My daughter behaved as all newborns do, but not my son. The difference was very subtle at first, but as the babies grew it became much more pronounced. Unlike my daughter, my son just didn’t seem to have that overwhelming need for mom. At times I wondered if he even recognized me. At his six month well baby checkup I remember asking the pediatrician “does he know that I’m his mother, or am I just the nice lady that gives him a bottle?” The doctor replied “what a strange thing to ask, of course he knows that you are his monther.” But I didn’t know, because he didn’t act the way that an infant typically does and he didn’t seem to attach to me or to anyone. I didn’t at the time understand that it was the beginning of autism. Speaking for myself, I believe my son Matthew was “born” with autism and did not “acquire” it as a toddler as most do.

— added by Sharon Jones on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 2:38 pm

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