Susan's Blog

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It’s Just a Relationship

20 years ago, when Nat was a baby, we lived in a terrible little place.  It was not terrible to anyone else but me.  Most people would think it was s cute little “starter home” neighborhood, filled with young families and stable older ones.  But to me it was awful.  All I could see was the ugliness of suburbia:  tiny vinyl-sided Capes and cars parked everywhere and luridly colored plastic toys covering perfect links-green lawns.

Was everything ugly to me because I was sad about my unexpectedly self-contained baby?  He wasn’t silent; he wasn’t placid; he wasn’t difficult; he wasn’t easy.  He was who he was, but he was not whom I had expected.  Something was “off” but to this day I don’t know if that was me or him.  The years stream by and wear down my memories like a river softens rocks; days stand out polished and bright but sometimes become years.  What was what?  I don’t know.  I draw on this very flawed pool of feelings and memories to explain new thoughts I have.

In the bad little neighborhood, the only thing I liked to do was take my baby on long long walks.  The neighborhood seemed endless; you could walk and turn and walk and you’d never leave it.  The little curvy streets ran into one another, forming a large web.  I liked that, because parts of the other streets had slightly prettier houses and gardens.  So I would walk there and show them to Nat.

I would talk to him the entire way.  Not as a Mommy to her Baby, but just me talking to him.  I actually wondered if this was OKAY — the first of a million moments of self-doubt around Nat.  Or should I be talking to him like, “Oh, look Natty!  A dog!  What does a dog say?  Woof, woof!”  And on and on.  But I hated doing that.  I also hated myself for hating that.  But still I just talked to him, Sue to Nat, and lived with my self-hatred.  I talked to him about whatever was on my mind.  I needed that.  Ugly houses, fixing up our house, moving away, mean neighbors, people I was mad at, people I loved.  Things I wanted to do with my life.  I’d look down at the stroller sunshade — maybe it was back, or maybe it covered him — and at his feet sticking out in front of him.  His feet stood at attention — until he inevitably dropped off to sleep.  Then they would collapse, toes inward.  I used to love seeing the difference.  Nat was just so Nat, even then, so definite in his various states.

I didn’t know it at the time, but talking like that established something between Nat and me.  This was to become one of the cornerstones of our relationship.  This sounds corny as I write it, but I feel it is true.  I have always talked to him regularly.  I have also always talked to him teacher-ly, when I have to explain things to him.  Social-storylike, to be sure he understands.  But there is this whole other dimension to our talk that is just plain talking, where I don’t stop and wonder if he gets it.  He listens, either way.

Like just now, I went into the kitchen for more coffee, while Nat sat in the windowseat watching.  “I just love my morning coffee, Nat,” I said quietly, holding the pale green mug carefully in my hand.  “I love this book I’m reading,” I also said to him.  He didn’t answer me; he knew he didn’t have to.  It was just Mom talking to him, telling him what was on her mind, in her heart, or simply right in front of them.  And he would probably just listen until he was tired of it.  And indeed, he is now gone from the windowseat, into his own thing.


[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by melvie , Susan. Susan said: It's just a relationship, like any other: odd and unique. #autism […]

— added by Tweets that mention It’s Just a Relationship « Susan's Blog -- on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 8:55 am

I always hated the “teach them constantly” that we get taught when they are small. I prefer to read, watch people and talk little. Yet, I ramble when typing… oh well 🙂

I feel guilty b/c I did all those things with the eldest. Granted his dx was mild, his speech delay “normal” not the autistic all over the place of his younger bro… I’ve simply gotten tired. With tired comes the coulda, woulda, shoulda, guilt that maybe the younger could be as far along as the elder had I….

Wandering for us is around the farm, the neighbors have always been the same, so I’ve never felt like I’ve been “watched” or judged. Ironically, nobody has ever asked any questions either. But, those days he’s wandered off… those days the elder thinks he should be allowed to ride on the road where Mom can’t see him… They’ve always been right there. It’s a good spot.

— added by farmwifetwo on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

Susan you are such a gifted writer. Reading your blogs-your thoughts,feelings and life memories is so enjoyable!! Thanks for sharing!! You are a good woman!!

— added by Lewis Marcus on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 9:41 am

Oh Susan this is so dear and sweet and so reminiscent of my time with Maddie these days. I mention to her what I am doing, ask her what she is doing, what she thinks – sometimes there are answers and sometimes there is silence. But it feels good to talk to her – she smiles, she laughs when I laugh, she holds my face in her hands and kisses my forehead after talking. I think that she thinks it’s just her Mama, but it sure feels good to have this other relationship with my daughter blossom. She’s not who I thought she would be when I was a new Mama with my first child, but she turned out fully herself and I guess, in the end, I couldn’t have asked for any more. Thank you for writing this today Susan.

— added by Penny on Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

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