If my mother were still alive, tomorrow would be her 96th birthday. Sadly, she didn’t make it past the age of 64. Cancer sucks.
It’s rather unsettling to think that if I make it another 6 years (and I’d like to believe that the odds of that are good), I’ll have lived longer than she did. I have already lived longer than my oldest sister did. Mortality is such a strange and arbitrary creature.
My mother would have loved the modern era, with its easy access to information. She adored learning new things. She also loved to talk to other people, and would have thrived on social media. But I’m thinking of my 64-year-old mother, not my 96-year-old mother. It’s hard to say if she would have the mental or visual sharpness to do a Google search at that age. I’ll never know.
I can’t really imagine what it would be like to have a geriatric parent. I was never given that gift. Or maybe that was a blessing. There are too many unknowns to be able to speculate which end of the spectrum would be more accurate to our circumstances.
I do wish that she were still around to answer about a million questions for me. Now that I’ve been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, I’m looking at the way my mother raised me through a whole new lens. I’m less confused about a lot of things that occurred during my childhood now, and I’m much more grateful/chagrined for all that my mother went through for me. I wish I could tell her that. I could be a lot, and still can be.
But, again, who knows if she would be capable of answering my questions at age 96. She might not even know who I am at this point, and that would be gut-wrenching. And having her still right here and yet unable to shed light on certain things would be even more frustrating than my current reality.
In many ways, she is still with me even though she left 32 years ago. She doesn’t feel far away at all. I have just as many answers that I could provide her as I have questions for her. I wish I could give her that. I now understand how hard it must have been to not have those answers, especially when she had to parent me all alone through some very foreign territory.
I’m sure the word autism was never even on her radar, but the more I think about my past, the more I realize that she knew something was very… I hate to say “wrong”. But something was very abnormal about me. Abnormal, stripped of all the ominous, negative connotations, and yet coated with a hardened candy-like shell of motherly concern.
With her birthday on the horizon, I am reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2014. She had been gone for 23 years by then, but even more significant is the fact that less than 6 weeks later, my boyfriend died so abruptly that it turned my entire world completely upside down. The blog post is entitled Love Never Dies, a title which was devoid of irony at that moment in time. Reading it with hindsight gives me the chills.
In that post, I described the many ways my mother seemed to have been reaching out to me from the other side. At the time, I couldn’t decide if I was making it all up as a way to soothe my mourning, or if these were signals from… wherever. I actually “asked” her if 2014 would be better than 2013 had been, because to say I was going through a rough patch is putting it mildly.
If you read that post, you’ll see that her response, if it was indeed her response, was rather adamant. At the time, I interpreted it as evidence of another crappy year ahead. But now, I see it as an attention-grabbing, “Heck yeah, 2014 is going to be phenomenal.”
I didn’t realize at the time, though, that the first half of 2014 was about to get a whole heck of a lot worse. But I now know that those dark times had to happen in order for me to be where I am now, which is in a better place than I’ve ever been.
2014 was pivotal and phenomenal and painful and exciting and it was the year my life took a sharp turn. I didn’t know it at the time, because I was barely keeping it together as I was wading through all the upheaval, but that year definitely turned out to be a turn for the better.
2014 led me to the Seattle area, and a job that has my financial head above water for the first time ever. It also led me to Dear Husband, and it led me to the many answers that autism is bringing me.
If you had asked me back then, I’d have said I was suffering through the worst of times. But it turns out I was just on the steep, rocky, uneven pathway that led to the best of times. If we can get messages from beyond, it’s safe to assume that the messenger has broader insights than we mere mortals will ever have.
This is why it is so important to never give up. Because none of us really know where we are in the overall scheme of things. Not really. Bottom line: message received.
Happy birthday, Ma. Thank you for all that you did for me. It helped me get where I am. I hope you’re proud of me. That’s yet another unanswered question that I’ll just have to learn how to live with. But it’s worth it, every mysterious bit of it, if it means I get to have the life I now live.
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