Friday, May 11, 2007


On May 5th of last year my mother died. She left her legacy though: 7 kids and lots and lots of grandkids. One of my frequent questions to her when I was an adult was "How did you do it?". We've never gotten a straight answer from neither her nor dad, but I think I'm now learning why. Having 5 myself, including two on the autistic spectrum, my wife and I have learned that it ain't easy.

My mom was a whip. She could rattle off names, dates, to do's, whens, whys, whos and hows. The house I grew up in never seemed to be lacking, even if you had to be quick to get whatever was around to get! 18 hands could pick through a package of Oreos in a nanosecond! Laundry was always done (except, where did she hide the dirty stuff, I have a laundry room FULL of dirty clothes!). While my house was never the Brady Bunch, I felt we ran a not to distant second. But mom was always the hub; keeping the place running with the efficiency of well run small business. My dad just made the money and stayed out of the way of the dynamo!

We lost my mom to senile dementia after many years of a slow downhill march. I always will hate the fact that she had lost that ability to keep it all together in her head over all those years, only to have that talent and everything else that was precious to her slowly get picked away by this degenerative disease. She probably felt the same way about her mother, who lost HER faculties in much the same way as my mother. Genetics ties each to the next generation; I am convinced that genetics for autism and Alzheimer's will be found to be similar, or at least both will be found to have similar susceptibilities.

Anyway, I meant this post for my wife. While I'm not quite the laissez faire-type person my dad was when it comes to the day to day affairs of the house (thanks, woman's lib!), I still am marvelled by the similar fervor at which the house hums along. It's amazing what my wife Linda gets into a day. While I go through my paces at work, she gets 4 kids off to school, has 3 different home therapists to contend with; 3 different outside therapy locations. She has her own therapies she does with the girls; biomedical research; supplement 'mixings'; those 'little' incidentals like homework and meals (the girls are on a GF/CF diet as well). We share the duties of laundry and dishes; diapers and bedtimes. By the time I get home after being away for twelve-odd hours, the average response is "I'm whipped!". But still there are bills to pay; backpacks to pack; things to research; paperwork for schools, state, doctors. I'm usually in bed a half to an hour before her.

It's so absolutely impossible to get personal in this type of pressure cooker environment. We barely get those 5 minute conversations that last 3 hours in about what we need to talk about; there is almost no 'us' time. It's no wonder there is an 80% divorce rate among parents of autistics. Most couples don't get the 5 years of childless getting to know you; then wind up with an autistic child and no real 'communication base' to work from. Thank God we have a strong foundation!

I do indeed see now what my mother went through and what my wife is going through. And why, when we are asked in our old age, "how we did it", we will just smile (grimace), shake our heads and say "I don't know". I honestly don't know how we do it, and I certainly don't know how she does it.

Anyway, I have a card already, babe. But I wanted you to know that I marvel at all you do for all these kids (kids include me sometimes!). There is no one I'd rather be with, nor could possibly go through this with other than you, Lin. You're the best thing to happen to me, them, and all of us. Nobody does it half as good as you, baby your the best! Happy Mother's Day, Bill


abfh said...

I think the 80 percent divorce rate may be overstated; the statistics don't include all the families where the child never gets a formal diagnosis because one parent (or both) also is autistic and sees nothing unusual about the child's behavior.

But yes, it's tough taking care of small children no matter what their particular needs may be, and mothers (and dads too!) deserve a lot of respect for all their hard work.

A Bishops wife said...

I come from a family of ten. I have 8 older sisters and a younger brother. I lost my dad to dementia 2 years ago.

My junior is 5-autistic. The hubby and I feel the stress of two 8 year old boys and Junior. It is hard at times but the rewards are tremendous.

I think, if I were from a different generation (I am 45)I would have been diagnosed as autistic--in fact I am sure of it.


The interesting thing will be the next 10 years, as this 'autistic generation' comes of age. I am convinced that this doom and gloom that groups like ACHAMP are putting out, predicting the demise of the support system once all these autistic turn 18, will be like the Y2K bug in human form. All this work is being done upfront to help these kids. there is also the probability that either these kids will grow out of it or have, in the 'pre-autistic' generations, just dealt with being different. So this 18 year old bubble (starting at around 2012 IMHO) will turn out to be nothing.

That being said, I do see personal parallells between autism and alzheimers. I'm not sure if it's genetic, environmental or both. I just thing there has to be a connection between the two...Thanks for stopping by...