Redefining Typical

A Mother, A Son, A Journey…..with Autism

For Her February 6, 2014

Filed under: autism-Siblings — Cheairs @ 11:52 pm
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I tell her she gets her bright blue eyes from my Papa.
Her great-grandfather.
She loves this.
I have not told her.
But her energy.
Her enthusiasm to embrace life.
To jump.
Somersault in it.
She gets that from my Mama Dear.
Her great-grandmother.
I need to tell her this.
I think she will like that.
They are no longer here.
On this Earth.
But I feel them.
I see them.
In her.
Tonight she cried.
Her tears.
But she pushed me away.
I wanted so desperately to make it right.
To make the sadness go away for her.
But I could not.
I was helpless.
The pain still in my throat.
Behind my eyes.
The sadness.
For all that is not normal.
She asked us to stop.
We sat in Dawson’s room having family time.
He wanted to sing songs from Signing Time videos.
The moments that Dave and I grab on and hold tight to.
The moment when his lips curl into a mischievous smile.
When his blue eyes.
The ones that he got from my Papa.
His great-grandfather.
When they light up.
But my Margaret-Ann.
She kicked her feet and covered her ears.
She screamed, “I don’t like those songs!”
Her voice adamant, “Dawson, don’t sing those songs!”
Dave and I snapping at her.
Telling her if she did not want to sing the songs that she could go to another room.
And her feet.
The ones that jump across the house in joy.
Those feet.
They stomped out in frustration.
And her hands joined her feet in pounding the floor.
Her words echoing through the walls, “Stop singing those songs!”
And we ignored her.
That’s what you are supposed to do when your eight year old child throws a fit.
And Dave and I sang along with Dawson.
Breathing in his words.
Rejoicing in his giggles.
He was with us.
We were with him.
But she was not.
And I leave Dawson’s room.
To check on my Margaret-Ann.
Something that is a minute-by-minute occurrence for my Dawson.
And I find her.
Curled up.
In the dog’s crate.
In the dark.
I bend down.
I move my hand toward her sock feet that are hanging outside the red dog house.
She coils her legs into her body.
“Leave me alone!”
“Go away.”
I move back.
“Sweetie, do you need a hug?”
Her voice.
The anger.
It flies at me like a mother dog trying to protect her pups.
“No! It is your fault! You know I don’t like those songs and you let Dawson sing them. They are baby songs. I hate them. Leave me alone! It is all your fault!”
And I walk back up the stairs.
I tell Dave she is crying.
That she is angry.
That she needs some space.
And I stand at the top of the stairs.
And I wait.
Her tears.
They are muffled now.
I take the steps slowly.
Down to the den.
She has moved from the dog crate to a corner of the room.
She sits in a ball.
In the dark.
I ask her again.
I say her name.
“Margaret-Ann, sweetie, can you come out here with me?”
Her voice.
And so I sit.
In the dark.
Not next to her.
But with her.
And I wait.
Then her voice.
“Mommy, I don’t like it when Dawson sings those baby songs.”
I close my eyes.
“I know you don’t, sweetie.”
Her tears start again.
“And Mommy I can’t find the charm that Sally gave me. It fell off and I can’t find it.”
And I know this is my invitation.
Her cracking the darkness to let me in.
“Oh, sweetie. Do you want me to help you find the charm?”
Through her tears.
I reach out my hands.
“Do you need a hug?”
With a sniffling, “Yes.”
She crawls into my lap.
And her words.
They come tumbling out.
Her feelings are mine.
Everything that has wrenched my gut or pierced my heart.
She feels now.
In this spot.
In my lap.
With my arms around her.
Patting her back.
Rocking her.
Her voice.
Her soul.
With all of the energy and spirit that she carriers in her little body.
The sadness and anger come out.
“Mommy, he is older than me and he likes baby songs. Why can’t you make him stop?”
“I don’t like it. I really, really, really, don’t like it!”
Her face buried into my shoulder.
The arms that dribble a basketball
The hands that throw a baseball with her daddy in the backyard.
They clutch me tightly.
“And we can’t do things like other families.”
“I just want us to be normal.”
“Why can’t we just be normal?”
And her body stiffens.
I feel her squeeze tightly.
“Sometimes I just want to run away and be with another family. A normal family. A family that does not have autism.”
And the tears.
They are choking me.
Because I have wanted to run away.
I have wanted another family.
One without autism.
And I rock her in my arms.
“And Mommy I don’t like that he has to have a grown up with him all the time. Other ten year olds don’t have to grown up with him all the time and he does!”
“It embarrasses me Mommy! When he sings baby songs, when he just says words that nobody understands. It embarrasses me.”
“I just wish his autism would go away and we could be a normal family.”
And I hold her.
In the tears.
In our home.
On the floor of our den.
I cry with her.
And I feel them.
The gentle hands of my grandparents.
My Mama Dear.
My Papa.
The ones that gave her blue eyes and her neverending energy.
Reaching out through the dark.
Their hands touching my back.
Her back.
They rock with us.
Their spirit.
It surrounds us.
And in their being.
I know.
Will be okay.
Dawson’s school is having a sibling support group.
Coordinated with our local Parks and Recreation Program.
I call to sign her up.
I cross my fingers, hoping that they may allow my Margaret-Ann to attend the program that has been set up for kids 10-15 years of age.
And they do.
And she goes.
A sweet dear friend who has known my little girl since she was a baby is volunteering to help.
She greets my gal with a huge hug and infectious smile.
And my bouncing, leaping, never-afraid-to-make-a-new-friend child runs to sit with the group.
I watch her gallop to her seat.
And there.
With her.
Are her people.
Twelve kids who all have a sibling with autism.
Twelve kids who might be able to say, “Me too.”
Twelve kids who can help her know she is not alone.
Dave and I sign off on some paperwork that I forgot to complete.
We hug and thank the staff that has put this program together.
And we leave.
And my Margaret-Ann soars.
During the five hour program, she runs, skips, listens, and shares.
I don’t know what they discussed.
I don’t know what she shared.
It is not mine to know.
It is hers.
We sit at the dining room table.
She is finishing the pillow case that they created during the Sibling Support Group.
She tells me that on one side she is supposed to put things she is really good at and the other side things Dawson is really good at.
“So, Mommy. I am putting soccer balls, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, and swimming on my side. I am also going to put Star Wars and Swap Force because you know I like them and I am good at them too.”
I nod.
“And Mama. I am going to putting spelling words and an A+ on Dawson’s side because he is really good at spelling and then pictures of balls, cause you know he really likes balls.”
I nod again.
“I think that is a great idea.”
And with her blue eyes that are her great-grandfather’s
She looks at me.
And with the energy and spirit that are her great-grandmother’s.
She says.
“I can’t wait until the next autism group. Now, when is it Mama?”
I turn off the engine of the minivan.
I grab my purse, trying to find my cell phone that has made it to the bottom of my bag.
I am asking Margaret-Ann and her friend Reagan if they have their water bottles and if they are ready to go inside for basketball practice.
I put my hand on the car door.
I brace myself for the cold wind that awaits me just outside the cocoon of my warm car.
And then Reagan’s voice.
“Mrs. Graves I really like getting to know Dawson. My mom has told some things about autism, but I think I want to learn more. I have a question.”
I have not yet turned around in my captain’s chair.
Her words are kind and sweet.
I look out the front window of the van.
“Sure, what is your question Reagan?”
I can feel her rocking back and forth with her feet.
“Well, will Dawson have autism when he is older?”
I take a deep breath.
I turn around in my seat ready to answer her question.
But, my Margaret-Ann is now standing next to Reagan.
Neither of their heads reaching the ceiling of the van.
With ease.
And love.
My Margaret-Ann answers the question.
“Dawson will always have autism.”
She raises her hands and moves them in the air like she is conducting an orchestra.
“It is just a part of who he is.”
I nod.
“Yep. Margaret-Ann is right. Autism is just a part of Dawson. It will always be a part of him.”
Reagan smiles.
Margaret-Ann starts jumping.
“Mom, can we go in now for practice?”
I breathe deeply.
Papa’s blue eyes.
Mama Dear’s energy.
Dawson’s autism.
A part of him.
A part of her.
A part of us.
Our normal.
Our typical.
And I wrap the love around me.
I hold it tight.
And I say.

Copyright Cheairs Graves February 5, 2014


15 Responses to “For Her”

  1. Kate Patterson Says:

    Tears. Your family is so full of love. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Ms. T. Says:

    I think this is your best piece yet, Cheairs! I adore very single one of you Graves’ with everything of my being. May you guys continue to work your way through Autism with such grace and kindness. Big, big hugs to M-A. Xo

  3. Diane Says:

    So beautiful and powerful. You are an amazing writer that paints a vivid, emotional picture. Thanks for sharing!! Your family is AWESOME!!!

  4. Deb Says:

    This post brings tears to my eyes. I have a son with mild autism, but my brother has very severe autism. I was your daughter, growing up. I remember so well those feelings of, “Why can’t we be a normal family?” I want to say just letting her SAY those words is such a big thing. I think if I had felt the freedom to just speak my heart out loud, it would have made such a difference. And you are doing a wonderful thing, introducing her to a sibling group. Things like that didn’t seem to exist 30 years ago, when I was a kid. I’m praying for your daughter. It can mean so much just to know that it’s okay to feel the way she does and that others have been in her situation, too.

    • Cheairs Says:

      As always I thank you for your support. You are correct there is just so much release, power, and comfort in just being able to speak your heart out loud.

  5. Kathy Says:

    For awhile I thought this would be the piece I would read without tears. Nope. Beautiful and touching and tender and sweet. Margaret Ann is a great sister. Thanks for your writing. It is truly a gift to your readers.

    • Cheairs Says:

      I will try for one that does not bring tears next time….trust me there are plenty of stories that will make you smile and laugh. As always thank you for your support!!

  6. Elizabeth Says:

    Amazing. Beautiful. Powerful. Rooted. True. Thank you for posting this.

  7. rhemashope Says:

    Amen. Love you all.
    One thing that strikes me in this is the amazing parents you and Dave are, the way you love and meet both of your children exactly where they are. I’m thankful for the sibling support group. You are all more than o.k.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this, Cheairs. As always, your writing speaks to me on so so many levels. Hugs, friend.

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