I have started reading Love That Max, a blog about disabilities from a parent’s point of view. So far, it’s the only parent-oriented blog that I follow.
My parents didn’t talk to me much about my disabilities when I was growing up … at least not directly. At least not that I remember. Reading the Love That Max post linked above, I thought of one time when my Mother told me about her reaction when I was born and found to have several complicated “problems” that nobody seemed to have a handle on.
Mom told me that for an unspecified amount of time right after my birth, she was very upset, angry, grief-stricken, whatever. She then told me one day she was unloading her feelings with a close friend … Why me? Isn’t this terrible? What are we going to do? … and the friend said something like, “Well, it certainly would have been a lot simpler for you if he hadn’t been born!”
Mom said that this was a crucial moment that “snapped her out of” her spiral of grief and regret, and refocused her on her love for me as her child, and on the future and what needed to be done.
I’m not sure how I feel about this today, but I remember that at the time I felt really good hearing the story. For some reason, it satisfied a lot of my questions. I guess the incident must have settled most of Mom's questions, too, or at least made them manageable.
Years later, Mom told me about a similar turning point for her that happened in a similar way. When I started college, I had just gone through a really terrible medical crisis. My recovery from that coincided exactly with the start of my Freshman year. I was at college far from what was then home (Olympia, Washington), and my Mom was there, staying in an apartment near the college. It hadn’t been part of her plan or anyone else’s to stay with me, but she was because like I said, I had just gone through like two months of weird medical problems and hospital stays. Apparently, one day she was talking on the phone to one of her friends back in Olympia … just a casual conversation at first I guess … and suddenly Mom just started unloading all of her confusion, sadness, and lack of direction. I was doing okay, you see, but she was still stuck in crisis mode. Well, according to Mom, the friend just said, “Claire, come home.”
That was it, I guess. Mom told me about this the very next day, literally in the process of explaining why she was leaving. As I recall, she was gone by the end of the week. Frankly, I was extremely pleased at the time. I couldn’t have found the words or the gumption to tell Mom I didn’t need her around anymore, but that’s exactly how it was. And once again, it took a friend … not a relative, doctor, or counselor ... to tell the simple, honest truth in a way that my Mom could digest.
Unless I’m mistaken, Mom and Dad never connected with any sort of disability / parents community. I think they saw it as too “touchy-feely” or something. I wonder, if I’d been born in 1997 instead of 1967, would they have read “special needs” blogs like Love That Max? I feel like that might have been more likely, as blogs allow the option of participating anonymously. Plus, they both loved reading.
Seeing in these blogs how continuous the difficulties of parents with disabled children are, I also realize that they can’t really be solved with a moment of tough love from a friend. Yet, I also sometimes think that’s exactly what more of these parents ... and their disabled children ... need.
Disability life, ideas, identity, culture, commentary, and politics.