By Brian Lafferty
October 13, 2011 (San Diego) – When I was little I would have an occasional paralyzing fear that my mom and dad were going to die too soon. I don’t know why I had this fear. All I know is it would keep me up at night and it made me cry.
Every time this fear would envelop me – usually at bedtime – I’d come downstairs in tears. Mom always had a way of saying things in a way that made me feel better. She assured me that by the time she would die I wouldn’t be dependent on her. She’d hug me, kiss me, then send me up to bed and things would be much better.
The years passed and by the time I was in high school the fears stopped. But in the end, these fears would prove to not be unfounded. On November 26 of last year she succumbed to an aggressive and invasive form of breast cancer. I was devastated. I’m still grieving and I likely always will. She won’t be around for my wedding, she won’t be able to hold my grandchildren, and despite having 160 friends on Facebook, I miss her commenting on and liking my status updates.
The purpose of this column is to tell you about life from an Autistic person’s point of view. In addition, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Starting today and through November I want to share with you my personal experience of losing my mother from my Autistic perspective.
Right away my mother noticed I was “different.” She could see that my speech wasn’t developing at the same rate as my sisters’. She knew I was intelligent and could read, but my social skills left way too much to be desired. I was easily distracted and the utmost patience was required to keep my attention focused; she once told one of my therapists how a psychologist tried to get me to read out loud what was written on a set of cards. The problem was the posters on the walls distracted me.
My earliest memories of mother are times when I felt her love for me. One mostly vivid memory took place when I was around five years old. She was sitting on the sofa. I came over, sat on her lap, and hugged her. We may have talked but I don’t remember what was said. But we hugged each other for at least five minutes.
This is the most precious memory I have of her because it speaks volumes about how much she loved me and how much I could read it. As a child I had difficulty reading people’s faces, emotions, and body language. Mom discovered that when she tried to play peek-a-boo only to find me gazing blankly in return. I didn’t understand why she was covering her face with her hands, then quickly pulling them away.
One time she played a little game with me. She asked me who I was. I couldn’t answer. She picked me up, took me to the bathroom mirror and I immediately said with glee that was me.
My last great memory of her occurred during a vacation I took with her in mid-August last year. We took a trip to Northern California to see my sister and her family, my maternal grandfather, my paternal grandfather, and my aunt, uncle and cousin. It was a fun trip and a great bonding experience. We spent the eight-hour ride home listening to all of the Beatles’ albums in chronological order; The Beatles were her favorite band.
It was during that vacation that she discovered something was wrong. The months that followed would be the most challenging time of my life.
Brian Lafferty is a young adult with High-Functioning Autism currently living in Escondido. He graduated cum laude from California State University, Fullerton with a degree in Radio/TV/Film and is also the film critic for East County Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @BrianLaff.