Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Impact of Autism on Grandparents

Every God fearing person has had moments in their lives when they question God, rail at Him for the hand they have been dealt, wonder what they ever did to deserve what they are going through.  I certainly have felt all of these things since my boys were diagnosed with autism.  I will never forget a conversation I had with my mother in law when Jack was right around 1 year old.  We were sitting right by the steps in my family room and I confessed that I was so relieved to see Jack making good eye contact- that my biggest fear as a mom was autism- I couldn't imagine the idea of "losing" my child, of having a child that could not tell me what they needed.  We both smiled and agreed, Jack was "in the clear"- he had great language and good eye contact.  This is a true story, and one that I go back to over and over again.  The language never changed, but the eye contact left, and thankfully has now returned for the most part.  When Jack was first diagnosed, I lived day to day, and counted my biggest blessing- Nathan, who seemed to be developing very typically.  I clung to that.  And then that was gone.  And it felt like my entire world was crumbling around me.  How could God do this to our family?  What did we ever do to deserve this?  To have such a difficult thing happen to both of our children?  I still wonder "why me" at times, although most of my energy is focused on dealing with the issues presented to me on a daily basis.

There is one thing I have never questioned God about.  When Jack was about 3 and a half, and Nate was about one, my parents moved here from California.  Jack had been identified as having aspergers by this point, but Nate was not yet showing signs of what was to come.  I have never wondered why my parents came to live in Maryland- a place they had never lived before in their lives.  I knew that they could sense my stress over Jack, could see all that our family was already struggling to juggle- two full time jobs, running a household, financial strain, marital difficulties and then therapies and appointments for Jack.  Shortly after they came here permanently is when it all started to hit the fan.  They didn't even know the half of it at the time, it was too much for me to share.  There are aspects of that period that I will never speak about on this blog, suffice it to say, our therapist still occasionally gasps when we talk about this period.  There are very very few families who would have survived what ours has.  God brought my parents here for a reason.  Our family was meant to make it, we needed support, God provided.
There was a point that September when my parents and my mother in law came over- they asked how can we help?  I could see how helpless they were feeling- because at that point, there really just wasn't much, other than financial help, that they could provide.  I remember my mother in law was asking about their diet, she said, does BJ's have any gluten free food? Here, I'll join and you can have the other tag.  This still brings tears to my eyes, because, while all I ever found was applesauce (shame on you BJ's) the gesture meant more than anything.  And I could tell that I was not the only one desperate to do something, anything.

I found this wonderful perspective on being an autism grandparent that I thought I would share:

I can tell you that from what I have experienced, these feelings are very accurate.  I have seen both of my parents and my mother in law cry for my sons.  Sometimes from happiness (when Nate spoke in front of his mimi for the first time at Thanksgiving) and sometimes they have been crying right along with me and John in sorrow or frustration.  I will say this- I love these three people (my parents and John's mom) more than words can express, for their commitment to our nuclear family- through the difficult times and the victories.  Their actions over the past several years are a true testament to the fact that parenthood is forever.  These two mothers have "mothered" us in new ways during this time period, and I don't know how we would have made it as far as we have without them.  I know that I am a mom, but this is what I am thinking about this mother's day- these amazing women and their sacrifices and acts of love during a very dark period. 

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