[I have a friend who I met through my job as a lawyer. She is a psychologist and is well known for her ability to read nonverbal communication, speech patterns and decipher truth through nonverbal cues. She is, for all intents and purposes, the opposite of autistic. Isn’t that weird? Someone so in tune with speech patterns, vocal inflection, dialect, facial expressions and body language that she can tell the emotional undertone and likelihood that someone is speaking the truth. So, you can see why she might be valuable to me from my perspective as an attorney. And how opposite she is from the world of autism.
I never told her about my son. He had been diagnosed shortly before I met her. Recently, I sent her a message. In the message, I was trying to explain how I felt about the change in my life from attorney to a mostly, full-time special needs mom. I realized I hadn’t really thought about it ‘til then and the subject demanded more than a couple sentences…]
In my life as an attorney, my job was to persuade. To tip the balance of the scales of justice and present more evidence than not that things happened as I reported. Many lawyers hate their jobs. I used to hate my job years ago because I did not believe in what I was doing. I was always doing someone else’s bidding.
Then, somewhere along the line, I began taking on cases I believed in. Cases where someone had been irreparably harmed at the hands of someone else. Advocating for someone who really needed you to fight was rewarding. It still is. But it’s different now.
Oh so slowly, I have come to see how the need of one little person has surpassed my whole career. It’s like a tide slowly washing over the sand on the beach. At first, the tide comes in and covers me. I hold my breath and become wholly engrossed in an IEP or therapy meetings and appointments, looking for answers, for every treatment there is. Then, the tide goes out again and I focus on my job and the needs of others. The ebb and flow continues until one day I realize I’m not holding my breath any longer. I can see I’m looking up and completely submerged by the clear water of caring for my special needs son. It’s not sad or depressing. It’s simply different. It’s challenging. It’s difficult. But I’ve adapted. I’m breathing. I’ve changed into someone else.
In effect, as a special needs mom, I morphed into a new person from someone I used to be. When I look in the mirror, I can see my old self. She was a fighter. Someone who would invest every last breath scouring documents to find the lies, then spend hours detailing a map and a plan to destroy her opponents. She was dressed well with neatly coiffed hair and nails, shoes that matched her purse and jewelry to match her mood. Her makeup was subtle and refreshed by powder and eyeliner pencil during morning and afternoon court breaks.
That woman had not tasted fast food for years before she became pregnant. She wondered why she ever ate it when she was a teen. Instead, she was all about fine dining and cooking a healthy meal with fresh ingredients and the latest kitchen gadgets.
She spent hours working out and meticulously recording her time. She weighed herself daily. She made regular visits to the tailor and dry cleaner. She perused home furnishing magazines and circled the latest home designs, gadgets, colors and styles. She shopped and took photos of the beauty in nature.
Most of that woman has passed on.
I have taken her place. It’s strange how I took over her body, but hey, she left me with a good framework and I simply moved in. I picked and scavenged through her life and chose what I wanted to keep and what I did not need.
She did not have the important things to do that I do now so we had to shove all the garbage aside. Coiffed hair, refreshed makeup and nails? Gone. Tailor and dry cleaner? Gone. Fining dining and cooking – beat it. Purse and shoes to match? Don’t make me laugh. Interior design? Yes. Hot Wheels go with carpet stains.
I figure this body I’m using now can eat pretty much whatever happens to be around. Since I’m busy hauling the little boy who needs me so much from place to place, we make a lot of stops at drive-thrus for the burgers and french fries that comprise the core of his food pyramid. On the way here and there, I eat his leftovers. French fries never tasted so good.
That nice little petite body? Well, out of pity, I’ve given it a little under half hour a day of bike time about 6 a.m. so I can keep up with all the hauling and carrying and physical work the special needs job entails. It’s certainly no where near the petite it used to be – unless we’re talking about height. Then, yeah, I’ve pretty much maintained that part.
I still shop – just not for me. The photos? Once in a while, I’ll let that old girl out to snap a few photos of flowers or sunsets. Mostly though, I hold the camera now, in the direction of the little boy who has encapsulated my heart and my whole being.
And the fighter part? I kept that. I use it at IEPs and to assure services and medical appointments. The research skills? I kept those too. Those are not as transferable I’ve found, but I make due. And I’m learning to question his doctors, the same way I used to question a defendant.
When I really look at that old girl, I realize how lonely she was. Sad. She might have had things to keep her busy but she did not have what I have. She was missing the biggest part of what makes life complete. She needed a child. It was me who gave her that. That child is beautiful and perfect. He just has special needs. In return for this child, she gave me her body and her life and we agreed to put her away on a shelf in a photo album.
Someday, when my son is grown and (knock on wood) attending college, I might take out an old purse and pair of shoes, dust them off and take that old self of mine out for dinner. She’s a pretty easy going hostage. And she loves that little guy as much as I do.