April 8, 2010

A Ripe Old Age

Posted in My Take on Autism tagged , at 10:40 am by autismmommytherapist

It is my fondest wish that I survive my oldest son.

No, I’m not suffering from Munchausen’s, Munchausen’s by proxy, or any variation thereof, nor am I hoping for our collective demise to occur anytime soon. I am committed however to breathing until I’m 106, which will make my son 70, and although that’s a bit short of the life expectancy of the average white male these days, I figure that’s still a nice long life. I think I’ve got a shot at being a centenarian, as my great-grandfather on my mother’s side made it to 99 in an era where he should have been dead at fifty. Plus, there’s that daily segment on The Today Show, where Sallie Sue and Gertrude Louise smile their toothless grins at the camera, while Willard Scott reads us their inspirational advice on how to outlive your welcome. It never seems to include anything about their husbands.

So, I’m going for it, and I’ve taken steps to ensure I get there so I’ll always be around for my son. I exercise daily now, eat more vegetables, have limited my wine and chocolate (in theory), all in the name of good health. The thing is, I simply have to live beyond the parameters of good taste, because I can’t imagine leaving Justin on this earth without me. The thought, usually the last one I have before I slip into slumber each evening, is simply unbearable.

I imagine most of us, if we can still remember our names at the end of our lives, are reluctant to leave our loved ones. I’m guessing it’s because  we know we’ll be missing things, milestones with grandchildren (if we weren’t too old to have them), or the satisfaction of bossing our children around into their fifties. You know, all the main reasons we endeavor to reproduce at all.

I am certain, if I’m granted the ability to retain my saliva in the appropriate orifice and am remotely cognizant of my surroundings, that in the moments before my passing, I will not be in a peaceful place. I will, quite frankly, be freaking out. It’s not the pretty picture I envisioned for myself before parenthood, where my children would be gathered around me (my spouse would be dead, the men always go first), grandchildren would be texting their friends and hovering uncomfortably by the doorway, and some fabulous Stevie Nicks tunes would send me off to my great reward. Said reward would of course include pretty drinks, an endless array of dark chocolate, and ten consecutive hours of sleep a night without mandatory bathroom breaks.

The truth is, I feel I deserve to go peacefully, as I was yanked into the world prematurely and by emergency C-section, and I feel I’ve earned a smooth exit. For me, that means knowing Justin will not be left to fend for himself for years without his mother to protect him. It means not worrying about him being harmed in the group home he will surely reside in for at least several decades during his adulthood. It means not perseverating on who will love, or at least like, the man whom I’m certain I will always think of as my little boy, the child who despite his autism has always sought out touch, been generous with his abundant affection. It means being able to relinquish the sadness of knowing he won’t understand what dead means, and won’t comprehend why mommy isn’t visiting him anymore. It means Justin will not be required to reside alone, with no one left who cares to cross the bridge between his world and ours.

And this thought, this fear, is at the crux of the great divide between parents of children with lifelong, debilitating disorders, and those with children who do not. It is a constant companion this fear, and for me, my greatest daily challenge is just to sequester it somewhere out of reach so I can move forward with my day, and not be completely paralyzed by the implications of dying before my child.

So, wish me luck. I’m buying vitamin C and ginkgo biloba in bulk so that if I make it to 2073 I might still remember my son’s name. It’s a goal.



  1. Anita said,

    A very sombering entry. I do sympathize with you my friend. Perhaps, as seen on Ghost Hunters on the Sci-Fi channel, you too can continue to communicate with the earthly world even though you have passed. When there is a will there’s a way.

    • Let’s hope so. Frankly, there will be some people I’d enjoy scaring the crap out of after I pass…

  2. Mom said,

    Your fear and nightmare is similar to the one I have as his grandmother as well. I know Justin will always remember me–we have such an incredibly loving relationship, but I have no ability to make it to 2073 (which would make me 128–even though both my parents and all my grandparents reached their 80’s and 90’s! I pray that I will live long and remain healthy to spend the quality time that I do with the boys, to build many memories such as I have of my grandparents. I know that no matter what, you and Jeff will make the right choices for both of them, that to the best of your ability they will always be safe, loved and cared for. And without a doubt, they will always know that they have been deeply loved, as are you.

  3. Kathy Milmore said,

    Well, really, that just made me cry…

  4. misifusa said,

    May you be blessed with a long, healthy and cognizent life my friend. You most certainly have earned it, deserve it and reach for it with an enthusiasm that only rivals that which you put forth for your amazing offsprings’ betterment in life.
    Everytime I believe you’ve bested your last blog, you best yourself again. You are a truly one of a kind, talented writer, mother, friend…and I’m blessed to know you and to love you. I ‘get it’ if only selfishly about the last thought nightly of not leaving our darlings…Godspeed…we’ll celebrate at 110! And drive them all crazy! 🙂 xoxo

    • misifusa said,

      And YES! The feed worked! I am hooked up to your blog. xo

    • I know, I’m sure you think about this too. Let’s plan on living near each other so we can drive them crazy AND go shopping!

  5. Cindy said,

    You are an extraordinarily determined woman (see how I wrote determined and not stubborn? ) and if your goal is making it to 106, I have no doubt you’ll get there.

  6. Sara said,

    This is something I think about often for myself, my husband, and our son. Thank you for writing what I and so many other mother/parentss of “special” needs children think about so often.

  7. Jina said,

    Reaching for a tissue right now. Your honesty amazes me.

    • Thanks hon, and sorry I made you cry! It’s great to hear from you. Thanks for being my FB friend, and for taking the time to respond, means a lot!

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