Two weeks ago today ( I know – I am not consistent in my blog writing lately), it was the day of my Mom and Dad’s anniversary. They would have been married 65 years this year. I believe it was a bittersweet day for my Mom as she really wanted to celebrate it but without Dad here ( he passed away 7 years ago) it just was not the same.
This is a picture of them on their wedding day. They look so happy as usually newlyweds look. Although their marriage lasted their whole life and I can say it was a basically happy, contented marriage, there were tough times. I remember in my teens I was scared silly Mom and Dad were going to split up. I knew things were unhappy in our household but was not sure what was wrong. It’s only been the last couple of years of going through stuff from their house that I pieced together some of what was happening.
Dad was starting a new job as a carpet cleaner. This was a franchise business. He was responsible for setting it up, advertising and promoting the business, book-keeping, collecting payments etc etc. If you knew my Dad, he was not an entrepreneur or salesman. This unfortunately was the worse job Dad could have picked for himself. What started to happen was that he turned most of these jobs except the actual cleaning over to Mom who was an unhappy and unwilling business partner. She was not much better at these tasks and so much friction developed. Consequently, without much effort going into the business, financial issues became urgent.
Despite what people might say about those with autism not having empathy or awareness of other’s emotions, I was acutely aware to the point of being terrified. I was not aware of details, I just knew something was wrong in our household. I tend to be very aware of the emotional atmosphere around me, although I may not understand what’s going on and any tension can really bring on strong anxiety and panic.
To make a blog story short, I am happy to say that Dad got out of that business and got a job at the public school up the street as head custodian and he excelled at the job. He was probably the best custodian that school had ever had. Mom also got a new job as an admitting clerk at the nearby hospital where she also excelled. These permanent jobs meant stability, especially financial stability in their lives and things were much better for all of us.
Mom and Dad were like two peas in a pod. They basically spent all their time together with very few other people ever coming into our home. They were each other’s best friend and companions. They were truly devoted to each other and although did not outwardly express it often they loved each other dearly. When Dad was on his deathbed, I knew how hard it was for him to know he was leaving Mom behind. I promised him I would look after Mom, a promise I could never break. I have gotten myself into a real situation where Mom should really be in a nursing home but I continue to care for her at my home because as I said, I promised “I” would look after Mom – not the nursing home. My friends try to explain to me that me looking after Mom can take many forms including her being in a nursing home but I cannot make my brain switch from what I believe I promised my Dad in his last hours. My autistic brain is stuck and I am not sure how the future will play out.
What I have learned from watching my parents is that they made a commitment and stuck with it through thick and thin. It wasn’t always easy or pleasant but they managed. They provided their children, my brother and me, with a relatively stable household in which to grow up in which was very important to me. From watching my parents over all these years, I have a good understanding of what commitment means. I am playing out that same kind of commitment as I strive to look after my Mom in a way that is honouring and best for Mom. Commitment is hard. You so often want to give up but it’s something very important in so many areas of our lives and in our world and it is so worthwhile.
I put on a huge party for Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary and I am so glad I did. They had, and Mom still has, very fond memories of that special day. It was the first time in my life that I took on a project like that where I had to organize an event and deal with many issues at the same time. I was terrified I couldn’t do it but was pleasantly surprised that I indeed could manage a task like that. Since that time I have had a number of other major tasks to organize ( like the cleaning out and renovating and selling of Mom and Dad’s house and the setting up a large, automated, school library with 25,000 books). That first task of planning Mom and Dad’s 50th anniversary party gave me much confidence to tackle other things in my life and be successful at them and has also helped in convincing me I can look after Mom in her last years.
On what would have been their 65th anniversary, I wanted to do something special for Mom. I did not know what to do until I stumbled upon an idea. Mom loves flowers – not bought from a store so much but from a garden. I had along the side of my house a lovely flower garden I had made in memory of Dad since he loved to garden. In the morning I went out and picked a bouquet of flowers for Mom, put them in a nice vase and presented them to her as if they were a gift from Dad for his sweetheart. I think she loved it. I also had ( and this shows the pack rat in me) one of the picture boards I had assembled for their 50th wedding anniversary. I brought it up to her sitting room and we had some good times reminiscing over the pictures of her wedding, her honeymoon etc etc. She also had a good time showing them to her PSW and respite worker in the next couple of days.
Those special days are so important even after a loved one has passed away. I think it is so important to recognize them and celebrate them. For Mom I know it was a joy to her and I enjoyed talking to her about some of those old memories of times gone by. I know that even after Mom passes away, I will continue to celebrate her birthday, her anniversary etc etc. It brings comfort to me and represents a kind of continuing on of memories and life histories. It helps me feel stable in an unstable world, it brings an order to my life and keeps that order present as I often struggle to make it through the days, weeks, and months with all sorts of unsuspected things happening to throw a wrench into my life. So next year, whether Mom is here or not, I will be celebrating on July 12 – to honour two very special people in my life and the important legacy they left me.