Vignettes of Grace and Grief – #2

Vignette #1 –    Mom has been wanting a laptop for quite a while ever since her computer crashed.  She kept asking me about it and I knew I had to get going on finding something suitable for  her.  After my concussion I was not supposed to be online but after a couple of quiet days I went online and madly researched laptops and finally came up with a model Ifelt would work for her.  I was able to get it at a local computer shop.  Today I picked it up and brought it home much to Mom’s great delight.  I knew she wanted it set up as fast as possible.  BIG PROBLEM!  I don’t know whether it has anything to do with my autism or just an idiosyncrasy but when I buy something new it usually has to stay in the box for quite a while maybe even several months.  When I bought my first digital camera it stayed in the box for 4 months before i was able to tackle it.  A few years ago I bought a new easy chair.  It took 2 YEARS before I felt comfortable in it and saw it as really mine.  I recently bought a new land line phone system- actually 2 months ago.  It is still in the box.  So….. I came home with Mom’s laptop and I brought it up to her room.  she was eager to see it.  I must say it was all I could  muster to take it out of the box.  I was so anxious I had to leave and go downstairs for a couple of hours with a cup of tea and sit and try to calm myself down.  I know I am perfectly capable of setting this laptop up.  I have done many things on the computer like install  my own router etc but for some reason ( and I believe I am just too exhausted from looking after Mom to deal with one more thing that requires a lot of brain energy) I just feel I can’t set this laptop up.  I finally got up the nerve to talk to Mom and told her my predicament.  I told her I was going to phone Staples to have someone set it up for us.  The money spent on this was far less worry that the damage the anxiety was doing to my well-being.  Mom took it well especially when she realized how anxiety – provoking it was.  But I feel like a failure.  I know I could do this.  Why does my anxiety have to again interfere with what I want to do in life?   Now Mom will have to wait while I take it in to get set up and that will take a few days.  I wanted to do it for her tonight.  I know my autism gives me many positive things in life.  I have wonderful creativity and I can think outside of the box.  I am passionate about many things and I am hard working and honest.  My passion and focus helps me to look after my Mom when it can get very difficult.  I am determined.  I don’t give up easily.  But unfortunately, with my autism also comes some difficult things like extreme anxiety and idiosyncrasies that get in the way of normal life.  I have to learn to take the good with the bad and I say bad but I don’t mean that really.  They are all just parts of me that make me who i am.  So tonight a laptop got the better of me.  Maybe tomorrow I will have victory over something else in my life.  And so life goes on…..


Vignette #2 –    It’s tough looking after Mom.  It’s very tough.  So tough, I often feel like throwing in the towel and giving up.  It’s often when things are at their worst that God drops a gem of joy into my lap.  Just because.  Just because he loves me.  Just because I am his child and he cares about what I am going through.  Today was one of those days.  The last few days have been extremely difficult.  I have been worried about what the future holds for Mom and I and whether I will have to put her in a nursing home and if i don’t will I be able to still take care of her properly at home.  As I was going downtown to pick up Mom’s new laptop I was reading a children’s book on the life of Maud Lewis the famous Canadian folk art painter from the East Coast.  After I picked up the laptop, I was walking along the street and went to pass by an art gallery that I have passed by for years but have never gone in.  I love art and so I decided today was the day I was going to go in and see what they had.  I went in and was surrounded with some beautiful paintings.  Then I noticed a display of 2 paintings (prints not originals) of Maud Lewis’s.  Apparently there is an online auction to auction off 2 of her paintings.  I showed the owner of the store the book I had been reading on the way downtown.  Then he asked me a question that just about bowled me over.  He asked me if I wanted to see the originals!  Would I!!!!!  I was so excited.  He brought them out and I gently and gingerly held them and drank in the beautiful colours and scenes of the two paintings done by a little old crippled lady who for most of her life noone knew anything about her.  She lived in horrible poverty but painted such joyous paintings.  As I held her art work I wondered about what she thought about as she painted.  So today God did indeed drop a gem of joy into my lap, one I could never have imagined receiving.  God must have fun planning what he does for his children to bring joy into their lives.  In the vignette above my anxiety was so great and in this vignette my excitement was so great I had to take medication to calm myself down.  My life has ups and downs so steep that it takes my breathe away.  Sometimes I wish for more gently rolling hills of experiences but I take it all in stride.  My life is definitely not dull.

Joy Comes in the Mourning

I’d like to introduce you to my little “JOYBOY”.   His name is Gus Gus.  I adopted him a year ago this month shortly after I lost my beloved Zacky who I had for 15 years.  As you might suspect, I am a cat person – in and out, through and through – period.  I could not live without a kitty in my life.  I have 2 cats – Gus Gus who is pictured here and my beloved gentle soul Oreo who is about 7 years old.  I will tell you more about him at a later date.

For this blog I would like to tell you more about Gus Gus because I feel he has a very special purpose in the journey I am going through right now.  Gus Gus looks very docile in this picture but in real life he is full of boundless energy and doubly full of mischief!  My days are forever filled with his antics and adventures.  He is so curious that nothing gets by him without a full inspection and often naughty consequence.  He digs in my flower pots, not only digs but dumps them completely out and then proceeds to madly spread the dirt all around.  He made a nest in the Christmas tree.  He takes flying leaps across my table and counters and everything goes flying in his path including an antique dish,  and numerous other breakable objects.  He tries to eat my Mom’s flowers and loves to rummage through any array of items he can find.  He even helped me paint.  I have his colourful footyprints on my black computer chair to prove it.

By now I think you get the picture of what this little guy is like.  But there is something else about this little guy that is not visible to the human eye but is only visible to my human heart.  For some uncanny reason,  Gus Gus makes me laugh.  And I don’t just mean when he is doing something funny.  He makes me laugh when he is sleeping, when he is being naughty, and even when I just think of him.  JOY inside of me just  bubbles up like my favourite Perrier water.   He douses my grieving soul with pure JOY.  It is inexplicable in human or cat terms.  I have never had a cat or any animal that has had this effect on me.  Sometimes I am telling Mom something about what he has done and I am doubled over in fits of laughter till tears run down my face.   I can be on the bus going somewhere and I think of him and  I start to chuckle.  I can be having a truly horrible day and Gus Gus will just make me start to laugh.

Even when I don’t want to laugh.  Most days I don’t feel like laughing.  I am exhausted, overwhelmed, depressed, highly anxious, full of fear, full of uncertainty and I just want release.  I love my Mom so dearly, but it is so hard.  This care taking job is so hard.

I have always related to animals better than I have related to people and I suspect that has something to do with my autism.  My cats are my LIFE.  But what has happened this past year with Gus Gus just confounds me.  It is something beyond the norm, even beyond my loving my cats.  I believe Gus Gus is a gift to me to help me through this very difficult time.  The joy he give me is a gift that lifts me above the despair I often feel as I look after Mom.  I believe that without him in my life this past year, I may not have made it.

There is a verse in the bible that says that “Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning”  Psalm 30:5.   I know we shouldn’t change God’s word but I am going to take a bit of  liberty and do a spelling change.  I am going to say, “Weeping may endure for the night but JOY comes in the MOURNING.  I believe God has given me my little Gus Gus as my JOY to help me through the mourning.  He is my JOY in the mourning and grief I feel as I look after Mom.  You can’t put God in a box.  He is a creative God who knows what each of us individually needs and He knows I love my cats.  He knows I need JOY.  And he gave me both in a very unique way.  His own special touch!  (speaking of putting God in a box – I have a card and on the front a man is talking to a cat and looking at the litter box.  He says to the cat, ” And don’t ever think outside the box!!”

Another thing about Gus Gus that makes me know he is a special gift from God has to do with hearts.   My cat Zacky who died had a beautiful heart in his fur.  I was worried after he died that I wouldn’t know how to  pick the right kitty for me.  I’m not sure you’re supposed to dictate to God your demands but I told God that if a kitty had a heart on him I would know it was the right kitty for me.  I saw Gus Gus on the Humane Society website.  I went to see him at a local pet store where he was.  I was drawn to him but as I  tried to inconspicuously  find a heart on him I could find none.  What to do??  The lady at the store kept saying to me, “Just try him out, you can bring him back.”  So with my own heart thumping in my chest, I brought him home.  Well, in the next week I found not 1 heart on him, not 2 but 5 hearts on his little furry body.  He is definitely my cat, my JOYBOY,  my heart throb, and my lifesaver.  If you could see me right now I am smiling from ear to ear at the thoughts of this little guy.

One thing I have learned.  There can definitely be JOY in the mourning.  I am experiencing it firsthand everyday through one furry little crazy cat called Gus Gus.

Easter -joy and fear

I LOVE EASTER!  I have so many wonderful memories of Easter as a kid at my grandparent’s home.  In fact, those are the only memories I have of my grandparents.  Grandma’s geraniums with their prolific blooms lining the windowsill even today brings me wafts of their earthy smells to my senses 50 years later.  Getting dressed for church with my new Easter hat and little white gloves and a chocolate bunny joyously discovered at the foot of Grandma’s brass bed lined high with her quilts.  That chocolate bunny, I swear, was almost as big as I was.

And of course, Easter means so much to me spiritually – a risen Christ!  I still get goosebumps every Easter Sunday when we sing “Christ the Lord has risen today – Hallelujah!”  It is my all time favourite hymn.

Mixed in with these wonderful memories and traditions are some very sad times from the last few years.  Two years ago on Easter Sunday my Aunt Marion died suddenly.  Then last year on Easter Sunday my Uncle Bob, her husband, joined his sweetheart in Heaven.  A strange but touching story, certainly filled with much sorrow but also tinged with a wisp of everlasting love and hope.

So it was as Easter approached this year, my logical, mathematical, autistic mind that thrives on making sense of the world through finding patterns started anticipating that the pattern would just continue.  Mom, my uncle’s sister, would follow suit and would go to Heaven on this Easter Sunday.  To you that may seem totally illogical but to my mind the pattern made perfect sense.  So as Easter got closer and closer my fear of losing Mom got stronger and stronger.  By Easter Sunday I was gripped with overwhelming fear that I would lose her sometime on that day.

For many of us with autism,  patterns are what help make sense of our world.  Our need for sameness, for predictability helps sooth our anxious thoughts.  Much of the time I convert activities, thoughts etc into mathematical – like formulas that will always ensure a predictable outcome.  Unfortunately, in this world, the word out is that “change” is the only thing that is predictable.  Try as I might I cannot control my world.  And unfortunately, for us as autistics, our need for patterns can cause great anguish like in this case, rather than sooth us.  It’s a double bind sometimes.

I must say that as I woke the day after Easter and Mom was still with me I was overjoyed.  This was one time when I sure was happy my patterns did not follow their supposed course.  What relief!  What joy!  To know that I still had Mom with me was the best Easter gift anyone could ever give me.

This Easter the dreaded pattern was broken.  I can relax now until some new pattern of my mind finds its way into my life.  It’s funny because Easter is all about breaking the pattern of humanity.  Christ died so the pattern of death is broken for all time.   Believing in Jesus, brings us life forever in heaven with Him.  And that’s a pattern that is written in his blood and death on the cross.  NOTHING can change it.  So I leave this Easter behind knowing I still have my Mom and knowing that the promise of life everlasting will never be broken.  My patterns may come and go and be broken over and over but God is the same yesterday, today and forever.  He will never change.  Wow!  That’s pretty cool to my autistic mind.  HE HAS RISEN.  HE HAS RISEN INDEED!