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A Christmas Gift for My Mother on the Spectrum

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It was almost Christmas Eve and the presents were all wrapped and under the tree. But I found myself at a loss as to what to get for you. A new purse, a book, a gift card – perhaps. Or what about this:

When I look back on my childhood I often think of the difficult times like when your migraines were bad, or that time you got called for jury duty and the time the one side of your body was partially paralyzed and they thought you had multiple sclerosis. I think about how even good events were often so difficult for you. There were things that could throw you into a fit – the wrong creamer for your coffee, the color green and the coffee at a certain fast food chain. There were many childhood events you weren’t even a part of – due to it being too cold, too noisy or too crowded.

But if I take an extra moment, I can now see the good things. The hot chocolate you would make for us to take when Dad took us to skate, toboggan or to see the Santa Claus parade.  Showing me how to make cookies at Christmas. Making sure to have family gatherings (with your seven brothers and sisters) even though the noise must have been overwhelming. Volunteering at my school when my anxiety was really high and I needed to see you. Volunteering to be a Girl Guide leader when my anxiety was so bad I stayed in the bathroom for most of the gatherings until you began to come.

I think about the Christmas you and Dad must have scrimped and saved to get me the electric organ I so desperately wanted along with music lessons. We didn’t go all out at Christmas, but I was never disappointed either.  I remember you reading to us from our children’s Bible about baby Jesus and the manger every Christmas Eve. But most of all, I remember the tuck-ins to bed and the reassurance that Santa would soon be on his way.

All of this means even more to me now since we found out that much like your grandson, you have Asperger’s syndrome. It means more to me that you sacrificed in the ways you did. That you were able to take care of yourself as well as us in the best way you knew how while living in a world that knew nothing of your as-of-yet-unidentified diagnosis.

Know that we see you for who you are: a flawed but fabulous wife, mother and grandmother to an unruly bunch who love you madly.

Merry Christmas, Mom.

Tina and her mom
Originally published: December 29, 2015
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