Kin

My mother and father divorced when I was 4 or so. We lived in Utah and he moved to Texas. My sister and I would go to visit him there until he was killed in a car accident when I was seven. (Don’t quote me on any of these dates, because I was, you know, four and seven—maybe—and don’t have the best recall.)

Anyway, my dad’s father, stepmother, half-brother, and half-sister lived in Texas as well. When we would go visit my dad, we would visit them before or after. After he died, we mostly lost contact with them. But their address remained the same, so we always knew where they were.

When I was pregnant with Sam I wanted to know more about my father’s childhood. My grandfather had also died by this time, but my grandmother—″Oma”—was still there, by this time living with her daughter and her daughter’s two sons. (Are you still with me?)

I wrote a letter to Oma and she responded with an enthusiastic phone call. She was thrilled to hear about my pregnancy and touched that we were going to name him Sam, which was also my father’s name, and his father’s name, and the name of about 10 other men on that side of the family.

Since then she has kept up with us and made an effort to stay in contact, which is something I appreciate a great deal. Her daughter, whom I will refer to as L, because it is easier than referring to her as my half-stepaunt, or whatever she is, has also made an effort. We have a lot of differences, but they seem to be wonderful people.

When I sent out my Christmas letter this year (which was awesome, partly because of all the snowman clip art I used to accent it—if you got a copy, be aware that I had to Photoshop that 5th snowman into the snowman family because apparently snowman families only come in fours… But I digress. Let me start that sentence over.)

When I sent out my Christmas letter this year, I mentioned that we were pursuing an autism diagnosis for Jack. Most people know, but not everyone. So when the phone rang today and L said, “We got your Christmas letter and wanted to talk to you about Jack,” I got ready to extol his wonderful qualities and tell them that, for us, it’s not as scary as the word implies.

I was so happily surprised when L sort of interrupted me and said, “The reason I’m calling is because my youngest has Asperger’s.”

She then went on to share all sorts of encouraging things about her son, who was diagnosed in 6th or 7th grade and is now finishing up high school. She told me that elementary school was tough, but things got better once he got to middle school and was able to find friends who were interested in the same things he was.

We talked about a lot of things, including the similarities between her son and mine. She told me some of the things she and her son have done to work with his Asperger’s. She told me about how well her son has done academically, and how successful he’s been in finding friends with shared interests. She told me to expect the possibility that he may be a nerd.

Hey, I love nerds! Some of my best friends are nerds. Hell, I married a nerd. (Some might even call ME a nerd.)

Anyway, every kid is different, and I have no idea what the future holds for Jack. But after talking to L, who has been traveling these waters for years and had an older child’s perspective on it was encouraging. She offered her advice, should I ever need it, and her support. She was a school psychologist for a long time too, so she has a school-side perspective as well.

All of this is to say that you just never know where you’re going to find a buttress or a connection. And you never know when a family relationship may reveal a new facet.

10 thoughts on “Kin

  1. Wow. It’s so great to connect with family. She sounds like a wonderful source of support and a great resource. Family and friend? You can’t get better than that!

  2. I have always believed that people are brought into our lives (or back into our lives) for seasons and reasons. I am sure it is no accident that you have reconnected with this particular family member at this particular time in your life. How absolutely wonderful that she can offer you the emotional support and guidance that you will need now and in the future. And great for her to be able to pass oh some of that hard-earned knowledge!

  3. I always feel such relief when I find people – like you – who are walking this same path. How great to have a family member – even a distant one – who has gone before you.

  4. i want you to know that the first thing i noticed about your christmas letter (holiday letter?) was the snowman family of 5. and my thought was: i cannot imagine jean wearing a green beret or alex wearing a tophat. if i had known the truth, instead i would have thought ‘why that photo-doctoring jean, what sort of journalist is she?’ okay, okay, i enjoyed the snowman art…

    just so you know, last night i was eating something while reading your blog, and you caused me to laugh so hard i choked. it was nearly the end of me. blocked airway i tell you.

  5. That’s pretty cool that you’ve reconnected with them and even better that it’s revealing a shared experience. It’s such an exhaling moment when you find people like this to talk to.

  6. It is a wonderful gift. She even went so far as to say that with her child she didn’t see a downside to his Asperger’s. He is completely happy.

    So, yes, tulipmom, a wonderful success story.

    And you’re right, it is so nice to connect with people walking the same path, bubandpie.

    As for you, Sherry, now that I’ve almost killed you, I feel that my job is complete. And I just knew I shouldn’t have fessed up about the doctored snowman!

  7. Thanks for posting a positive story! As my son enters the tween years it’s good to know that success can continue to happen. So often the focus in on diagnosis and inital therapies, that we forget how the kids are doing 10 years, 15 years after receiving a diagnosis.

    I don’t see a downside to my son having Aspergers. It’s as much as who is as is his curly hair. That said, I do realize he faces challenges that can be different than other children.

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