Thursday, April 18, 2013

Autism Awareness Month 4/19 - Babs - Family

Today's post comes from Babs, my mother, Jack's paternal grandmother. Babs already enjoys a mythic status on this blog and has developed a cultish following (read here and here). It could not be more deserved. 

I'm not sure how to introduce her to you, but I'll try. Babs is the single biggest supporter of Jack there is. Julie and I lead a charmed life. Jack has a lot of great professionals, many champions, many teachers, many lovers, but only one Babs.

Her stories will be gracing these pages again, I'm sure. So, for now, I'll let her words describe their relationship.

Jack is truly blessed to have Babs in his life... 

As am I.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you what the Heavens have given to me, my mother, Babs...

NO MIRRORS IN MY NANA'S HOUSE, by Sweet Honey in the Rock

What does Autism mean to me…

Autism was a diagnosis, that as a professional, I read about. 

Autism was the subject of the term paper I wrote for my Psych ED Class in 1970.

Autism was the subject of a great movie.

Autism was what happened to other people.

Autism is now a daily struggle for my precious grandson and a challenge for those who love him.
I remember the day Jordan told me that Jack now had that diagnosis.  My world, as I knew it changed.   The bright lucky star that hung over my son’s head came crashing to earth.  I’m old and have had many of my stars already fall, but I wanted my children to live in a magical world of possibilities.  My baby, my cupcake, my heart, the people pleaser hadn’t yet experienced what I knew awaited him.  I cried.  I wept for Jordan and Julie.  I wept for the unborn girl child still waiting to join us.  I wept for myself and husband.  I did not, however, weep for my Jack.  He, I knew, would remain who he was and grow at his own rate.  Jack was Jack the day before the label and I knew he would be the same Jack in the years to come. 
Autism now touched our family.

As a grandmother I now have the freedom to overindulge my children’s children.  I bought a swing set, wading pools, I bought an endless supply of Gummy Bears and Ice Cream.  I no longer need worry about a balanced diet.   Oh what fun!  In my house they could eat cookies in my bed while watching Disney until they fell asleep.  I waited a long time to be the “fun” person.

Autism interrupted that.

Joe and I thought we might be of some help.   We didn’t know how, but we figured, an extra set of hands couldn’t hurt.  That meant we learned the behavioral program and followed through.  We learned to give two choices … not six.  We learned to ignore bad language.  We learned to anticipate what might set off a meltdown and avoid it.  I learned to ignore the stares of people when a meltdown happened.   I tested toilets to be sure the flush wasn’t too loud.
One time after a particularly loud flusher was discovered at Starbucks, Jack spent a long time telling us how loud, where the store was, and declared he would never go there again.  His mother reassured him that he didn’t have to.  He announced, that was okay because …”Tao (me) made it stop.  She knew how.”
So now in my resume I can add Toilet Slayer … a skill few of you have.

Jack was (and still is if given the chance) an ‘eloper’.  I learned he could only have the freedom of distance from me equal to the distance I can run and catch him.  Poor kid didn’t get a very athletic granny so rarely was he further than three feet ahead.  When he made me run after him I quietly made him start from where he was and do it over correctly.  There is a part of the daily walk that I knew very well, it took more than one attempt of ‘re-doing’.  Unfortunately, for me, I told him he had the shorter distance when with me because I am too old to run.  He now tells everyone I am the oldest person he knows.  We’ll deal with age next year.

Autism aged me.

 We made lots of mistakes.   I now learned my children … the same child I taught everything he knew … that child now knew more than I.  I had to trust the process that they engaged.   They had surpassed this master of parenting in how to raise their child.  (Don’t anyone tell Jordan I think he knows something…he will hold it over my head.)

Autism humbled me.

Jack picks a few people who he makes feel special.  I am happy to say that I am … at times …one of them.  Before he had words his body expressed excitement when he saw me.   After he gained language he opened a world that intrigued me.  He knew the names of the flowers we saw on our walks.  For years while I walked him in his stroller or while holding my hand I had named them and the brand of cars we passed.  He had heard what I said.  And if he heard that I sure hope he heard the number of times I held him close and whispered how much I love him.
Autism allowed me an understanding of Unconditional Love.

At night when he sleeps next to me and asks for a snuggle,  I take advantage and hold him tight and let my love for him bind us together.  And when he smiles for me my heart smiles and it is more powerful than a double rainbow after a thunderstorm.

The truth is Autism taught me none of the above.  Jack did.  Remember we label jars not people.

Thank you Jack for being my third grandchild, my precious red haired boy, my teacher and for all the love and delight you have been able to share.

 In my house you are perfect.


  1. I adore this post. Babs sounds amazing.
    My son has also been graced with wonderful grandparents - my most wonderful on earth parents & my husbands' most wonderful mother & late father, who passed shortly before my son's 2nd birthday and who my son adored to no end. We couldn't really afford good daycare when our son was a baby; in stepped the grandparents on both sides, to be our 5-day/week afternoon babysitters, while I rearranged my work schedule to fill in the rest. They sat on the couch and cried with us when we told them of our son's diagnosis, but still affirming that nothing changed; our son was the same child - we'd just have more work to do to help him learn & grow. They've rushed over during night terrors & meltdowns that panicked us & babysat extra weekend afternoons & evenings, because they love him & because they know we need the time. They've spent a fortune on developmental toys. My son chants for them on days he doesn't see them. He lights up when we tell him he'll get to see them on a non-regular day.
    I'd be lost without them.

  2. What an incredible grandmother. Jack is lucky to have her.