Now that I work from home, it is a mixed blessing.
My children and my husband love having me around and I find we are using our time more productively. I wake up everyday excited to meet the day. I can’t remember ever feeling like this in my whole life.
For those families who have a child with a disability, you will know why this dynamic is precious. My daughter Savannah is witty and funny and kind and thoughtful. She is also different in her way of thinking and feeling.
She is my ever-long learning course. Teaching me all that I don’t know and often after working hard at understanding her point of view, I come back to the realisation that I just can’t reach all the depths that her mind wanders too. As an autistic person, she sees life in a way that I work very hard to understand; only to find that I fail.
So often I fail. My struggle to keep up with the “normal” world collides with trying to grasp her view; and I become frustrated, and angry at myself. At her. At this life and it’s persistent demands. Yet, I have to live in both worlds. I have to try so hard to keep up with life so that I can be part of it’s rat race and try to earn a living to provide for all our children.
Governing all that we do, like so many families like us, is that we must try very hard to earn more than a living.
We must provide for Savannah long after we are gone. And that is what keeps me awake till the early hours or gets me out of bed long before the sun rises. Working from home while also being a caregiver, a companion and all that encompasses being Savannah’s mother, is my “more than a conqueror” daily challenge.
If I could stay at my desk all day, I would not eat or drink because truly writing feeds me like nothing else does. But my reverie is broken every time when Savannah calls me. Sometimes what she needs is reasonable and makes sense that she called me. Other times, she calls me to tell me something so far off base from the moment that we are in, that I throw my hands up in the air and proclaim out loud that I don’t need to know the tit bit of information that she is supplying. She doesn’t grasp that I can’t know what goes on on her head and so we tussle with memories until I either get what she is on about or I give up and walk away.
For example, a month ago she suddenly jolted to March 2014 and for several days, she recounted everything she remembered about that time. Everything. Details like what earrings I wore and who we saw. People who I have long forgotten. She remembered their earrings, their watches and who said what, when and where. As I fight back the urge to weep for what feels like the hundredth time that she calls me to say something that I cannot see the relevance in; I ask myself if anyone else lives in so many spaces all at once? And if so do they survive themselves?
Right now, I am in the middle of writing about Domestic Abuse for the UNWomen’s Campaign and it takes me back to times in my life that I have closed the door on. Yet, now at forty, the shock of what I was allowed to be privy too as a child, washes me afresh. I have several other writing projects underway and a new client who I have to do some research for. So my mind is a little more than preoccupied on a daily basis.
Then Savannah calls. Again. Not being sure if she needs physical assistance or if it is just another newsflash from the past; I walk to where she is because that’s my life.
Looking back over the years, I’m most in awe that while I was trying to glue my heart back together as a teenager who learnt too much about the hypocrisy of the adults around her, I somehow kept my sanity as I became Savannah’s mother. Over these twenty-two years I’ve listened to the same story that my heart didn’t have the words to utter when Savannah was little. Parents grappling with the heartbreak of the unknown as their child begins life in a world designed to set itself against them. The most competent of people, crumble as they understand the force that will be required to help their children live their best lives.
Each time, I’m stunned anew that a girl like me became Savannah’s mum. What was God thinking to trust me with her? It has never been easy. There are days when I wish I did not know of the things I have to know. But I survived and I have learnt how to thrive right where I am. Having Savannah at eighteen was probably the worst thing to happen in a life already falling to pieces. Yet years later I understood that being Savannah’s mother saved my life. Who knows what I would have become, had I not have to fight for her in all the ways imaginable and unimaginable? Would I have known how to fight for myself or for that matter would I have known that I could change the course of my life?
Even now as I try to juggle housekeeping, children, writing, keeping up with everything, Savannah calls. She is now remembering December 2017. She wants to play the song I performed at my cousins wedding. I’m not in the mood for this and I grumble something to that effect.
As I walk away from her with the clock ticking and the checklist running in my head of all that I have to get done today, I hear her say: “Pretty mum the wedding. My mum good dancer. Well done.”
I can’t help looking back at her as she gives me a big grin. Maybe I am wrong again. I don’t think I am looking after her at all. I think she is looking after me. Drawing me away from the square boxes everyone is fighting to fit themselves into.
If you have heard me speak you will know that one of my key points is that there aren’t answers to everything that life throws our way. For those moments, there is always dance.
And so as Savannah played the song “Tere Bina” from the Bollywood movie Guru for the umpteenth time this morning, I took my own advice; and I danced. She clapped and squealed and made her happy sounds.
No one ever tells us that the lines of our broken hearts, make for the most polished dance floors. Or that dance is meaningless unless someone gives you a beat to dance to.