Yes Indeed: It is almost 6 P.M. and today has been all about me. Well, almost. Our daughter had her Day Service Options (DSO) program at Ability Beyond Disability where they do a variety of social activities. And though I put in a call to her cell a half hour ago, she did not pick up. Aside from working, which hopefully is mostly about others, and straining to pull our taxes together and send out to the accountant (we always file an extension as we are self-employed and need lots of time to procrastinate), I spent the bulk of the day on an outing with two girlfriends. We ate, we went to an art gallery, and now I am about to meet up with my book club for our annual dining out together dinner.
Not All About Me: Though dining out with my book club sounds like a strictly all about me event, it is actually an extension of my mothering. Twenty-two years ago this coming January, I joined a baby group. A year into the baby group, I suggested we add another dimension to our focus, a book club. We call it, brilliantly, “The Mothers Group” book club. For twenty-one years this January we have been taking out books from The Mark Twain Library (our town library, founded by the eponymous Mark who graced our woods by living and dying here the last two years of his prolific life). As a member of this baby group, which met weekly, our daughter’s development was seen against a backdrop of at least eight other babies over her first years. And through that filter I was able to see some striking differences in her milestones and those of her peers. Frankly, the whole process, initially wonderful, became brutally painful. Yes other kids have some speech delays, but across the board, our daughter lagged. It made baby group, and frankly book club, less than joyful, though I love to read, valued these women, and was fond of their children.
Celebration: Now two of these women are grandmothers and tonight’s dinner, in part, is to celebrate the second of the grandmother events. Of course, the offspring who are parents now are from their older children, not the twenty-one year olds, soon to be twenty-two, whom we share in common. For years, much of the content of the chatter amongst “the mothers” was painful for me as their kids’ achievements were acknowledged and challenges supported. They shared play dates, coaches and socials. No one had a child like mine. No one does to this day. I have stayed in this group for almost twenty-two years and of course the bonds are significant. But the disconnect is as well. My child did not socialize with their children after the age of 3. The discrepancies between abilities were too significant. And though a couple of the moms tried to reach out and invite our daughter to events and even barter baby-sitting in one case, mostly I felt alone. And protective of my daughter.
The Past Is The Past: There are a lot of clichés I don’t like and this is one of them. The past mixes the drinks of our present. Yet, so much has changed. Our daughter is happy. As we in book club are aging out or about too — one member has actually retired — the children are dispersed and their successes and achievements are shared with each month’s meeting. I am not in pain anymore. And the differences don’t matter either. But what a hell of a journey. Actually just writing this makes me feel that knot in my throat. No one meant to be cruel, or insensitive or clueless or oblivious. Yet, it feels like that when you are the parent of a special needs child who spends time in the company of the normals. Our book club is an unusual group. No one has divorced. One woman was widowed fairly young. I am the oldest mom. And this is a steady, sturdy bunch of employed, educated women who range from the helping professions to education to the arts. But what separated me from them was only one thing. They all had fairly normal children who had brought us together initially and I did not (though my other child fit that bill nicely).
Forgotten Or Forgiven: We are celebrating many things tonight: one lady’s retirement (though she can’t make it, too retired), another’s opening of a new business, and the new grandma. And I think everyone will celebrate our daughter’s new adult life. The past is the present forgotten or forgiven. I don’t forget but I forgive, especially when no one means to hurt. It is just the journey and now really, it is over, that part anyway.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., 2011
Jennifer Soodek says
So honest and beautifully expressed.
Thanks for sharing so much of yourself.
Jennifer, I appreciate words greatly.
Florence kraut says
Jill this is another touching and honest essay. Aldo beautifully written. Submit it for a larger audience. I have some thoughts. Love you. Jill
Cherish the compliment from one writes and knows the feeling world too. Love you a lot. when can we dine? Oh seeing you Saturday
As a fellow member of the mothers group I admire how brave you were to keep on coming to the group.I’m afraid when my eldest child 6 years older than yours developed mental illness I found it too hard.
We all have different forms of “brave.” I know what your “brave” is and how fierce you are in learning all you can to help your son. And help others. Brave indeed! Brava to you.