Our autistic son Sean had a magical young teacher who passed away suddenly (In Memory and Thanks). We were devastated. My mind swirled with memories: activities he’d done with Sean, his words of wisdom, the hope we experienced through his work with Sean.
I learned that grief is not a predictable force following an orderly progression.
Just when I thought I had no tears left, a flickering shadow, a leaf skittering across the sidewalk, or a song on the radio would bring on a wave of renewed pain.
This past year I lost both my parents. In contrast to the sudden loss of a young person, though the initial shock of knowing we’ll never hear a person’s voice again is still jolting, when an aging loved one has been suffering with health troubles, there is also some relief that the person will be at peace. The grieving starts before they’re actually gone.
My dad was a best friend who I loved talking to about everything under the sun. Hearing a Dave Brubeck tune or a Beethoven piano sonata on the radio can bring a wave of memories: my dad playing the piano at night with the sound wafting upstairs, an unintended lullaby for my brothers and I listening from under our blankets.
I don’t have as many everyday memory triggers for my mom. Today, though, suffering from a bad cold for the first time in ages, I felt frustrated, tired and ready to cry, just like I did when I was a child staying home from school with the flu. All I could think of is that I wanted a bowl of hot soup, and we didn’t have any.
My mom was kindest to me when I was sick. I don’t know how many cans of Campbells Chicken and Stars soup she served me over the years, but she knew that specific soup with some saltine crackers broken over the top made me feel better and she always had it on hand.
The memory of her bringing me soup when I was a kid brought a bigger wave of tears than I’ve allowed myself in all the four months since she passed away. Maybe fear of the overwhelming pain of losing a parent leads us to suppress the grief.
Our autistic younger son doesn’t really understand that his grandpa and grandma are dead. By the same token, he doesn’t really understand when we explain that his big brother has gone far away on an airplane. I don’t know what sets off his memories of grandpa, grandma, or his big brother, but he says their names and looks at photos of them on the computer.
Is loving someone without understanding the finality of death easier? Is not understanding the concept of someone living far away harder? I don’t know. My son’s language challenges mean we can’t have a conversation about it, so we plod forward with our unique views of how the world works, finding a way to make each day a good one in some way. I still talk cheerfully about grandma and grandpa when my son looks at old photos, and that makes me feel better, too.
I wish everyone the occasional cleansing cry and the ability to keep moving forward!
This week’s Hike Notes, Old Mine Trail- Mountain Theater to Pantoll, takes readers on the descending leg of a loop hike from Pantoll Campground to the Mountain Theater (Cushing Memorial Amphitheater) and back, featuring some of Mt. Tam’s most stunning view spots.
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Hike Notes 196: Old Mine Trail- Mountain Theater to Pantoll
Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.