discoveries…

I wasn’t looking for it. It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I have been focused on and reflecting on this man I lost. Discovering my dad. Delving deep into the relationship we developed, studying the nuances, reliving the conversations…I never dreamed the life altering discovery would be my own. It happened without warning, without any sort of build up or suspense. It just…happened. Mom and I were reminiscing about dad and she casually asserted her suspicions about his placement on the spectrum. The Autism Spectrum. It wasn’t the first time we broached this subject, but it was the first time since his death that I gave it serious consideration. After all, if it could assist me in any way with greater understanding and insight into my father, it was worth a second glance right?

Mom had suspected for several years that dad had Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As she relayed some of the symptoms and traits and triggers associated with ASD that she witnessed manifested in dad, all the bulbs on my brain board started to light up and blink uncontrollably, as they do when I’ve happened upon a major new discovery about myself. My stomach instantly knotted and I realized that mom was not only describing dad’s disorder in perfect detail and relation to him, but she was also describing me. I needed to know more.

Thank God for Google. I devoured article after article describing Asperger’s and autism, my mind coaxing and encouraging me onward as if it knew this was something BIG, and it was. Every article, every journal I read and re-read described myself to me in painstaking detail. This was my answer to over 30 years of silent suffering. The social awkwardness, the proficiency with which I express myself in text, the endless fascination with details, the inability to organize and focus and prioritize effectively, the feeling that my brain is always in chaos and cannot be shut off …I could go on and on. Everything in the words I’ve digested so far is me. All my pain and confusion and self-persecution over the decisions I have made in my life have an answer. An explanation! Of course, it does not absolve me from my choices, but I am not crazy. I am not crazy! My wacky weird little brain just processes information differently than everyone else. I needed proof. I needed someone to validate this self-discovery, and I was terrified that I was prematurely and erroneously hopeful. Everything just fit so well in the patterns and formulas I mentally checked off in my mind. I received an official diagnosis this weekend and the relief that flooded and washed over me was overwhelming. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m not ashamed of it. I am enormously grateful that I have answers to the seemingly endless questions that went unanswered for so many years.

Dad had it too. I am certain. There are too many correlations to ignore. Mom tried to discuss it with him, but as was typical with my father, he dismissed it. I am now reassessing everything about our relationship against this new found knowledge. I have to because my brain will not allow the pieces of the puzzle to remain displaced, and for the first time since his passing I am longing and yearning for him to be alive in this moment so I could thank him. He may not have believed anything was different about him, but he saved me a little. My puzzle pieces are slowly fitting together now. My life is making a little more sense and my dad played a role…Thank you dad.

milestones…

Milestones

It’s been a little over four months since my dad died. The day to day minutia of life has returned, and even though he still floats across my conscious every day, the pain is different and the tumultuous emotions that had previously accompanied the pain have dissipated. Time has appropriately medicated my heart and I wonder if I’ve reached a milestone in grieving. I’ve painfully acknowledged and accepted (again) his role and place in my life; but unlike my previous attempts to wade these waters without resolution, this time I am consciously…rigorously trying to redirect my focus on the good…because there was good. I can torment myself forever and rake my frail emotions over the coals of uncertainties and doubts and I will get nowhere. He is gone. I am now faced with the choice of how I want to memorialize him. And as easy and comfortable and familiar as it is to recall the anger and hurt and victimize myself over and over, it is not healthy. It is not healing. I am pragmatic, a realist at my core. I cannot live in a constant state of victimization and anger. It is not who I am…not who I choose to be. I have no rose-colored glasses to use when reminiscing and I will not romanticize our relationship. It was what it was. Nothing more. Nothing less. I loved him and I miss him.

And I am allowing myself to miss him now without the “but” attached to the end of sentence. It is a clearer purer emotion, not clouded by the other anxieties and complications that I felt I needed to focus on. I accept him for everything he was and was not to me. I realize that my anger and resentment was concealing the pain lying underneath waiting. It was easier. It was familiar. This is not. Once I started to let go of the anger and resentment, the emotions that remain run deep and penetrating. It is not the jagged aimless and unfocused tormenting pain of four months ago. This pain is so different. I am healing. I am letting go and it hurts. It hurts like hell. I am finally acknowledging the parts of him that I loved and the pain that accompanies that acknowledgement is exquisite, because he is gone. I can still hear his voice and I can still feel his bear hugs, and I would give anything to have one more inane conversation with him. I loved his laugh…and how you could literally watch the progression of his animation escalate when he was discussing one of his many passions. He would have loved his funeral service. Every minute of it. All the people he cared about and who were important to him in one room. His excitement barely contained! He would have talked to everyone. Every.One. No one would have escaped his infectious energy. His casket was loaded into the hearse and driven away after the service and right before his favorite part. My dad loved activity swirling around him and reveling in the thick of it. He would have been the last one to leave, not wanting the day to end, and in the days and months that followed he would have revisited that day over and over sharing stories and conversations with us. I miss that.

But he is still with me. I see him in my son. I catch glimpses of him in myself. These bits and pieces of him live on in me, and I don’t want to waste them. There is a sense of responsibility to give him a legacy, to seize the best parts of him that exist in me and to make the most of them…to finish what he started and was perhaps, too afraid to complete. I got this dad. Love you.