Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Sunday was International Women's Sunday and our church asked everyone to stand and speak the name of one woman who significantly impacted their life. ONE! I thought to myself in panic! There is my own mother of course. My grandmother with her amazing inner strength and love of nature. There was my 9th grade English teacher Mrs. B who helped me see literature in new and amazing ways. The VP of the first company I worked for was actually the person who interviewed me for a very low on the totem pole position when I started there in days of yore. Connie was bright and successful and it was the first time I had seen a female executive of a major company. I was in awe of the fact that she would take the time to interview me. There I was, a green 19 year old trying my darndest to convince her I had what it took to work in an industry I had never considered before as a career path. If I had not succeeded in convincing her to give me a chance, if she had not been able to listen with her heart as well as her head, my life would have likely been very different.
But at the end of the day, the name I chose to speak was my mother in law Barbara Johnson. She left this earth far too young, passing years ago on the first day of spring. There were many gifts she gave me but one of the things I remember the most was how utterly unconditionally she loved my Chet. Chet is hard for people to understand and not always comfortable to be around. His social skills may never match his desire for sociability and when he was young his frustrations with his lack of understanding were punctuated with horrific tantrums that went on for hours. Mom didn't mind. She could see through all that to the little boy shining within. She never asked us to get a sitter when we visited, never asked us to leave when things were bad, never let me apologize when I was tearful over the meltdowns. "It will all work out, it is not a problem for me." she would say over and over.
When she died, it was very hard for Chet. The rest of my in laws love him, but their inability to understand him made their relationship awkward. My side of the family was no less exempt. My niece did not want me to bring him to a party she was having for her daughter. The road that people with autism walk can be a lonely one. I have been lucky to have since find many people to share that road with us and with Chet and brighten his life in a myriad of ways. But that first bright light, his grandmother, will always shine in my heart.