Sunday, October 3, 2010

Being Gobsmacked, Part 2

It's been 6 years now since my aunt died.

My mother died when I was just entering teenage hood.  It was a difficult time for me.  Various "substitute moms" entered and exited my life.  One of these was an aunt, my father's younger sister.  She had two daughters around my age.

My Dad, I think, came to his younger sister too, when my Mom died suddenly, and he found himself a single Dad.

So what does this all have to do with autism?  Bear with me.

We all bonded.  We started going to this sister's house for Thanksgiving dinner.  It was over 1 1/2 hours on the subway (New York City) each way, and then either a bus ride or a long walk.  Dad and I most times chose the walk.  We'd have Thanksgiving dinner and my Dad would ride back home alone-he had to go to work the next day.  But he let me stay overnight, and for a few hours this only child would have two sisters.  And, several times, I spent the entire Christmas school break with my aunt and my two cousins.

Years passed, we all grew up, we all had children.  My cousin had a child with learning disabilities and became a speech therapist, working for a school system.  We stayed in touch, all of us.  My aunt, sadly, had many health problems as she aged and old age was not a good time for her.  She finally passed on and I traveled to NYC for the funeral - not that far from where the two NYC Worlds Fairs took place.

My cousin gave the eulegy and I was....gobsmacked.

It seems that I had a cousin.  This woman has autism - as far as I know she is still alive.  In those years when she was born (similar to Bil) autism was at best considered a mental disorder and at worse cause to throw someone "in the garbage".  And who entered the fray to fight for her relative, and her relative's mother, was my aunt.  Tirelessly, we were told by my cousin, my aunt entered the fray again and again and again.  Helped her relatives to have a good life. 

I had never known this.  Had never known about what my aunt did.

How sad that I did not know until after she died.

Knowing about Bil, she had never told me, and I don't quite know why.  Well, maybe I do, because my aunt was never a person who would never brag or boast.  Well, her oldest daughter decided the world, or at least, her family, needed to

The unsung heroes and heroines of this world include my aunt.

Meanwhile, I keep drifting....

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