I will never forget, the long drive to my self-acceptance, my dad at the wheel – steady even though his back ached. This after our family session with the psychologist, a consultation that FINALLY steered towards me, the mother. “Chevone, I think we need to talk . . .”
Two weeks later I found myself once again on the couch. FINALLY, without me having to pick up the phone and schedule an assessment! Something that I’ve been thinking about since returning from Austria, but the courage was absent. You see when you are a mother of a child with special needs, constantly having to push the boundaries – the LAST thing you want to do is speak to people about these “challenges” and how you recognise yourself in the behaviour, while understanding with the experience as a child, yet not quite knowing how to “react” as the parent.
When you read “I Found My Perfect Puzzle Piece” – that moment when it felt like a gleaming light that shone into a deep abyss, well, that photosynthesis was about a lot more than just me as a parent. No longer would I have to listen to my dad, in his very direct manner – with that all knowing look say to me: “Los die kind, julle is al twee dieselfde, jy was net soos hom toe jy ‘n kind was!.”
This evening, while in the bath, listening to Coldplay – the small room filling up with steam, I realised that this was my father’s final act as my parent, a life changing act of love and understanding! He drove for over an hour, and waited for two hours – this time it wasn’t for his grandson, this time it was for me, his daughter. After the two-hour session I walked out of the practice – taking in the calm open green space surrounding me – feeling lighter. For the first time I felt as if I had the “permission” to truly be me. For the first time I could embrace that it is okay to go out into the world and view it like a manuscript where I am the writer and everyone else the characters!
Suddenly everything made sense. My entire life experience, like a work of art, came into view. Clarity. My dad started the car and said, “Ek het mos gesê jy en Kai is dieselfde”, and then he smiled at Kai – they smiled at each other, and we all smiled.
My follow up appointment six weeks later took a different focus, because by then my dad was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and I needed guidance with preparing my son for my father’s palliative care at home.
The day after our visit to the psychologist I sat next to my dad’s hospital bed and gave him feedback. I could with confidence look at him and say that we were okay, that we were going to be okay. He smiled. Two days later he died, there was no need for palliative care.
Indeed a profound time in my life, for even as an adult, he helped me to better understand who I am, his final act as my father – one where he put his own pain aside to ensure that I took the guiding hand that was extended to me. Not only is my son on the spectrum, but so am I – Asperger’s Syndrome.
My dad gave me the courage to find my voice and say “fuck-you” to the world with its limited understanding and preconceived expectations of what normal should be, not only for my son, but for me too! He understood me, and for the first time everything made sense in the weirdest of ways.
My son and I, we own our neurodiversity and I am so glad that my dad never shied away from pointing the obvious out to me as an adult as I started seeking the answers to my son’s quirks and behaviour. Because he too saw glimpses of me in my son, just like I did.
Thank you Dad, forever the light.