You may have heard the old saying, “a dollar short and a day late”. I try not to live up to that saying anymore, but I am a day late (maybe even two) in writing about Christmas.
Before PJ, Christmas was a time of joyful celebration. My house was always decorated for the holidays and we had open house during the holiday season. There was always food and people coming to visit. My house was the gathering place for the family and I enjoyed entertaining.
After PJ, everything changed for me. Depression and exhaustion took over during the holiday season. But being as how back in the 70s and 80s, people didn’t really understand what you were going through when you had a child handicapped by autism, I tried hard to keep up appearances and traditions.
I did not feel up to having company, but I still allowed my house to be the gathering place because I had other children and grandchildren and I wanted them to have as normal a holiday as possible. My husband was an entertainer, so people in the business would often drop in for holiday festivities. So I pasted on a smile and tried to carry on. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles had a song that I always thought about during these times. It was called “Tracks Of My Tears”. Part of the words were:
Take a good look at my face / you’ll see my smile looks out of place / If you look closely, it’s easy to trace / the tracks of my tears.
Of course, no one was looking closely, so people didn’t really understand what I was feeling. I was also trying to get PJ to be interested and excited about Christmas; to no luck. In fact I still have a picture of him with Santa Clause and they both look like they would rather be someplace else. PJ was well behaved, but totally unimpressed. Santa was no more impressed with PJ than PJ was with him.
I had such mixed feelings about Christmas. Part of my pain was that I really did not want my house to be the gathering place anymore. Part of my pain was caused by the fact that I was resisting the truth about PJ and still trying to “normalize’ him. He just did not care about all the people and decorations. He would much rather be away from all the celebrating.
And that is just what he did. When people would start arriving, PJ would retreat to his bedroom and close the door. When the house was full of my “merry” family, PJ was nowhere to be seen. Everyone was “merry” except PJ and me. I would take food up to him during the course of the day, but he wanted no part of the traditional Christmas menu. He just wanted his same old fries and sausage. I was thankful for his way of handling the situation because at least if he were away from everyone, there would be no meltdowns or explosions.
So now, PJ and I are both old enough for me to opt out of all the Christmas festivities. This Christmas is only the second Christmas that I let everyone know that there would not be food and fun at my house at Christmas. What a relief it has been! I have finally learned to be true to myself.
I would not change the way I have done things, but I am changing the way I will do things for the future. For most of the Christmas gatherings, PJ Sr. was alive and helpful, but now he is gone and PJ and I are on our own. I will soon be taking a trip and PJ will be at the group home, which he seems to like.
If you are the parent of a child handicapped by autism, I won’t say I hope you had a “Merry Christmas”. I will say that I hope you were able to enjoy the day and that you weren’t the one responsible for everyone else’s enjoyment.
Until next time: May you have Peace, Love and Prosperity in your life.