Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Burning Question or What Autism Stole

Tonight at the grocery store, they were selling those "in Memory Of" cards for pets. Normally, I pass them up, but I was thinking of the three kitties we lost in the fire going on two years ago, now. So I ponied up and bought three of the cards. I had hoped to finish filling them out before the kids came back from the bathroom, but I wasn't fast enough. Of course little JBean saw what I was doing and wanted to know more. I showed her the tags with "In Honor of..." and showed her that Maia, Bon Bon and Beleu all had their own card. That's when her face crumpled, and she started to cry.

I know that crying is healing, and it is part of the process, but dammit, it is hard to watch your baby cry. It is especially hard because much of the time she tends to lock up verbally and does not talk about how she is feeling, so when she is showing emotion, part of me is thrilled and the other part feels like it has had its heart ripped out. She is just so sad, and really, who can blame her? It was a tough thing for me as an adult to swallow. For a child, and one with autism as well? It was almost impossible. How do you explain why three cats had to die in a fire from smoke inhalation? How do you make it ok? Like I said, it is going on two years now. I am not sure it will ever be...ok.

My beloved Beleu, he was my first baby. He came to live with us when he was little bigger than the turntable on my stereo. J used to hold him in his hand. He was there years later to usher in the births and introduction of each baby. And after a long and pampered life, I knew he was not long for this world. It was just a feeling I had. I thought we would lose him to old age, though. He was over thirteen when he passed. The firefighter was very kind. "They just go to sleep, honey. They don't feel any pain." I didn't believe him, not really. But I was grateful for his effort. At the time, I couldn't even process the horror that I was experiencing. We. lost. everything. And yet, the thing that hurt the most was not saying goodbye to my cats. Everything else? It could be replaced...

JBean asks, "Why? Why did God let our kitties die in a fire? WHY?" And? I have no words. Because, I have no answers. The only thing I can do is hold her tightly, let her cry and pray. We always pray. And we rail at God. It's ok, He is big enough to handle it. I have told her it is fine to be mad about it, it stinks. It's not fair. And God? He knows. And he cares, even if it doesn't always feel like it. After all, he did send us our new cats, and we raised them from kittenhood, with baby bottles after their mother abandoned them. They needed us; we needed them. Presented with a need I couldn't ignore, I was able to open my heart to new animals, something I wasn't sure I could do again.

I learned a lot from the fire and the aftermath of the experience. It changed who I am in many ways. I wouldn't want that taken away. But I surely would want to take away the hurt from my children, if I could. Afterwards, we put JBean in therapy. She scared us, because she just shut down. There were daily fits. She would become nonverbal. There was no interaction. There were times she just retreated deep inside herself and in her world of toys. I guess it was safe there. But we knew she had to deal with what happened. Thankfully, she never saw the house on fire. None of us did. We were coming home from a day of gallavanting around after church, so we didn't know what had happened until we pulled around the corner and onto our street. So she is saved that particular etching on her memory.

But she remembers the cats. She remembers how soft the little grey kitten, Maia was. She remembers how Maia would climb onto her bed and suck her fingers. Maia was four months old. She remembers Bon Bon and her fat, fat butt, climbing onto her lap and hanging over the sides. JBean is small, but it was still a funny sight. She remembers Beleu, the "silver cat", sitting on the bed with her, staring at her when she was a baby. She doesn't talk about these memories, but every once in a while, she opens up just a bit, so I know she has a lot of deep feelings that she just doesn't share. But today? She talked about the cats. She talked about how sad she was and how mad she was. And she cried. And I cried too, but not for the same reasons. Sure, I miss the cats. But I missed my daughter more. And if in this instance, the memory of her pets brings her back to me, if it helps her open up and let me see the private pain that autism locked away, then treasures have come out of darkness. And I find that pure gold.

T, who doesn't have the answers, not this time

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9 sent chocolate:

Nancy said...

What a sad moment for your daughter...but a healing one for you that she is able to feel and express that. I hope that she is able to process her grief soon. ((hugs))

Genevieve Hinson said...

What a wonderful, heart-felt post. I'm so sorry for the loss of your kitties and, even though tears, you got a moment unlocked with your daughter.


buffi said...

This is beautiful. I know that it was a bittersweet blessing for her to open up and show this much emotion.

And we rail at God. It's ok, He is big enough to handle it. I have told her it is fine to be mad about it

How very validating it must be for her to hear that her anger and hurt are okay. What a good mom you are.

Ruthie said...

Hi! Thanks for your comment on my blog, now you just made me cry! LOL

Poor baby, I've heard that cats are great pets for Autistic children. My son loves them, and we've always wanted to get one. I'm so sorry for your losses.

Laurie of the Seven Stories said...

As a cat lover and a mother of five, I can relate to your story. I am so glad to hear that your daughter was able to express some of her grief.
Have you thought about adopting another cat?

Anonymous said...

hopped over from the attendee list for the Blogher conference.

What a moving post! So sad, yet so hopeful. I'm so sorry about your kitties, and the loss of your home. So hard to recover from.

TLC said...

Thank you everyone, from the bottom of my heart. It was hard to write, but I know for my healing, I have to. Also, I hope by writing it helps others to understand autism isn't just about picking lint and staring into space.

Thank you for reading, I appreciate you all.


Natalie said...

great post. i am glad she is sharing some of her feelings with you. i know how much you treasure those glimpses into her soul.

Tim said...

Good Job! :)

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