Have you ever wondered why you are the way you are ?.
I mean, deep inside, at the core so to speak, in your soul, your essence. Have you ever stopped fir a moment and really looked inside yourself ?. Paused, had a moment of stillness when time itself stops and turned yourself inwards, beneath the skin, the muscle, the bones, to you, your centre of being.
To me, it’s a voyage, a journey to the centre of the universe, a journey to pinpoint a tiny fragment, that distant pinpoint of light, the you.
And when you come out of yourself, you draw back from the epicentre of existence, you become whole again, how much of what’s in you do you see in your family ?.
Somewhere, on the wonderful spectrum of Autism that connects us all, are/were my family.
My Father was almost certainly Autistic. Like myself, a solitary man, deeply uncomfortable in social situations, quick to anger if what he perceived to be his routine was disrupted, seeking advance warning of any changes, very narrow interests yet immensely talented at constructing things and fixing things.
Mum was possessive of traits. She was an artist and a very fine one. Very much at ease in social situations, very intelligent and quite outgoing but not good, emotionally, with her family and very rigid in what she would or would not do or try.
My sister, older than me by 6 years, is a cold, calculating, domineering individual. Very bright but not emotionally warm. Very opinionated and controlled. Again, like Mum, she demonstrates some traits.
None of my family, bar me, have ever been diagnosed.
I never envied close family’s. We were, at best, dysfunctional. At our worst we excommunicated each other over petty things. My father and sister did not speak for nine years because of a decision she made. Mum and she didn’t speak for three years about the same decision. My sister and I only spoke once in 15 years after she told my mother how much she despised me and was jealous of my birth. We only talk now to sort out our parents estate.
But, as the saying goes, you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.
I wouldn’t have chosen mine.
I never got on with Dad. Perhaps we were too similar in our social isolation and the fact we enjoyed completely different interests didn’t help us connect. He was never proud of me, never congratulated me on anything and I suspected that I was not the son he wanted.
Though, from what I understand since he passed away, he didn’t want children at all and, if he didn’t want my sister, he certainly didn’t want a second child.
Mum and I got on well. I think, if you divide our family into dominant and submissive personalities, you would find a Father/Daughter dominant and Mother/Son submissive. I was terrified of Dad and his meltdowns if you said or did the wrong thing. He was quick to anger and Mum went along with things to keep him happy. I tried to, but, when my Autusm clashed with his, the results were spectacularly bad.
Mum and I talked about books, she was interested in my trips and I helped her with the crossword. We talked about films and although, every time I rang, I asked about my sisters wellbeing, my sister never once asked how I was.
Mum committed suicide last August, eight months after Dad died as a result of vascular dementia. I miss her and, although never close, I miss my father or, put another way, I struggle with the space where he should have been.
So now there’s just the two of us. My sister and I. Separated by the miles and now in regular contact as we sift through the estate and cope with the inevitable bueauracracy that follows an unexpected death. We will never be close. I don’t want to be close. We are too different.
Before she died Mum said to me, “When I’m gone I’ll enjoy looking down and watching you and your sister fight over everything”. A spiteful and unnecessary comment you may feel.
And, in a way, perhaps it was. Perhaps I never really got my Mum. Perhaps I misjudged her. Comments in her diaries show emotions ranging from pity to frustration to disappointment in me. She used to say “You do know I love you, don’t you ?”. But was that a love born out of duty ?.
So, that’s my family. I do wonder if, to the casual reader, this will come across as bitter or down. It’s neither. It’s just who we are and who we were.
I see parts of my family I clearly inherited and parts that I hope I never do.
And when I look inside myself, and I seek out that centre, I know that whoever I am, good or bad, is inextricably linked, genetically, with my family.
But I am my own man, I choose my own path. I didn’t choose my family.