Mother’s Day

Mikey's card

The last card I ever got from Mikey

Inside of the card. One of my greatest treasures

Inside of the card. One of my greatest treasures

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there who spend 364 days of the year putting everyone else’s needs ahead of their own.  I don’t think most mothers know how to act when someone else suddenly puts them on a pedestal.  My friend and I were discussing the definition of “diva.”  Is there a mom out there who actually has “diva” in their vocabulary?

Mother’s Day is one of those days that leaves me with a giant knot in my stomach; matching the giant void that Mikey left in my life.  I know every mother who has lost a child experiences the same kind of sorrow today.  We rejoice in the children, grandchildren, and family that we are so fortunate to have in our lives.  We embrace the love and laughter they bring us, especially today.  And then we go home and succumb to sobs, and welcome the next 364 days where our maternal designation isn’t called out.  It’s somehow easier to rejoice in the children we still have when we’re not flooded with memories of the children who no longer celebrate with us.

Children like Mikey call for mothers who will be mothers 24/7.  There’s no down time; no “me” time, and no time to waste primping when a hurricane is blowing through your house.  Consequently, there were many days when I was lucky just to get a shower without a catastrophe happening during my brief respite under the shower head.  I staged a protest one year when my mother-in-law wanted us to come over and landscape her yard as her mother’s day present.  That practice had started a few years earlier and had somehow become a tradition.  But my sister-in-law and I finally decried an end to this tradition, since we were mothers too, and did not wish to spend every Mother’s Day pulling weeds.  So my husband offered to take me and kids out to Sunday brunch instead.  I jumped on this, since we rarely braved restaurants with Mikey, and I usually cooked three meals a day.

We jumped in the car and began trying to find a restaurant without a 2 hour wait.  Impossible on Mother’s Day!   We struck out at the first several places we tried, and the kids were getting hungry and antsy. The Hilton Hotel was advertising a brunch, and we were delighted to discover there wasn’t a long wait time.  So we entered the line at the Hilton and discovered we were a trifle under-dressed.  There were a few ladies who were actually wearing evening gowns, men wearing suits, and very few children in the establishment.

This was the first time I paused to take notice of what we were all wearing.  I had on a yellow sweat shirt and jeans.  My husband had on a t-shirt and jeans.  Mikey had on a psychedelic t-shirt that almost came down to his knobby little knees, shorts that clashed with it, and his trademark black and white checkerboard Vans. Susie was the only one of us who looked remotely put-together.  At least she matched.

We didn’t care.  I was so thankful at getting an afternoon away from the kitchen and I was well beyond caring about what other people thought of me.  While we were eating, I remarked at how under-dressed we were.  Mike said, “At least you have clean clothes on.  I mowed the lawn in this t-shirt this morning.”  Not to be outdone, Mikey yelled, “I slept in this t-shirt last night!”  After enduring the glares from the other customers who overheard this conversation, we finally left.  A huge line had formed with the afternoon crowd, and I thought it was funny when I was not having any trouble getting through the line.  In fact, when they saw me coming, it was like the parting of the Red Sea.  All the well-dressed folks took 10 steps back to let me through.

“Snobs!” I thought.  Until I got into the car.  I’m not quite sure how or when it happened, but at some point I had apparently gotten into some pudding.  There was a huge blob of chocolate pudding hanging off my elbow.  It couldn’t be missed.  Obviously, the other diners hadn’t missed it and were trying to avoid it when I passed them.  No doubt we gave the upper-crust crowd something to talk about and snicker over.  I didn’t care.  It was “my” day, and I had been given special treatment by my appreciative family.  Whatever your own brand of “special” is, doesn’t matter when it’s given with love.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, with chocolate pudding on top!

 

 

 

Spring in the Garden

tomato for fat reducing

As April is slipping away, the sunnier days of May are springing forward and I fondly remember all the seasons of planting with little Mikey, medium sized Mikey, and big Mikey.  Mikey loved growing things.  He loved all things connected to the earth.  Perhaps he knew on some level that he would have little time to enjoy the earthly things, so he dug into them with zest.  Sometimes he dug into them with my good silverware, and sometimes just with his little grubby hands.  I had a dream shortly after Mikey died which seemed to be more of a “visit” than a dream.  Mikey was standing in the kitchen giggling and I opened up the drawer he was standing in front of.  It was overflowing with all the numerous spoons he had lost outside while digging over the years, and he burst out laughing and said, “I brought back all your silverware that I lost.”

Tomatoes were Mikey’s favorite things to plant, as well as experiment with.  He tried in vain to cross breed a tomato with a watermelon; always hoping to get a melon sized version of his favorite tart tomato.  Mikey also liked Rainbow tomatoes, because of their varying hues.

Catering to his olfactory senses as well as his taste buds, Mikey inherited my love of spices.  We always made our yearly trip to our favorite nursery to load up on the many variations of herbs and spices, with careful selection based on smell.  Orange mint, pineapple mint, lemon verbena, every version of oregano and basil, and some token catnip for the kitties.  Mikey tenderly watched and watered and snipped and savored each and every plant until it thrived to harvest time.

I always had to grab a few baskets of flowers to brighten up our porch after the Colorado winter, and Mikey enjoyed the scents of them, too.  He was frustrated that tulips did not have much of a smell, as giant red tulips were his favorite flower visually.

Gardening is something all children love to participate in.  Growing things magically out of a seed is fascinating for young and old alike.  I am excitedly looking forward to becoming a grandma this summer.  Susie and Vince are expecting their first child shortly before Mikey’s birthday, and I can’t wait for the day when I can take my grandchild to Mikey’s favorite nursery to pick out her own favorite plants.  Will she enjoy digging in the dirt as much as her uncle did?  Who knows?  The sight of a small child stopping to smell the roses or watch the butterfly or pinch the ladybug is worth a thousand beautiful words, and grandma will be right here to type them.

The Colors of Autism

smallcoloredeggs

The creative minds of autistic people experience the world in shapes, colors, and sounds that do not always make sense.  While the words may get jumbled up, the colors do not.  The colors are an expression of feelings and vibrations that an autistic person senses on an intuitive level deep within their being.  While the word “angry” might not mean anything to them, the color red may represent a feeling they know well, but cannot express in words.

My world was enriched by my son, Mikey, who brought more color into my life than any artist’s palette could create.  Mikey experienced the world in living color, and he was drawn to anything visually colorful.  He could feel emotions represented in colors, and he expressed his feelings through his use of color in his artwork.  Blue was his very favorite color; royal blue.  Blue symbolizes spirituality, youth, truth, and peace, and it’s linked to intellect and consciousness.  That pretty well sums up Mikey.  Although he didn’t know what the color blue represented; it represented him.  In fact, blue represented Mikey far better than his label of “autism” did.

I can’t picture Mikey in the summertime without seeing a tie-dyed shirt.  Four years after his death, I can’t look at a tie-dyed shirt without picturing Mikey.  Mikey wore all the colors of the rainbow proudly.  He only wore tans and beiges because they blended in and camouflaged him when he desired to be inconspicuous.  But nine days out of ten, he would grab the most colorful t-shirt out of his closet to wear around the house.  He had his favorites, which I still sleep in:  orange, gold, green, and blue.  The colors shaped his mood, along with the colorful clay he used for modeling objects and the colorful glazes he put on pottery.

One of the greatest gifts to give an autistic child is a kaleidoscope.  It has everything they love: colors, motion, and light.  And it doesn’t require batteries; just a simple twist of the hand and it offers a constantly changing work of art.  Art in motion.  A unique and beautiful version of the wheel.

If you know a child with autism, instead of filling their Easter basket with pastel plastic toys, how about a kaleidoscope instead?  Or how about skipping the pastel eggs in favor of the bright primary colors, or neon colored plastic eggs?  They have plastic eggs in all manners of color combinations nowadays.  Instead of filling the eggs with candy, fill them with different blocks of colorful Sculpey Clay.  It will give their creative minds hours of enjoyment, instead of giving their bodies hyper-active responses to sugar.

And let them dye eggs any way they want them.  Mikey used to leave eggs sitting in dye cups overnight, because he wanted them as dark and richly colored as possible.  Egg dying was one of Mikey’s favorite holiday traditions.  It’s a tradition that autistic kids can enjoy just as much – or more- than other kids.  Remember when you are celebrating holidays, they should be included in the celebrating, which means some of the usual traditions may need modified or skipped altogether.  But it’s their holiday, too.   Wishing everyone a very colorful and wonderful Easter!

 

Do We Astral Travel?

When I’m speaking to people who have lost loved ones, I understand the longing they feel to see the one they lost again.  I long to see Mikey all the time; to behold him with my eyes and ears and touch his face, his hair, his hands.  But when I think of him, I can see him sitting right beside me.  Right after he died, I remember feeling worried that I would forget things about him over time.  Never happen.  When you lose someone you share unconditional love with, especially your child, you forget nothing.  You can call them up in your mind anytime you want. No, you can’t hear them with your ears, but you hear them in your mind.  You see them in your mind’s eye, and you can experience their energy from your memory of them.

But I noticed after he died, many times I would wake up in the morning and feel as if I really had just seen him.  I didn’t feel quite as sad; I didn’t feel as if it had been an eternity since I’d seen him,  as it had when I laid my head down to sleep the night before.  I felt as if I had just spent time with Mikey while I was sleeping.

Do we astral travel when we sleep at night?  Can we connect with loved ones in another realm when our conscious minds go to sleep?  I believe we can and do.  It sounds very hocus-pocus, but I am convinced our subconscious mind can travel wherever it wants to, as long as our conscious mind is not awake and telling us it’s impossible.  Remote viewers can see things that are happening a thousand miles away from them, and they’re awake while they’re observing.  So why can’t the rest of us experience the love from another spiritual being who is separated from us through death, when our logical conscious brain is at rest?

I’ve had several dreams about Mikey that felt like “visits” rather than dreams, and I believe they were visits from him that I was allowed to remember.  But I also believe I travel to visit Mikey myself quite often when I’m “asleep”, but I’m not allowed to remember those visits.  I don’t remember them, but I feel them when I wake up.  I feel as if I have just spent time with Mikey.  He doesn’t feel as if he’s another night farther away from me; separated even more, as more time passes after his death..  It feels as if I just left his place and woke up in mine.

Am I just having regular dreams about him which I don’t remember?   That’s probably the case sometimes.  But at other times, I know it’s not a dream.  I know I was just talking to him when suddenly I was jerked back into my body, awakened with a start.  I remember what we were talking about when I first wake up, and it never seems strange to be talking with him, even though in my “dream” I know he is physically dead.  My subconscious accepts the fact that I can spend time with a person who is only alive in spirit, while my conscious mind won’t allow me that luxury.

So when people who have lost children tell me they still have a hard time going to sleep at night years later, I always tell them that’s my favorite time to commune with Mikey. I fall asleep easier now than I ever did before Mikey’s death.  I look forward to seeing him at night, whether it’s just a dream or an actual visit from astral traveling with him.  I don’t know and I don’t care.  I know I wake up happy after feeling like I’ve seen my son, and that’s what keeps me going.Mikey's senior picture Sweet dreams!

Two new books are available now.

I was hard at work during the month of January, pulling together a book I have been working on for several years.  It’s a relationship book, and I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears and tears and tears into it.  And laughter.  And more tears.  And finally, peace.  Who knew I would be 50 when I finally “found myself?”  Or to phrase it better, I discovered that I was just as valuable as the next guy.  Sometimes it takes us a lifetime to realize our own worth.  Relationships help us find it; they’re actually the greatest tool God gives us to learn about ourselves.  I’m still not finished with that book, and it still may be years in the making.  But in the middle of writing a chapter about communication break-downs, I got off on a tangent about all the new age electronic forms of communication, and how aggravating it is for those of us who want to have a real, honest conversation with someone. So I pushed the relationship book aside, and spent the next week writing day and night about the passive aggressive ways that people use electronic communication.  The end result:  Facebook:  The Greatest Passive Aggressive Weapon EVER;  Reconnect with your Self-Worth and Unfriend your Fear.  Yes, I’m poking fun at all the silently cruel ways people use social media to make their points, as well as how the truly passive aggressive people have perfected the art of the blow-off with text messaging, but I’m poking fun at all of us.  We all use some of these tactics from time to time, and it’s the cowardly way out of communicating with people who care about us. Cell phones are a blessing and a curse for communicating with people….who really don’t communicate.

Hopefully you’ll learn a few things, and have a few laughs along the way.  As I’ve finally learned, when we allow ourselves to be hurt by other people’s behavior, we only have ourselves to blame.  I offer tips for dragging yourself out of the gutter and approaching your pain from a different perspective.  We all are on our journey in learning to love ourselves.  Some of us just take the back roads.

Click on the link below if you’d like to order the book through the distributor.  If you’d like a personalized autographed copy, please write to me at Diane@DianeBucci.com.  The books are $9.95 plus S&H.

http://www.linkedin.com/redirect?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ecreatespace%2Ecom%2F4136361&urlhash=SZCT&_t=tracking_anet

Hope you enjoy!

Winks from Heaven

Mikey seems to be everywhere this month, turning lights on for me, messing with the phones, and I think he is as excited as we are that my daughter, Susie, and son-in-law, Vince, are expecting their first child.  It’s due on August 26th, the day before Mikey’s birthday.  It feels like heaven is returning us a little piece of Mikey, or at least a little person to celebrate.

I have felt Mikey’s presence around me many nights as I’ve stayed up working on a new book.  In fact, Mikey’s sense of humor seemed to push me off in another direction one night, and I sat aside the “serious” book I was working on and started frantically typing about a subject that has both amused and frustrated me:  the passive aggression on Facebook.  Both cell phones and internet chat are great for passive aggressive people, who never want to have a face-to-face conversation.  Mikey also hated that form of communication, which might seem unusual for someone classified as “autistic.”  But Mikey enjoyed people….he just preferred to experience them one at a time.  And he liked them in person, rather than on the phone.  Ironically, the last conversations he had with me, Susie, and his dad, Mike, were all on the phone.

The last year has been eventful with the publishing of Mikey’s book, Grandma Susie’s death, Susie’s marriage, my departure from the daily work-force, Mike’s remarriage, and the big baby news. I wonder how many of those things would have happened in 2012 if Mikey hadn’t died in 2008.  Did the stress of Mikey’s death take years or months off of Grandma Susie’s life?  Would Susie or Mike have gotten married sooner?  I know Mikey’s death threw us all into a tailspin.  I think I would still be messing around with the original book’s manuscript. I know if I had gotten it published, it would certainly be a different book.  I would still be living in Oklahoma with Mikey.  I can hardly imagine myself leaving a sizable regular paycheck, with a roof to provide over Mikey and me.  I don’t know what any of our lives would be like if Mikey was still with us, but I know God doesn’t let us go back and choose the way we would have written the script.  If we are all actors in a play, then we are often the puppets.  We move when God pulls the strings.

I’ve done a lot of traveling to promote the book and I’ve met a lot of interesting and wonderful people.  Mikey seems to inspire everyone who reads his story, and it makes my heart swell when people share their stories with me.  It’s like getting postcards from heaven when I open my email box and read stories inspired by Mikey.  So thank you, to all who have shared your stories with me!

Christmases Past

As always, I’m breathing a little sigh of relief now that Christmas Day has passed.  Spending the day with my daughter always keeps me afloat, but the sadness always comes in the waning hours after presents have been unwrapped, food has been stored away, cheerful goodbyes have been said, and I’m all alone with my thoughts.

Staring blankly at the twinkling lights of my tree, I’m suddenly swept back into Christmases past.  I see little Mikey’s face lit up with excitement over a new remote control car.  I see Susie’s tussled blonde locks cascading over a new pink nightgown, hunkered down with her new Barbie house which she has carefully set up under the tree, now barren of wrapped presents. Both kids keeping an eye on the new Disney video that Santa brought, while playing with their new toys.  And me, collapsed on the couch after an all-night assembling episode kept me from getting more than a couple of hours of sleep before Susie scampered out of her bed to wake Mikey and the rest of us at 4 a.m.

“Mikey!  Santa Claus came!”  Susie would rouse her little brother, and both kids would come bounding down the stairs in jubilation.  Mike and I would mumble a garbled agreement over who was going to make the coffee or get the camera.

I remember sitting on the couch at the end of Christmas day and feeling contented and joyful and tired.  And worried.  Always worried about the future.  Always wishing Christmas vacation could go on forever and Mikey didn’t have to go back to school. I hated Mikey going back to school more than Mikey hated it himself.  The teasing kids, the thoughtless remarks from some of the teachers, the stress of wondering if Mikey was actually learning the material he was supposed to be learning for his age.  Continually worrying about the future, which I believed would stretch out before me with years and years of Christmases with Mikey.

I go back to those Christmases past in my mind, and I wish I could tell that young mother to stop worrying and just enjoy living in that joyful moment.  And I’m struck by how death teaches us how to really live.

Oklahoma welcomed Mikey’s story today, with interviews in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

The tragedy in Connecticut continues to raise many questions in the national consciousness.  One of those questions stems from the fear that is now associated with Asperger’s Syndrome. I have done my best to be a voice for all of those on the autism spectrum and distill the fears in those who are less educated on the disorder. Yes, it’s a wide spectrum; from severely handicapped to highly functioning successful individuals.  In my eyes, it is all autism, and there never needed to be a different label that memorialized Dr. Asperger.  To separate the high from the lower functioning created an even bigger stigma for those considered “autistic.”  Mikey considered himself autistic, although his newer official label was Asperger’s.  He was as highly functioning as you will find – and still be truly affected with autism.  They have over-used the Asperger’s label to the point that it’s become a catch-all for every child with a learning disability that acts a little bit anti-social.  Mikey, on the other hand, exhibited every single symptom of autism, and there were about 13 different criteria if memory serves me.  Symptoms such as :

  • Possessing no fear of real danger, but fearing things they shouldn’t.  What does that look like in a 3 year old?  In Mikey, it meant he tried to make his great escape when I was traveling down the interstate at 60 m.p.h.. I heard the telltale sound of the door handle and glanced back to see Mikey had somehow wriggled out of his car seat and was preparing to jump out the door of the car onto the busy highway.  That wasn’t scary looking to him.  And yet, he would scream bloody murder if you tried to take him on an elevator.
  • Obsession with spinning objects.  Sorry folks, but obsession doesn’t mean a child’s autistic just because they enjoy watching a spinning top for 30 minutes.  In Mikey, it meant if he was awake for four hours, 3 1/2 of those hours were spent with his eyes glued on a tape in the VCR or some other spinning object.  It meant if you took away the spinning object, a full blown tantrum would ensue.  Obsession means they CAN’T live without occupying themselves with it 24/7.

I could continue listing symptoms of classic autism, but I’d rather list the positive things that came out of today:

  •  I discovered “hardened” reporters have huge hearts, and their hearts bleed for their community members in distress
  • I found an audience is ready to hear a message from someone such as myself, who is more of a bridge between traditional Christianity and Metaphysics, with a splash of Hinduism
  • I discovered people never forget tragedies, never forget the names of the perpetrators, but often forget the names of the victims

 Let us never forget.