It’s always strange for me when I have tell about myself. I never know quite where to start. I was born, raised, and still reside in southern West Virginia. My husband Matt and I were married in 1997. I have held a few jobs, but I never had what most would consider a career. I studied wildlife biology in college at WVU, but abandoned that to come home and get married. My hope had always been to return to school some day, finish my degree, and do the work I always thought I wanted to do.
Then, ten years ago, my life started down an entirely different path from the one I had been on up to that point. My daughter Evelyn was born. She was my second (and last) child, and the difference between her birth and the birth of my son was the difference between the sun and the moon. From the moment I first saw her, I knew things were going to be different. Just how different remained to be seen.
Now, here we are, ten years later! Evelyn is ten, my son, Ian, is eleven, and I am….well, ten years older. Evelyn is, in short, severely delayed. She doesn’t speak, she walks, but she has poor balance and falls easily. She can’t run. She doesn’t read or write, use the toilet, or perform any personal hygiene independently. She can feed herself, gesture towards things she wants, laugh, smile, pout, and basically communicate more effectively with just her eyes than any other human on the planet. Evelyn has no diagnosis, and certainly not for a lack of trying. She was, is, and will forever remain a medical enigma. She is, simply, Evelyn.
My son, Ian, is at the other end of the spectrum. He met all of his developmental milestones early. My one-liner about his development has always been, “Ian started talking when he was two, and he hasn’t shut up since.” He is bright, friendly, and my best buddy. He is in fifth grade. Starting Jan. 3, 2011, he got a new teacher–me! We live in a rural area, and the kindest thing I can say about the school system here is that it is outdated. Ian is not profoundly gifted–I don’t expect that he will be giving college lectures any time soon–but he loves to learn, and has never failed to learn what he has been taught. I felt public school was letting us down, and so I made the leap over Christmas break into the world of homeschooling. We are both adjusting, but so far, so good!
Don’t be deceived–my family does not consist merely of me, Matt, Ian and Evelyn. Oh no! I am also the primary caregiver for my 31-year-old sister, Mindy, who has spastic Cerebral Palsy. She uses a power wheelchair and is completely dependent on me in nearly every aspect of her life. Also in my daily life are my grandparents (my dad’s parents) who I refer to as The Grandfather and The Grandmother, as a private joke, like in Flowers in the Attic.
Our life probably seems seriously abnormal to some, but around here, it’s all pretty routine. We do the same things everyone does–camping, hiking, travelling, shopping, dining out–we just have to do them a little differently.
One thing probably is seriously abnormal around here, though.
Most of the people who knew me growing up were surprised I even had children. Then, after I did, some commented on what a good mother I was–with real disbelief in their voice. I tend to be a little rough around the edges. I have a couple of (non-visible) tattoos and I don’t put a lot of stock in fashion, make-up, or anything like that (this is a nice way of saying that most of the time, I look like crap.) I’m not overly affectionate, and I can be too frank sometimes, though I think a good trait about me is that I seldom lie. I don’t have tons of patience, and I have struggled with a quick temper and a sharp tongue for most of my life. (In my defense, I try to always apologize if I do or say something out of line to someone.) My taste in music, movies, and books is very eclectic. My political and religious views are far too varied to apply a label of any kind. I greatly admire people who quote beautiful poems and literature in reference to their lives and loved ones, and I myself have studied many, many of the greats in my time: Shakespeare, Whitman, Plath, Salinger, Dickens, Fitzgerald, and countless others. I love literature and poetry, especially Robert Frost. I would cheerfully read Stephen King’s shopping list. I can quote many beautiful lines and passages from many works. However, in reality, my life reads more like The Far Side cartoon.
One last note–the title of my blog, “The (not so) Special Mother,” refers to a little feel-good story I was given at one of the many seminars I attended concerning special needs children. It was a nice little passage about how God chooses only special people to be the parents of special needs children. It was titled “The Special Mother.” It’s a lovely thought, but as one who struggles not only with parenting, but with faith, fear, doubt, and life in general, most of the time I feel anything but special.