Yours truly at lunch with Mrs Eustacia Cutler
Fair warning ~ I might put this photo on every post from now until the end of time
“Hey, Brooke, want to know where Mama went today, baby?”
She doesn’t look up or stop what she’s doing, but asks me a question in return.
“Where did you go, Mom?”
“I went to meet a really neat lady. Her name is Mrs Cutler. She’s a mommy just like me.”
She’s silent, but I’m pretty sure she’s listening, so I continue on.
“And she has a daughter too, just like you. Her name is Temple Grandin and she has autism just like you do. And she’s done some pretty amazing things. She works with animals.”
“Yup. And you know what?”
Silence, but I plod on. I need her to hear this.
“Everybody else who works with animals knows who she is because she’s made people change the way that they think about their work with them.”
She’s fidgeting with a plastic Easter egg. I know I’ve gotten too wordy. I know I may already have lost her, but I’m determined to try.
“And you know what, baby? Her Mama is really proud of her. Just like I’m really proud of you.”
She’s still with me. Yes.
“Yup. Because I know that you are going to do really great things too. As a matter of fact, you already are.”
She doesn’t respond, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve now lost her to the siren song of the Easter eggs.
Tears are stinging my eyes. I motion to Luau, who comes over to offer a hug – but really to help hold the pieces of me together, lest I lose it completely.
The young man approaches me after the lecture has broken up. He looks nervous.
He identifies himself as a journalist with a local paper – asks if he might ask me a few questions. “Of course,” I say. “Fire away.”
I turn my chair toward his and take a sip of my coffee. It’s gone cold. I’m tempted to go refill it, but his earnest expression keeps me glued to the seat.
“Well, I’d like to start by asking what you thought of Mrs Cutler’s lecture.”
Wow. Pretty open question, kid.
“It was incredible,” I say. “I found her charming and funny and delightfully irreverent. But most of all, I found her inspirational. As the mother of an autistic daughter as well, I was in awe of her story.”
He writes furiously in his book, trying to keep up, then looks over what he’s written. He apparently finds the line that he was searching for.
“So you said that you were inspired by her. Were you inspired by the fact that she raised a child with autism?”
I bristle at the question, but try not to show it. He has no way to know that he’s stepped on a small, internal land mine.
“No. I’m not inspired nor impressed that she raised her child. I have a lot of friends with autistic children and I’m not remotely impressed that they parent them. Parenting our own children is simply what we do.
What I am inspired by are the choices Mrs Cutler made and their intrinsic defiance of the entire paradigm of the medical establishment’s then-current thinking. That is what impresses me.
And what inspires me is that she urged every one of us here today to do the same. Not to rebel for the sake of rebellion, but to follow our own path in the service of our own child. To, as she said, “Choose who to listen to.”
Her choosing who to listen to – and more importantly who NOT to listen to in the 1950s and 60s proved to quite literally be her child’s salvation. THAT inspired me.”
He asks about my children. I tell him about Katie and Brooke. We talk some more. I mention the blog. I tell him that I am grateful to people like Mrs Cutler who blazed a path for those of us who came later to follow. But even more, I tell him, I am grateful that Temple is in the world to tell HER story, because sadly – devastatingly, so many of her generation simply are not. They were warehoused away to the institutions that some sixty years later, so many of them still know as their only world.
I tell him that each and every adult with autism has had to clear the bush – to blaze their own trail, because the formula that we as neurotypicals have set out for growing up is often as useless to them as a Hieroglyphic map. That as much as I am grateful for people like Temple, whose name we all know, so too I am grateful to the autistic high school kids and newly minted college co-eds who are navigating the world now and who will be there to welcome my daughter into a community of people who may not have walked exactly the same road, but who can, at the very least, truly relate to the one she will have blazed for herself.
I tell him that perhaps they’ll be able to help her avoid the potholes along the way, guiding her when and where I simply can’t.
I mention how moved I was by the way that Mrs Cutler described her now sixty-four year-old daughter as “living a life that fulfills her – in the way in which SHE chooses to be fulfilled.” I tell him that I adored not just her obviously overwhelming love for and devotion to Temple, but her respect for her – not only now that she’s accomplished so much, but throughout the times when no one would have imagined the Temple of today.
I tell him that I loved the fact that she kept talking about self-determination and how important it was to her that Temple make as many of her own choices as possible. I tell him how deeply that resonated with me – and that I know that I will come back to those words for years to come.
He closes his notebook and thanks me for the interview. He looks even more nervous now than he did when we started. I can only imagine how any of this will come out.
Along with so many in the crowd, I had scribbled notes throughout Mrs Cutler’s presentation. I had struggled to capture quote after amazing quote. Sitting next to my friend Alysia, we had written, sniffed and wiped our eyes at the same moments. One seat over, Susan Senator had tapped my leg to show me what she’d written on her notepaper. — “DYING TO BLOG!” — I had laughed and nodded my damn near ready to explode head furiously while showing her my pages upon pages of notes.
I gather my notes together now and carefully set them into my bag next to two now-signed copies of Mrs Cutler’s book. My heart is beating a mile a minute with anticipation.
I grab my phone and write a note to you because I know you’ll get this. (And you do. Oh, you do.)
Diary of a Mom
I just saw Eustacia Cutler (Temple Grandin’s mom) speak. I am in awe. She’s funny, charming and brilliantly inspirational. AAAAAAND … I’m about to have lunch with her. Holy blog post brewing batman.
Like · · Share · 10 hours ago via mobile ·
255 people like this.
Then I gather the pieces of myself as I’d gathered my notes – I take a deep breath, try to shake off the nerves and head down the hall for a luncheon that will, quite simply, leave me changed.
To be cont …