My mother's adversities aren't ones that I'm going to write about. They are her stories and not mine. If she ever decides to tell them, I would happily serve as her biographer, but somehow I don't think that's very likely to happen. I will say simply that the years in which I was in junior high and high school were hard for her (not because of me, although I was definitely a little shit), so hard that I honestly didn't always know that she was going to survive it. She made mistakes, like any human being, but she paid for them more dearly than most. Her own mother committed suicide a few years before I was born, and during the worst of my mother's struggles, I always half expected to get called down to the principal's office, to find a police officer waiting or to take a phone call with the most terrible news a kid can receive, the same news she'd received all those years before.
I never got that call, because although even she wasn't aware of it at the time, my mother was made of stronger stuff. She's a survivor, and although I don't get the chance to tell her very often (like most action superheroes, she doesn't like hearing about her exploits), she's one of my heroes.
If, as is often suggested, men spend their lives trying to find a woman who reminds them of their mother, I couldn't have done much better than Julie. When I met her, she was twenty-one. It's funny to think back on that, but it's true. Twenty-one. Even then, it was clear that she was mature and capable of taking on big things in her life. We never dreamed that the big thing she would end up tackling would be a monster, however, or that it would be holding her child hostage and would require negotiations for the rest of their lives.
Motherhood is hard. Motherhood for a child with a disability is almost more than a person should be expected to take on. Sometimes people like to say that God never gives us more than we can handle, but those of us who have seen a lot of families with disabilities know exactly what a bullshit idea that really is. God overwhelms plenty of people; there are a lot of mothers and fathers who can't take it, can't face the loss of their imaginary Future Child and its accompanying narrative and can't handle their new reality. A lot of parents give up, bug out, disappear or live in a state of protective denial.
My book was about my perspective as a father, and I would have never felt comfortable trying to tell Julie's story. But it's a story that should be told. Julie is a lot less introspective than I am, and she spends a lot less time second-guessing herself or trying to come to terms with Schuyler's situation. Julie didn't have much use for God before Schuyler was born, but when we received the diagnosis in 2003, I think Julie discarded whatever lingering belief she might have had. Julie didn't need a God who would hurt her child, so she jettisoned him, rolled up her sleeves and took on the task herself.
Julie has been a rock for Schuyler, and for me. Her book would probably be much shorter than mine. Perhaps it would be one sentence long. "My daughter needed me, so I did what I had to do, and I did it with joy, because I love her with everything I am. The End."
The late J.G. Ballard wrote a followup book to Empire of the Sun in which he wrote about a life spent in the company of extraordinary women. I've lived that life as well, and the most amazing of them all is still growing, still developing. Schuyler is just beginning her own journey into a future as a superheroine, and she does so with the benefit of the two best role models I can imagine.
Happy Mother's Day, Julie and Mom. You're the best, and that's the truth.