Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Sister Sleuths and The Shadowman ; My Journey There

Many years ago I received the news that a good friend’s granddaughter was diagnosed with Autism. I felt so sad for her. Like many people back then, my main reference of Autism was the movie Rain Man. My heart broke at the thought that my friend would not able to connect with her beautiful little granddaughter the way I had with mine. I prayed for them.
Fast forward ten years-
My husband and I had a very rough year dealing with the loss of a business, then our home, and eventually almost everything we’d worked for. It was a sign of the times. Luckily, all of our children were adults and making it on their own. Many people were fighting the same battle trying to hold on to the lives they had worked so hard to build. Eventually the stress took its toll, and my husband ended up with health issues that put him in and out of the emergency room every weekend for nine months straight. After one visit he contracted a blood infection and I was terrified that I might lose him.
We made the difficult decision to move out if state and try to start over. We hoped it would give him time to heal and we could rebuild our lives. The hardest part of that was leaving the kids and our four grandkids.  They were the joy in our lives. Our oldest daughter had two beautiful children that we saw often. My son and daughter in law already had one beautiful daughter, and had just been blessed with another angelic looking little girl. We had just begun to bond with the baby when we had to move, she was about 8 months old at the time.
Once we were settled in our new home state. The kids came out to visit a few times and it seemed everything was moving forward again.
One evening my son called and as we caught up on news he mentioned that his wife was concerned with the way the baby was developing. We had just seen her a few weeks before and she seemed fine, although she was sleepy a lot of the time.
I told him she was probably just having a hard time with teething and not to worry. “If the doctor thinks she’s fine then I’m sure she is.” I said, thinking that my daughter in law was just a worried new mom. After all, I’d raised my own four kids and had a hand in raising many more. None of the baby’s behaviors seemed all that out of the ordinary to me.
He came to visit again when she was around 18 months. They were in the process getting her on lists to have her tested, at her mother’s insistence.
It wasn’t long after that, that they called and told us they had a diagnosis. She had Autism. Honestly, I didn’t believe it. I thought the doctors were mistaken and that she would be fine with a little extra love and time to ‘catch up’.  I don’t remember exactly what I said to my son, but it was something like, okay, well, that doesn’t change how much we love her.
Then I did what I always do when faced with the unknown. I throw myself into researching everything I can about the subject.  The information wasn’t as readily available as it now. Most of what I found on the internet was about the symptoms of ASD, or medical papers full of jargon written by doctors. None of them contained what I was looking for, and that was hope of recovery. I finally stumbled upon a couple of websites that offered understanding and hope. I learned that I didn’t need to spend all my time hoping and praying for her recovery, not that I ever gave up, but more importantly, I learned that accepting her autism as a part of which she is, was key.  If that was what my baby granddaughter needed from me then I would embrace her and her autism with all the love and support I could muster.
Living in another state, I had already felt the effects of missing a big part of my grandchildren’s lives. In the few short years we were away they were growing and changing and we were becoming strangers. On top of that, our youngest daughter and her husband were expecting their first baby.  I begged my husband to bring me back to be with my babies. When that didn’t work, I begged God to get me back home. He and I had been having a lot of conversations.
The following year circumstances changed and we moved back home. We were able to resume seeing the grandkids and building our relationships with them. As the years pass I continue to learn as much about Autism as I can. I read books, talk to people, read blogs and give support where I can.
What about my little granddaughter? She’s seven years old now, and brings so much joy into our lives. She is brave beyond anything I can imagine. She keeps us all on or toes (no pun intended) with her sometimes sweet, sometimes fiery personality. She’s an amazing little girl and I could not be more proud of her. I am so blessed that I get to be her grandma.
I have great respect for the Autism community. That is one of the reasons I created the character of Samantha. As I wrote, I let Sam tell me who she was, and she pretty much took over the story of the Sister Sleuths and the Shadowman.
I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it. A portion of the proceeds from this book will be Donated to raise Autism Awareness.

Sam and Sandy's play list

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Author Bio:  

Mary Ann Cortez has four grown children and six grandchildren, one, who lives on the Autism Spectrum.Mary Ann lives in Colorado with her husband and is happiest when she is surrounded by her family.This is her first young adult mystery.