By Kim Rossi
Hello friends, and Happy New Year. I haven't written too much about my daughters since my Memoir All I Can Handle I'm No Mother Teresa debuted 8 years ago. They have grown into young women, adults over the age of 18. Can you imagine that?
My middle daughter Gianna is the most talkative of the three. She helps sort and make sense of her world via the calendar. Each Friday is "the last day!" -- of the week. Each 30th or 31st is "the last day!" -- of the month. And today, December 31st is the greatest of all last days to her.
In 2005, when we moved as an intact family from Ohio to Massachusetts to live with my parents after a long stint of unemployment, my Dad and Gianna formed a special bond. It was difficult to move into my childhood bedroom with a husband. Strange. I felt as if I was in an MTV "real weird world" special. The upside was that the kids got to really know their grandparents and my folks, who always were able to willing to meet the girls were they are - not where they wished they were - loved having us there.
One of my Dad's silly lessons with Gianna has stuck. They would look at the calendar together and my Dad would say, "Where did Tuesday go, Gianna?" She would laugh. And he'd turn his thumb to the ground and say, "Down the drain!" And then they would laugh together. He did this for a reason. Gianna was afraid of the bathtub drain. And the shower drain. So by making her beloved calendar go "down the drain," my Dad helped ease that fear for her. I'm not sure he even knew he was providing a form of therapy for her. He did so by instinct. That's love.
When my Dad died at age 92 in February of 2017, the girls and I were in the midst of the divorce. Dan Olmsted had died just weeks earlier. The three D's - Dan, Dad, Divorce. It was a nasty, frightful time in our lives. I was unable to fully shield them from the dark energy that enveloped our house. The funeral was at the National Cemetery on Cape Cod. I booked a hotel room for 1 night near my parents' house and off the girls and I went, to bury Grandpy.
At the cemetery, Mia stayed in the minivan, Gianna and Bella and I walked to the burial - which was outside - in a small covered area. Instantly, cousins who barely knew the girls helped us. One held onto Bella's arm. I kept Gianna near me. We listened to the prayers. Wept as Taps was played. My Dad was the last of the Rossi brothers. An era had passed. We knew it.
At the end of the service, Gianna, in her beautiful, funny, charming autistic way, said aloud for all to hear (she only HAS an outdoor voice) "GRANDPY IS IN THE BOX! DOWN THE DRAIN!"
Everyone laughed, a great release of pain and a reminder of my Dad's sense of humor. My eyes darted to my Mom - and I mouthed "I'm sorry!!!" We still laugh over the moment.
We're all getting older. Many of us have been at the autism "game" for 20 or more years. Most of us have not caught the brass ring of recovery for our kids. That's OK. And we're all going "down the drain" at some point. Life changes. Little by little over time. Sometimes in an instant. Still, we can craft a good life for ourselves, and we must.
I wish everyone of you a blessed, hopeful 2019.