Hello, dear readers. Today's post is a tribute to Gayle DeLong, by her oldest Jennifer Rose. Gayle died on January 5 of 2022, after a battle with breast cancer. Jenny wrote a terrific book called "It's Not a Perfect World, But I'll Take It." Surely this tribute is another chapter in the journey of a young adult with autism that no one wanted to write. Please join us in sending care and comfort to Jenny and her little sister Flora, who also has autism, and who may be struggling to understand the meaning of death and loss. Their Dad, Jonathan Rose, has been a stalwart beacon of strength for Gayle and his daughters. Let's not forget him in our prayers. Jenny created a music playlist for her Mom - you can access it here.
By Jennifer Rose
Are you there, Mom? It’s me, Jenny. Man, oh man, I’ve got so much to say, and yet, I honestly have no idea what to say to you. Our relationship was…complicated, and while we’d sometimes fight as mother and daughter would, you were my mother and at the end of the day, I still loved you. No matter what happened, all I wanted was to see you happy. Of course, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
It hasn’t been 24 hours, and already I’m streaming a grief playlist in your honour. Right now, I’m streaming “Hey Jude” by the Beatles. Remember how impressed you were at Flora, our daughter/sister that she was listening to classical music along with watching Nick Jr? (Okay, we could do without about 1,000 plays of the tape of Paul McCartney as a drugged-out 50-year-old, but that’s another story.)
But enough about me. I loved you, because you took care of me from birth, and nursed me back to health when I was sick, and believe me, I was sick quite a bit! Because, hey, that’s what mothers do. And that’s not even getting to the time you got me into a trip to Israel, and all you said was “Isn’t there another trip?” when I was booted out of one trip. Seriously, even Grandpa said more words at my first birthday, and he all-too-well lived up to the stereotype of Jewish husbands not talking a lot.
Somedays I just feel like I want to quit, and just be normal for a bit. Then I realize that my family isn’t, and never will be, normal. But hey, we’re handling everything the best we can. Because you know what? We’re not normal. We’re much, much better than normal. We are resilient. And we’re so because we had you for a mother.
Through your work through the Children’s Health Defense, with the great Robert Kennedy Jr., you helped children have a bright, healthy future. To quote actress Jane Fonda, Robert Kennedy “has the gift of telling vivid stories that explain how and why power is made to yield.” He has used his gift to help countless lives, whether through his environmental or autism work. It’s only natural that such an amazing man would work with you, my equally amazing mother.
I’ll have to admit, like any 16-year-old girl, sometimes I could get self-conscious about how “pretty” my life was, but I was struggling to find myself in an environment that was either over- or under-whelming. As a child of two worlds, so to speak, neither severely handicapped nor high-functioning enough to pass as fully “neurotypical”, it was always hard for me to fit in. Feeling alone, I would often escape into my own fantasy worlds, whether through pop culture or my own imagination. Even today, I’m trying to “find myself.” But, I can reassure you, someday I will be found.
When I found out you were terminally sick this Christmas, all I wanted was for you to be well and happy. That’s why I pitched in with Dad to help however I could. Seriously, if Stephen Merchant- my favorite actor and comedian and current “special interest”- had come up to my doorstep for Christmas dinner with Dad and me, I would’ve turned it down if it meant you got better. Holidays like Mother’s Day & Christmas won’t be the same without you. You were an absolutely beautiful soul, and no matter what, you’ll always be my mother.