A LETTER TO MY MOTHER.

I remember, when I was eighteen, my maternal grandfather died. I didn’t go to his funeral not because he was a terrible person or I was a heartless person, and my mother doesn’t believe me, but I was afraid of showing any emotion and I was afraid of losing my composure. I say, had I gone, I would have wanted it to go like this, that the director would have been able to come and say, “Where’s Peter Wynn?” “Here.” “Okay, I want you to follow me, please.” And led me down the front and said, “I need you to sit here, please.” (behind the minister). Then, once the opening was out of the way, the minister to have said, after I’d had two Strongbows at home, “I’ll now call on Peter Wynn, grandson of Frank, to deliver the eulogy.” I asked my mother if she’d have let me and she said no and she wouldn’t have let me make a fool of myself. (I remember breaking down when I was twelve and my mother told me not to act like a kid!) So, damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I also remember, at eighteen, I wasn’t an easy person to live with and some of it was a response to things when I was younger. I still remember, a few days after I turned eighteen, it was hot and I wanted to sit in my room and read a book, but my mother told me to go and ask my brother if he wanted to play cricket. She knew damn well that I HATE cricket! And I remember the week after I got my junior certificate, my parents had to go to a housewarming party for the state manager of the company where my father worked, and my brother wanted to play cricket even though it was hot and I wanted to read my book and might have been amenable to play cricket with him later in the day when it was cooler, but my mother told me I wasn’t allowed to read my book during the day! But, apart from when I had to study for exams, she didn’t ever say to my brother, “Look, why can’t you find something to do by yourself, for a change?” No, I was always interrupted for him!

Okay, in fairness, I know my brother liked and was good at sport, but, when he played cricket for the school, there was a kid who was all mouth in the team and whose father used to drive the team to games, who put some pressure on the PE teacher to have his son in a major role and his son was very rude. A guy I respected coached a soccer team where his son played and he told me that he was annoyed with him because he put him in as goalkeeper and he didn’t want to do it so he let balls through. I, at first, thought of match fixing allegations but I thought, later on, what the guy should have done was say that first, then, secondly, he’ll always be his son, but when he is the coach, he cannot show favouritism towards him because he’s his son, he has to treat him as a player. Much like how, I said, if I had been a teacher, and I had kids, I wouldn’t send them to a school where I taught as they could face accusations of favouritism. That was what the PE teacher should have done, but he didn’t.

My own special interests had to take less of a priority. When I started university, aged 18, with some things I did, my mother hated the trajectory my thoughts were taking (okay, I didn’t experiment with drugs) and swore that she was going to force me to see a psychiatrist. Okay, the GPs she had in mind were totally unsuited to the task, and if she’d seen the younger female GP at the clinic, instead, she would have hopefully said, “Could I stop you there, please?” Under usual circumstances, I would say this is later teen angst and you want me to suggest that this is something I need to refer for all sorts of things. Instead of a psychiatrist, I would like him to see Professor Tony Attwood, a clinical psychologist.”

And after he had talked to me, hopefully, he would have said, “Yes, I know what you mean. You have a very intense interest in Japan and you’re sort of anchoring your desire for some friends to people from Japan. Yes, I can understand that, you have been rejected by your own people, so you’re thinking you belong elsewhere. Yes, academic achievement is appreciated in Japan because if you get into a good university you can be snapped up by a good company, but some of the people you’re around aren’t the right people for you. What I would suggest, if it’s not too late, is that you exchange the university for the real world for a university that is more research based. I would also suggest that you take three subjects per semester instead of four.”

And hopefully, he might have also said, “Yes, you can come back for more sessions, but I would suggest, rather than your mother’s extremism, if I could ask you, do you like your parents’ GP?” “No.” “Okay, well, what I would suggest is, you find one you do like, and keep them in the loop and rather than hard core drugs, you might need an antidepressant.”

My mother may have struggled with raising an autistic son, but if she had been more open to accepting difference, and acknowledged that finding the right doctor for someone is more like matching a kidney transplant recipient with a donor organ than buying a pen, it would have been better.

Diagnosed with autism at 35. Explained a lifetime of difference.