Annie and Me

Many living on the spectrum have a passion.  Mine is writing.  I did some of it in high school, but I didn’t launch into it until I moved away from my home state.  Back when I was living on the East Coast, I was the “lone wolf” in the family; thus, I had people back home to write to.  I started with writing my Mom on a weekly basis on a typewriter; on a daily basis, when a computer and e-mail came into my life.
My Mom’s passion was not letter writing.  She would sometimes mention she got a letter from her Aunt Annie, her Dad’s sister, and was late in writing her back.  Like myself, Annie did have a passion for writing.  An urge came on my heart to write Annie myself even though I had no recollection of meeting her.  My only memory of her was a photograph my Grandpa Charlie had of his little sister, among other family photos, in a silver picture frame that hanged in a bedroom.  I could picture the woman with the dark hair and beautiful dress surrounded by a couple of small children.  Only God knew when I was a little girl looking up at the photograph, I would grow up one day to be that woman’s “Sunshine”.
At first I resisted the notion of writing Annie.  I came up with excuses such as she probably didn’t remember me.  Or, she might think it odd of me writing her.  Silly excuses, I know.  But a fear of rejection is a strong one for those living on the spectrum to overcome.
Since the urge only got stronger, I gave in since I did need sleep at night.  I wrote my letter of introduction and was surprised when my Great Aunt wrote back so soon.  And even more so, she actually wanted me to write back.  Imagine that I thought!
Years went by and without fail, Annie got a letter from me every week.  My living on the spectrum includes for me an obedience to “routine”.  It was so routine as to when I put the letter in the mail that Annie would know which day to expect a letter from her grandniece.
Annie gave me the nickname “Sunshine”.  The reason is because my letters cheered her up and even made her smile or laugh when arthritis, whom she referred to as “Arthur”, would unmercifully torment her joints.
Annie came down with the flu and at her age it was a cruel affair.  It soon robbed her of being able to write like she used to.  She begged for me to not stop writing.  Of course, I could not stop writing Annie.  It was a strange unusual feeling for me to be needed in such a way.  I didn’t want to let her down.
She passed away at the age of 89.  My relationship with her was unlike any other in my life.  I never had a one-on-one face meeting with her, but she knew me better than most.  She had my letters filled with my words and thoughts.  Her daughter still has them and I still have Annie’s.  I don’t pull them out, but I don’t dare throw them away.  If I need to read a love letter, I know where to find one.
Shortly after Annie’s passing, her daughter asked me to be her pen pal.  Unlike Annie, she preferred e-mail instead of snail mail and that suit me just fine.  I gained a new nickname of “Lil’ Sweetie” and that suit me fine too.  We are cousins and dear friends.  I’ve never met my mother’s first cousin, but I don’t have to in order to know her and for her to know me.  The pen is, after all, mightier than the sword.
I know all too well that one can be close to someone through words shared even though they may live thousands of miles apart.  The story of Annie and I is one among millions that could be told of how a simple thing as a letter can give strength to the weak, smiles to the hurt, and attention to the lonely.
If I were to make a list of the top ten people who had the most effect on my life, Annie Charles and my cousin Trecia would be near the top.  I say this at 58; however, I think they’d still be high on the list if I were to live to be 89.
I learned only recently I have been living on the spectrum.  It was a diagnosis that explained so much of what was behind how I feel, think, and act.  I do wonder what life would be like now if I were not autistic.  Would I have a husband?  Children?  A whole host of friends?  I’ll never know.  But one thing I’m sure of is I wouldn’t have been Annie’s Sunshine or Trecia’s Lil’ Sweetie if I were not living on the spectrum.
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2 thoughts on “Annie and Me

  1. Bob Green

    Dearest second cousin, Marsha,

    I too have all the letters grandmother Annie wrote me and I wrote her. She saved every last one of my letters as I would find out after God called her home. I’m crying as I write this remembering my deep love and affection for her sweet soul. She loved me as I feel no one else has ever and I miss that.
    I’m 48 and never married and often thought I was on that spectrum somewhere. However did you discover this and if I’m not intruding or being too personal where do you fall? I worked with children on the spectrum when I returned to college a second time to become an Occupational Therapy Assistant.
    My deep affinity for older persons has lead me to what I feel now is my true life’s purpose. I work in a skilled nursing facility formerly known as a long term care facility; formerly and more commonly termed a nursing home.
    I read many of your correspondences with my Grandmother and now my mother, Trecia. I’m so glad you reached out for them. We all consider you a great blessing. I have always said you were a great writer. Your words leap from the page to paint a portrait in the minds eye. You have a knack for making anything entertaining to read. I have always dreamed of being a writer, but it has never come easily for me except for technical writing ( I have a BS degree in Chemistry). Please forgive any misspellings or grammatical errors. When I returned home to care for my mom as she cared for hers, others thought I saw myself a better person than they for the way I spoke and wrote. Sadly, in order to better fit in, I’ve slipped into ” common speak ” for this area. ( I almost wrote these parts – HaHa).
    We may never have met, but know you are very loved by my grandmother, my mother, and now me. Thank you for sharing this links with me. I greatly enjoyed it. It brought back precious memories.
    Best Always,
    Your Second Cousin, Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Second Cousin,

      Thanks for your letter. I shall keep it as I have kept your grandmother’s letters and your mother’s messages. I don’t pull them out, but I couldn’t bear to throw them away. You might as well ask me to cut my heart out. If I need a love letter, I know where to find the bag holding Annie’s letters.

      I’m glad to know of you, Bob. We have some things in common besides our great grandparents Charles Claude Wright and Mary Patterson. Never marrieds and we both are living with our Moms and doing our best to keep an eye on them; however, my Mom still keeps an eye on me. HA!!!!!!!!! I’m sure you know what I mean. Our Moms are cousins, after all. They probably have more in common than just their grandparents.

      I fall on the higher end of the spectrum. The difference between “regular” autism and Asperger’s is language difficulty. I didn’t struggle with language difficulty. I was in speech therapy during elementary school for one school year I believe. The following year, the speech therapist sent me back to class. I did well in school which is typical for higher-functioning autism, otherwise known as Asperger’s.

      If you’ve often thought you were on the spectrum somewhere, then we have something else in common. It just didn’t sink in until I observed a 12 year old autistic child do specific things that mirrored my own. It was like watching myself as her age.

      If you would like to take some on-line tests, here’s the four main ones. I’d encourage you to take them. If you score in the range of more likely than not of being autistic, it’s okay! Then, you have an explanation of why you think, feel, and act the way you do. But if you score below the threshhold, it’s okay to be “normal” too. HA!

      Although I discussed it with my doctor, I didn’t go for a professional diagnosis. I don’t need one. I scored high on the tests. My research of symptoms and talking with special education teachers has only encouraged my belief that I’m on the spectrum. I’ve told them things I did or still do and not one of them said, “Doesn’t sound like asper to me.” Even the questions on the tests were EYE OPENERS! I joined a few forums where I share my stories and read others. Through reading other people’s stories, I came to realize that the mysterious episodes I would have over the years, usually at night, were meltdowns. Fortunately the antedepressant I am on is helping cut down on the meltdowns. My doctor was supportive. He said, “Why pay someone to tell you something you already know?” The Lord let me know, Bob. That’s good enough for me.

      Here’s the list that is recommended to take by a psychologist in California who has had 30 years of experience with Autism. http://www.kennethrobersonphd.com/

      1. Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ

      Psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen and his colleagues at Cambridge’s Autism Research Centre have created the Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, as a measure of the extent of autistic traits in adults. Eighty percent of those diagnosed with autism or a related disorder scored 32 or higher. My score was 40!

      http://psychcentral.com/quizzes/autism.htm

      2. Systemizing Quotient Test (SQ)

      http://www.aspietests.org/sq/index.php

      My Score 76.0

      Average score for females with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) 78.7

      Average score for females with SUSPECTED ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) 75.0

      Average score for female neurotypicals (folks who aren’t on the spectrum) 63.7

      3. THE RITVO AUTISM ASPERGER DIAGNOSTIC SCALE – REVISED (RAADS-R)
      http://aspietests.org/raads/index.php

      My scores are above the test threshold values.

      Total score Language Social relatedness Sensory/motor Circumscribed interests
      Test taken by you on 20 December 2016 167.0 12.0 86.0 32.0 37.0

      Threshold values for suspected ASD 65.0 4.0 31.0 16.0 15.0

      RAADS-R is an important test for Asperger’s and should be part of any assessment for Asperger’s in adults.

      4. EMPATHY QUOTIENT (EQ)
      https://psychology-tools.com/empathy-quotient/

      The EQ is designed to measure how well one understands the emotions and actions of others.

      My Empathy Quotient score was 20 out of a possible 60.
      Scores of 30 or less indicate a lack of empathy common in people with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

      I have a deep admiration for your affinity and care for older persons. You have a talent for that and I admit you for not hiding that talent or letting it collect dust on a shelf. I do enjoy working with elementary school children. Oh, I have my downs along with the ups, but the Lord never promised it would be a rose garden without thorns.

      Please keep in touch. Love you back!!!

      Your Second Cousin,
      Marsha

      Liked by 1 person

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