Somewhere on the Spectrum

Reprinted from Ursa Minor: UC Berkeley Extension’s Art & Literature Review, Vol. 2, “Dark Matter,” 2017.

When I was a teenager, my mother told me that her doctor expected me to be born “blind and retarded.” She only mentioned it once, her voice low and taut. My father never spoke of it at all. Why I never asked more questions about this prenatal event, I’m not sure, other than the realization at some deep level that the subject was taboo.

Sometime in her pregnancy my mother had caught rubella, or German measles as she called it. Dr. Carl, our family doctor, thought it best to shield her from the truth, saying nothing about risks to the baby. But in a grand gesture of patriarchal brotherhood, he told my father everything and said to keep quiet about it until after the baby was born.

Inexplicably, from my mother’s point of view, my father began going to Mass every day at 5 a.m. before leaving for work. At the same time, he stopped paying attention to the pregnancy and seemed indifferent to the growing baby. My mother felt emotionally abandoned and deeply hurt.

“Well, if you’re not interested in this baby,” she told him, “it’s a bit late to figure it out.”

Still, he kept his terrible secret. Continue reading