“How can you condense a 14-year relationship with a diagnosis of profound autism into a manageable sound bite?” That’s the question that lies behind the book Mother of the Year: and Other Elusive Awards, written by Winnipeg author Kalyn Falk.
This statement, combined with the one at the top, gets to the heart of Ms. Falk’s book. The sound bite question, asked after Noah, Ms. Falk’s autistic son, had jumped into the river, and aftermath to his burning down their house, is designed to get at a neat answer. A neat answer that will put the viewer at ease. One that will offer an explanation and yes, assign blame, even if only by association.
As the second statement states, this is just too easy an answer. Throughout the rest of the book Ms. Falk shows, by opening up her life in honest, humorous, and heartbreaking fashion, why this is so. The chapter titled “Things That are Wrong With Me,” does a particularly fine job of deconstructing the easy answers that are often thoughtlessly piled on the heads of anyone who is dealing with a difficult situation in their life.
She also shows what love truly means. Falk quotes author Kelly Jo Burke who says “Autism isn’t a bad life, it’s just relentless.” As Falk documents her life as the mother of an autistic child, she also documents a love that is as relentless as the disease.
Amy Simpson, author of Troubled Minds: Mental Illness and the Mission of the Church, writes of how silence is one of the biggest barriers to people who are either living with or supporting other people who are living with mental health issues. How there is need to be able to find a way to articulate what it means for them be living daily with such issues. More than that, people in such a position need to be encouraged to stand up and have their voices heard by the wider community that they are part of.
Silence, however is a two-sided coin and one of the things that Ms. Falk’s book does so very well, is remind us, is that it does very little good if we allow someone to speak their piece, but are not silent long enough to hear what they are saying.
In the end, Mother of the Year, is the story of a mother loving her child through thick and thin. If that’s not the definition of Mother of the Year, I don’t know what is. Buy this book. In fact by several copies and hand them out to friends and family. Maybe keep one on hand to give to the well-intentioned but ill-informed bus passenger who feels the need to intervene, etc., etc.