Let’s Speak the Unspeakable

Here is a story that was posted today about a mother of an autistic young adult who killed her son and then killed herself. The blogs are filled with responses of horror and judgement and compassion. We need to talk about this. ALOT. We need to let one another know that we share feelings of helplessness, depression, anxiety and that through talking about them, and seeking out community, we do not have to act out. We can make it through.

My heart hurts. But I am also empowered to go out and build programs where Elizabeth and George could have gotten help. Let’s speak about the incredibly difficult. Speak the unspeakable.

Sunnyvale police: Mother killed 22-year-old autistic son, then herself

By Lisa Fernandez and Julia Prodis Sulek
Mercury News
A Sunnyvale woman who told neighbors she was “so tired” and could no longer handle caring for her 22-year-old autistic son shot him in his bedroom and then turned the gun on herself.

Elizabeth Hodgins’ husband came home at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday to find his wife and their son, George, dead, according to the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. Police declined to point to a motive. She left no note.

But neighbors say they saw a strain taking a toll on Elizabeth Hodgins, 53.

Although the son had spent most of his life going to the Morgan Autism Center in San Jose each day, he left the program in December and had been at home with his mother full time since then, along with his father — Lester Hodgins, a ranger with Palo Alto Open Space and Parks — when he wasn’t working. “She said she was tired and was having a difficult time getting him into a program. She couldn’t find one that would take him,” neighbor Jacquie Jauch said Wednesday. “She was just tired, tired and very lonely. She said she just couldn’t do it anymore — take care of him.”

Jauch described the son — the couple’s only child — as low functioning and high maintenance, unable to speak and easily agitated, but fully mobile. The neighbors’ dogs frightened him. He often wore headphones and listened to music to calm himself down.

Elizabeth Hodgins told another neighbor, Charles Tovar, who she often took walks with, that she had experienced a “nervous breakdown”within the past six weeks or so.

“I knew she was depressed because she couldn’t get the kid in school,” Tovar said. “She had it nice for so many years. She’d send him to school, we’d go walking.”At one point recently, Hodgins pleaded with Jauch: “Please help me find a program. I need somewhere to put him. I need a rest.”
The neighbors weren’t sure why George Hodgins left the Morgan Autism Center. But Jennifer Sullivan, executive director of the center, said Elizabeth Hodgins told her that she wanted to find a program that was more community-oriented, where her son could be out in the world. He had been attending the school since he was 6, Sullivan said. When he turned 22, however, he could have moved into the adult program there.

When told that Hodgins was having trouble finding a new program, Sullivan became upset: “I wish we would have known. He could have come back here. We loved George. “His mother adored him and the two were “very close,” she said. “He was delightful,” Sullivan said. “He was nonverbal but very physically active. He loved walking and hiking.” He used a voice-output device that allowed him to communicate on a limited basis. He did not drive and “constantly was working on his independent-living skills,” she said. “He needed to be supervised at all times for his own safety.”Having a child with autism can be very “isolating. You’re on 24 hours a day. There is no respite,” she said. “It’s ongoing, and once your children become adults, you continually wonder, ‘Who will take care of my child when I die?'”Neighbors described the Hodginses as a “wonderful” family. They often worked in the garden together and easily chatted with neighbors. Sometimes, neighbors saw George pushing the lawn mower with his father, his dad’s hands next to his. The three would often take walks together.

No one answered the door at the Hodgins house Wednesday and messages left on the home phone’s voice mail were not returned “I always pictured her as very strong to take on the constant care of the child,” Jauch said. “She was a woman that was loving, nurturing and maternal. That’s what I saw. She loved her child very much and I could see that.”

Hodgins, the neighbor speculated, “got to the point she didn’t know what to do or where to turn. I never thought it would come to this.”

Tracy May, a neighbor a few blocks away who helped raise a special-needs child, placed flowers Wednesday at the Hodgins house on Nectarine Avenue, adding to a growing memorial. “It is a very big strain to raise a child with special needs,” May said. “You have to have support. A lot falls on the mom.”

Together with Dad

I spent President’s Day weekend with my Dad in Albany. Any chance I get now, I travel to Albany to be with my Dad. The father daughter relationship is like no other. Since my mom died when I was 20, my dad is at the center of our family dynamic. We have gone through many ups and downs, wonderful moments as well as trauma and anxiety. And it all comes down to focusing on the good and looking beyond the not so good. Spending time with an elderly parent, again accepting the good and letting go of the bad, is a gift without equal. The ability to absorb love and discard pain and resentment might be my very best quality. At this moment, it certainly is what I am proudest about. It is what I sincerely hope to pass on to my children. God knows, they will have ample opportunities to discard the bad and embrace the great!

Cathee Weiss with Leonard Weiss Ex Presiding Justice Appellate Div NY State

Weiss and Weiss looking good

Balancing Motherhood and Work

Balance. Not possible daily. So stop thinking daily. Think big picture. Think acceptance and imperfection. Think imperfection is what is perfect now. Think that whatever you do, as long as you do the best that you can at this moment is perfect. Breathe and know that the richness of your life, the inclusion of kids and commitments to a professional life …both…is what you have chosen and what is right for you. Accept. Breathe.

Cathee Weiss with Her Children