The Greatest Love of All 
Part 1

I had just stepped into the office. It was 8:30 in the morning. The phone rang. The caller asked for me. Too early for a parent to call? A teacher perhaps, responding to my Gebiz quote. I was quite unprepared for what was to follow.
“I saw your poster in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. About a writing programme. I need your help,” she sounded desperate.
“How can I help?” I was prepared for a question on how to help her child to write better or well, about the Young Author Scheme …
Instead, the voice at the other end choked. I could hear her fighting back tears.
I responded as a mother would. I hung onto the line in silence. 
“Sorry ….” she struggled to mumble after 15 seconds.
Clearly she was in no position to talk.
“Come over to my office,” I asked her.
And she came. 
“It’s about my son. He’s 20. He has Asperger Syndrome. He got really agitated and smashed his sister’s computer yesterday. He’s now warded at IMH.”
Tears started rolling down her cheeks. She looked at me like I had an answer for her. I offered her a tissue. She wiped away the tears but fresh ones welled up. I gave her another tissue.
“He’s really smart,” she continued, “he loves reading and literature. And he even created his own chess game. He is a champion chess player. But he just cannot function well in school. I remember, he has this teacher for Math in Sec 3. She was really concerned about him. Because of that, he put in his best efforts. She encouraged him a lot …. I could feel that she cared for her students. But the next year, he had a different teacher. She went by the book.”
Her son went into the ITE. And so began the downward spiral. Aspergerns can take instructions, but need a clear, concise process for them to function. They need hand-holding, literally. But when really keyed into a task, or achieve the “flow,” they could excel, even invent a new method, as in the case of her son.
“Can you help my son?” It sounded more like a plea. She was clutching at a straw, any straw …. She managed a slight smile as she stared at me. A glimmer of hope sparkled in her eyes. 
And I remembered the day back in June 2002 when my mum frantically called me about my brother. He was alone at home and the neighbours had called the police because the flat reeked of gas. Could there be a leak? I rushed back. My mum was already home and rushed in as the police pried open the metal gate and wooden door. My brother was lying under the gas oven. My mum fainted. Till today she still thinks he had turned on the gas cooker to cook his lunch and fainted and couldn’t get up in time. But I knew better. 
Anthony had lost his job. He didn’t know how to settle the debts he had accumulated during his wedding. He was sandwiched between his wife and Mum who couldn’t see eye to eye about anything. He wanted to borrow 5k from me coz the creditors were knocking on his door. I didn’t have it. And something in him broke. He decided on the worst way out. Till today I lived with that moment still etched in my memory. I loved my brother. I’m sure the two women in his life still can’t understand why he took his life. He was the reason why my mum lived. His death broke her heart.

I looked at the mother who, like my mum, just didn’t know how to help her son. 
My heart went out to her. Every mum in the world lives for her children. And this mum was at her wit’s end. But I really don’t know how to help her son. 
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