The school called today
Andre didn’t turn in his homework
He said he burned his book
I don’t think so but…
I eat chocolate cake while I contemplate the situation.
The other school called about Paul
The teacher tells me there is a group issue
Paul is missing assignments
I will check and let you know….but first
I eat chocolate cake before digging around in his room
I go to the school to discuss the situation
I let all involved know
That Andre will be staying after school in the tutoring room
Everyday until all the assignments are done
He clings and claws at me
He baby talks and pouts
I escape and walk around campus
And eat that emergency piece…
Of chocolate cake
That I tucked in my purse
Really this is getting too much to manage
Maybe I should turn to booze
And give up the chocolate cake
We get home
Paul is upset because I insist that he does his chore
That he did not do before he went to school
Man, that chocolate cake looks good…tastes better than it looks
Two boys with autism
One deep dark chocolate cake
Autism makes you fat!
Home Alone is one of the most seen movies in the world. Although it was made years ago, you can always find it on one channel or another because it is a family favorite. It is funny and it makes you laugh out loud…unless it comes to roost in our own life. Then it ain’t so funny!
B and I were heading home from New York the other day after a wonderful weekend anniversary trip. Though we had been through two years of a “maybe” divorce, this weekend felt like we were in love again. That is when the sitter texted me.
I JUST LOOKED AT MY WORK SCHEDULE AND I HAVE TO WORK TONIGHT. I WILL NEED TO LEAVE AT 10 p.m.
“THAT IS FINE,” I texted back. “WE WILL BE HOME FROM THE AIRPORT AROUND 10:15 .SO IT ISN’T REALLY A PROBLEM”…until it was.
Standing in the crappy line with a GROUP 6 boarding ticket while annoying, is not a problem. Usually. Unless, you step on everyone’s toes and piss them off, while trying to maneuver yourself back to the cockpit to get your suitcase checked because all the overhead bin space is taken. Placing your belongs in the overhead bin…no problem…for the GROUP 1-5 passengers. GROUP 6…FORGET IT! Fastening my seatbelt was easy as pie as my anti-anxiety “fear of flying” pill kicked in. Everything was going as expected until these words were uttered by the cute and spunky stewardess whom everyone suddenly looked like they wanted to slap:
” PLEASE RETRIEVE YOUR BELONGINGS AS EVERYONE WILL NEED TO DEPLANE. THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE EMERGENCY SLIDE AND GROUND MAINTENANCE HAS TO BE CALLED TO FIX THE ISSUE.”
Now I will confess I try to keep positive in these types of situations. I mean, after all, it is better to be riding on a “fixed” plane than a “broken” one. But an emergency slide? Really? I mean how often are they used anyway?. Hell, I thought, if there turns out to be an issue, I will gladly stand at the open slide-less door and just toss people out onto the ground below. Problem fixed. Now, let’s get this freaking show on the road!
A collective groan so loud it nearly popped the rivets holding the plane together ensued. This was followed by a sound reminiscent of a herd of lumbering and pissed-off elephants starting back up the gangway.
Faces that had been smiling only 5 minutes previous were now pinched and drawn. The variety of cuss words I overheard was astounding and during the race to the customer service center several people nearly lost there lives. Frankly, there was not enough free alcohol in the entire terminal that could cheer up this downcast and angry crowd.
As B and I stood in the wrap-around line waiting to talk to that poor unlucky agent who had been plucked by the previous 50 ticket holders; it finally dawned on us that we had a problem. A serious one. We only had an hour layover after we landed before we were to catch our final plane home. Unfortunately, this was the last plane for the night we were soon to discover. Suddenly, were having our own HOME ALONE moment and nothing about it was the least bit entertaining.
Now being home alone is okay in our household during the day but certainly not overnight. We knew that Andre wouldn’t care as long as he could lay around in his underwear eating chips without being bothered by anyone. Change is hard for kids with autism but as long as there is food available and no one around to boss him around; Andre was happy.
Paul started crying over the telephone. The unknown is difficult for him but an unexpected change of plans is a catastrophe. . Let’s just say this didn’t fit into his scheme of things and the breakdown started.
Gracie…well, she isn’t one for being away from her Mommy and Daddy…especially at night. But we knew she would suck it up if she had to.
And so we started calling everyone we knew as the minutes started ticking away. 10 minutes late. 20 minutes. 40 minutes. 50 minutes…which was the point of no return. We were now officially screwed. Finally, an hour and 40 minutes later we lifted off unsure of what the future held…except that most likely Children’s Protective Services might be giving us a visit in the near future.
As nicely as I could I explained our situation to the stewardess. HOME ALONE. TWO WITH AUTISM. MELTDOWN.
“Would you like a beverage?” she responded cheerfully.
I was tempted to ask for a double scotch on the rocks but decided that a drunk absentee parent was most certainly worse than a sober one when talking to government officials. Therefore, I took my seat, bought the WI-FI service for $29.95 and sent out a plea for help on Facebook. I am happy to report that by the time we landed, I had three friends offer to help and a neighbor who informed me that she would take the kids to school. These are the times in life when “do unto others as you would have them do onto you” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.
Flying five hours across the country we still had hope that we would make our flight but it was not to be. So we took our food vouchers and ate dinner in the airport, then took the shuttle bus to our hotel and finally settled in to watch a movie. When we turned on the t.v, guess what was being shown? Yep, you’re right… it just happened to be HOME ALONE. That apparently is the way we roll.
Tomorrow I leave for my week away as a trial separation. It is a relief. I am tired of feeling like I am never doing enough, not being enough, not being who he wants me to be. Every night B comes home and it feels like there is more distance between us. The hurt and disappointment between us bigger than any wall Trump could envision and I don’t know how to get over that wall or if I would even want to anymore. Of course, this is how I feel now…in another hour…who knows?
Today I found out that while I am skydiving tomorrow he will be visiting his own lawyer. Somehow bringing his lawyer into the situation seems to create hurt and distrust for both of us if we had not. Or maybe it just makes it crushingly real and that the hurt you feel now could magnify 100 fold with lawyers involved. Or maybe its the anger that would sharpen its mighty claws. Either way none of it feels good.
About that skydiving trip tomorrow…I think it might be canceled due to the rain. Talk about being bummed. I have been looking forward to this kind of like going to the dentist and requesting no shots of novocaine before the drilling starts. Sometimes you just need a challenge that will show you what you are made of. Sometimes you just need to know you are made of steel instead of marshmallows and grit instead of rose petals.Sometimes you just need to reassure yourself that you are really alive despite the numbing pain you are feeling throughout much of the day.
By tomorrow night I will be sitting on the deck (probably in the rain) watching the waves. Maybe I will even be lucky enough to see some whales. And I will feel what being without YOU forever might feel like. I expect it might be akin to an addict who needs her fix to feel whole. But if I am where I think I am in this entire process I think this time will be mine…all mine…with no expectations and no feeling that I am disappointing YOU. And maybe I will even be thankful for all I have learned in these past 18 months which has made me stronger and more sure of what I do and don’t want in my life. I may be 56 but there is a lot more of life to look forward to. And I want to see where it takes me as I go slowly into my twilight years. Frankly, I think they will be a blast whether YOU are with me or not but I secretly hope that you will be holding my hand.
Since B stated 18 months ago that he might want to divorce we have done a lot to try to save our relationship. This includes a Marriage Encounter weekend, his therapist, my therapist and a joint marriage therapist. I have decreased my yelling to a trickle, have kept the house in good shape and have lost weight. Frankly, things had been improving for close to a year but lately I have noticed that we have been regressing. More grudges, less sex, 66% less dialoging, etc. I am a very intuitive person and I “feel” these changes and recognize them for what they are and lately I have been feeling really anxious about them.
I have never been an anxious person even when I have had plenty to be anxious about. For 57 years I have kept most of that anxiety stuff swept under the rug. But lately, it has occurred to me that as B distances himself my anxiety rises. It is an uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes it even makes me question my sanity because I tell him I am feeling the distance which he denies but then three weeks later at a therapy session he uses the words and admits that when x happened he distanced himself all the while denying my concerns for the past weeks. It is a crazy way to live.
Recently, we had a dialogue question that asked each of us to talk about our partners best qualities as a parent. In the allotted 10 minutes I wrote about 7 qualities that B has that I think make him a great parent.
Now I know in dialogue you are not supposed to judge the other’s response because they are based on “feelings.” And feelings may be factually true or not but the bottom line is that they are what they are. So when B wrote about the qualities he admired that I had as a parent it basically came down to the fact that “I cared for my children.” To say I was hurt that this was the only quality he listed was an understatement.
Everyone cares for their children. You care for your dog. You care whether you have enough toilet paper in the house to last the entire week. Caring for your children really doesn’t get any accolades in my book. It is something we all do… even badgers, skunks and probably even one-cell amoebas.
So I took this to my therapist. She wanted me to write down what I wished he had said about my good qualities as a parent. Here goes:
- I wish he had said that I am good about seeing or initiating those deep soulful and meaningful talks when they need them to boost their confidence, understanding of life or just need to express their concerns. I wish he had said he knew that most of the time they seek me out which shows that they trust my love and advice.
- I wish he had said that I love my kids fiercely and deeply and that they know that they can count on that love and can trust me to be there for them forever.
- I wish he had said that my children know I believe in them and that I think that they can accomplish whatever it is that they set out to do and that by knowing this it will take them far in life.
- I wish he had said that he knows I am their biggest fans and that I cheer them on with encouragement when they are lacking the spunk to make that “final touchdown” in whatever it is they are doing.
- I wish he had said I am a “good” parent far more often than a “bad” one and that even when I fail it is not intentional or malicious.
- I wish he had said that raising six kids, two of whom have autism, would be a tough job for anyone and that it is amazing I don’t lose it every day.
- I wish he had said that my kids had experienced so much of this world thanks to me and that if it was left to him they would not have.
- I wish he had said that I try my best to teach them the important things that they will need to navigate their lives now and in the future.
- I wish he had said that I am “good enough” parent some of the time (which is okay) and a great parent when it really counts.
- I give good hugs.
- I wish he had said that I encourage my kids to take risks which creates opportunities for them to believe in themselves.
- I wish he had said I am an honest parent in dealing with my kids and all the people we have to deal with because of their interests and their issues and that my honesty helps provide desperately needed clarity.
- I just wish he had said I am a good mother and he could not manage without me.
And while this exercise was difficult because I kept wanting to explain or add in the negative to balance it all out, I didn’t because this is my gift to myself and a tribute to who I am as a parent. I don’t NEED B to validate it…but it would have been nice.
Sometimes my house is pure 100% chaos. Sometimes it is as quiet as a lamb. Most of the time it is somewhere in between. But then there THOSE TIMES; the times when Andre digs in and NOTHING I can do will change the trajectory that we are about to embark on.
Change for Andre is difficult. It often is for those on the autistic spectrum. Sometimes that change is as small as using grape jelly as opposed to strawberry on Andre’s PB&J. But more often it is something along the lines of telling him to do his chore.
“Andre you need to empty the dishwasher!” (for the third time)
“I dun’t want to”
“There are lots of things I don’t want to do either but they must be done so empty the dishwasher. NOW”
“I dun’t want to”
This I dun’t want to would go on 100 times if I permitted it. Usually at this point the conversation will escalate to one more warning. Then I head upstairs (with him trying to stop me…pulling on me or poking at me) and take all of his electronics and tell him that he can have them back when his chore is done. This is followed by ten minutes of attempted manipulation, threats (I’ll put your phone in the sink if you don’t give me back my stuff) and flat out increased defiance. Finally, Andre will realize that he has gone too far and then resorts to such things as:
“Tell me you love me mom”
“I need love. Give me a hug NOW.”
I want a kiss NOW”
Along with all the demands he begins hanging all over me DEMANDING a hug or a kiss by clawing at me.
Of course, by this time I am worn out and tired of the CRAP. I try to remember where this is coming from inside his head (fear of abandonment/fear of being unlovable/anxiety) and react accordingly. But there are times when giving him what he needs (a hug) feels so ugly and disingenuous after all the chaos and manipulation that I find it hard to wrap my arms around him. I find it hard to find a place in my heart to grant him the grace that he needs. Most of the time I manage to dig it up from G** knows where but there are times it is almost impossible to find and it is at those moments when I feel like I have been swallowed whole, the best parts of me ripped out and flung far and wide. It is at these times when I start crucifying myself for not being able to give my son what he needs because it is such a little thing that feels so big.
Luckily, most of the time I do not get to this place of self torture because as I start to fall down the rabbit hole; I get ensnarled in the tree roots and find a foot hold to make my way up again. But there are times that I would like to keep falling down that rabbit hole just to feel the impact upon landing. To feel the brokenness that results. And when that happens it makes me realize that is probably what Andre is feeling (the impact) and then I find I can go over and give him that hug. A hug that will ultimately mend us both. A hug that that tells him that I love him and he loves me and that we are in this thing called autism together. Forever.
This morning I went out for a walk and it looked like Christmas with the snowflakes flying silently by. But I knew things weren’t as they appeared because it is summertime and everyone is sweltering in the 100+ temperatures. So I looked up in the sky and this is what I saw:
and ash as thick as snow flurries were turning my hair the color it would be if I just stopped buying those boxes of dye.
As someone who lives in California, all too often, we find our state on slow burn and because of this I know the website for Cal-Fire by heart. A quick glance showed me that this fire is a little too close for comfort for it is near to our little cabin in the woods. With this information in hand, I did what any good Californian does…I raced to my insurance agent’s office to pay the annual bill that was due in 5 days.
As I explained to the insurance agent we bought this place 10 years ago and we have never owned a house for this length of time before this one. It is special to us in that way. It is a 100 year-old cooks cabin that once served meals for lumberjacks who were falling the huge Redwood Trees that were as big around as small houses.It’s a place we added onto…a cabin which offers solitude and warm memories. It is a structure made of ancient Redwood trees whose knots fall out onto the floor from time to time and where one lone plastic grocery bag stuffs a now knotless and gapping hole. It’s a place of mystery. A place where we find bones and where an massive ancient oak stands next to the house where it slowly losing its branches. It needs to go but we don’t want to spend the $1000 to take it down quite yet…so we wait, and will wait, until we just cannot wait any longer.
When we added on to the original cabin six years ago, we ripped out the wall between the old and the new structure and when we did thousands of acorns fell on our head, placed there by the woodpeckers over many years. And in this small community residents refer to the local bears as “BIG RATS” This is a home where you will find webs designed by crafty and talented arichnoids and where deer hide in the middle of town during hunting season. Here you will find a mouse who emptied the mouse bait from the box in the kitchen and who placed each tiny pellet between the box springs and the mattress of our bed.I swear it looked as if he had crafted the poisoned pellets into a shape that looked just like a big *FU.*
I love it up at the cabin where there is no phone, no cable TV, and no internet. It is plain and simple like the era in which it was built during a time when folks danced jigs in old barns and people mended clothes instead of just throwing them away.
And now there is a swift moving fire that has charred over 12,000 acres in less than a day close by. A powerful fire that is only 5% contained. One that is moving closer by the minute. It is still probably 10-15 miles from our cabin but it is a fast moving fire whose voracious appetite is not easily satisfied. (Actually, I just found out it is now just 5 miles away)
This evening I saw these amazing photos taken by Trey Spooner Photography which really captures what is going on as a thousand firefighters battle a blaze which is too close to my heart for comfort. And as the ash rains down upon me I just hope that the tears don’t soon follow.
Trey Spooner Photography
Trey Spooner Photography
Trey Spooner Photography
*A special thanks to Trey Spooner Photography whose amazing photographs help people understand what our brave firefighters are facing and who imposes a sense of beauty and majesty on such a devastating scene . I am sure that a few prayers for the firefighters and their families would be appreciated.*
JUST AFTER I POSTED THIS I WENT BACK TO THE CAL FIRE SITE AND SAW THAT THE TINY TOWN MY CABIN IS IN IS UNDER MANDATORY EVACUATION. PLEASE SEND A FEW GOOD THOUGHTS OUR WAY. IT WOULD BE APPRECIATED.
It’s early in the morning and Paul is sitting at the table with me, sleep still nestled deep in his dark brown eyes. He is studying for his drivers education test and as I look at the almost 6 ft boy sitting in front of me, I ask myself, where did the time go?
When I first saw the boy in the yellow hat, I knew sure as anything else I had ever known, that he was destined to be in our family. In probably the fastest Korean adoption ever, we were on a plane bound for Seoul within 5 months of turning in our paperwork. It was if the universe knew he needed to be settled.
When we saw him at his foster mother’s house he was a chubby thick-boned sturdy 10 month-old already walking faster than the speed of light. The boy was quick and moved like a prize fighter, bobbing and weaving the entire day. Throughout the apartment the drawers were taped shut an indication of the whirlwind that was to enter our lives.
The day we brought him home, he toddled over to his 7-month-older brother, and swiftly knocked him to the floor. Thus a dynamic was put into place in which whatever Andre had, Paul wanted. It’s a pattern that remains to this day.That first day home I told B, “Mark my words there is something different about this kid.” And there was.
We soon noticed that parenting was harder this time around. First came the tantrums the likes of which I had never seen before. They were like HUGE thunderstorms…in your face, with screaming so ragged and loud that I was sure that eventually the police would arrive at our door. Often Paul would rage uncontrollably for an hours at a time. Obsessions with clocks, then water, then spoons developed which lasted for several weeks and then they were gone as if a magician waved his wand only to be replaced by another. Before the age of 2 we were already consulting with behavioral therapists in an attempt to change the path we were on. It wasn’t until Paul was 5-years-old that we got the autism diagnosis, the Tourette’s Syndrome pronouncement came when he was 7-years-old and the Central Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis a year after that. Then for two years we had ABA therapists in our home 5 days a week working with both Paul and Andre to help alleviate the most pressing challenges that autism wrought between the two of them. Between weekly hippo therapy workouts, psychologist appointments and daily hour-long neuro reorganization exercises, we barely breathed for 4 or 5 years and when we did it was ragged, coming is fitful spasms, like a marathon runner as he crosses the finish line. Sometimes we were broken and worn only making it through the day because we were on autopilot.
But then, miraculously, things started slowly changing. Fewer tantrums occurred. Less resistance. More control. More sense of responsibility. A new willingness to help out and think of others feelings. Slowly all the years of hard work began to slip into place finally resting where they needed to be and Paul began to mature.
Those younger years were often dark. They were sad. They were scary and they were the most difficult of my life but today I have come out on the other side with a newfound appreciation of my two sons, knowing first-hand all the hard work they have had to put into themselves in order to become the wonderful and engaging people that they are.
These days when I see other parents on the on-line bulletin boards struggling with their children; I try to encourage them and assure them that it does get easier as their kids mature. And when I see their pain and fear sometimes it takes me back to mine. When this happens I involuntarily shudder but then marvel at all that our entire family has accomplished together through hard work, fighting the system, and never giving in/up.
This morning I sit at the table watching as Paul studies for his drivers ed test and I wonder…where did the time go?
I am stressed but trying so hard not to be. It’s not just due to the marriage going south thing but with life in general. I am a girl with a plan and for the past two weeks my plan has been interrupted EVERY SINGLE F***ING DAY.
Monday: Driving home I had a flat tire
Tuesday: School…”Andre is having a difficult day. Could you bring his stress ball in? ” I think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Wednesday: Andre’s asthma is acting up. ” Can you bring in his inhalor” I think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Thursday: Gracie….”Mom I forgot my lunch and I have no money in my account” I think: This is the first time this has happened all year so how can I refuse? I also think: Sure. of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Friday: Me…”Hello this is Dr. H office. He needs you to come in today to discuss the results of your tests.” I think: Do you really need me to come in or is this just another way to open my wallet even wider to you? Sigh. I also think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Monday: Paul. Mom I forgot my permission slip and I can’t go on the field trip without it.I think: Sure of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Tuesday: Gracie: “Mom I forgot my homework.” Now normally my answer is “too bad” but she had not called me the entire year and how could I say no? I think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Wednesday: Me: “I’m sorry Mrs. _____. We are running about an hour and a half late so you just need to go ahead and sit down until we call you back for your test.” I think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Thursday: Andre- “Hello Mrs. _____. This is Annie from Andre’s school. He is having a difficult day and he says that the palate of his mouth is burning so he cannot go outside for PE. Could you talk with him?” So I do. Fifteen minutes later the second call comes. “Can you come pick him up?” I think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
Friday: Paul-“Mom, I just ripped my pants playing in PE. Can you bring me another pair?” I think: Sure, of course, because I have nothing else I need to do!
I know that I need to learn to be more flexible. I know that I need to learn to just go with the flow.I know I should view these moments of the unexpected as “opportunities” to stretch myself and my calendar.I also know that sometimes “shit” happens but frankly I would like a little more notice when things are going to change from the scheduled program. I really don’t feel like that is too much to ask. SOOOOOO….
Hear my prayer.
I have tons to do today. My stress level is high. Please be kind to me today.
Kindly and with hope,
There were several times in our marriage that we might have broken up. When your family refused to meet me not because I was me but because no girl that your mother had not picked out for you would be the “right” one. And in our early marriage in my total immaturity I would say, “Okay, let’s get a divorce” when we had an argument.There was that time in 1989. And when we found out we could not have biological children together. And when the IVF failed. When over a period of several months I could not reach you in your hotel room at 2 am…four different times at four different hotels. I counted. I remember. When I found those not quite dirty but not quite innocent texts between you and Gweniffer. So many times we could have just walked away… so why now?
Why now when we have six children depending on us? Why now when I have hit middle age? Why now when I have been out of the job market for many years raising our children together? Why now when we have created something that so many would die to have/experience what we have? Why now when we still have amazing sex… or does doing it for the 5,687 time bore you? Why now when you have seven years until retirement? Why now when I have done what you have asked? Why now… even though I am not perfect, I have been a good wife moving so many times for your career and always cheering you on?
Sometimes I wonder how you could be so selfish and so harsh. Is that how you see me?
Sometimes I wonder how you could be so blind. Is that how you see me?
Sometimes I wonder how you could be so disconnected. Is that how you see me?
Sometimes I wonder how you can have sex with me when you no longer love me the way you want to?
Sometimes I wonder how we could have unraveled so far?
So why now? After over 30 years of togetherness? Can you just not stand me that much that you will sacrifice our family and our life together? Do you think it will be easier with the kids by yourself? Do you think you will find someone younger, prettier and better than me? Maybe so but maybe not, yet this I know… I no longer know what to think. I no longer know what to feel. I no longer know what to do. I am at a complete and utter loss…and you have put me there.