Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Love, Longing, and Dumspters

Jude likes dumpsters. He has them memorized, which ones are where, what color they are, what numbers are on the side.  A trip to the park begins with a run to the alley side, through the fence, and a dumpster announcement. "It's a BLUE one! And it's FRIENDLY!" We have never encountered an unfriendly dumpster, and hopefully never will.

Dumpster spotting is easy from the el, Jude announces them all along the Red Line. Sheridan, Addison, Belmont, we know where they are, they can't hide from us. We shout them out so everyone can hear.

Yesterday we went on a dumpster tour of Uptown. Down Wilson, over to Hazel, Eastwood. We approach the Habitat for Humanity townhouses next to the free clinic. The kids playing out front stop and stare. "Can we look at your dumpsters?" I ask, trying not to look creepy. The kids look at Jude, who is flapping and giggling with excitement, and back to me. They nod slowly, and then book it into the house.

As we  stand in the parking lot, Jude patting the dumpster like a beloved pet, I see the curtains flutter in the upstairs window and realize mom has been informed of Weird People on the Premises. I give a little wave, and the curtains close. Time to go.

There is one last dumpster we must see, but we cannot touch it, it lies behind a gate that only opens when the nice cars of the condominium owners, the brave but fearful pioneers that come with gentrification arrive home from work. This is the unattainable, the Holy Grail, and Jude presses his face against the bars with unrequited love and longing. I press my face against the bars. too, trying to see what he sees, with longing not for the dumpster but for my son, this mystery that unfolds far too slowly for my taste, a little piece at a time.

"Why do you like it so much?" I ask, not expecting an answer. "It's beautiful," says Jude.

An SUV honks and we step aside. The gate closes and we turn and head towards home, willing to let some things remain a mystery for now, but someday we will get to touch that dumpster. Until then, we will be patient, and admire the beauty from afar.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


it is night, a purple dark
with shades of navy blue
and there is water
dripping in the alley 
you are breathing
a giggle
and your hand waves in its own celebration of what is inside 
and I rest my hand on your chestFeel it moveWith just my fingers 
and smell the sweet yeast of your shirt 
if I close my eyes you are a baby Gentle and malleable and soft
and you smile But now there is  tinsel And it surrounds a white patch In my heart
and I need to fill it in With a marker or some felt
so no one falls in but you are here 
and I am not sure if I broke you 
or if you grew away
because I did not twist the tendrilsIn the right direction 
this is what we have in this blue dark nightAnd it may be enoughIf we decide it is
and we do

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My son flaps his hands and bellows at the television
Shouting out his own poetry
Words that mixed inside his head
pop out at random 
like lottery balls
they create a picture 
in the afternoon light

This is not what we had planned
yet it has its own beauty
like plastic bags in the wind
or tears on the eyelashes 
of a child when his birthday is done

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lost Time

These have been anxious days, the sort that make me cling tight. The summer brings back memories, memories of loss and things gone wrong. Heat shimmers and I think of a newborn in the hospital and my father's grave with the red dirt turned up and hats off on a dusty road to the cemetery. So many tears shed in the summer heat.

Jude's medicine is making him sick. We were trying to help, help the anxiety and obsession and the no sleeping that comes with this unwelcome gift called autism. So far no medicine has been worth the side effects, the shaking, the dull eyes, the sleeping all day. I feel caught in the worst conundrum, treating my son like a recipe that just needs tweaking or leaving him with anxiety he cannot bear.

We were back in the ER last night, and they had to take blood. The nurse was filled with compassion because he, too, has a child with autism and understands not being able to fix the abject terror that overcomes someone who cannot sort out your words or make sense of your facial expressions. Don knows I cannot stay, so he tells me to go and I am not quite down the hall when the screaming begins.

The chapel is empty and I move past the quilts filled with the names of babies parents only got to hold once, past the religious pamphlets and sheets of paper with comforting scriptures on them. I find the book where people write their prayers, their pleadings, and write HELP ME GIVE HIM BACK TO YOU. I flip through this big book of sorrows, and see where I wrote the same thing twice last year.

This love, this clinging, desperate guilty love, is doing us no good. Jude has a life to live, a good one, if I can release him to it, and if I love him more than myself, he has some beautiful damn stuff in store. He isn't here to meet my needs, but to fulfill his own purpose, one that belongs only to him. Holding him to me won't fix whatever went wrong, whatever hurt his brain. The smartest doctors in the world can't explain it to me, nor can they convince me it isn't my fault, that I didn't break him somehow.

I remember my father hanging on in a fitful coma for days after his heart attack, and me, barely out of my teens, whispering in his ear that I would be okay. It was an act of unselfishness, I wanted to beg him, no, don't go, stay, please I need more, but I let him go. And he left.

When we got home Jude curled up on the couch next to our bed. I sat next to him and held his hand. "Do you remember," I ask, "when you had no words? And Mama prayed to hear your voice?"

"We are making up for lost time, Mama," Jude says, clear as day, and this moment of clarity shocks me, and yes, God yes, we have lost time, time lost clinging and not trusting, time lost to fear and selfishness.
No more clinging, just letting go, and maybe a little dancing, and running, and maybe a little waving goodbye.