Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Take Me to Your Leader

You can't push your tears back in. You can try, but the sadness will find its way, every time. That is what I want to teach Eden, and also myself. You can't make it go away, and it is the balance to joy, to laughing, which we have a lot of, but it gets mucked up without the yang of tears and heartbreak.  

At counseling we talked about Jude being in the hospital, and me being so upset that I couldn't speak, really. The family counselor asked Eden what that felt like for him. "Fine." 

So different than Sage and Jude. Sage expresses his feelings to everyone and everything with insight and eloquence, and I say everything because I have seen him filled with compassion to the point of tears for inanimate objects. No problems getting in touch with our emotions for Sage and me. And Jude, because when he is unhappy you can hear him in Nebraska. We are all out there.

Don and Eden are a different story. I am mystified by the reluctance to share, and the withdrawal that happens when I probe. So different. So strange. Like alien creatures, these people who pretend that they are not upset. Take me to your leader, I want to study your kind.

Counselor knows her stuff though, she presses, gently, and finally gets Eden to say what he is thinking.

"I was thinking," he says, staring at his Legos, that it was, (fingers to the eyes) my fault." 

I open my mouth to protest but the counselor holds up a hand. 

"Why is that, Eden?"
"Because I was glad he was gone so I couldn't hear him scream and we didn't have to watch Thomas all the time."  Now the tears come.  I get down on the floor with him. "I understand," I said. "Jude has been screaming a lot. I get tired of it too." Eden melts into my arms. 

The next day I ask him about it again. "Remember how you said you felt guilty when Jude was sick, that you felt like it was your fault?"


"Honey, yes you do. It was just yesterday."
"I forgot about that."

"Is there anything you want to say today?" I ask. He thinks a moment, then whispers in my ear.
"Sometimes I wish Jude didn't have autism".

"Me, too," I whisper back This is our secret, however openly kept, because we always try so hard to be cheerful, and grateful, and we are, and we do love Jude, and think he is awesome, but it is also as hard as hell sometimes, and we wish it was different.

Is that okay? Can we be sad and disappointed and frustrated and happy and joyful at the same time?

Well we are, and I guess it has to be okay, and I wonder if other families cry and laugh and love as much in one single day as we do. It has to be okay to for Eden to say he is mad, and tired, and wishes it was different. God knows our hearts, and he counts our tears, even if we try to push them back in with our fingers so no one else can see.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Trees and Leaves

It is my day to pick up Jude and take him to Special rec. Special Rec is a park district program for the developmentally disabled. Jude gets to go bowling, swimming, play tennis and apparently they are doing a production of Grease this year. Hmm. 

I stand outside the school and wait, watching the cute little kids with their backpacks file out and climb onto the busses. Suddenly there is a ruckus at the door and here comes Jude, barreling down the sidewalk, aid in tow. It is like watching someone trying to control a Great Dane. 

His teacher tells me today was okay, there was only one outburst, and that it wasn't so bad that they needed to call me. I spend most days praying not to hear the theme to the Exorcist, which is the school's ringtone. No news is good news as far as the school and I are concerned. I feel so helpless when they call and say he is tossing chairs and books around and screaming. No one knows why he does it, maybe not even Jude. 

"I hate it when Jude Hill throws things," he tells me in the car. I reach behind me and hold his hand, because clearly he feels helpless, too. Hurricanes blow in, and then they leave again, and things get broken and lost. All you can do is hunker down and pray.

It is a blustery fall day, and we drive down side streets to the park. Leaves are falling all around, and they crunch as we walk towers the park. Jude stops and watches a squirrel, who climbs up on a tree and looks at us expectantly. "Hi squirrel," Jude says. "Jude Hill is walking in some leaves." The squirrel is unimpressed, and we continue on our way. I consider just spending the afternoon with Jude on the playground, but for the sake of consistency I decide we need to stick with the plan. Jude reminds me he wants to be a butterfly for Halloween. "Caterpillars turn into butterflies!" he yells, running into the park house.

Jude leads the way, down the stairs into the basement room where adults and kids are painting posters for the Grease production. I am not sure if Jude will be okay with me leaving or not. I sign his name and when I look up, he and Amy, the nice instructor are painting. She waves and I head out the door.

I should be happy, I have two whole hours to write and drink coffee, but I look back several times and listen for yelling. I get in the car and pull away. At the stoplight down the street a short school bus pulls up next to me, and a round face with glasses smiles down at me and a chubby hand waves. I wave back and burst into tears. Jude is not the only one with mysterious feelings that seemingly blow in from freaking nowhere. 

It isn't as if I have never left my boys before. Preschool, dates, camp, rare weekends away with my husband have all stirred up anxious tears. When I get to the coffee place I grab a house blend and sit in the back. What the hell is wrong with me?

I am jealous of Amy, and everyone else who gets to spend the whole day with Jude. I used to be the only one who understood him and his needs, and now he has experiences that do not include me. Jude, like Sage and Eden, is growing apart from me, as he should. I just am not used to letting go of the one who clings to me so tightly. I thought I had more time. How is that for selfish? I was mostly okay with my son being a mystery, a beautiful enigma that unravels itself at its own pace. Happy to sit and watch while it all unfolds. Maybe I just want to share this afternoon with someone who sees the excruciating wonder of a yellow leaf falling from the sky. No one else I know does a happy dance over leaves in the wind or greets dumpsters with a happy shout.

At a Bible study last week my friend was talking about trees. When they look all bare, when all the leaves have fallen off and there they are, all stark and naked, that there is really so much life underneath, mysteries going on just beneath the surface, getting ready for spring and brand new life. It is hard to picture on this dark windy day, but I will have a little faith, I guess, that good things are happening even when I can't quite see it. Jude is growing and learning and enjoying all sorts of new things even if I am not standing right there. He won't be able to tell me about his afternoon with Amy, but I guess that is okay. Oh well. I love a good mystery. I really do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Columbus Day

Driving is fun. We have to yell, yell out everything we see, the trains and the stop signs and the COLOR OF THE DUMPSTERS. A BLUE ONE MAMA and I cannot hear the radio. There are taxis and white vans and some stores we like, mattress stores for some reason and green means go, time to go, come on let's go.

Today is perfect, it is October but it is warm, leaves blowing across the streets and the trees have turned to that yellow gold Chicago color that combined with black branches means cold is coming, it is on its way.

We are headed to the woods, the forest preserves, with all the boys, one friend and Grandma. We have no plan except to walk around in the leaves and breathe, it is a good plan, we all just want some sun and a little time away from tv and the loudness of our house with what, like a hundred families in it. Let's walk and breathe. God it feels good.

Jude is out and down the hill before we can stop him so we follow, he is on his way to the river, or the piddly branch of it that runs through these woods. We walk run past dogs, people on bikes and what looks like a wedding reception on our way to the trees that guard the murky water. We know now that there will be no wildlife because Jude is crashing through the leaves like a big hungover moose so everything with even a little sense of self preservation will be long gone by the time we reach the treeline.

Sage is doing his best to keep up, I am watching him from the corner of my eye, worried about his ankles but pleased he is here, not at home playing Halo. His hair shines golden in the sun, and I realize with a shock that he is handsome, not just cute, and he is a teenager, not a child. Don helps Grandma over some tree roots and we are there, at the water, the mighty Chicago river, and there is a lawn chair and some beer cans. This is so, us, this trip, all this hoopla and chaos to get to some place that is somewhat less than epic but we are okay with that and pick up rocks and stuff to throw in the river.

Eden and Matthew are just on the edge, and I yell at them to step back and they start climbing a tree. There is a smell and I spend a few minutes contemplating calling the state troopers or the Doe Network but Don catches my eye and shakes his head. "Raccoon." God we are so married.

On the way home we get ice cream, and Jude is quiet now, with his head against the window, watching the world zip by, the world that fills him with wonder and fear and makes not so much sense to him but he is going to see it anyway, this beautiful boy, on this beautiful day, and there are leaves in my hair and mud on my shoes but we are good, all good, just for today, this moment, we are good.