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Sometimes blogging feels like tightrope-walking.  What to say, how to say it, what details to include.  There’s so much history here now.  Do I just tell a story, or maybe fill an entry with pictures?  What’s appropriate to put out there?  I usually just say what I’ve got to say, but sometimes it’s tricky.

If I’ve got an 8-second video of an 11-year-old Jonah with his wide, adorable smile, looking right at me and speaking clear-as-day:  fuck!  followed by my immediate response of laughter, is it cool for me to post that without seeming like I’m proud of it?  Hell, I laughed.  Sometimes you just gotta laugh.

The thing is I know (some of) who reads this blog, and I know if I say such-and-such it’ll get back to so-and-so, and then I have to decide how to tell my story or, sometimes, whether or not to tell it at all.

Andy and I have some unspoken tales of sadness and ennui that will likely never be told.  Macht nichts, I suppose.  Discretion, diplomacy.  I never was good with filters, so I err on the “sin of omission” side when necessary.  If I decide to tell a story I’m gonna tell the whole damn mess of it; I ain’t gonna sugarcoat it, so I better decide what I say with care.

Anyway.

On Saturday, somehow, Jonah managed to open (and set next to him) no fewer than three cans of white soda.  All this with three adults present.  Never underestimate Jonah’s quiet little conniving magic mind & abilities.

he's a quick little bugger

he’s a quick little bugger

It was Andy’s birthday, and my mom brought cupcakes.  Boo wasted no time in descending upon them.

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Skittles and Chuckles too.  Somewhere in there is some actual food – a tune-fish sandwich – which he ate with near-equal fervor.

I was happy to get a few cool pictures with Jonah, which has become kind of rare:

Me & Boo

Me & Boo

Me & Boo, Number Two

Me & Boo, Number Two

When he is calm and affectionate, our son is a beacon of the purest lovejoy.

In one short video, though, you can actually see Jonah’s agitation ramping up…he shows it using his hands and then finally with a swatting motion.  You’ll hear his dad reassure him:  It’s all right, buddy. 

The triumph is that he did not swat at anything but the air, just that one time.  We were all talking, and he was being told no, and he had so many foods from which to choose.  The videos sometimes make it easier to discern what’s happening and why.  Hell, the videos could very well be part of the problem, even.  That’s why I take them without him seeing me, if I can help it.  Sometimes I take the time to watch them carefully, try to learn from them.

This one’s just fun – lighting the candles on the cupcakes and Jonah gets to blow them out after we all sing to Andy (shaky harmony compliments of mama).

It was a good visit.  I hope Andy had a wonderful birthday; he deserves it.  Jonah’s had this whole week off from school and I think Andy’s picked him up for a visit every other day.  I always knew he’d be a wonderful father, before his child was even a notion.  He and Jonah share such a special bond.

Also, endeavoring to remain self-aware and true to myself, I have broken off my new relationship with Jim.  The reasons are many but none of them call into question his goodness, strength of character, or warm heart.  Some part of me wishes he could have met Jonah, for I think Jonah would have loved him – and I know Jim loves children.

I also am examining what I say in general – and how, and to whom.   These things can have a lifelong impact for good or ill.  I’d like to encounter everyone I see with a smile, to behave in a positive manner, to think before I speak – and when I do speak of others, to always find the good to say.  It’s so easy to say you believe in something and then never bring it into reality.  What you think doesn’t mean anything at all unless your actions match your intentions.

“If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek, five things observe with care…to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and  how, and why, and where.”  ~ Caroline Ingalls

Got to see my Boo twice last week – on Friday for his JRA doc appointment, and the next day, down in Rhinebeck with my mom.

He was a pisser at his appointment —  but also a weird thing happened both then and again today.  When they first called Jonah in for height and weight, he got on the scale and stood pretty still.  The nurse said “84 pounds,” and I was shocked at how heavy he was.  I mean, he looks skinny and lithe like his mama.  “Wow,” I said.  “When I was 84 pounds, I was in junior high.  And I was skinny!”

Not thinking. 

Not remembering, were Jonah a “normal” boy, he would be in junior high.  He would be  entering 7th grade this year.  To me he is my very little boy, my baby-est angel.   It is so easy to regard him as such.  Like when we lie down together on Andy’s bed, one near each side, sometimes holding hands, and we stare into one another’s eyes – he often sucking his thumb, for “quiet time.”  I think I will always have quiet time with my Boo.  In so many ways he will stay very little.  Can I listen as the watch unwinds?

This is where I suppose I am blessed, for other parents must lament the speed with which their children learn and grow, whereas I may yearn for Jonah to stay small physically, but the learning part is comparatively like molasses, and the rest of him is a poorly engineered roller coaster ride.

No lamentations from us about too-speedy entry into higher schools, middle to junior high to high school, high school to college – all the kids’ birthday parties, little league games, soccer mom hoopla (some of which I’m not sorry I missed out on, truth be told).  All the PlayStation (?) games at $100 each, the must have clothes, proms and clubs and nightmares, worries lies anxiety want-to-fit-in rebellion wisdom questioning making friends.  Jonah won’t have any of that, and usually I feel like that’s okay.  Maybe it means I was supposed to be his mama.

Is autism really just an internal trade, pure innocence for societal functionality?

Today I picked up my new migraine meds at the pharmacy, and the all-time awesome-est pharmacist was there.  She has seen me through all kinds of drama and tears, and we’ve talked lots about Boo.  She asked about him today, and I said,  “He’s good.  He’s loving music.  His two current favorite bands are Prince and Public Enemy.  As loud as it will go,” I added, laughing.

“Well he sounds just like a teenager, that’s for sure,” she replied.

Yeah.  Teenagers like to play their music loud, don’t they?

Earth to Amy:  Jonah’s autism does not define him.  He is also (nearly) a teenager.

Breaking it down and taking it back to the doc appointment.   Took a while for the doc to come in, so Boo’s two caregivers (J and P) and I occupied him through his mischievous, shriek-y, giggling wait time.

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I brought a package of tic tacs and immediately Jonah held out his hand.  “I hold it?” he asks, when you’re trying to give him just a little bit of something, or dole it out.

Yo yo yo, big pimpin', spendin' G's

Yo yo yo, big pimpin’, spendin’ the G’s. He cares little for paper money, though they’ve been teaching the abstraction of it all at his school and he is learning.

For the doc appointments I comply and hand him the container.  “I want help please?” he asks, trying to open the small box.  I open it and hand it back.  Immediately he shakes it up and down and back and forth, scattering every last tic tac around the room and on the floor.

Now he lazily seeks out approximately 1/3 of the tic tacs he has just scattered and places them back into the box or lines them up in front of him.  Doc says he is fine and we may want to talk to his retina doc to see if it’s time to titrate him off the methotrexate, and eventually, hopefully, the Humira as well.  Both docs are women and I stand in awe of them, so grateful to all they have done for Boo, for their kindness, their intelligence — even strangely, their beauty — as I believe it rises in those full of love and doing good in this world.

Saturday was a forgot-my-camera day, which is sometimes okay.  I don’t always have to play photojournalist.  Jonah wanted to watch train on the computer, loud as all hell.  He asked for freight train and since pretty much any railfanner video out of Voorheesville is of freight train after freight train, I just gave him a 45 minute video of that.  It was a typical-good Jonah visit, complete with swim-up lunch bar and car ride to transfer station. 

When I gave him his bath I even got him to sing some Guster.  He knows Keep it Together best, so I’ll usually begin “When we all….” and then fade out and let him take over.  It’s pretty cool how well he sings, both (mostly) in tune and rhythmically.  Here’s the “famous” video of him singing it when he was 7, on a rare occasion when he allowed me to film him at all.

I’m tired.  Almost no sleep last night.  It felt as though time were traveling backward.

“Listen as the watch unwinds….”

(from Come Downstairs and Say Hello)

by Guster

Have I ever mentioned that Andy’s landlord looks like George Clooney?  I call him George every time I see him – so much so that I can’t recall his real name at this writing.   Last Saturday when mom and I visited Jonah, I saw “George,” about to strap on his helmet and take his Harley for a ride.

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I didn’t even KNOW he had a Harley.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.

He promised that next time he’d take me for a quick spin, so you bet your ass I’ll be leaving an old pair of jeans and socks & boots at Andy’s for the mere possibility of such a cool occasion.

Jonah was good – funny and sweet – for most of the time.

Grandma bought creamsicles and took pictures of boo & me outside

Grandma bought creamsicles and took pictures of boo & me outside

We got silly

We got silly

And then I started playing with my photo editor

And then I started playing with my photo editor

Until it was over the top

Until it was over the top

Jonah's hamming it up with grandma

Jonah’s hamming it up with grandma

Jonah had one serious aggression at school since then, and Andy has blessedly volunteered to take the calls from the school about such things, because I think he can “shelve it” better than I can, at least right away.  A call to me from the school almost always results in my imagination taking me, sharp-focus, into the classroom where he has perhaps just taken a chunk of his speech therapist’s hair in his fist and is kicking mightily and thrashing around.  Where it takes another caregiver to help the first, to keep Boo safe and everyone around him as well.

And then I inevitably tear up, and can barely thank them for calling, and when I hang up, I usually cannot but allow myself to cry, and for so many reasons, some of them stupid.  I cry because I am upset that someone – anyone – got physically hurt, and that my son was involved in any of that.  I cry for the grueling everydayness of it all for those who have chosen direct care or special ed teaching or just working at Anderson…and how amazing they are, and how the last thing they deserve is to be kicked, scratched, bit, head-butted, whatever.   I cry because I’m helpless.  But really I don’t want to write about why I cry anymore when they call.  I just do, and it’s easier to hear the news from Andy (always slightly sugar-coated, I imagine) — unless of course it’s an emergency.  I’m grateful Andy’s willing.

Tomorrow he’s driving Jonah up to grandma’s house (near me) and so he will get to see train, take baths, eat everything in sight, and go swimming in the next door neighbor’s pool.  No diving anymore, at my mom’s insistence, even though I know Boo could easily dive in the 4+ feet of water in that pool & I’m (admittedly, perhaps foolishly) unafraid.  He always knows where he is in this world – in the car, in the water, while climbing rocks or waterfalls – he never falls, never fails.  But he likes jumping in too, so that’ll be good enough for him.

At least at Anderson, the deep end is deep and I’m sure he’s honing his diving skills (and swimming along at the very bottom of the pool like an undulating eel).  I wish I could watch him more.  Astral project into his room and hover just above him, singing him silently to sleep or wakening him with mamalove.

Perhaps certain portions of the school and residences could have 2-way mirrors, so parents could come and just watch their kids.  I want to see him in what is now his own environment, his turf.  Maybe I can talk to his behavioral specialist about taking a day and coming down to “spy” on him. Or something.

With Jim I could eventually even come down and take him to the park or  bowling or to the movies… of course after Jonah gets comfortable with him.  I think Boo will love him, and I think Jim and Andy will get along just fine.  I hope Jim loves my Boo, but I’m so in love with my boy that I can’t imagine how anyone could not love him.

We’re coming up on the third anniversary of the day we placed him at the Anderson Center for Autism.  At 12 years old, that’s nearly a quarter of his life.  What if we hadn’t done it?  What if we just kept dealing with it, like those people on the severe/classic autism group on Facebook who seem to also need (but can’t, or won’t, or don’t want to) seek residential care?

There are undoubtedly parents who pour every ounce of sweat and every penny of finances and seek out the best of therapists, doctors, and care workers for their child, to keep their child home, and they are to varying degrees successful.  Every family is different.  Every kid with autism is different.

We went a different route, but it didn’t feel at all like a choice.  It felt like a life vest, thrown with two seconds to spare, to save us all from drowning.  And now it feels right for Jonah, which is of course what we wanted – for him to experience every single piece of knowledge and caring and socialization and fun they could safely offer him.

What a strange life we live, Andy and me, in our separate worlds, broken and pieced back together, he and I.

Miss Jonah a lot tonight.  I can’t wait to see him smile and splash, to catch a train and a bath and some loving from us all.

Sleep tight, Boo.   Mama is right here loving you.

Today someone from the Anderson School called to tell me that Jonah had a big-time take down.  He must have a little cold because it all started when they brought him to the nurse to give him some cough syrup.  He wrangled the bottle away from the hapless nurse and chucked the whole thing at her, then topped that off with an attack.  After a few minutes being held in a two-person take down, Jonah calmed down only to need another 1-person hold a few minutes later, then possibly another aggression right after that (truthfully, I lost count) before it was all over.

Jonah must really hate that kind of cough syrup, I thought at first.  But then he would have said “no,” or something, right?

This is the second major aggression in two weeks (and yes, I do remember the days where that statement would have been a miracle).  I hate the school’s area code.  845 comes up on my phone and I get a shiver down my spine.  It could be anything, but it’s almost never anything good.

Plus they have someone new who makes the phone calls home.  She talks as if she’s reading a report off a card to an uninvolved third party, and I’m not a fan of that.  I’m his mom.  But it’s really a small thing to bitch about in the midst of it all.

The Saturday visits with my mom have been very good, thank God.  Boo is crazy for the usual:  trains, baths, all the food he can eat, car rides, grocery store.  Sundays are good too, for the most part, Andy says.  Jonah’s new thing is watching the whole of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

If you get him to YouTube and type in Trains, Jonah can select the one he wants.  Always at top volume.

If you get him to YouTube and type in Trains, Jonah can select the one he wants. Always at top volume.

I hope he feels better, my sweet boy. I want to hold a cold cloth to his little head, sing Guster softly into his ear, and hold him in my arms as he falls asleep, all childlike and cherubic-not-too-sick.  All of it fantasy, even if it were possible.  Luckily Jonah is in general a healthy little kid and we’ve not had to deal with anything super-serious (not counting his eyes of course).

I have a new boyfriend and I’m just gonna call the new boyfriend Jim, because that’s his name and he doesn’t mind me using it.  He has already told me he’d like to meet Jonah and has asked me when we can go.

Not once since Andy and I placed Jonah in August 2011 did M ever ask to see Jonah.  Perhaps that isn’t fair to M, though.  Maybe he helped me with Jonah too much, saw too much of the worst of Boo’s aggressions, got too many scratches and scrapes.  Jim’s never been married, never had kids.  He’s working his way through my blog to understand what the hell happened without my having to attempt a re-hash.

Either way I feel good about my decisions.  We’re a package deal, me and Boo.  It’s nice to be with a man who wants to meet my son, obviously understanding this without having to be told.  Jim is sweet through to the bone.  Down to earth, non-judgmental.  Affectionate and tender.  He exudes friendliness and calm, and when he is angry at a person or situation, it quickly dissolves like a cloud into clear sky — with nary a yell or a scream (and many of you reading this will know exactly how much that means to me).  He drives and moves and speaks in a kind of alert relaxation.  He’s very zen and has never even tried to be.  And he’s tall.  Handsome.  Has this deep, soothing voice.  Am I going on and on?  He’s a wonderful man and we’re giddy-happy together.

BONUS:  He loves animals/dogs and has a sweet little black lab named Eddie.

Jim-n-Eddie

Jim-n-Eddie

They are sharing my heart.

So we’re watching Jonah’s health and my own too – I was going to blog about my attempt to be a kidney donor but instead I’ll just give it a mention.  The last set of tests before the transplant at NY Presbyterian Hospital  showed that I had kidney stones and therefore can never donate a kidney.

Please send healing thoughts an/or prayers to my intended recipient, D, who has no kidneys at all and is on dialysis 3 times a week at age 28.

And while you’re at it, please join us in hoping and praying that Jonah’s aggressions stop, that he was just not feeling well, that he’ll continue to verbalize more and attack less and less often.

A happy, blurry moment

A happy, blurry moment

Yesterday my mom came and picked me up to visit Jonah; we switch off every week, taking turns whose car we take and who drives.  I was exhausted from a long day of work in NYC on Friday, so it was nice to just zone out on the way down.

Once we got to Andy’s and piled in his car to collect Boo from his house on the Anderson campus, though, I was all excitement; I’d missed my boy something awful this week.  When we arrived, Jonah was outside on the playground with the residence manager, who told us he’d had a good morning.

Without waiting, off strides Jonah to the car, pausing only for hugs and kisses – then walking, all business, faster — ready for his Saturday visit with daddy and mama and grandma.

Fear of a Black Planet? he says by way of greeting and musical selection request.  My poor mom up front must endure Public Enemy, played very loud at Jonah’s insistence, while me & my boy groove in the back.

Once in Andy’s apartment, Jonah efficiently opens the bags and cooler grandma brought and puts everything away in its proper location – the cokes and 7ups lined up neatly in the fridge door, the sandwiches on a shelf, crackers and cookies and whatever else in the cabinet.  Usually he doesn’t put every item away, but even when he does, he takes it all right back out again to dig into lunch.

Boo sits nicely at the table 90% of the time now, legs like his mama with one wrapped around the other under the table.  He eats enough for 2 or 3 kids.  His tune-fish sandwich.  Half of mine.  Chips.  Cheese Puffs.  Donut.  Ham and mustard on a roll.  Spinach leaves with blue cheese dressing.

Finally he asks for peanut butter crackers, which we give him but he does not eat.

Here’s where he changes tactics; you can almost see the neurons and synapses at work in his little boy head.  Walking over to where Andy is standing in the kitchen, he says five cheese lasagna? — a frozen lasagna dish Andy often buys him at the grocery store.  Jonah repeats his request rapid-fire, three or four times.  Andy opens the freezer to show Jonah the three packages of five cheese lasagna already there, though he has no intention of heating one up.  I mean, Jonah’s just eaten all this food.  Too much already, really.

But he asks Jonah anyway.  Want some?

Jonah tries his request again – five cheese lasagna? —  ignoring the packages his daddy has just produced.  Then it hits me.  That little clever shit.  He doesn’t want five cheese lasagna at all.  What he wants is grocery store, and he knows it’s not grocery store day, so he’s going to work it however he can to get there. He’s playing his hand carefully and knows he ought to fold, but he can’t resist calling off the bet.

So he goes all in, asking straight out:  Grocery store?

Evidently Jonah thinks “grocery store” is nirvana; Andy takes him on Sundays with varying degrees of success, if you define success as selecting your items, putting them in the cart, maneuvering to the self-check-out lane, getting out of the store, and returning to the car.

Tomorrow, buddy.  We’ll go to the grocery store tomorrow, Andy says patiently.

Now Jonah’s mad and sad.

He starts to cry, fast and hard, no ramping up slow-like.  Sobbing, he throws himself on the floor, crying grocery store?  Grocery store!? over and over — a Shakespearean tragedy whose protagonist has just discovered his beloved is truly out of reach.

Then, just as suddenly, he flings himself across the room and lands on the couch.  Bam Bam Bam, he pounds his fists on the coffee table.  Bam Bam Bam.  We’re all just kind of letting him work it out.

Then into the bedroom, collapsing on the bed, hitting the pillows, crying out.  He even yells Amy! twice — I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say my first name.  Andy doesn’t want me to come in; he’s protecting me from an aggression.  But I gently push past him, risking it to try and calm Boo.  Jonah cocks his arm back at me but lowers it again quickly when I say no hit mama.  It takes him a while to get it together in there, but he does not hit mama.

He does not hit mama.

As much as I hate watching him go through his cycle of anger and despair over denial of grocery store, I am proud of Jonah just the same.  It all means he is expressing himself more appropriately, as tantrum-like as he looks in the process.

He’s mad, so he yells.

He’s sad, so he cries.

He’s frustrated, so he hits the table with his fists.

But he didn’t hit us.  Not this day, anyway, or any I’ve had with him in a while.  I consider it a big breakthrough.  I continue to hope beyond hope that his aggressions will mitigate into disappearance.

And I just know he had a kick-ass time at grocery store today.

Boo took this one of me.  I leaned down 'cause he wasn't using his aiming-the-camera skills very well.

Boo took this one of me. I leaned down ’cause he wasn’t using his aiming-the-camera skills very well.

My personal life sometimes gets in the way of my telling Jonah’s story.  I don’t know how much to say or if I should say anything at all and just leave the blog be until I’m ready to write about Boo again.

The thing is M and I broke up, and now I live alone in my house — M gone, sweet Jack-dog gone, everything weirdly still.

I have never lived alone and it’s going to take some getting used to.

So there’s that.

My life has gotten in the way, but I’m going to be fine and Jonah is his usual self, for the most part – a cute little pisser of many requests and demands,  in search of train and car rides and other fun.

I’ll be back soon with new pictures and video.

Jonah is well.  There is the usual stress for him associated with the end of school, the break in his routine and its resulting aggression or crying jag.

When there is a day off from school Boo is used to visiting with his daddy, but his daddy can’t come and get him every day and poor Boo can’t understand that – or perhaps he simply refuses to understand it.  I can’t wait to see him on Saturday.  Last Saturday I had less time to see him because I attended a parents’ group meeting on the Anderson campus.

Jonah has had a few aggressions since my last post.  My mind has blessedly shifted from a place of “watch the pendulum, hope it doesn’t keep too fast a tempo, wish it would silence itself into coda”  into a calmer spot of radical acceptance, where Jonah is Jonah and we all help him nurture, grow, and get through periods of stress, fear, or anger.  Especially his beloved daddy; long live Jonah’s amazing daddy.

Jonah and daddy = love

Jonah and daddy = love

This morning I walked outside to check my tomatoes (which will be miraculous plants if they are even close to “knee-high by the Fourth of July”).

I squinted at what looked like a piece of wood stuck in the fence…half on one side, half on the other.  I moved closer and saw it was a bird – a young bluejay, sitting as if too big to get out of its spot and fly away.  From about a foot away, I looked at the bird and the bird regarded me calmly.  I reached out to ever-so-gently touch its feathers, thinking maybe it had been stunned scared by Almanzo-my-cat, but Manzo was inside.

Then I crouched down so we were eye-to-eye and I stared deep into the bird’s  sparkling, black, liquid eye, feeling like Ricky Fitts filming the “beautiful dead bird” in the movie American Beauty…remembering him, for a moment, and how he felt about death, and that paper bag he danced with — how he said:

That’s the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video’s a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember…I need to remember… Sometimes there’s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can’t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in.

I snapped out of this and went into Wildlife Rescue Mode.

How do I help this bird?  It has to be injured; otherwise it would have flown away quickly the moment it saw me.  Confused and trying to remember everything I’ve ever learned about nursing a bird back to health (which is one chapter in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book where they find some baby birds and try to save them, failing one by one until they all died).

I went into the house and got a shoebox.  I put a soft dish cloth in it, then took another dishcloth and went back out to lift the precious little bird gently from its perch, lay it in the soft box, and examine it carefully.  When I came back, not one minute later, the little bird had flown away.

And circling above me was a larger blue jay, soaring from branch to wire to chimney.  Though they are chirpy and scolding birds, this one made not a sound.  It was as if he were saying hello, and maybe thank you, as well.  I double-checked around the fence to be sure the little one hadn’t fallen.

It was simply gone.

And so I clutched my box and soft cloths and went inside again, sweet tears coming into my eyes.

This day I was able to visit closely with a small bluejay, who was not afraid of me in the least, and have a conversation with his father (?)

A miracle to begin a beautiful day.

“And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown…
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good?”

~ Norwegian Wood by the Beatles

I am so blessed.

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