Well I almost missed my connecting plane in the ridiculously gigantic Atlanta airport but thank god and little baby jason, my next flight was just one gate away, maybe a 60 foot walk. And it was so wonderful to step off the plane and back to my pretty little city, even though it was about 35 degrees colder than San Antonio.
I didn’t get in until midnight, which is waaaaayyyy past my freakishly early bedtime.
Andy drove Jonah up to see me and “gwandma” at my mom’s house around 11am the next day, thank you Andy, so I didn’t have to get up early and drive down. But the visit was short, and Jonah wanted daddy or grandma, not me. I’m jealous, and it hurts, and I know intellectually I should not take this personally, but I long for Jonah to run into my arms and squeeze me tight, the way he does with his daddy. I want him to ask for me the way he asks gwandma? gwandma?
And then of course I don’t. Why would I want my child to hurt more by missing yet another person? I love him with all my heart and that’s what matters. His daddy is down there with him – takes him to the grocery store despite Jonah’s screeches and screams, bearing stares and glares and God only knows what, then drives him to the park or the train station…in the cold, on windy days, without complaining, just so Jonah can get fresh air, fun, and exercise. There is no denying Andy is a fantastic father. No wonder Jonah goes flying into his arms.
But the last time I drove down with my mom to visit Jonah, I walked in the door first and there he was, my sweet little boo, sitting in the chair nearest the door. He looked up, saw me, and immediately looked around me for his father. And it felt like shit.
I need to remind myself this blog is subtitled “autism: sans sugar-coating.”
I’ve been sugar-coating-by-omission, trying to sound optimistic and cheerful and fine. This visit wasn’t fine. They were gone before we knew it because Jonah started flipping out, getting all ramped up and squirrely, rapidly cycling through requests, growing more and more frenetic. All red flags for meltdown/violent behavior. Tune Fish Samwich? Car ride? Bath? Bath? Bentley (the neighbor’s dog)? Hot dog? Bath? Want Cookie? Then, always, and worst of all:
Home? Home? Home?
After their visit I lay down, my head aching, thinking about the Ned Fleischer Life Celebration that night. Luckily I got to sleep for a few hours, then I picked up an old high school friend (who also has a child on the autism spectrum) and we drove there together.
It all scared me the death. In high school I mostly stood in the background and admired people. And was jealous. (There we go, cycling back to the jealousy). Here’s where I could learn a lesson or two from my son; I bet Jonah’s never been jealous a day in his life.
But I was not jealous, not even one little bit, when Anne Empie Ryan stood up to sing. With that incredible voice, that voice I hadn’t heard in 25 years and would have paid money to hear, she sang two soft, heart-wringingly tender songs. Clear and strong, she bravely swallowed down everything – her grief, her self-doubt – and sang her heart out. I put my hand to my face to try to catch the tears rolling freely at all this beauty and pain….a standing-room-only of young and old who loved a man dearly because he was, without doubt, one-of-a-kind – and her perfect tribute to him, from all of us, delivered by the voice of an angel.
Memories landed on memoies, filtering, slowly, and I was unsure at first of names, though I recognized so many people. I put on the bravest face I could and approached many folks I knew (and a few I didn’t), trying to appear normal and fine. Luckily, crying didn’t seem out of place here. When I walked over to Anne after she sang, we hugged tight, sobbing and holding one another like best friends.
Everyone was so kind to me. I didn’t have an anxiety attack (which felt more like an accomplishment than it should have) and I was grateful for the smiles and gracious greetings. I had fun and met or re-acquainted myself with a dozen or two really awesome people.
That’s something to be said for Mr. Fleischer; after all, every one of them was there to celebrate him. He attracted good people.
It was a beautiful tribute – and though, yeah, he may have been pissed at all the attention given to his “life and times,” I think he also, deep down, would have been proud.
Is proud. Smiling.
And still perpetually tanned.