Sometimes hope is the feeling that the feeling you have isn’t permanent.” ~ Jean Kerr
Tuesday was a series of weird, strange, amazing events, most of which occurred after we’d left Jonah behind at the school. And everything has been surreal since.
Jonah Russell “Boo” Krebs was admitted into the Anderson Center for Autism 34 years to the day after Elvis Presley died. There’s a reason I noted the Elvis connection but I don’t want you to think I’m creating associations where they don’t exist, so I’ll let that fact just sit there for now.
It was harder on me emotionally the day before, Monday. Andy and I had sorted through all his clothes, and I’d gone back to my apartment for the day, and my awesome friend Richie called. Richie lives in Japan and I get to see him maybe once every 3 or 4 years and talk to him twice a year or so. Incredibly, he was calling from New York City, and when I told him we were taking Jonah to Anderson the next day, immediately he offered his help – with whatever we needed.
I thought only a few seconds before I asked him: Can you drive me back to Albany from Anderson once we’re all done? He assured me that would be fine, even though I predicted I’d be a basket case. He’s one of the few people in the world I’d want to drive me to Albany after having placed my son in a residence school, and he materializes exactly on the day I need him.
Armed with the knowledge that my dear friend would be there to get me, we set out – Andy dressed nicely to job/apartment hunt (He will be living near enough to Jonah to visit him a lot, something I am both grateful for and happy about).
During the car ride to Anderson, I’m pretty sure Jonah picked up on our whole vibe; the strong visual clue of a pile of bags and bins in the car probably confirmed his theory: something’s up.
“Home?” he asked, growing concerned. A tear escaped my eye, and then another and another; clenching my jaw, I set my bones into cement-hard tightness, held my breath, and sat in silence. The second time he asked I think Andy might have said “later, buddy.” It probably took all he had to say it. These were the worst moments – the height and weight and breadth of everything we’d dreaded. No more going home for Jonah.
Upon arrival things moved swiftly. We all met in a conference room – me, Jonah, Andy, one of the nurses, the admissions specialist, & Jonah’s caseworker, teacher, and behavior specialist. A nurse sitting next to me reviewed Jonah’s meds and gave me a big, encouraging hug. Everything was surreal, happening impossibly fast. They took their time in explaining details, but I only half-listened as my heart pounded, pounded, pounded. Thank God it’s all written down, the numbers and information we need.
It was explained to us that Jonah would go with the teacher and behavioral specialist to the classroom, and we would continue on to his house to set up his room, ask any questions, and then leave. Everyone left the room so we three could say our goodbyes. I knelt down to Jonah first and inhaled deep, right at the top of his little head, memorizing his scent. I hugged and kissed him, whispered mama loves you, and watched as Andy said goodbye as well. Almost before we or he knew what had happened, he was disappearing down a hall, one little hand in each of the two teachers. I’d fabric painted Jonah a shirt the day before that said “Hi! My name is Jonah!” – you can see it if you look at the last blog post, which was taken Tuesday morning just before we’d left.
The last glimpse of my boo’s shirt was the most difficult thing to see; the impulse to run after him was the most difficult thing to fight.
We didn’t cry. My jaw was tight and my eyes fixed, shoulders stiffened anxiety-high. Andy is harder to read but I think he handled it as best he could, too.
We were escorted down to Jonah’s residence to unpack all of this things. In silence we worked to fill his drawers and set up his towels, his bed, a small wall hanging, his little photo albums I’d made for him, and the few toys I’d brought along. When we were done, Andy dropped me off near the entrance of Anderson (after assuring me that he’d be in town for a few hours if I needed help or a ride) and I sat on a little bench to wait for Richie.
There was a very small hill to climb to get to the bench, and I noticed a sign:
It turns out my bench was a part of this whole “sensory garden” that different kids had made over the years – benches with hand prints…a trestle-threshold to walk through, mosaic tiles pressed into the ground…a statue girl of stone, perpetually watering her garden.
Here’s where Elvis comes back into the story. I’ve spoken of my best friend Gina in this blog, who I lost to suicide in October of 2002. Well she and I loved hawks, and every time I see one, I think of her. Hawks often appear when I need her, to give me a smile or some hope. Plus, she was born on Elvis’ birthday – exactly 34 years after Elvis. So I’m bringing Jonah exactly 34 years after his death, and she was born exactly 34 years after his birth, and I don’t know what it all means but there isn’t a hawk in sight and still it feels very coincidental – not sure about the number 34, but Gina never made it past 33, so there’s that…I’m beginning to lose it a little, thinking, and I stare off into space, seeking a void so I don’t have to feel anything.
I was very still on the bench. Breathing. Breathing. Breathing. If I live to be 100 I will never forget the weather that day- the feeling in my middle – and everything that happened next.
Behind the sensory garden was an open field with woods. The cicadas were August-loud. Rain came and went in teeny sputters swept on breezes; it was muggy, then cooler. Here I have to pause again to tell you Richie and I had a very good friend, my second-best-friend-after-Gina best friend, who died last year. She too was young, only 38 or so – my Sanx-sister, J. We’d gone to college together, Richie and Sanx and I, and had managed to reunite at Sanx’s parents house every few years whenever we could until she died in the spring of 2010.
Back in our college days Sanx and I adored deer, which were aplenty on our country college campus. To get close to them we often went so far as to lie near-flat in the pre-dawn dewy grass, still as the statue girl of stone – just to watch the beautiful lithe creatures emerge from their forest paths, often with fawn, silently eat the grass and step about like gentle, graceful spirits. When I see deer, I think of Sanx the same way hawks bring Gina to mind when I see them.
So here I am on the bench, all still, zoned out and waiting for Richie, and I hear what sounds like a cross between a goose honk and a dog bark, right over my left shoulder. Were I a more mindful or meditative person I might’ve been able to turn my head ever-so-slowly, or even remain still, but I’m neither mindful nor meditative enough, and so I turned quickly and scared away a deer that had been sneaking up on me from out of the forest and across the field. She bounded, flashes of her white tail all I could really see until she stopped at the edge of the forest. We regarded one another, she and I, now 50 yards or so away from one another:
But she’d been almost right behind me.
Immediately after taking the picture, I got a strange shiver, something telling me to look up, and, circling directly over my head, was a red-tailed hawk, sailing, a sudden shaft of sun brightening its wings. My Gina. And my Sanx. And then, just as suddenly, round the corner in his little rented Ford, comes Richie, arriving to hug me tight in his arms and take me home.
There is more of course, but from my perspective it was a day of miracles.
I called Anderson twice that day, two the next, and then again today. He’s acclimated quickly and did very well on Tuesday, playing and eating okay, helping set the table and clean up the garbage, going to the playground and in the pool. Then he pushed the envelope a little more on Wednesday.
But I just called his teacher today, and she said he had 20-25 aggressions today. It seems like they’re getting a taste of the real Jonah, and I’m grateful they’re handling him okay. His teacher was kind enough to e-mail me after we’d spoken:
I just wanted to e-mail you after our conversation today because I sensed your worry and I wanted to put your mind at ease. The whole team has a lot of hope for Jonah…we’ve seen many children with similar behaviors and we wouldn’t work at Anderson if we didn’t want to help them! I know it’s only the third day but think he’s going to be very successful here…it’s just a matter of finding what works for him! I hope you have a great day!
What great communicators. I am grateful that they really care, and show it.
Nearly everything I’ve said is from my own little micro-perspective, where there is an all-around foundation of strange.
My car even turned to 77777:
and when I went to the mall yesterday to do a little retail therapy, I happened to walk into a store I rarely visit because they’re pricey – but I noticed they had $10 t-shirts so I looked at them. One faded v-neck purple one said, in barely-readable letters against a pattern of black wing-and-orchid shapes:
there was a rainstorm
that while we walked through
woke every flower
in the field.
that day the echo of
warm rain and the
Of course I bought it.
Now my days are free, and weird. I’m still only half-awake, only half-aware that this has happened. I believe Jonah will do well at his new school. I listen to the signs, silly as they may seem, because to me they spell and shout HOPE, and I am embracing that hope and turning my sweet boo over to Mother Mary’s warm embrace, to sit on Jesus’ knee. I’m letting go and letting God, to paraphrase it in a Christian context. I’m bowing to the divine inside his caregivers and teachers. I’m trusting, trusting, trusting.
Here’s a picture they sent me. He looks so happy!
I love you, boo!
Thank you thank you thank you. That is my prayer. Thank you.
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