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Archive for August, 2011

So on Saturday my mom and I drove to Andy’s cool little apartment in Rhinebeck, then followed him to the school.  To be honest I didn’t really want to go just yet.  I’d imagined Boo happy, playing, eating good food and watching videos, walking around the campus with one of the direct care workers, swimming in the pool, riding his scooter.  I didn’t want him to see us and remember – to cry mama, to ask for home or daddy – not yet.  I didn’t want to have to drive away from him

My mother, though, wanted to see her grandson so much she swayed me.  And after all, I missed Jonah lots too.  I tried not to focus on the chaotic scenario I secretly feared as the three of us arrived.  When he first saw us, Jonah ran away toward his room, then came forward smiling and happy to see us.  We set up a little picnic outside the visitor’s center and as he looked from one of us to the next, grandma pulled out a bottle of black soda!

Heaven.  He’s a walking commercial for the black soda, just like his mama.  Not bragging, just saying.

He didn’t drink much of it, actually.  We all ate sandwiches and chips, Jonah alternately sitting down and walking a few feet away, a little unnerved but not upset:

He asked for playground and we brought him there – it’s right next to his house.  He loves that playground and has taken interest in things like swings again.  For so long we couldn’t take him to playgrounds for fear he’d hurt other kids, and it was really cool to see him able to play again, smiling and laughing.

Then we went for a short ride in brown car, Jonah grinning and thrilled to be next to grandma.

At one point he had a little aggression, but it only lasted a few seconds and then we drove back to the school.  Everyone working in his house seemed to like him, and the kids seem pretty cool.  When we first walked into his house, one boy led me by the arm over to a computer, smiling up at me as if I were his best friend immediately. We briefly met some of the caregivers before going outside with Jonah for our visit.

At the end of our visit, my mom wanted she and I to leave a few minutes before Andy, “so we wouldn’t all be leaving at once,” but I think she wanted to spare us the possible scene of Jonah crying and calling for us.   I don’t know how much Andy was downplaying it when he told me afterward it wasn’t too awful, but I’m grateful he took on the emotional burden of being the last one to leave Boo behind.

It was strange; all three of us broke down at one point or another, but not at the same times, and none of us for very long.  We kept it together pretty admirably, I’d say.  It is taking a lot of getting used to, this strange, new path.

Yesterday M and I were almost laughing from our snug basement apartment about how hurricane Irene turned out to be not much at all – just a day of endless rain and wind.  We stayed in and didn’t think much about it.  This morning, though, I had to detour to get around a huge tree that’d fallen across both lanes of Western Avenue.  By the time I got to work and saw the branches all over our parking lot, it occurred to me that maybe I should stop home on my lunch hour, just to check on things.

Here’s what had happened to my back yard while I was laughing at the storm:

Our next door neighbor’s enormous maple tree uprooted and fell at an angle, smashing the fence & laying in my yard.

This is the view of the root of the uprooted tree, which pried their patio up at an angle and set their picnic table askew.

Tree everywhere!  I guess Irene didn’t appreciate us laughing at her.  Instant karma, kinda…

Everyone is grateful the tree fell in the direction it did and that no one was hurt.  M and I are slowly moving back into the house over the next month or so.  It will be nice when that’s all done.

My mom and I are planning to go back and see Jonah, by ourselves this time, this Saturday.  So far so good – even Irene spared us her worst.

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Everyone in my office felt it, even way up here in Albany, NY.   I thought of Jonah and wondered if he was feeling it too –  the wavy, hula-hoop, on-a-boat feeling I’d never felt so strongly before, not ever having been a California girl.  They’re already selling t-shirts about it.  One picture I saw depicted the D.C. “earthquake devastation” – that one made me laugh out loud.

Yesterday was also Andy’s birthday.  I  made him a photo frame set with a bunch of pictures of he and Jonah.  He’s moved down to an apartment in Rhinebeck already; yesterday I called a bank and locked in a 3.5% interest refinance on a mortgage so I can keep the house and give Andy his share.  I am glad, and a little jealous, that he is so close to Boo. 

My mom and I and Andy are all going to go to Jonah’s school on Saturday and visit him for the first time since he was admitted on the 16th.  I hope it goes okay and he doesn’t want to come home with us.  Either Andy or I call every day to ask questions about how he’s doing.  If he’s crying for daddy or mama they do not tell me, and I don’t ask.  They generally tell me about aggressions, if there were any (yesterday he had none at all) and what he ate, and how he ate, and what he did.

Most of the direct care workers sound almost nonchalant when they tell me about his day, which is both comforting and unsettling.  I guess he is blending in well and yesterday I even asked “do you guys like him?”  They say yes, we do – he’s a great little boy.  I want so much for them to like him, hug him, teach him, nurture him.  I want warmer weather so he can swim, diving deep to undulate along at the bottom of the pool like he does so expertly.  I want them to cover his face in kisses, chase him on the playground, play music for him, and put lots of bubbles in his bath.  I want them to grow to love him.

There are no new pictures today so I’ll dig into his babyhood to post two cute ones:

Pissed off Boo

Charmer Boo

Everything remains surreal.  I am, for all intents and purposes, abruptly unmarried and childless.  I know I am still Jonah’s mother but no longer am I involved in his daily care at all.  It takes an enormous amount of trust to remain calm and collected about the placement of his little body, mind, and soul to a group of strangers, albeit professionals in the field of autism.  I trust and hope and believe this is right, this is the right thing, he will get better there, he will thrive.

There are no atheists in foxholes, and this is mine.  Not that I was an atheist before, but I’m sure praying more and calling on my peeps gone before me – all those hawks and deer, my grandparents, God, Mary, “and all the angels and saints,” as we Catholics say, to watch over Boo and keep him safe and happy.

Please.

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It’s been almost 6 days since I have seen my boo.  I’ve learned a lot of things in those 6 days – a quick, hard, University of Life experience I never applied for and didn’t want to attend.

In 6 days God created the world, they say.  Well, I did too, in a way.  A new world for me.  And a new world for boo.

My world is now near-free of dread.  I don’t mean the “damn, tomorrow is Monday and I have to go to work” dread.  I mean the dread that lives inside you and owns you.  The kind that makes you steel-stiff & come unglued – the kind that’s unrelenting, ubiquitous – there all at once, all the time, even in your dreams, for whatever the reason. ‘Capital D’ Dread.  It’s gone.  I am not going to randomly show up at work with scratches on my arms & face and I am not going to trudge into LensCrafters again and again with broken glasses to have them repaired by S, who I’ve seen so many times we are almost-friends.  She told me she uses my story at work as an example of what their optional “protection plan” can be like, and for whom it can be downright necessary.

And of, course, no more dread of Jonah going away – of counting weeks, days, clinging to him even as he tries to bite or hit me, longing to keep him at our side.  That dread is gone too, and it’ feels like setting down a load of bricks I’ve been carrying, sharp and hot in the summer sun.

From what Anderson School has told me, Jonah is acclimating well and more quickly than expected.  He adores their playground, their pool, and all his caregivers.  They e-mail, talk to us on the phone, send pictures (here’s another one),

and communicate with compassion and understanding, even though you know their days have to be difficult and tiring at best.  Some have told me how they have already grown to like him a lot.  I am grateful.  How happy he looks in the pictures they send!

And all this support, from everywhere – people I know, people who read my blog, teachers and friends, co-workers and relatives — it is overwhelming and humbling.

A mystery person even left flowers for me and a bottle of water for the flowers on top of my air conditioner outside the apartment:

That was pretty cool.

I miss my boo, but I know I have made it over the mountain.  Jonah will too.  And Andy. I know it.  I feel very blessed.

If I were asked to give advice based on other things I’ve learned quick & hard, I would say:

1) Don’t get all mercenary and clingy with possessions, money, or anything else.  Watch “The Gods Must Be Crazy” (even if you’ve seen it before) and it will remind you why.

2) Everything is impermanent.  True story.

3) Judgment of others is wasteful arrogance, and the judgment almost never assesses its target correctly.

4) Kindness is never a mistake.  When in doubt, be kind.  Choose it every time and you will never be wrong.  Do kindness.  Not just when the opportunity crosses your path.  Practice conscious kindness.  It comes back to you.  Trust me.  In amazing, incredible, miraculous ways -often when you least expect it and most need it.

5) Calm the hell down when driving, running, working, going shopping, dealing with children, people you like and dislike.  Just calm the hell down.  Breathe deeply.  For God’s sake, breathe.

6)  Love.  Love as much and as hard and as completely as you can.  If you have lost someone and still care for them, love them anyway – even if they’ll never know it.  Love the seasons, the cold and the rain as well as the sun and the warmth.  Help someone.  Do something.  Care!  Don’t watch the news and shake your head and say that’s too bad.  Find ways to make a difference, even if it’s just to one person.

Before I get carried away, and I suppose I could type all day, I want to say I have not conquered these lessons – only that I believe them to be true and my goal is to follow them, as much as possible, from now on.

Oh – and one from my dad:

Before you say something to someone, ask yourself if it is true and if it will benefit the other person in any positive way.  If not, don’t say it.

That’s a good one, dad.

My father’s doing volunteer work now; he drives people to the food pantry in a van, which makes me prouder of him than anything else he could do.  He also is letting me live my life and make my own decisions, something which must be difficult for him, because he loves me and doesn’t want to see me hurt.  He has had to trust my smarts and my own judgment, and he’s doing it all while still remaining supportive.

My mom is counting the minutes til we go see her precious grandson – I think we’ll go for a picnic next Saturday with him if it is nice, and Jonah can play on the playground.   She has been an enormous support, especially for Andy, when no one else was.  She has opened her home to Jonah (and whomever is watching him) over and over and over again, withstood a broken TV and other household items, scratches, tantrums, bathwater splashed everywhere, and toys scattered about.  She is a true testament to the love between a grandmother and her grandson.

Andy is proving both courageous and Superdad by moving so close to Jonah, so he can see him (and oversee him) as much as possible.  Although we are separating, I will never choose to remember the bad things.  Only the good – his kind heart and earnest, helpful spirit that always, unfailingly, reaches out to others when they need anything at all.  Here is a man who, quite literally, would give you the shirt off his back, and I will always love him.

I don’t know how this turned into an awards ceremony but if I am going to spend paragraphs giving mom, dad, and Andy kudos, then I certainly cannot forget M – the man who holds me so close in his arms I am completely coated in love…the man who took so many days off work to be there, with or for me, time and time again…the man who slept between Jonah and me on a cold hard floor at a psychiatric center for three nights just to protect me…the man who drove 40 minutes to visit me every day at yet another psychiatric center, bringing colorfully beautiful flowers when I’d gone suicidal…the man who came with me several times a week for months to help me watch Jonah, taking on the tantrums and scratches and screams of a child not his own — all because he loved Jonah’s mother in spite of everything.  The one I go places with, read to, watch movies and take long rides and visit the Almanzo Wilder Farm with.  The man I love.

Here are some pictures from when we visited the farm one day this week, just for respite, traveling slowly through the Adirondacks until stepping reverently over the threshold of Laura‘s husband’s childhood home (yes, I am that into them):

Me, grinning under the historical sign

This massive tree is thought to be 200 years old.  Almanzo climbed it!

…and his home, restored.

I have a dozen or more pictures but I mustn’t forget that I can always start a Laura Ingalls Wilder blog and ramble on about her there.

It was a peaceful, pleasant day. Some weird part of me feels like this week off work is over and so not only will I be going back to work but to the Jonah routine too.  This has not really hit me quite yet, I think.  And there are definitely two sides to this coin – loss/pain and relief/freedom.  I hadn’t even thought about the second side, really, in a positive way, but my therapist has helped me with perspective, so finally there is very little associated guilt, which I was full of…thoughts like “I shouldn’t be having a good time since I sent my boy to live in a home.”  No.  We should all be having a good life.  We all deserve to be happy.  Jonah too.  Jonah especially!

Please continue to send good energies and prayers to my little Boo.   (I can’t wait to hug him)!

And once again, my prayer is simply thank you.

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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.

Amazing.

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:

Hi Amy,

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! 
Best,
S

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
melancholy breeze
became our
favorite
song.

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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i’m here, & humbled

I’m going to come back soon and tell the whole strange and mournful (and so much more) story, but before that I want to lie on the bed and do nothing.  But before that I want to thank every one of you for praying, reaching out, sharing, virtual hugging, and holding us in your hearts.

Things went (and continue to go) much better than expected!

Off I go…for now.  Just know that I am okay and Jonah is okay and I’m pretty sure Andy is okay, and I am filled with gratitude, hope, and love.

Namaste!

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“No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away…

Oh, little darling of mine

I can’t for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don’t work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away…

Oh, little darling of mine

I just can’t believe it’s so
Though it seems strange to say
I never been laid so low
In such a mysterious way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

But I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
When the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away

Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh the mother and child reunion
Is only a moment away.”

Mother and Child Reunion by Paul Simon

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far away

“I’m awake; you’re still sleeping…
The sun will rise like yesterday.

Everything that we are now
Is everything we can’t let go
Or it’s gone forever, far away
I hope tomorrow is like today…

Don’t you go away tomorrow –
I don’t think I could handle that
You’re probably dreaming that you’re flying on

and you start to fall

But then you rise
and shine forever
Don’t go away;
I hope tomorrow is like today…”

~Guster

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