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“Faithfulness to the past can be a kind of death above ground.  Writing of the past is a resurrection; the past then lives in your words and you are free.”  ~ Jessamyn West 

I know exactly what Jessamyn means, though I’d never have been able to state it so succinctly.  And so resurrection occurs for me this Easter through writing.  When you write about something, your perspective gets to control it; when it has already happened you can shift it…place it under the microscope of your perception.  You can then craft it, shaping it, painting and whittling and building.  When something inside me has died, this is its resurrection.

Several things died inside me yesterday.  I am hoping the writing of them will resurrect.

My mother wanted to drive us down to see Boo for “our Easter” with him.  On the trip I would look over at her, worry over her; she drives the car a little jerkily these days, and she has lost so much weight.  She has not smoked in almost a month, and I told her I was proud of her.  I am.  But for her to quit smoking, she must have been very close to calling-911 sick, that unable to breathe.  She doesn’t let on to things and she does not go to the doctor.  Ever.

And so my mother and Andy and I repeat this process every Saturday, spinning the wheel of Jonah-Fortune, each time getting a different result.  This time my mother and I passed a truck on the way down; on its back was painted a Bible passage about hope and trust in the Lord.  This my mother took to be a good sign.  I took it too.  If  God wants to throw us a bone, I’m a grateful pup.

Anyway, Jonah’s school had an Easter Egg hunt that morning, and Jonah loved it, they told us.  I wish there were pictures, a video.  I wish I could be Big Brother watching.  No, not really.

I just want to watch my son smile and laugh.  He laughed on the way to the apartment.  We held hands and sang Guster songs and Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.  We played Where is Thumbkin…

I took 3 pictures of us.   I’m a homely thing, but I’ll post one anyway.  Jonah must have gotten the cute from his dad’s side. 

When we first got to the apartment everything started as usual — Jonah almost immediately stripping down for a bath, my mother spreading out food on the table, Andy supervising the filling of the tub, me preparing to help where I’m needed.

Downhill it all went, quick as a bunny, you might say, and there isn’t going to be much of a blow-by-blow today because I don’t have it in me.  Jonah ramped up and ramped up, splashing water, then throwing his plate of food, then turning like lightning and going for my face.  I caught his wrists, he scratching the insides of my wrists.  On time-out in the bedroom Jonah decided to use poop as a weapon and started to push.

Andy quickly picked him up and put him on the toilet, where Jonah finished pooping – but not before he got some on the white knitted throw.  Andy did restrictive holds and scolded Jonah while my mom put the bedspread in the sink, scrubbing it, and I stood in silence.  There was fighting and yelling among us all.  It was chaotic and felt dangerous and wrong.  It made me want to scream that scream inside me, the scream that keeps getting bigger, tight and thick as a brick.    All this was supposed to be our little Easter celebration.  I didn’t eat more than a few bites.  I don’t know how long it will take for this to feel like another new normal.

I think it’s time we make an appointment with Jonah’s caseworker and we can all go and talk about Jonah, ask for guidance, find out what’s working for them and what isn’t, find out something.  Find out anything.

Eventually we did get a small amount of playground time with Jonah, and we walked over to the vending machines and bought him pink lemonade. “Pool? pool?” he even asked as we passed the gated, empty, cavernous rectangle .

Yes, bunny, pool is coming…just a few more months…

Then back to the playground, where he actually scampered up the slide and on other play equipment (as opposed to swinging to the exclusion of all else).  Abruptly he asked for “Birch House?” –which is where he lives, right next to the playground.  His bedroom window overlooks it, the play area…his favorite swing… the pool beyond it.  We followed him in to say goodbye.  I know now how to put my brain and heart on NEUTRAL or I couldn’t do this thing again and again and again.

A small scratch Jonah had made just under my right eye stung every time I cried yesterday.  My wrists look mysteriously pocked, almost pecked – The Birds style.

But mostly it’s exhausting emotionally for us all.  Sometimes I don’t think Andy is doing well, I know my mother isn’t doing well, and as for me, writing is my resurrection.    Still, there is doubt in everything I do — in every motive.  Am I too self-conscious or merely self-aware?  Am I hyper-sensitive or is everyone else desensitized?

And how the heck does the Easter Bunny get from house to house?  I do not believe this has ever been explained to me.

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Jonah and Fearless Fred.

This picture was taken a month or so ago, during the only snow we’ve really had.  A few inches, once or twice.  And remarkably warm.  Spring birds are singing.

I have not been here because I’ve been here, and here, and though I do love to write these things, sometimes I wish someone would pay me to write blog posts instead.  I have ideas for things I’d like to attempt.  A novel.  A memoir in blog format; basically, this blog (so as not to require any work on my part except to edit/proofread and ask an agent to read it).  But I’ll take what I can get.

Jonah was so good on Saturday.  Andy was kind enough to drive him up to grandma’s house, where I met them and we commenced to have circle pepperoni and bath and car ride (complete with perfectly-timed and very long train).  Jonah was hyper but happy.  I gave him a bath by myself (usually Andy does this), and we made a fine mess in the bathroom, splashing and laughing and getting bubbles everywhere.  He went to the bathroom like a big boy (it’s hard for me to believe I’m writing that about a boy who is going to be 10 on March 7th).  He ran, soapy and dripping, past my towel and into the front guest bedroom, where he jumped up and down on the bed and I jumped up and down on the floor, timing my jumps to his, and the both of us laughing and yelling Jump! Jump!  Errry-body jump!

I love Boo so much.

We have Fun Fridays once a month at work now, and they are fun.

I have joy in my life and I feel happiness again, though tomorrow would have been Sanx’s birthday (her 38th? I’m not positive).  And Gina’s been in the Times Union‘s big investigative report about NXIVM, and that’s all kind of crappy.

I also thought of the coolest band name ever:

His Boy Elroy

I shouldn’t have told you.  Now you can steal my coolest band name ever.
Take it!  Somebody steal it!  I should google it and see if it’s already been done.  Probably. Let’s see…

Yes!  Shit.

I think this picture was taken last weekend.  I’ll never tire of taking Jonah’s pictures and then looking at them later.  I’ve been sending more postcards and letters and little packages to him. 

I miss my boy and this is my way to be closer to him.

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Thanks to everyone who left such valuable comments on garnering the information I want about residential facilities. I really appreciate it!

On Saturday I came over to the house in the morning to spend some time with Jonah Russell and give Andy a bit of a break.  At first Andy and I took him places together:  the usual litany of train and mall and grandma’s house, though Jonah no longer really cares whether the train comes or not (and sometimes declares “all done train” as soon as it does come), and Jonah has changed up the route through the mall (oftentimes not even making it all the way to the other end before deciding to turn around and start back, and – most surprisingly – declaring “no coin” at the wonderful brand-spanking new coin-funnel spin-down-the-drain structure; three months ago he would have begged for every coin on my person to throw down to whatever-good-cause)…

…but he never wavers from his desire to see grandma.  Our cat Sugarpuss now lives at grandma’s house because Jonah was attacking her, picking her up by her fur and once trying to grab her collar, nearly choking her. 

Sweet little sugarpuss, who we rescued from a back Albany alley in 1999 and who wants nothing more than to love and be loved, purring and meowing and mushing her face into your face.  My mom likes to read at night and Sugarpuss actually crams herself between my mom and her book, then tries to sleep on her head.  My mom’s other cat, Bootsie, doesn’t seem to mind Sugarpuss so much but Bootsie’s definitely been displaced somewhat.  When Jonah is at her house we watch him extra carefully around the cats, lest he produce his best imitation of a hiss and chase them.

One thing that’s definitely increased by leaps and bounds is the amount of baths Jonah wants every day.  We can bathe him in our house and arrive at grandma’s with his hair barely dry, yet he’ll enter her house, run up the stairs, and immediately declare his desire:  bath!

It is no hyperbole to tell you some days he takes 6-10 baths a day.  And here we have certain rules and games and necessities as well – usually only one of us can be sitting in there with him, and sometimes we are all banned:  no grandma!  no daddy!  no mama! or, if he decides he wants one of us, hey daddy?! 

Then there are the bubbles.  There must be bubbles, lots of them, and water (pretty hot water)  as far up to the top of the tub as we’ll let him have it – so he can go underwater completely, take mouthfuls of soapy water and spit them in perfect whale-spouts into the air, and cavort about, making waves, always requiring a towel or two on the floor.

He loves the colorful Spongebob Squarepants container the bubbles come in, but they’re expensive so my mom secretly refills the bottle with something else every time he empties the whole damn thing into the tub, pouring water from the bottle to the cap and from the cap onto his head and then requesting various cups and containers into which he can continue the pouring extravanganza.

Sometimes he’ll stay in there for an hour, sometimes 5 minutes, and there’s no telling which it’ll be.  All done bath, he’ll declare, and then one of us has to hurry to grab up the towel while he runs into my mom’s room and jumps all over the bed, naked and dripping as we try to catch him.

Jump!  Jump!  ‘Errybody’ jump!  he sings and laughs, bouncing from one spot to the next like a jumping bean, until I catch him up in the towel and dry him as vigorously and quickly as possible before he can escape.  Once dressed he stomps Olympic-quick down the steps to ask grandma for ‘tune-fish samwich’ and black soda, which we usually let him have because he’s getting much better at going pee and poopy on the potty.

He did have an incident/attack where he lightning-fast shot out at his grandma, but Andy and I got to him before he did her any harm and then held him down on the living room floor until he calmed down again and we could go.

When we got back home on Saturday I gave Andy a much-needed break by playing endless silly games with Jonah in the heated basement – catch the beanbag (what color is it?), roll the pretend shopping cart, put the slinky down the stairs, stack the blocks (what color are they?) chase each other around – up and down the stairs – around the craft table – that kind of thing. 

It was fun and I snatched him up and hugged him tight, my sweet little boo.  Yesterday I didn’t go over; I felt stuffy and sickly.  When I called Andy he told me that Jonah had taken his radiator cover off and threw it into the hallway at 4am, which scared the bejeezus out of Andy, but I guess there was no fight or agression afterwards; Jonah just felt like kicking up the nighttime scene a notch, I guess. 

We’ll see how he does this week.  Another psychiatrist appointment on Wednesday for some further med adjustment, maybe, and I’m supposed to be hearing from Springbrook soon, once they get Jonah’s paperwork. 

I sure hope they have bathtubs.

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When I was in the hospital, there was a man whose 15-year old son came to visit him.  The boy had down syndrome and I was introduced to him and the man’s wife and other family members as they all sat in the TV room.  The boy said hello to me when prompted, then sat quietly between his dad and mom, content to just visit calmly, his dad’s arm around him, his eyes taking in the different things in the room.  I made a small bit of conversation and then left them to be by themselves.

The next day Andy brought Jonah up to visit me.  I hadn’t seen my boy in a week and I missed him terribly.  Part of me knew the visit would likely be stressful for Jonah, but another part of me longed for the same kind of visit I’d seen with the boy the day before.  When they arrived, I smiled brightly and said “hi, boo!”  but Jonah just looked confused, turning back to his dad.  “Home?”  he asked.  I lured Jonah into another recreation/group room (where most of the unit was gathered) by offering him a soda I had in there.  He went right for the soda, took a sip, put it back down, and walked back out of the room before anyone could really even talk to him or say hello.  I know the experience was overwhelming for him and I knew intellectually not to take it personally, but then Jonah cried for “car ride” and “home” increasingly, until even though he’d only been there for 5 minutes or so, Andy said it was time to go.  I wanted to hug and kiss Jonah goodbye but he started to attack Andy.  Andy quickly handed me his visitor’s pass and pushed the door open.  I watched from the window in the door as Andy struggled with Jonah.  They swung around in the cold on the path to the parking lot and I broke down, sobbing at the door, watching them until they disappeared from sight.

The next day I was talking to the father of the boy with down syndrome, and I guiltily admitted to him that I was jealous – that I wish Jonah was like his boy.  “Why?” he asked me.  “Two reasons,” I answered.  “Down syndrome is an immediately identifiable disability, (whereas Jonah looks ‘normal’) so people are more likely to be compassionate when encountering him, and also because he is so sweet and good-natured, attending a regular school and doing well, learning as best he can, operating in a world that’s got down syndrome pretty much figured out, that knows what it is and what to do about it.”  The man nodded and smiled.  “He’s my buddy,” he said.

I miss that man, and everyone else in my unit at the hospital, terribly.  We were a group of people for whom it was unnecessary to explain anything but the details.  The underlying suffering was universal – we all felt it and we all shared it and it was the foundation of everything for us.  It was easy to connect, to feel close to one another.  One of the rules on the unit was that we were not allowed to touch one another, but we snuck hugs and cuddled into one another whenever we could get away with it, like a very functional family in a very dysfunctional world.

I thought the hospital would “fix” me – that on new meds and armed with new coping skills, I would do lots better – but I find myself wishing I could crawl back to the hospital with all those same people where we all understood one another.  The outside world doesn’t have the same dynamic – people don’t understand the tracks of my tears or why I can barely breathe – and I have no right to expect them to.

Jonah was so good for a few days over vacation that I was once again tricked into thinking maybe we don’t have to place him – that maybe we can manage him okay.  By we I mean Andy, mostly, for I am not at home anymore and though I try my best to see him and assist as best I can, I usually end up cleaning up the messes left behind from his attacks.  I visited for about 4 hours both Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday was good; I played with Jonah while Andy took a nap and got some much-needed rest.  But when I left Jonah attacked our sweet little aging cat, Sugarpuss, who didn’t even fight back, and Andy had to stop Jonah from choking her with her collar.

Sunday was worse.  Jonah picked up Sugarpuss by her skin and brought her into Andy’s room in the morning, and we quickly realized we needed to find another home for our poor cat.  Then I came over again to help out for a while.  Andy was making coffee while I was in the computer room paying bills online, when I heard Jonah say “hey daddy?” and then there was a ruckus, followed by Andy leading Jonah into this room and onto the bed, struggling to calm Jonah during yet another attack.  I went into the kitchen, where Jonah had yanked the half-filled coffeepot into the sink, yanking the cord out, spilling coffee and grounds all over the kitchen cabinets and scattering a huge mess across the floor.  Andy kept Jonah in his room for nearly an hour and it took almost that entire time for me to clean the disaster of the kitchen.  Andy was bitten and scratched and I was shaking, my heart pounding, my panic rising.  How much longer can we do this?

We tried to prepare Jonah for the return to school the next day.  He had a horrible day at school, seemed disoriented and confused, and while he was in the “safe room” he pooped and smeared it all over himself and the walls, something he’s never done before.  (Actually, he has been doing very well with pooping on the potty at home).  The note home from school tried to euphemize the day somewhat, but Andy and I both know the deal.  Yesterday he attacked the bus aide and Andy several times, and Andy’s nerves are shot. Andy brought Sugarpuss to my mom’s house, where we hope she will be safe and do okay with my mom’s other, male, much-younger cat.

My nerves are shot too.  The nurse at school called yesterday because Jonah’s left eye (the bad one) was all red and puffy.  Andy gave him Benadryl and is waiting to hear back from one of the doctor’s he’d called, the developmental pediatrician or the eye specialist.  I guess Jonah’s eye is a little better this morning but neither of us have illusions of hope anymore when it comes to anything at all.

It’s like a giant wrecking ball has come down upon us to usher in 2011.  I don’t want to get out of bed and I don’t want to go to work and I don’t want to tour the residential schools and I don’t want to talk to anyone and once again I am barely functioning.  I have no idea how Andy is doing what he is doing and I thank God he has the strength.

I survive on medication and deep breathing and very little food (I’m not hungry at all).   I cling to other people’s prayers because I can’t pray anymore.  I sleep as much as I can and when I get home from work I do suduko puzzles, and I make necklaces with beads, and I curl into myself and rock like a child, self-soothing, trying to empty my mind, trying to stop my ridiculously useless tears, wishing I were anywhere but now.

Wishing the wrecking ball would just crush me already and put an end to all this fucking pain.

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To entertain Jonah (and one another), Andy and I sometimes change around existing songs, Weird Al style, to suit our very own weird little family.  And because we are often putting Jonah in a soapy bathtub right after changing a poop, one of our “top 10 hits” revolves around this activity – it’s sung to the tune of  “Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen, and goes something like this:

Da-da dum. dum. dum.  Put the soap… in your butt!

Da-da dum. dum. dum.  Put the soap… in your butt!

Putt the soap in your butt, putt the soap in your butt, put the soap… in your butt!

Hey!  I’m gonna clean you, too!  Put the soap… in your butt!

We sing gems like this to Jonah, he memorizes them, and then he performs them.  Loudly.  In public.

I know, I know.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  But how else to explain the necessity of a clean nether-region to a kid like Jonah?  He loves music.  He remembers songs.  This little boy, who can’t string together more than 5 or 6 spoken words at a clip, can sing entire songs – verse and chorus, the whole shebang.  Go figure.

Probably 65% of his repertoire is made up of Guster songs (Yes, I brainwashed him)…

…and maybe 10% kids’ songs (The Wheels on the Bus was an early favorite), 5% Beatles songs (he especially loves Michelle and Yellow Submarine), 5% old-fashioned standards (my dad taught him songs like “Daisy” and “Bye Bye Blackbird“), and the rest these silly made-up tunes that Andy and I sing to him.

Oh, wait – I almost forgot about “Happy Birthday” – one of Jonah’s all-time favorites, quite possibly because its performance at certain gatherings is rewarded, nearly immediately, by cake.   There was a time not too long ago when lighting any candle anywhere in our home necessitated a sing-along of the tiresome tune you should really only have to hear once a year.   Every so often I would deliberately indulge Jonah, lighting a candle so we could both sing the Happy Birthday song (to Jonah every time of course), pause for effect, blow out the candle, and clap wildly, shouting “yay!”

And then light the candle again and start all over.

And over.  And over, and over, and over.

Light, sing, blow, clap, yay! “More?  more?”

Light, sing, blow, clap, yay! “More?  more?”

Light, sing, blow, clap, yay! “More?  more?”

It makes sense to me, though, that Jonah learns well this way and can remember lyrics and tunes.  I mean, I learned more math, grammar, science, and history from Schoolhouse Rock songs (sandwiched between The Superfriends and Bugs Bunny on Saturday morning TV) than I did from the entirety of my elementary school education.  And I remember memorizing many a sedimentary rock for geology tests in college by putting their names to some then-popular tune.

No, I can’t say I’m surprised that Jonah sings along to life.

I have to wonder, though:  was it right for us to mess with such an anthemic Queen song, bastardizing it shamelessly into a ditty about (of all things) putting soap in your butt?

Even Weird Al didn’t stoop that low.

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