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Posts Tagged ‘Public Enemy’

My mom seeks out comfortable, high-quality shoes for Jonah in an old-school, determined way.  I think it’s her generation (the one that came after the Greatest Generation and before the Baby Boomers).  When I was little, she always took me to Stride Rite and had my feet measured carefully.

Her parents were big on shoes, too.  We did without some things but we never did without good shoes, she tells me.

And so Jonah has always had the finest footwear.  Until he got aggressive, we brought him to the Stride Rite in Stuyvesant Plaza, always planning the time of day so as to be the only ones in the store, if possible.  He paced in circles and we got him to stop briefly in that silver measuring thingee with the slider so they could get his size right.  The salespeople were always kind, and my spoiled Boo had a never-ending supply of fine footwear due to my mother’s diligence and my father’s financial backing.

None of that has changed. Once we couldn’t take him to stores anymore, grandma got creative, tracing his feet on paper, then purchasing her very own silver measuring thingee.  I’ve got to give props to these slip-on sneaker/shoes she found, because he loves them.  They’re easy, and comfortable, and so we keep buying them.

She just ordered him two new pair and instructed me to donate his old ones.  When I collected them at his residence, though, they looked a little too ratty to donate – and yet not destroyed enough to throw away.  Out of curiosity I tried them on, and they fit me perfectly.  So now they’re my house shoes.   I am literally walking in my son’s shoes.  I like it.  But damn. You know you’re getting old when you start telling people these are my house shoes.

When I was pregnant I remember thinking I’ll be 50 when my child is 18, and how perfect it seemed.  My fledgling trying his wings as an adult, me trying my wings as an empty nester.  Now 50 is less than two years away.  18 is too.  And none of what I expected has come to pass.  He’d be a junior in high school now, but he’s trying his wings in a far different way, and my empty nester time came 9 years too early.

Because 18 is coming it means we need to apply for guardianship so we can make medical, educational, housing, and other decisions for Boo.  We have all this paperwork they gave us about what we need to do.  I also had a free consultation with a lawyer about a special needs trust, but it’s a few thousand dollars just to set up.  We might be able to use some of his SSI money to save toward it; I need to look into that.

Jonah’s been doing great.  His teacher sends me notes and the residence tells us stories, and I think he’s down to one takedown a month or so .  Let me type that again.  I want to type it again.  ONE takedown a MONTH.  This from a child who was up to 12 take-downs a DAY (and, really, after that, so many that they were like one continuous aggression with brief interludes of Jonah catching his breath).  I’m very grateful, even though we’ve had to trade away some abilities to mitigate his aggressions.  He definitely is not enunciating like he did when he was much younger, for instance, and I think he’s lost some of the interests he used to have.

Then there’s a voice in my head that says well, he is a teenager, after all.  Don’t all 16-year-olds mumble and nap and listen to rap?  I’ve stopped trying to guess what’s what and why and how.  There’s no map for this path.  We’re bushwhacking through, just as always.

It’s becoming increasingly apparent Jonah won’t be able to live independently as an adult.  At all.  It’s not so much a surprise as a sigh.  It will be another new normal.

Oh, and I have photos to share.  Jonah’s now as tall as Andy and me (we’re all 5’7″ for this short while).  He slouches, though, so I think he might be even taller now.

20180325_101115Wearing his Public Enemy shirt my friend Kristin got him.  His favorite album is  It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, particularly the track Bring the Noise.

I’m too black.  Too strong, he says.

Fight the power, white boy.

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Here’s Jonah with my dad on Easter Sunday…and two more from

the same day…

 

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He’s been learning some simple piano chords.  Nothing amazing or even melodic, mind you, but chords nonetheless.

This is grandma’s living room, and yes – that’s a genuine signed and numbered Thomas Kinkade in the background on the wall.  (I’m not what you’d call a fan).  She got #666, and I tease her about that.

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Next to Grandma, Jonah looks like a basketball star.

Easter was good.  As good as it could be, considering our family lost my beloved Aunt Sue to a sudden stroke in late February.  Our family still sits stunned and disbelieving.  In shock.  She may well have been the best of us, and the first of her generation to pass away on my mom’s side of the family.

I hadn’t planned to ask if I could speak at her funeral but I did end up writing something and sharing it – a letter to her, thanking her for being my sweet Aunt Sue.  I’m grateful I got the chance to pay her tribute.   Now my Uncle John breathes in and out and gets through day by day and minute by minute, the long exhausting slog through grief that comes first like flooding water drowning you, then in waves crashing steadily at intervals, then like random jolts.  Sparks.  Sharp pricks of pins. Time softens the blows but never quickly enough.  The pain pulls your very heartbeat out of rhythm – thumping, jumping, scared.  It can rip through your stomach like flu and squeeze your lungs so you’re gasping, fish out of water flopping on the floor.  Everything upside down.  No answer, no solution, no matter what.  The panic and the desperation.

This life is messy.  Joyful, and sometimes agonizing.  Tiring and boring and too fast and very funny.  Recently another younger cousin happily announced she is pregnant, and so the wheel turns.

I have hope now with consistency, for the pendulum I’ve blogged about so often has slowed to a very slow swing.  I’m resting on it as on a hammock, still and settled, for as long as I can.  I have hope, and it feels just like the spring we’re finally beginning to see here in Upstate NY.

Boo says hello.  And Onward ho…

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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.

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So last week my mom and I are sitting at Andy’s kitchen table watching Jonah put his socks and shoes on (which he can now do pretty much by himself, although the ankle of the sock sometimes ends up on top).

If he needs help, Boo will ask “I need help please?” and you just know those teachers and caregivers at Anderson have been working on teaching him this since God knows when.  I don’t remember exactly when he started doing it but that’s what part of what this blog is for – to account for the history of things.  It’s also a cathartic process, a true-spun story, and an offering to anyone interested, most especially for those on a similar path…most MOST especially for those who need to feel they are not alone right now.

The whole “I need help please” was incredible.  It took so much frustration and anger out of my son.   Suddenly, like a flipped switch, a synapse turned ON.  He made the connection.  I can ask for help and someone will help me.

It’s such a simple thing.  So simple that many I could tell this tale to would think so what?  I suppose that’s because regular kids learn this stuff when they’re, what, one and a half?  I don’t even know.  But the point isn’t when Boo learns things.  It’s that he’s learning things!  No matter how slowly – no matter how long it takes – he is learning and doing so faster and better than before — and, along with it, only has a serious aggression every month and a half or so.

YES, you read that right,  Where three years ago Jonah had a serious aggression requiring a two-person take-down often 12 times in 12 hours, now it is fewer than 12 times in a year.

I owe the teachers and caregivers at Anderson everything.  I can barely talk to them sometimes; I am so grateful I start crying.  I wake every day and tell God thank you.  I can barely talk to God sometimes; I am so thankful there are no other words.

So yeah, last week. I get up from the table to accompany Jonah and Andy on car ride of which grandma traditionally doesn’t partake, for two reasons:

1) Jonah disallows anyone riding in the back seat with him if this is at all a possibility.  The kid likes his space.  And while it does not entail the lion’s claws, kicks, and headbutts that it used to upon daring the feat of entering the backseat with Taz-Boo next to you, it is still something that will frequently have him pushing you away, demanding more and more space, until you are smushed against the window and door.

2)  The car ride usually consists mainly of Jonah demanding whatever music he has chosen to be played louder and louder and still louderAdditionally, that music is typically of a genre my mother despises almost as much as she despises loud music of any kind.  (There are no back speakers in the car, so at least Jonah’s hearing is likely safe.  Plus we don’t take it past 6 out of 10 or so, ever). We just tell Jonah that’s the loudest it will go.

The point of this dissertation and tangential post:  When we left my mom behind at the kitchen table, Jonah turned back and said “bye, grandma.”  No prompting.

I think I was so in shock I went into automatic pilot and put that whole thing on a shelf for a good minute. These mini-leaps are simultaneously marvelously huge — but you can’t very well freak right out in the midst of it all.

And the car ride was fun, Jonah requesting a Public Enemy throwback to the late eighties and bobbing along to it like the thumb-sucking hipster he is…

Then yesterday, all of us are sitting at the table having lunch (and Jonah sits at the table to eat lunch now, wonder of wonders, rising to circle or walk around a bit notwithstanding).  We’re eating our “tune-fish” sandwiches and eating chips when Jonah takes a big sip of Vitamin Water (his new kick) and says, looking at each one of us in turn, “Hi, mama.  Hi, daddy.  Hi, grandma.”

Oh——kay.  Hi Jonah!  Hello!  Keep that synapse on, kid, I want to have a whole big conversation with you and I know it’s all baby steps but oh wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were the start of conversation?  Because there is so much I want to tell you and so much more I want to hear you say and I know I am dreaming but Oh God Jonah you are initiating conversation and that is BIG, Boo, I don’t need a speech therapist to tell me that, but I will definitely seek out your speech therapist and thank her, fall at her feet crying tears of joy, because I would love to know you on another level, Jonah, my son my only child, really know you…trust that mama will meet you halfway.

On our car ride yesterday I even caught one of Boo’s verbal breakthroughs on video — him answering me instead of repeating back to me what I’d said.

The thing about “verbal” children with autism is there as many variations of “verbal” as there are variations in autism itself.

Jonah is verbal, yes, but he didn’t say anything but mo (more) and point or use PECS  till he was, what, 4?  Andy can help me remember, for that was before this blog.  Anyway, verbal for Jonah has meant, at first, words to express wants (cookie?  black soda? car ride?) and then small phrases “want music on” (which he still says whether he wants it ON or LOUDER – maybe that’ll be his next verbal hurdle), then full, albeit very limited, full sentences — “I need help please” — but never before has he answered me.  Before, had I said to him “Hi, Jonah!” he would have parroted back “Hi, Jonah!”

Of course one of the major frustrations is he could never – and still rarely – tells us if something hurts.  I want him to get better at that so we can help when he’s sick or in pain.  One strange footnote and exception is when he was years younger, the day of his first eye operation.  In complete and utter despair, he leaned his head against the window in our kitchen and uttered, clear as day  “eye hurt?!” as if the pain forcibly yanked the language right out of him.  We gave him what pain meds we could and I remember cradling him close helplessly.

I could even get him to say “I love you mama” and he would parrot back to me “I love you mama.”  I still can.  In fact, it will be one hell of a day when my son turns to me without prompting and says “I love you mama.”

That one I’m still waiting for.  But I believe it will come, and the joy of that belief is indescribable!

– – –

There are other things I want to write about.

I’m taking art classes and I have ideas for a forum from which I can spout about my major preoccupations with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Guster, and Elfquest – among other more stuff, like my first attempt to learn the guitar and other musings.  Maybe I could start a new blog.  I want to write more.  I’m all about creation lately.  Bead necklaces and Sculpey clay, sketches and nature art.  It feels really good.

Some pictures for you:

Sketches from art lesson #2, done with a 4H pencil.  Mine is on the bottom left - the darker one.  My teacher wants to put it in a beginners art show!

Sketches from art lesson #2, done with a 4H pencil. Mine is on the bottom left – the darker one. My teacher wants to put it in a beginners art show!

Jonah and his "salad" (spinach leaves and ranch dressing)

Jonah and his “salad” (spinach leaves and ranch dressing)

This one is funny, but it DOES make sense…

My kid had it right all along.  He has always pooped the "right" way.  Glad we never corrected him!  ;-)

Jonah had it right all along. He has always pooped the “right” way. Glad we never corrected him! 😉

I love making collages.  This one I created on the back of an envelope in which I sent a card, necklace, and other goodies to Robin Roberts at Good Morning America.  Her book "Everybody's Got Something" was very good I wanted to write to her.  Never realized before what she'd been through.

I love making collages. This one I created on the back of an envelope in which I sent a card, necklace, and other goodies to Robin Roberts at Good Morning America. Her book “Everybody’s Got Something” was very good & I wanted to write to her. Never realized before what she’d been through.

Jonah's after-bath watching of endless trains coming and going.  Thank God for the railfanners that put these on You Tube,

(Jonah’s after-bath watching of endless trains coming and going. Thank God for the railfanners that put these on You Tube).

LOVE to all this happy Sunday!

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