Sunday, August 23, 2009

The summer of so much

It's a funny thing: when I go for long stretches of time without posting much on the blog, it's rarely because there is nothing going on. More often, I'm quiet because there is so much - so much to do that there's no time to blog; so much to say that it's hard to know where to start; so much that's complicated or sensitive that it's hard to know how to choose words and edit well; so much I need to capture without saying too much. This summer has been no exception. The blog may not reflect it, but this summer, there has been so much, so much, so much.

It's been happening on all fronts. At work, at a time when things are usually slow enough to take a breath and a little time off, there has been a perfect storm of conditions that has made the summer one of the busiest times of the year. Some of it has been stressful and some of it energizing, some of it the function of conditions beyond my control and some of it entirely self-imposed, but as a whole it has simply been so much to manage - breakneck speed from the start of the day to the finish, full days worked on half-day Fridays, vacation days used to plan the classes I started teaching this week. So much, so much, so much.

Home has also been busy, with both of my parents experiencing health issues we had not quite anticipated. My mom's situation has been logistically complicated but, thankfully, not serious. Still, though, there has been so much - so much scheduling, so much childcare shifting, so much wondering and asking and re-asking and confirming, so much phone-calling and doctor-talking and appointment-making - so much, so much, so much.

On top of her own health issues, my mom has been managing my dad's issues, which have been so much harder to take. My dad, the man who started aging one day in his eighty-first year, the man who at 79 was so young for his age, is now, at 86, so much older than his years. There is so much overtaking him at once - so much pain, so much sensitivity, so much exhaustion, and yet so much escaping him - so much missing, so much misunderstood, so much, it seems, forever lost. It feels as though there's so much I should do, so much I should say, so much intervention that I should make - and yet, it seems there is still so much I don't know, so much I can't learn, so much that a misstep might put at stake. I fear there is so much risk of pushing him further away, so much chance of increasing his feelings of vulnerability, so much more of him to lose. And so I sit, and I hover, and I wait, and I wonder, so much. So much, so much, so much.

Then I watch my son with my father, and am so much in awe of the friendship they've forged. I see between them so much compassion, so much forgiveness, so much unconditional acceptance. I look at them - this man and this boy, the bookends of my life - as they look past the limitations and see in each other only possibility, as each in his own way struggles so much to find the words that escape him and works so much to understand the words spoken to him. I see between them so much unspoken, so much understood. I feel so much gratitude that each has the unwavering certainty of the other, and yet, I can't stop myself from looking ahead - a year, two years, ten years - and thinking, what then? So much, so much, so much.

For Bud himself, there has also been so much this summer, as so much growth has meant so much change, and so much new to grapple with. This summer, we added a new diagnosis to the list: OCD, the disorder of so much, so much, so much. For Bud, it has meant that so much of his anxiety has had an obsessive focus - All is not right with my world. But if I can just have this thing/do this thing/arrange this thing, then order will be restored. If I can just dothisthing-dothisthing-dothisthing-dothisthing-dothisthing-somuch-somuch-somuch... until it is done. But then I see that all is still not right in my world... and so I realize that the real answer must have been thisotherthing-thisotherthing-thisotherthing-thisotherthing... So much, so much, so much.

Bud's Extended School Year experience imploded on itself, as another perfect storm of so much -medication changes, the sameness-but-differentness of being in a familiar school with unfamiliar people, the inability to establish a predictable routine for himself - became too much for him to manage, and I decided to pull him from the program early, so we could focus on medication adjustment with an eye toward a smooth transition to fourth grade.

And now, with that transition just a week away, I worry about how it will go, because I have seen so much in Bud this summer - so much that is frustrating, and yet, perhaps, typical of an almost ten-year-old - so much argument, so much defiance, so much assertion, so much rancor. And then, mixed in and among the unpleasant moments, there is so much that is exciting, so much to celebrate. This summer, Bud has taken on so much in his own head and heart. He has conquered his longtime fear of dogs, now approaching strangers to ask if he can pet their dogs, and spending long hours begging for a dog of his own. He has learned to manage his fear of thunderstorms, drawing on so much courage, so much inner fortitude, as he names his fear and heads for the windowless bathroom with the overhead fan, riding out the storm with his iPod or DVD player, never once needing his anxiety medication. He has embraced swimming lessons, overcoming his trepidation with men and bonding with his swim instructor. He has visited our friend Kiki's farm, allowing her teenage son to help him mount a horse, then sitting calmly in the saddle as Kiki led them on a walk - all while I stood, snapping pictures yards away, my supportive presence entirely superfluous. So much, so much, so much.

And so, you see why I have been absent on the blog lately - why there has been so much empty space masking so much activity and movement. But I think of this blogging community often, and I lurk on your blogs to catch up when I can. And even when I am not actively reaching out or chiming in, I am still moving through my life secure in the knowledge that you are all out there, just a few clicks away - that the cavalry will be there when I need them. It's a reassurance that carries me, a certainty that buoys me, even in - especially in - a summer of so much.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dream until your dreams come true

Okay, folks, it's time to rally.

A fellow autism parent sent me this link to a "Most Deserving Fan" contest on Aerosmith's website, where Sandy I. has submitted an entry on behalf of her fourteen-year-old son Jamie, who has autism and wants to be a rock star. If Jamie gets the most votes in his area, he'll get the chance to meet his heroes, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.

I know the kind of power that music - and the people who make it - can have with our kids, because I see it every day in Bud. As Sandy writes in her entry, "Yes, his autism still limits his world. But he loves the things that he lets into his world more deeply than most of us can appreciate."

So, if you want to help Jamie make his dream a reality, just follow this link, read Sandy's entry, and click on the little "thumbs up" icon at the bottom.

Rock on, Jamie. And say "hi" to Steven Tyler for us.