Tag Archives: children

I can’t stop thinking about Adam Lanza.

19 Dec

We know so little. Of what we know, these facts haunt me:

His family moved to Newtown in ’98.

He was 20 when he died, meaning he was 6, a first grader, that first year in a new school.

Family friends and relatives say he had Asperger’s Syndrome.

He was withdrawn, socially awkward, painfully shy.

His mother eventually pulled him out of school to home school him.

She valued, owned and trained Adam in, the use of guns.

If all but that last fact were true, I can’t help but believe the 26 killed at Sandy Hook, and possibly Nancy herself would be alive today. I say that because there are so many children, painfully awkward, who struggle in school due to lack of understanding and acceptance. There are many mothers, like Nancy Lanza, like me, who fight with school staff and administration to make school a better, more understanding and accepting place for our ASD children.

Did she finally pull him out because she could not get the accommodations he needed? Or even with accommodations and great cooperative work between the school and the parents, was it too late for Adam to feel accepted, understood, emotionally safe in that building?

What if every time Adam passed that school he felt anew the pain of being different, of standing on the sidelines while the other carefree first graders made friends, played games, laughed and interacted with ease? What if, as his own world became smaller, the knowledge that those other childrens’ worlds stretched out invitingly before them became unbearable?

Oh, what if there were no guns in that home, no family gun hobby, no reason for Adam to ever consider using guns as a way of expressing his years of pain and isolation?

Reports indicate Nancy Lanza was a loving mother who tried to move heaven and earth to get her son what he needed. I think Adam probably loved her very much. I would not be surprised to find he killed her first, while she slept, with four bullets, to spare her the agony of what he was about to do; to spare her the loss of her son and the knowledge of his actions.

I don’t know anything, just those few facts with which I started. I realize I am conjuring a motive and trajectory all on my own, with nothing to back it up.

But I also know that there are so many kids who have experienced such similar rejection and isolation; so many parents who have torn their hair out trying to understand and help their children. Even when their efforts fail, even if their children jump off a bridge or hang themselves, two dozen innocents do not go with them.

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Leaving Walgreen’s this morning

10 Nov

As I was walking to my car, a bumper sticker on a car in the next row caught my eye.

“My kid has autism. What’s your excuse?”

I found myself thinking how incredibly handy that bumper sticker would have been when Max was between the ages of four and twelve. Man, did that ever sum it up.

Intrigued, I peeked into the car. There was a woman in the driver’s seat, on the phone. Without analyzing my behavior, I walked over to the passenger side, leaned down and caught her eye, making the universal “roll down your window” sign. She did.

“I just had to tell you that I love your bumper sticker.” I began, continuing “I have an almost-21 year old son on the spectrum.” Unexpectedly, I choked up and tears filled my eyes. “So many years, so many struggles, so much progress,” I continued as she smiled and nodded knowingly. Then she pointed behind her to a boy, seven or eight years old, in his booster seat.

“This is mine,” she said proudly. “Max, can you say hello?”

The little boy smiled through missing teeth, waved and said “He-llo!” in a high, singsong voice. I said hello in return, telling them MY son was named Max, too. He was blonde like your Max and mine, Chris; had those eyes, Terry, that we have always said are so recognizeable.

We said goodbye and I returned to my car. I can’t find the words for what I was feeling: a combination of familiarity, nostalgia, sadness, and a sense of inevitability, too. So many Maxes. So many children, born every day into families who together will find themselves walking a road they never knew was on the map. All to experience so much misunderstanding from others – misunderstanding that calls for a bumper sticker.

Just another weekend at my house

10 Nov

(Since I just created this blog today, I am populating it with random scribbles from the past few years to get it started. This was actually written December 6, 2010)

It started snowing Friday afternoon and just didn’t stop. The minute I came out of my room Saturday am, Cole said “Mom, look in the backyard.” Assuming he wanted me to see all the snow, I went into the bathroom to look out the window. I saw snow all right – but also saw our poor Tiki hut my husband had built two summers ago. One of the four posts had broken, and that corner of the roof was almost to the ground. It looked so sad! I texted Vini at the office; he already had plans to fix it when he got home. He said that post had not been set right initially and a lot of water had gotten into the base of it over the last 2 years; the weight of the snow finally did it in.

Meanwhile, Cole was hosting a Harry Potter Movie Marathon, with a total of ten friends. One had stayed over Friday night, and the rest kept coming. Of course they all came to the front door; I let a few of them in and finally started asking them to please go around to the back to save my living room hardwood floor.

Vini got home and started working on the Tiki. He asked Cole and a few of the guys to help him lift it so he could prop it up with the new post while he dug out the cement and readied the hole. So everyone trooped out and in again in their snowy boots – sigh.

My plans for the day had been to get the Christmas tree. Vini and I were going to walk over and get it, and carry it home. I decided not to interrupt his Tiki repair and to just go get it myself. How hard could it be to drag a tree 3 blocks, anyway? Especially with all the fresh snow to protect it from getting damaged.

So, I went and picked out the very first one I saw – it was perfect! Very tall, perfectly shaped, with a nice long single top for Gingajing (our Christmas angel, named by Cole as an infant) to sit on. I couldn’t imagine why the tree was still there, it was so perfect. Went to pay and was told they don’t take debit cards – I think I knew that but had forgotten. Walked next door to the Quickie Mart (not really but you know) to find their ATM out of cash. The guy refilled it from the cash register; said it was the third time already that day he had to fill it. I told him about the Christmas tree lot not taking credit and he got an ‘aha’ look on his face.

Went back, paid for the tree and made sure the fresh cut the guy made did not take too much of the trunk since I wanted that tree to stay tall. He then asked where my car was. “In the garage,” I replied cheerily. “I’m dragging it home.” “You’re dragging THIS tree? How far?” I told him it was only three blocks. No big deal, right?

I inspected the tree carefully to find the weakest side, which would end up going in the corner. That was the side I determined to drag it on, since any inadvertent flattening that happened on the way home wouldn’t be visible. I turned the tree weak side down, grabbed a foot or so up the trunk and pulled. Oof. It came, but not as easily as I had imagined it would. But along we went, out the lot and down the first sidewalk. I cringed when crossing the driveway to SuperAmerica; dirty slush instead of clean white snow to drag it through. But then I dragged it up an unplowed alley to clean it off.

That dam*ned tree was much heavier than it looked! The worst thing by far, however, was my insistence on dragging it on the weak side. Because the fullest (heaviest) branches were NOT at the bottom, physics demanded the tree to continue trying to roll over so the heaviest side would be down. I refused to let physics win, which meant I ended up taking all the weight of it’s attempt to roll onto the side of my forearm, where a rather strong lower branch was leaning. It HURT but I gritted my teeth and continued holding it in the least damaging position (to the tree, not to my arm!)

Three blocks never seemed so far. I did get there eventually, then had to go up our 12 front steps. Yay, we were home! Now to get it in the stand and into the house. I peeked around the back to see how Vini was progressing; he and the Jeep were gone to the hardware store so it was just me and the tree again. Before screwing it into the stand I – OOF! – stood the thing up and did my best to lift it up and down, shake it and do whatever I could to clean off most of the snow before bringing it into the house. I did what I could, then eyeballed for straightness, hoped for the best and screwed on the stand.

I went to open the front door. Locked! Luckily PJ, freaked out at the possibility that yet ANOTHER teenager was trying to come in, went crazy, and Cole heard him. He opened the door for me, moved the couch out of the way as I dragged seven feet of wet tree through the living room. “That’s a lot of snow, Mom,” he said. “I know,” I grunted, “I’ll clean it up.” Then Cole helped me get the tree to it’s “feet” and voila, it was perfectly straight! A miracle! I had about 15 seconds to appreciate it before I heard cascades of dripping water start to hit the floor. The tree was SOAKED! I ripped off my boots (God the floor was so trashed) and ran for towels. Laid three or four around the base of the tree, and got on hands and knees to dry the path the tree and my boots had made from the door to the corner.

Oh and I neglected to mention that while it was straight, it was TOO tall. The tree was bending on the ceiling! I had to get on a chair, REACH and cut off that nice long single branch I had been coveting for Gingajing’s perch. (NOW I knew why myriad others had passed it by – clearly they could tell it was much too tall. Maybe because I am so used to 6’4″ kids my ability to discern height is skewed.)

Vini did help me carry the Christmas box down from the attic, then I decorated everything myself since he had a soccer game and Cole had – 10 friends in the basement! I felt extremely accomplished, drinking my eggnog and listening to the Carpenters and gazing at MY tree. Of course, today I have one heckuva bruise on my forearm to show for my efforts! It impressed my coworkers however

All but two of the kids (who had already been collected by their parents) were still asleep downstairs when we left for the Vikings game late Sunday morning. They were like a pack of warm puppies (very LARGE puppies), two to a couch, four on the floor, snoring peacefully. I left a note saying “Thank you for the NICE CLEAN BASEMENT before you leave” and lo and behold, that’s what we came home to! That and blessedly, just the one teenager!

Oh Children, by Kahlil Gibran

10 Nov

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Written for my dad March 11. Happy Birthday Daddy.

10 Nov

That sounds so strange even to type. You died when I was 12, but you and Mom divorced before I turned one. You were 44 when I was born so would have turned 95 today- wow.

I have memories of you, but most are stories others told me. One is of you sleeping fully dressed during my infancy, boots at the ready at the foot of your bed. You slept like this so you could scoop me up and rush me to emergency and the oxygen tent when I turned blue and asthmatic, apparently frequently enough for you to get the routine down pat. Thank you, Daddy. I still have asthma today but I am still here, because you were my fireman.

Another is of Mom telling me how much you loved to dance. That makes me smile, because I know you passed that onto me, and somehow even made sure I picked Vini so I would have someone to dance with.

I remember three things for myself:

The time you took me to your sister’s farm and I picked ferns. She gave me a Mason jar with water to take them home in. Mom smashed the jar on the front step after you drove away, my punishment for enjoying my time with you.

The time you took me up in a rented two-person plane, flying me (I never knew you could fly until that day; you learned in the Korean War) over my town, pointing out my house, my school. To the day Mom died I never told her. It is still our secret, Daddy.

The time you died, and I went to your funeral, and I was afraid to cry when they played Taps though I wanted to so badly, though my eyes were burning and my throat filled with a giant lump. I knew better. Crying would make Mom mad. I was not supposed to cry for you. I was not supposed to love you.

I am sorry we never really knew each other, Daddy. Really sorry. I hope we remedy that someday.

Child of Mine

10 Nov

Ooh boy – nothing like being reduced to tears on the drive into work! Dam*n cold day for tears, too – one runs the risk of them freezing to one’s face.

MPR’s “The Current” played that song this morning. It was dedicated by a mom to her returning adult daughter, home in time for the holidays and her dad’s retirement party. The DJ said how it didn’t seem to matter how old a child gets, they still love this song, as do their parents.

Then it started. And I was no longer driving up 50th in my Audi TT, I was sitting on the edge of Cole’s bed singing to him, along with the song playing on his CD player. It was one of a bunch of songs on this CD that entertained us on our cross country drive to the Jersey Shore (“You’ve got to give a little love, have a little hope, make this world a little better…”). The kids were strapped in the back of my dear old Celica convertible, slathered to the 9s (more like the 50s!) in sunblock, shades on, jammin’. The CD was on full blast to compete with the wind and the interstate truck traffic. We sang our hearts out.

Cole inherited the CD; it was in his room and he listened to it darn near every night for months. When I would check on him, if that song was on or about to come on I would sit on the edge of the bed and sing along, quietly, so as not to wake him up. I could never do that with Max; much as I might want to, he would awaken with a start. All my singing to him had to be during waking hours! There was no sneaking in and out of his room – even now as a lanky 6’3″ teenager, he senses when I so much as crack the door an inch to see if he’s sleeping.

Another song from that CD, another moment: Sitting outside the offices of the clinic we visited every week for about a year, over in the Como neighborhood behind the fairgrounds. Paul McCartney’s version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. We would eagerly wait for the chorus, and then 8 year old Max, 3 year old Cole and – hmm – probably 10 year old Mom would drown Paul out, substituting our much cleverer version over his interminable, 22 la la’s in a row: “You can hear them saying La La, Dipsy, Tinky Winky and Po… NuNu… NARRATOR…and the baby sun (and the baby sun)”

But Child of Mine. I know that song must tug at every parent’s heart, must feel so perfectly appropriate for their own relationship with their own child. I am not narcisstic enough to imagine otherwise, and yet – the line “I know you will be honest if you can’t always be kind” was written for me to sing to Max. Oh, how I would tell myself in those days of struggle; comfort myself as the tears streamed that while Max might never learn how to ride that mysterious, wobbly bike of sociability, “He will never lie”. That tiny yet noble certainty, the one ray of light blazing through our clouds. How far he has come. Riding that bike, and a real one, with agility and ease, making his way. He still isn’t always kind, but who is? And even those unkind moments stem from his core honesty, his inability to sugarcoat – for to sugarcoat is to dilute the essence of a fact. And facts are the bones of life.

As much as I used to straighten up with brave pride at that line about honesty, I bawled like a baby at the bridge. How to tell him that the world didn’t mean to be cruel, didn’t try to make it so hard just to even BE? How to keep his spirit strong when just getting through one day at a time was such a struggle? I didn’t know. I still don’t. But somehow he – and I – have come out the other side relatively intact.

Child of mine. Oh yes sweet darling, so glad you are a child of mine.

Carole King

Child of mine

Although you see the world different than me
Sometimes I can touch upon the wonders that you see
All the new colors and pictures you’ve designed
Oh yes sweet darling so glad you are a child of mine.

Child of mine, child of mine, oh yes sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine.

You don’t need direction, you know which way to go,
And I don’t want to hold you back I just want to watch you grow.
You’re the one who taught me you don’t have to look behind.
Oh yes sweet darling, so glad you are a child of mine.

Child of mine child of mine, oh yes sweet darling
So glad you are a child of mine.

Nobody’s gonna kill your dreams
Or tell you how to live your life.
There’ll always be people who make it hard for a while,
But you’ll change their heads when they see you smile.

The times you were born in may not have been the best,
But you can make the times to come better than the rest.
I know you will be honest if you can’t always be kind,
Oh yes sweet darling, so glad you are a child of mine.