Thursday, October 30, 2014

Proud mom. Happy mom. Content mom.
Diver just went off to a job interview.  Not just any job interview but an interview for the job of his choice: firefighter for our hometown.
There he was, calm and composed in his suit, shoes polished, tic tac in his mouth, ready for what lies ahead.
It's hard for me to look at him, this quiet 6'4" sylph of a man and connect that person with the chubby, noisy, joyous, tortured boy who used to run around here.
It's like day and night: boy to man, short to tall, chubby to slim, tortured to calm.
We are one of the lucky ones; a family whose child came out of autism.
Diver once heard me say, "He escaped the prison of his autism," and insisted it wasn't a prison.
But I was there. And it was a prison.
We are so fortunate. I am so grateful.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Letting Go #3

Today I dropped him at the airport to fly off to Israel, which requires a whole new level of letting go.  I remembered the first time I experienced this as he rode off on horseback on a Mexican vacation; in fact, I blogged about it in 2009 on the occasion of another letting go moment:
"Let him go, let him go, let him go.
Physically, I did.  Mentally, not so much.
Just before midnight, Diver joined a crowd of other teens waiting to board a bus at a satellite YMCA site in the city.  
Bye!  Have fun!
Not even a backward glance.  We'd already had our talk about the right way to behave, not getting drunk on sugar and pop, who to turn to for help. 
I remembered the first time I waved him off alone.  We were on Stone Island in Mexico, and he went horseback riding with a group.  I don't ride.  I grimace and worry, so I waved him off through gritted teeth and angst'd for the next hour.
Which is pretty much what I did last night.  Nine hours have passed and I am so tempted to call the youth leader on her cell.
Then I remember all the things he has successfully navigated.  Snorkeling, scuba diving, diving boards, flying, skiing, customs, bar mitzvah parties; things I could never do, not just alone, but ever.
So he can do this trip.  Even if the phone rings right now, with the cry  "Help.  Come get me!"; calls I used to get a lot, he's already succeeded.  He got on the bus alone last night and journeyed to an unknown world.  He'll come back stronger and more confident.
Maybe I will, too. "

I'm glad I revisited this, because it's the same thing: letting go.  So he can do this trip.  He's journeying to an unknown world, and he'll come back stronger and more confident. I believe I will, too.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Graduation Day

The tears flowed like rain and I cleaned up cat vomit.

That's what I do. That's what any special-needs mom does.
We'd gone to graduation #1 this morning at the special school my son actually attends and it was lovely.  Every graduation should be so thoughtful, personal and affectionate.  After the ceremony, the 18-year-old formerly known as Diver (honestly, I need a glyph like Prince) and his Dad went to Target and then to see Bubby.

I went to the gym and began to cry in the pool.  Because I had worked so hard for so many years for this day; and typical of any day during the last 18 years, I'd had to bend over backward to take care of things. And really nobody knew - nobody but another special-needs mom.  And on the spectrum of special needs parenting, I'm one of the lucky ones; still, today, after the last week of high-wire tension about the graduations and volunteer duties and work and preparations for glyph's leaving the country on Sunday and my back injury - and the broken phone and the cat vomit, I wept.

Then I came home and cleaned up the mess.  I had picked up and discarded the actual hair balls and left the spots covered with Borax for the last 48 hours but could leave it no longer. So carefully lowering myself to my knees (oh, that sore back!), I got down on the carpet and scrubbed.  And vacuumed.  And wept crocodile tears.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Almost 18

Well, well. Here we are on the cusp of 18, blogging again.
Maybe we should make this an annual event?
It's been a good year, with exponential growth for the young-man-previously-known-as-Diver.
He's 10 days away from 18, with so many plates in the air that my head is spinning.  Last night, they started to slow him down.  After a heady afternoon - picking up his suit at the Men's Warehouse, then grimacing through trying it on for Mom and Dad, only to hear that it was badly altered and didn't fit well - frankly, he looked like a punch line in a comedy sketch about a hayseed in the city - then, returning to the Men's Warehouse to try to get it rectified, while I harangued corporate customer service about their appalling work -
I know this is the run-on sentence of the century, which just gives me a glimmer of what's going on his head.  So in three weeks, he's leaving high school - the small, intensely personal school where he has spent the last four years. Last weekend, he crammed in a state convention for law enforcement exploring, where he won a first in hostage negotiation.  His advisors have asked him to be chief next year. Then we were informed that he won second place in the stock market game in the entire midwest and will be honored at a luncheon next week.  He (along with me and his teachers) are scrambling to get him set for community college in the fall, an effort we should have started 9 months ago.  We're hosting a family reunion in two weeks involving 30 out of town family guests and multiple social events.  On June 5, he has two graduations; one at his small school and one at the high school in his home district.  Three days later, he leaves for 10 days in Israel on a Birthright Israel trip.  Then he's home for a week before going off to be on staff at his beloved Camp Kodiak. Then home for 10 days and he starts at a still-to-be-determined community college.
And this is a kid who doesn't like change.
Last night, after returning from his second trip to Men's Warehouse, he retired downstairs to do some "processing". At 9:30 he told me he was heading into the garage. He said yes, there was a lot going on but he didn't want to talk.  He was still sitting there in the dark at 10:30, when I urged him to get to bed as soon as he could.
This morning he did not go to school.  "Yes, I do have a lot going on and there's something else but I don't want to talk about it" he told me.  So I withdrew, and have stayed out of the way.  Which I think is what I need to do.  Because he is almost 18 and grown, and can and will work these things out on his own.  I'm backing off and writing about it here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

And now we are 17

When I started this blog early in 2009, my son was 12, and I was a much-younger 50-something.

Who's grown more?  He is now a deep-voiced, manly,  6'4" man; calm, self-possessed, mature, able to function without me.  I, on the other hand, am shorter, fatter, weaker, slightly less-sharp, and more dependent on him.

My work here is pretty much done.  I am well-aware that I am one of the lucky ones: a parent whose ASD child has made a miraculous recovery.  Contrary to what the doctors say, it is *not* because of me.  Yes, he has had good parenting and good interventions, but every parent knows the hard truth that you can do all the right things and still get a bad result.  I credit God, plain and simple.

As he sails off independently, he will no longer be my significant other, rendering the blog purposeless.
If there are other parents out there who would like to caucus, I am happy to share my experience.  Beyond that, know that the age of miracles is not dead.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A word from the 16-year-old

My experiences at Camp Kodiak have been amazing. I am going to share some of them with you. Camp Kodiak is in Ontario, Canada, near Georgian Bay. It was started in 1991 for the purpose of giving a regular camp experience to kids with ADHD, Autism and other learning disabilities. However, it has grown into a place where anyone can go for a great camp experience, regardless of their abilities. Camp Kodiak is a prodigious place where you can make friends for a lifetime. The people you meet  become like a second family and the camp, like your home away from home.  I have been going to Camp Kodiak for six years now. In these years I have had some of the best experiences of my life so far.

The first year I went to camp I was apprehensive as most anyone would be who is going for the first time to a faraway place. I was 9 years old at the time and I had never traveled away from home on my own. Although this was not my first time on an aeroplane, flying to Canada unaccompanied was quite an experience. When I arrived at the airport, I was greeted by a detachment of counselors who were sent to receive the campers and accompany them on the three hour, coach bus ride to complete the journey to camp. As we finally rolled into camp in the mid-afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see a crowd milling about, waiting to greet us.  Stepping off the bus, I was greeted by one of my counselors to be, Jen Bollan. She took me to collect my bags and then went off to our cabin area where I would spend the next month.

One experience from that year that stays with me is the overnight out-trip that we took by canoe to an alternative camp site.  I have never (so far) experienced a more powerful thunderstorm than the one that came that night. This was very scary as the ground was shaking and I was feeling it quite directly as I was in a tent. Other than the thunderstorm, it was a fairly uneventful out-trip.
When signing up, you are given two options for what your weekday mornings at camp will look like. These are appropriately entitled “option 1” and “option 2” where option 1 is academic and option 2 is an elective. That year my parents had opted to put me in academics. Basically I just really did not want to do this at all. There were some days where I would get my work done and earn the opportunity to participate in more desirable activities later in the day. Other times, I struggled to complete my academic work and had to stay back from normally scheduled, daily activities. These activities included watersports, land sports and crafty things. Looking back, my academic refusal seems ironic because this past year now I was actually working as a tutor in the academic program.
For about three years, I was a non-kneeling knee boarder. I would simply lie on my board on my belly and enjoy being towed around the lake. Eventually, I got up on my knees and have enjoyed being a more proficient knee boarder ever since. In fact, this past summer, I earned a gold award for my sweet boardin’ skillz. I was very excited to earn this award because it was proof that I had put time and dedication into learning and practicing and improving a new skill. This showed me that it is important to have difficult, yet reachable goals.

A final experience I want to share with you about Camp Kodiak is the time when I got to participate in choreographing a play. Each year during first session, a play is put on for the parents on visitor’s day. Last year (2012) the play was, “Peter Pan.” I helped think of the choreography for this play and got to teach it to the other campers. This experience was difficult at first and as I got into more, it became easier and flowed better.  There were three main people involved in the play: Keagan, Hannah and Alana.  Most of my time was spent working with the head choreographer, Hannah, who was one of the counselors at Camp. I enjoyed working with her as we got along and worked well together. On visitor’s day, when all the parents had taken their seats for the play, one of our leaders greeted the crowd and talked about who had helped with the production. I was named as one of the choreographers and this made me feel proud. I felt very good about my efforts and involvement in this play.

In conclusion, the times I have spent at Camp Kodiak have been some of the best and most memorable of my life. I am very happy that I am able to continue going to camp for these experiences. I know that I am loved there and this makes me very happy and proud. I look forward to continuing my growth as I progress in the L.I.T (Leader in Training) program over the next two years. Ultimately, I hope to become a J.C. (Junior Counselor) leading to an experience of becoming a counselor. Camp Kodiak has been an integral part of my life and I am very thankful for this.
P.S. – Thank you Dave Stoch

Sunday, December 2, 2012

New Video from Camp Kodiak

Six years ago, I sent away for a Camp Kodiak DVD, thinking perhaps someday my son might go.  When it arrived, I plopped down at the table, slipped it into my computer, and proceeded to watch.  My son wondered in, watched over my shoulder and announced, "I have to go there."

He did, again and again.  It was the best thing I ever did for him; the best therapy he ever received, a gift, I have no doubt, from God.  All these years later, the camp has produced a new video.

Every word is true.