Monday, April 23, 2007

Rough Audience of One

My youngest son, A., didn't much care for our new backyard swimming pool this past weekend. He played in it for a little while Sunday night, then again Saturday morning, but he had another place in mind for water play. Because A. is nonverbal, and because he employed trickery in an attempt to manipulate us, it took us a few minutes to catch on. He picked up swim suits and pointed out back, then, once he had a suit on, he ran to the front door, dropped to the floor and threw a tantrum. He wanted the beach, dammit, and that swimming pool was an inadequate substitute. This happened twice. And some people say children with autism are incapable of manipulating people . . . I would have just taken him, but he'll only let himself be driven around in our older car, which was making some odd noises, and which is in the shop today.

On Saturday morning, I took A. on a 4-hour walking tour of WalMart and the local mall. A. loves to watch the automatic doors open and close at WalMart, and he enjoys watching other kids at play in the video arcade and stuffed-bear "factory" at the mall. He also loves the lettering on the outside of Dillard's department stores. The local mall has two separate Dillard's stores, and there's another Dillard's sign at another mall entrance, so we essentially circumnavigated the mall, on foot, at a running clip. Moreover, the food court sells pizza and ice cream, and I had to make two pizza purchases and two ice cream purchases. Saturday evening saw us back at WalMart and the local park; Sunday morning had us at WalMart once again, making a circular route from one bank of doors to the other, both inside and outside the store.

A. was jealously possessive of your humble host over the weekend, and he demanded my undivided attention. When I wrote out some bills, he misbehaved to get me back into his room. He was in such a daddy mood that he wanted nothing to do with DW all weekend, though he usually is perfectly willing to include her in his play. Not this time. It stung her, and it took us a while to figure out what was going on with him on that issue.

A. was upset when we got back to St. Mary's yesterday, and I was exhausted from the weekend and the drive up. The nurse and one of the other parents commented that I looked like I was about to cry. Actually, no, I wasn't, but DW and I both frequently feel that way when we take our kids back to school, and we both have been teary in the car on the way home. Those moments of separation are emotionally tough for all four of us, though A. and T. are amazingly courageous and tough, and, by all accounts, get past the separations rapidly.

Yesterday, however, I did not get past the moement of separation very quickly. Last night, I lay awake thinking about how odd our family situation really is and how difficult it is on all of us--especially the boys, who can't understand why things are the way they are, or that they are progressing much better at St. Mary's than they ever did in the chaos of our home before they went there. I thought about DW's expectations of motherhood, which were shattered by her difficult pregnancies, then by A. and T.'s brain disorders. I thought about the contemptable people who make up what used to be my family of origin (I cut off all contact last year), and how much I still despise them for their ignorant, judgmental disapproval of, well, damn near all of our parenting decisions from day one. They can all go to hell. I had a very hard time getting to sleep, and I'm thoroughly exhausted today.

I'm reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln" at the moment. Last night, I read about Edwin Stanton's deep love for his family. After his first wife died, the future Secretary of War was concerned that his then 2-year-old son would grow up with no memory of his mother. Stanton spent his free time writing a 100-page letter to the boy, explaining how much both of his parents loved him. I can't speak for DW, but that struck me as something I might want to do. I know A. and T. feel loved--by us and by most of the staff at their school--but I'd really like to them to understand how deeply I feel about them. If, sometime after DW and I are dead and buried, my kids' conditions are cured and they are capable of deeper understanding of the world around them (and I see more and more signs that their understanding is expanding, despite their limitations), I would like for them to know how deeply DW and I adore both of them. I suppose I could have such a letter placed in our estate planning papers.


Miranda said...

That is a beautiful idea, Randy. I'm kind of teary-eyed thinking about it.

Ann said...

Thank you for this wonderful, open post.

Anonymous said...

Those are two lucky boys.

Sideon said...

You're a good man and a great father.

This post got to me, big time.

Anonymous said...

What you may not realize, of course, is that this website is just such a letter. If you continue to maintain this over the years, can you imagine what a discovery it would be?

- Craig (can't remember my blogger password)

Randy said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I really appreciate them.

It's nice to have this blog for topics like this that I don't really want to get into with people at work.

Sister Mary Lisa said...

Wow, this is an amazing description of a loving father filled with compassion for his sons. Thanks for sharing. I can't imagine how difficult it must be sometimes.