The dog's roof to her pen collapsed under the weight of the snow. Luckily, she was in her house. Hubby and genius boy went out to rescue her and make a new roof. Lu's cat wanted to go outside when I opened the door to take pictures, until he realized the snow was deeper than he was. Yes, Sean and I did laugh at him.
Ordinarily? This would be my dream day. I love being snowed in. Really. I keep my freezer and pantry stocked well (you know, in case of the zombie apocalypse) so we don't need food. We have a fireplace, in the event we lose power. I got videos from town yesterday. And Lu was already off work today. So it would be a good day to be snowed in. Except that I had somewhere to go today. Lu and I were going to pick up CJ and bring him home for a few days. We were so excited. We haven't seen him in a couple of weeks. But even if we could get out to the highway...the highway takes a southerly turn and they got hit worse than we did, oddly enough. And this highway is notoriously bad for being icy. They never seem to get it cleared well. Even if I wanted to risk mine (I would) and Lu's (I would not) lives to get there, I most assuredly would not risk his to bring him home. Lu is disappointed because it's her only day off this week and she wanted to spend it with her brother. It gets harder and harder to coordinate every one's schedule so that I can bring him home when everyone can spend time with him. The only saving grace is that I hadn't notified his school yet that I was coming to get him, so he doesn't know and won't be disappointed. He'll still be happily surprised if I show up tomorrow instead. But I'm in tears.
Some of you reading my blog are probably lost right about now. CJ is my nineteen year old son with autism. Not the kind of autism you see on TV. Not Aspbergers. More severe. He is nonverbal. He understands what we say and we back it up with some sign language but he can't talk back. He uses some signs (mostly when we insist upon it) and somehow gets his message across most of the time. He is amazing. He has the best most infectious smile of anyone I know. And big expressive eyes. He's friendlier than most autistic children and people fall in love with him easily. He loves to be cuddled, he gives kisses, and his sister is his favorite person in the entire world. He likes spongebob and jump ropes. He can Rollerblade with amazing agility and grace. He bikes so slow that the bike wobbles from side to side and I am amazed that it remains upright. His favorite food is frozen burritos. He can eat a whole bag in a day, if you let him. He loves candy and can sniff it out no matter where I hide it. He hates crowds and loud noises. When he's frustrated he bites the back of his hands. They are permanently scarred. Sometimes in frustration and anger he lashes out. You must be vigilant for the "head butt". My nose has been broken, my cheekbone and jaw fractured. Concussions also suck. He hates the time out chair. He loves playing in the snow.
He's been attending a residential school since he was nine. Do not judge me for this. I remember thinking once, when I was at a conference, that no way would I ever let CJ move from home. No one could take better care of him than his family. Didn't that mother love her child at all? But what I came to realize was that sometimes loving your child means doing what's best for them no matter how it breaks your heart. The difficult and continually painful decision to let him attend a residential school stemmed from the fact that our school district did not have the resources to provide him with the services he needed. Nor could we off the level of routine at home that he requires to make him feel safe. His increasing level of frustration put his sister and brother in danger as well as himself. The school he attends is amazing. While they accept children of all disabilities, in the last several years their focus has been autism. He receives cutting edge therapy from the SIU school of medicine. His teachers, aides, and homeworkers have all been trained and continue to be trained in helping people with autism. He lives in a group home setting with other boys his age. He gets to go on field trips and do activities on a regular basis. They have a set routine so he knows what to expect. There have been a few problems through the years, but they've been dealt with swiftly and mostly to our satisfaction.
We bring CJ home for visits as much as we are able. He goes everywhere with me when he's home. Grocery shopping, out to eat, ect. We get stared at alot. It's odd to see a nineteen year old holding his mother's hand or dropping it so that he can pirouette for no apparent reason. But we are used to the stares and pay them no mind. I use sign language in public to alert people that there is more going on than meets the eye. We plan alot of family activities when he's home so that he has a chance to be with us all. And when the visit's over and I take him home, I cry. It's like leaving a part of me behind. When we first took him to the school, I slept with one of his sweat jackets for weeks. Now I content myself with a pillow. I can't explain to you how gut wrenching it is to leave him behind. Mostly, he seems okay with it and doesn't seem to mind, but there are occasional times (mostly few and far between now) that he will keep hold of my hand or his sisters jacket and we barely make it to the car before bursting into tears. So don't doubt my love for my child.
CJ has taught me so much. He's taught me that love really can be unconditional. Because his is. He taught me about appreciating people of all abilities. He's taught me to be completely secure within myself. Not to worry what other people think. And that the most important thing is to be able to look at myself in the mirror each night and be able to say "I did my best today". Because in the end, that's what matters. That I do my best. And take responsibility for it. He taught me not to judge others. He taught me that laughing is better than crying. That I can't control what the universe throws at me, I can only control how I react. He taught me that my husband's love for our children is just as strong as mine. That we may express it differently, deal with it differently, but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel it. He taught us to be partners. He taught us not to blame each other for things beyond our control. He taught us that life is rarely fair, but that we could persevere through the bad times. He taught us that pain makes the good times that much sweeter and more dear. Without the rain, you wouldn't know to appreciate the sun. He taught us to live for the moments that take our breath away. And that life is a never ending journey of learning and discovery and growth. He taught me to not be ashamed to ask for help when I need it and to never turn down another's plea for help. And he's taught my children these lessons too. I firmly believe that the higher powers put people like CJ in our lives not as a punishment but so that we may learn from him.
This has been a heavy post. Thank you to everyone who's kept reading til the end. I've been crying steadily the entire time. Lu stopped in to see what I was doing and started crying too. So in the interest of not leaving anyone in tears...I'm going to include an anecdote that makes us laugh. It illustrates how humor has always gotten me through...
One day when CJ was about six, I took him shopping while the younger two were at preschool. We'd run several errands and it was nearing time to pick them up from school. I don't remember why CJ wasn't at school that day but he was definitely getting tired of the shopping. He'd recently started opening the door and escaping the house if my attention was distracted. I cannot tell you the fear that struck in my heart. So my last stop was to Shopko where I was picking up some hook & eye latches to place on the door, well above his reach. I promised him a bag of skittles if we could just get through this last stop. I quickly found what I needed, got in line and placed them on the conveyor belt, along with a bag of skittles. CJ kept reaching for the skittles and was growing more and more frustrated that I wouldn't let him have them. The lady in front of me was taking her sweet time paying and the store was crowded. I pleaded with CJ to be patient and give me a few more minutes. But I could tell we were rapidly approaching meltdown.
Finally, he could take no more. In an effort to convey to me his supreme frustration, he picked up the package of hook & eye latches and hurled them. They sailed over my cashier's head and landed on a register three lanes away. Everyone stared at me open-mouthed. I briefly considered explaining, which was my usual mode of operation, but I was almost as tired and frustrated as my child, so instead I sighed wearily and said "Do you suppose someone could pass those back, because I really need them." And that was it. They got passed back. The cashier quickly rang us up and finished the transaction. People continued to stare and I could almost hear the thoughts of "why didn't she yell at that kid. what a horrible mother! why can't she make him behave?". But I honestly didn't care. Because the only one I was responsible to was myself and CJ. I handled it the best I could at that exact moment. I don't owe anyone an explanation. And yeah, I still gave him the skittles.
I promise to be funny tomorrow...