What can we do about the depression we get when we have to contemplate our special needs child’s adulthood? I was trying to get at why there is so much grief, so much more than when a typically developing child grows up. I am not completely sure why the deeper pain in the former case, but I believe that it has something to do with both the fear of who will take care of him as well as the feeling that something is over.
It’s easy to understand that more obvious fear, the questions “What will happen when he’s an adult? Who will take care of him when I no longer can?” In some ways, this question is easier for us to deal with because we can do what I did: throw ourselves into the planning and the research, and so control the fear with action and activity.
I’ve written a lot about the kind of planning, problems, and discoveries I’ve made so far in my quest for Nat’s group home and adult care set-up. I don’t think I’ve written much, however, about the underlying issue of the other issue of amorphous grief. But yesterday, when that Allman Brothers’ song “Melissa” came on, I found that the tears were about to break through. You’d think I would have clicked forward to the next song, but being me I made myself stay with it and try to figure some things out.
I was thinking about Nat’s impending graduation, November 11, and what it would be like. I saw him standing there in front of all those people – should be quite a crowd because twenty people are coming whom I’ve invited, and then there’s the school personnel and students. Nat’s teacher thought that a lot of teachers would want to go because Nat has been there so long and because, well, this is Nat we’re talking about and he is a very special person; the beauty of his face when he smiles just fills you up.
Ned says it will be a very emotional day. I’ve been focusing on the cake. This is more of the same as I mentioned above, I focus on the part I can control. But the moment is coming, oh yes it is.
I’ll be emotional because it is the end of something huge, Nat’s boyhood, Nat’s days as a student. The protective bubble of school routines, popped. But my planning about the future has made it so that at least I have a good picture of where he’ll be living, and what he’ll do with his days. So I highly recommend taking on some piece of the planning and research, every time you start to get the shakes about the future, because it helps refocus your mind. You can work on what will be.
As for the grief that remains, well, it may be about what was not. Maybe 22 is partly about facing what didn’t happen. He never did catch up to his typically developing peers. He never did learn about the Constitution, multiplication, etc. He is not going to college. He is not.
But then I see him in my mind’s eye, wearing the cap and gown, shaking his teacher’s hand, and grinning his face off, and I learn, for the millionth time, that he is.