Susan's Blog

Monday, October 29, 2018

Vote Blue, Your Country’s Lifeblood is At Stake

On this ugly rainy day I find my mind turning to the potentially ugly future. Over the years that I’ve written in my blog I have made no secret of the fact that I’m both Jewish and a Liberal Democrat. I am in mourning for the Jews that were shot yesterday in Pittsburgh. Two of them were developmentally disabled. The others were also innocent human beings.

I live in Massachusetts, I believe in publicly funded social programs like Welfare, supports for the disabled, elderly, poor, and addicted. I believe in funding public education and special education and bilingual education. I believe in the spectrum of human gender, of human neurology, of race, of the human condition. I believe that the climate is shifting to very dangerous patterns and that it is because of our abuse of the earth, its environment, and the atmosphere. I believe in the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion. I believe in laws that restrict capital enterprise because the wealthy and competitive need limits. I believe in free press that does due journalistic diligence. They must courageously present fact. (Like NPR, who always has the other side on to express their opinion and viewpoint.) I believe in tougher gun laws and an active campaign to get rid of guns. I believe in the rights of all people to vote and live their lives safely and happily. No one in this abundant earth should be hungry and if they are, the other countries should be aiding them. I’m an FDR Liberal, a JFK Liberal. I, too, Have a Dream, and that is a country that is compassionate and helpful to others.

Got it? Here’s what else: I believe in history. If you count yourself as an educated person, you have to look at history to understand that the American government we are living with right now is a dangerous, pre-fascist one. The hallmarks of dictatorship are all there in the Trump and GOP-led Congress. Separating — literally — groups by their skin color and religious beliefs or nation, and then calling them names like “rapists,” “animals,” people from “shithole countries,” “criminals,” and  “globalists” — this is engaging in the time-dishonored tradition of dictators. Trump encourages violence against different groups, again and again.  That is how Holocausts begin.  It can happen here. Make no mistake. Right now, it is the weak and careless Republicans in Congress who are not defending our country’s philosophy of Life, “Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Justice and Liberty for All. E Pluribus Unum. This current administration has done the opposite and believes the opposite of everything I believe in, that I mentioned above, in my second paragraph.

In the name of my sons, the future generations, I am voting for a healthier planet and the lawmakers who will stand for that. I am voting for a Congress that protects voting rights and does not support far right Supreme Court justices who trash them. I am voting for a Congress that supports Medicaid and Social Security programs because those give my autistic son an adult life, outside of my home. This GOP Congress wants to slash those programs to pay for a tax cut they gave to the wealthiest in the country. I am voting for a Congress that supports compassion, fairness, a social contract. Protection of the most vulnerable. The Welfare State. The MLK Dream.

Of course you can disagree. If you can civilly point out places where I’m wrong, go for it. I’ll read it. But if you’re nasty, I won’t print it. (My blog, my decisions.) If you’re offended, don’t read me. Trump’s is a Hitlerian-style regime. In the memory of the Tree of Life Eight, the Orlando nightclub victims, the Newtown children, the Parkland students, and the all the rest, I dedicate my heart, passion, and resources to the Democrats.

 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Autumn Chill

Fall is the empty nest time of year; even the trees must deal with the fact of their seeds dropping off to start new lives. And I am an old mother, dealing with my children’s departure for years. My son Nat has lived away from us for eleven years. But this particular autumn I find myself unable to shake my sadness, the feeling that there has been a permanent shift, and that I’m not ready for it.

Like many families, Nat, who is my oldest moved into a residential school at 17. Unlike many families, this was a school for students with severe autism.  The move out of the home is so dreaded by most autism families that it even has a special term: going residential. For right or wrong, sending your autistic kid away feels like you failed him somehow.

For years I fought this feeling. I told myself that Nat “had to go.” He was out of control. He acted wild, like a stranger, he reminded me of the Warner Brothers Tasmanian Devil, a whirlwind of scary biting and terror. I’m sorry, but this is how I remember it when I think back. That, and I wonder if his brothers weathered it okay, and I cling to the memory of how easily he left us, how quickly he was absorbed into that group home community.  “So he must have needed a different environment,” people reason. They believe this, it is easier for them to decide that because Nat’s difficult behavior subsided, it means that he found peace in the strict schedule of the residence, comfort in the consistency and similarity of school/home routines.

But now that Nat is an adult, I experience him differently. He has learned, over time, to stretch out the moments between the spark and his response. There is space between us now, where I can now see how he is feeling, and not simply that he is feeling.  He has developed a wisdom and the strength to pull back and let me see him. He has learned how to be vulnerable and dwell in that particular discomfort that used to cause him to erupt.  When did this happen? Why did this happen?

I look back and I see the memories of my time with Nat, and the conclusions I made back then. One particular memory that I make myself look at is the night I cried out, “If you keep hitting people you won’t be able to live here.” To which (I think) he answered, “you be good.” Even if he did not answer that way, what I remember is that he took it in. It didn’t change anything; he went on lashing out at us without warning, until finally my husband and I decided we needed him to move out.

Was that the moment when he suddenly realized he was not a part of me, that Mommy was not Forever, and that he might find himself alone?  Over the years it has broken my heart to think, yes, maybe. I did the worst thing a mother can do: I threatened abandonment.

It is not just with Nat. I remember when my middle son, Max, wanted to sit on my lap, which was occupied by his infant baby brother Ben. And I told him, “You have to be a big boy now.”  Snap.

I hate the cruelty there, those moments of being only human, because I believe with all my heart that my children deserve better than that.

But lately I wonder. Do they also need to see the grotesquely flawed parent? Is it possible that children must somehow experience that break with their parent, in order to separate later in life? Max is now 26 and living in New York, working in the film industry. He is and always was a peaceful, accepting soul. When he’s around I feel a sense of comfort and easy joy. So it must be that his separation was healthy.

So there are times when I really worry that Nat’s separation was born of that horrible threat I made. Or maybe it occurred when he went residential. In those dark times, like during the rapidly shortening autumn days, I would see Nat’s independence as a sad thing, something he doesn’t quite understand, something that might actually feel like a punishment.

And indeed, he anxiously insists on staying at our home on the weekends, even now that he’s living with two wonderful young women who love him like a brother. I have no doubt that he adores Elaine and Miyabe right back; and yet he must stay with us on the weekends.

I’m leaving out something really important here. Two years ago he came back home to live with us for nine months. Nine months — the time of complete human gestation. You are born after nine months.  In coming back home to live, did he experience some kind of rebirth? Some kind of very old healing? He certainly healed on a physical level — the reason we took him home was that he showed up one weekend with mysteriously broken ribs. I took him back and got to know him all over again. And he me.

He’s settled happily with Elaine and Miyabe. But there is still that insistence to come home on the weekends. And at the same time, though, there is this new breath he takes when he is becoming upset, a short, flappy moment where he is able to look at me and wait for me to understand what’s wrong. His faith in me makes me calm and confident and then I actually do understand. And then we work it out.

Last week, when we were creating his calendar with Elaine and Miyabe, we floated it out to him that he was not going to sleep at home Saturday night. He listened intently. I then offered that the week after he would sleep at home the entire weekend. “Okay,” he said.

“Wow, he was so chill,” exclaimed Miyabe in that Millennial way of hers. He certainly was. And I’m wondering about new Chill Nat. Or is it old Chill Nat, who went residential calmly — successfully, at the age of 17? Maybe that really was good for him. Maybe my stupid moment of threatening him was not the fateful moment of separation. Did his time away teach him that taking space was really okay, not a punishment? For in doing so I believe he learned to take a moment — a chill moment — and work it out with us. He learned that he can come back anytime, and so he doesn’t have to.

And a new possibility occurs to me, a phoenix risen from the ashes of all my doubt. The smokey plume of hope, that this empty nest of mine is never completely empty. He can always come home again. Because now Nat and I trust each other.