Susan's Blog

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Let it Grow

Standing at the crossroads

trying to read the signs
to tell me which way I should go to find the answer,
and all the time I know
plant your love and let it grow.

So, yeah, this came on at the best point of my bike ride: the uphill that feels like a downhill, a.k.a. Warren Street in the “Estate Area.” It was one of those bright bursts of music I get on my bike, when suddenly the song fits the terrain perfectly. And, of course, my mood. I almost switched past it, nevertheless, because I knew it was going to make me think of Nat and rip open that same bloody laceration in my heart.

I was raised to take care of things, to deal with problems head-on, to confront honestly and directly. I don’t always succeed, but that is my goal. I am a child of people who come up with solutions, who repair and fix. No sitting around on your ass and wallowing. (See, in that way I’m a little different) So when I see a loved one in pain, I need to swoop in and do whatever I can to fix it. As a young mother, I could offer my arms, food, singing, jokes, stories. I could fight the bad guys, the bullies, the evil program directors. I could slam the door in the face of the stupid, insensitive doctor and smack down the idiot on the playground. Or at least I could fantasize about it until I felt better.

So yesterday, when I dropped Nat off, back at the House, and it seemed kind of low-affect in there, with a TV on in the middle of a sunny day, and Nat wandering around like a lost puppy, I had to fight back tears and a sense of overwhelming impotence. I drove away and thought, What can I do, what can I do? Is this okay? He seemed so down.

I had a dull pain in my chest and throat and all I could think about was getting away from this relentless sadness. What do I do, what do I do, the thought kept going.

So, as I approached Boston, I thought, but there is nothing to do. I have done everything. If I take him out, he will only have to get used to living somewhere else when he’s older, and possibly even less flexible. How much worse is it to leave home at 22 or 25, when all you’ve known is your parents’ way of doing things, and all you’ve got is a state-run home who doesn’t even know him, to transition him? If that? What are my frickin choices, anyway? He needs to learn so much, Goddammit. And they can teach it to him better than I can, and I know it, ick ick ick.

And — a new and old thought occurred to me: how much did I suffer at the very same age, as a freshman in a college that was utterly wrong for me? For I went somewhere else before I got to University of Pennsylvania, and transferred after freshman year. At Trinity College, I felt like I’d landed in Bizarro Land, the land of the thin, beautiful, blond pink and green Preppies, and I, with my peasant blouses, curly brown hair and ample — proportions. I had one friend. I gained a ton of weight. I got sick drunk several times. I went out with a horrible young man who would only date me under cover of night, so that none of his frat brothers would know. I was totally out of my element. I knew by Thanksgiving that I had made a huge mistake.

“So? Transfer,” said Mom, her best advice to me ever. And so I did. I found Penn and went there (and found Ned and other delightful friends) and never looked back.

The House is the lesser of two evils. And, let’s face it: it’s not even evil, not by a longshot. It is filled with caring, kind staff and sweet boys who are Nat’s age and into the same things as he is. It is 25 minutes away. It is part of his school, which I love love love even with its flaws and dogma. And then, there’s Nat, who, God bless him, has that compelling smile and a sparkle to him that attracts people and makes them fall in love with him.

And what would Nat be doing if he were here, rather than there, on a sunny day? TV, maybe a brief bike ride, maybe a walk. If we were up for it. But yesterday, at the House, he went to a semi-pro baseball game. His first ever. And I hear they are planning to see the Revolution play one of these days.

So the problem is, he and I are sad, just sad, about the change. We are feeling feelings that quite frankly suck. There is nothing to be done at all. Nothing to fix. No one to yell at. Just feel and live. Feel and live and feel and live and have faith, I guess, that it won’t always always feel like this.


Sending hugs. I always feel out of sorts when I am in the midst of any sort of major transition, too.

— added by Niksmom on Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 12:31 pm

He may have been sad because he was missing fun plan at “the house” and was summoned home instead. “The house” knew what they were doing when the recommended two weeks before a visit home. Your son would have established a routine and know what plans were in store, hell, would have been a part of those plans. Think of the stories he will tell you and his dad and brothers!

Nat feels similar to you freshman year at college…confused and understandably so.

This post is not to further make you feel worse but intended to offer another prospective. You are generous and kind to share the sadness of transition with your readers.

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I think it was fine to have Nat home for a little while. My freshman year at college was a complete roller coaster. One thing that kept me from coming un-moored was knowing that my (completely baffled) parents were at home, same as ever, when I needed a break.

— added by Mom to JBG on Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Susan, I look for your blog every day. I can understand your feelings very well and I hope Nat will get used to his new world very soon now. It will surprise you to know that Pito is my son. I think you know him well
I am all admiration for you and the way you are coping.

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 3:10 pm

The thing is, I didn’t summon him home. He asked, several different times, to go to our house. I truly felt that he needed to see that it was all still here for him, and to understand that he could go back and forth. I hope he does have plenty of stories to tell his brothers and us. That would be really beyond wonderful.

— added by Susan Senator on Sunday, August 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm

I guess that’s all we can really do as parents, you know? To remind them and reassure them that no matter how far they may wander into the world (whether by their own choice or by circumstances), their home will always be open to them.
Twenty five minutes seems so near and yet such a world away. YOu and Nat (and the entire family) are in our prayers. Hang in there… ~?Kittymama

— added by okasaneko on Monday, August 4, 2008 at 5:05 am

When they put my Grandmother into a Seniors Home they too didn’t recommend you come for a few weeks. Call everyday, send gifts, cards etc was fine. That way they have to learn to depend on the place they are living as their #1 support system. Until the Alzheimers got really bad for years she’d tell us she didn’t know where her home was every time she saw us… But she was well taken care of, lots of visitors and outings… Choices are hard, and you choose the best you can… just like you’ve done for your Son.

They adapt quickly, and so do we, and yes, just b/c they have ASD doesn’t mean they won’t push the “guilt” buttons. There’s no reason for guilt, no reason to feel you have to “add” something to his day, to appologize for where he’s now living, no reason to bring him home early, are you going to now every weekend when he asks time and time again during the week. It won’t be the same as home, there are different rules, different adventures, different friends… it just is.

You’ve done your best… you’ve crossed all your t’s, dotted all you i’s, time and time again.. you’ve done nothing wrong and everything right… Now it’s his turn, and it will simply take time and independance.

Best piece of advice I ever got when the little one was born “don’t start any habit you cannot live with, nor are willing to break”. Even more true when they have ASD and it applies to child or adult.

Now… go enjoy the rest of the summer… and call your kid to say goodnight… he’ll be fine.


— added by farmwifetwo on Monday, August 4, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Great Blog today, Susan, you and Nat are both doing great. A worrisome mother you are for sure, but Natty does seem to always come through okay. My son Matthew seems to be exactly the same way. Just when I am sure disaster is right around the corner and am dreading taking him to new events (like the first time he stayed overnight at a camp for autistic children) he ends up surprising me and doing just fine. Keep your sunny side up!

— added by Sharon L. on Monday, August 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Hello, I can tell you from experience that you have probaly made one of the best decisions of your life. My 15 year old daughter Punkin is also autistic and going to a resdential shcool. Punkin has been going to the Helen Keller School for 11 years now and she loves it. Yes it was hard at first to let my little girl be away from home but I realized that she needed some help that I could not provide.This is a time for you to sit back and relax and let your son learn and live! Punkin is learning new things everyday, such as;swimming, cooking and sports. Things that I would have been afraid to let her try. As school gets ready to start back, I find myself teary eyed and missing Punkin before she leaves, but when we get there and she see her teachers and friends, oh my God! the smile that comes across her face just makes me swell with pride for being able to let her go.

— added by punkinmom on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Thanks, all of you.

Punkin Mom –
Thank you. I needed to hear this.

— added by Susan Senator on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 4:45 pm

Trinity rocks! How could you not love Trinity? My sister went there and I was so jealous because it seemed like much more fun than Vassar. We are both Madeira grads and now my daughter goes there. There’s nothing wrong with being blonde, thin and preppy if you’re not an ass about it. We called ourselves the Bowheads from Hell.

— added by Palmer on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Nothing wrong with it at all. I was miserable there, and ecstatic about being at Penn. De gustibus…

— added by Susan Senator on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

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