I found this picture today. It’s of my son from 2003. He’s in elementary school, participating in Field Day. For many parents, this is a typical, average photo they would take of their son. For me, it was cause for celebration. He was participating, taking an active role in being social. For me, this was also a part of “The Dark Years”. I was in the middle of my abusive marriage and the next ten years to come would be so wracked with chaos and stress, I wish I could freeze that moment like it is in that photograph. The moment I took this photograph, I was happy.
The coming years would be bring untold stress, loss and chaos to our lives. First, my daughter was born in 2004, bringing a little ray of sunshine to add to my life. Then, the downward spiral began. First, the loss of my grandmother, the hospitalization of my two youngest (my son, into a special feeding hospital for his refusal to eat enough ~ an all too common by-product of living with Autism) and my daughter, exposed to whooping cough through an unvaccinated child in my son’s school. My mom’s brain tumor and sister’s cancer, a full rebound by everyone by some amazing fate I didn’t quite understand but was left relieved yet scarred.
In 2007, I would face my surgery to end medical misery (that’s another whole post lol) I’d endured for decades and months later, the diagnosis of my mom’s stage four ovarian cancer. Before I’d even come to terms with her death, my father would be diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the fight for his life would begin. At the same time, I would be faced with the sudden loss of my husband during an explosive single car crash. My father died six months later and I sat in the middle of my home, reeling from it all.
Instead of lying down and curling in the fetal position most expected me to, I stood up and forged ahead, determined my children would see strength and recovery in their mother. I bought my parent’s house, lost 100 pounds and did everything I could to keep things going for them. We survived, endured it all, perhaps not unscathed, but strong.
This past week, my former in-laws treated the kids to a trip to Disney World. My son’s birthday was on Thursday, the second day of their trip. My daughter’s birthday, the day before, was celebrated as well. When he left, he was still “a child”, by the technical terms of the word, a minor. I don’t know who I expected to walk through the door of the plane’s exit yesterday. Perhaps I expected him to look different, sound different or just BE different. Maybe I anticipated some sort of independence I’d missed before. None of that happened. The same son I put on the plane arrived home. Maybe now he can vote, buy a lottery ticket and other assorted grown-up things, but it was the same child.
There are a lot of things that come along with having a child with certain disabilities become an adult. There’s tons of paperwork and other things that you have to learn about as you go along and some of them are challenging. Then there are concerns about insurance, choosing a new doctor, Social Security paperwork you have days to complete, yet they reply at a snail’s pace, while you bite you fingernails, powers of attorney, looking for open jobs and applying, etc etc! However, it will all get done somehow as it always has and we will forge on. I’m glad the man who flew home yesterday is still the son I’ve always known. It’s good that some things remain the same, if only for a while.