New Years, Resolved

At this point in human development, it seems trite to make New Years Resolutions.  Most people make them and break them; they feel guilty for a moment, but then they move on.  For the past few years my resolutions have been fairly easy to keep:  don’t drink to the point of illness; pay my bills on time; compliment someone if I see something about them that I really like (you never know who needs a kind word at just that moment); look for something every day that makes me say, “Wow!”  whether it’s a sunrise, sunset, a bird in flight or just the act of breathing in clean air.  Appreciate everything.

Maybe it’s because it’s the time of year when we look back and wonder what we’ve done with the year gone by, and we start wading into the melancholy pool.  Or maybe it’s just me.  I felt lost for the better part of the day and I couldn’t put a finger on why.  Maybe it’s knowing I don’t have to go to work today (Monday) that I feel unanchored.  Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t written in weeks (and thank God, I fixed that problem tonight), and I’ve put so much energy into knitting that I’m afraid it’s distracted me away from writing entirely.  Sure, knitting is fantastic; it’s relaxing and exciting and it draws deeply from my creative side.  It’s play that results in something tangible and useful.  Hell, I’ve been writing  for years and all that’s done is create a bunch of stories no one’s bought yet.  I can’t say they’re all that useful, but socks?  Good Lord, are those useful!  🙂 

Anyway, I sat at the computer tonight, taking advantage of a little quiet time because John went to bed early, and I wrote away on my little love story, wondering if I had any concept of getting the emotions right or had I lost touch with that too. 

The other day I found out that the first person who really meant anything to me, romantically, has a page on Facebook.  It stole my breath to see that face hasn’t changed after all these years.  I don’t like going back there; it’s like feeling all those emotions again, fresh and raw.  Everything I felt that can never be anything.  It’s like standing in a yarn store with $100 in my hand, and I can’t buy anything.  Not won’t, not shouldn’t; just plain can’t.  It hurts, but it’s part of my past and I know how to deal with it.  Just file it away under Memories and move on, but tonight as I was writing about two people falling in love, I went back for a reminder of how it felt. 

Afterward, while I wrote, iTunes played on in my headphones.  I think a tiny part of me asked for a hint, a sign, anything that would tell me I was on the right track in this world.  I’ve done that before and sometimes it amazes me, the messages I get.  I mean, 1100 songs, and to get two in the exactly right order that show me something I didn’t see before?  What’re the chances of that?  I may have lousy luck at slot machines, but my iPod almost never fails me.  So tonight, after I closed Facebook, I heard Van Halen and the lyrics, “How will I know when it’s love?”  (Say what you want; I still prefer the Sammy Hagar Van Halen to David Lee Roth.)  Perfect question.  What I felt before wasn’t love; it was infatuation.  At the time it felt like love, but I know now, knowing John, having the boys, what I felt before was hormones, inexperience, and longing.  It was not love.

But then the next song gave me a sense of resolution, Martina McBride’s “God’s Will”.  See, in the scene I’d been working on at the time the song came on, the hero is talking to his sister about his niece with autism and what he can do to help her.  He’s a social clod most of the time and he’s not sure how to deal with his growing feelings for the story’s heroine, but his emotions for this little 6 year old girl are right there on the surface.  He doesn’t hold them back.  Through a little girl who can’t speak, he’ll learn how to express himself.  Being close to autism myself, I’ve always wanted to write it into a story.  I didn’t think it would be this one, but my CP reminded me that whatever’s going on in the story, it has to get worse before it gets better.  A writer who can’t communicate has a real problem, and that’s Gabe’s problem, but it’s not a problem when he’s with his niece Angela. 

Anyway, between “How do I know when it’s love?” and “God’s Will”, I think I know where my path is now. I can’t quite see it but I can feel it.  That’s what faith is all about, right?  So I resolve to keep following this path and see where it takes me.  I still wonder what might have been, but it isn’t what I have, and I appreciate everything I have.  I just needed a reminder of how fortunate I am to have what I have, to be where I am, and to love who I love. 

Bring on 2010!  It’s all good.

A Lasting Impression

I had a neat surprise this morning.  I was working on something generally mundane and routine when an email poppped up from a client I worked with 3 years ago in my old department.  He wished me a Merry Christmas and sent a lovely clip art picture of a Navitity scene.  I enjoyed working with him, “back in the day” (am I too young to use that phrase?  I sure hope so), so I told him so and wished him and his family a lovely Christmas and healthy New Year. 

What took me aback about his email was that we haven’t worked together in 3 years.  Did I make that much of an impression on him that he remembered me and felt I was worthy of good wishes at this time of year?  Okay, so these days, everyone and the mailman gets a Christmast card–note to self:  GOTTA get those done!–but still, it’s been 3 years.  Why would he think of me? 

I’ve spent most of my life trying to go unnoticed.  It probably stems from when I went to an elementary school in a rough neighborhood, and I got beaten up fairly regularly.  (Not necessarily with fists, but words can have much the same impact.)  It got to where I preferred not to draw attention to myself out of self-preservation.  Even now, at 42, I didn’t go to the VFRW Luncheon because, aside from the cost and that a 3 hour lunch would’ve left the boys home without supervision, I was nervous about the fact that I won the chapter’s Susan Wiggs award.  It’s given to a member who’s worked above and beyond for the chapter, and this year I was voted the winner.  Quite an exceptional honor, and I was thrilled to get the votes…and embarrassed, since I was on the election committee that counted the votes; after a while I started praying to see a vote for someone else.  🙂 

Anyway, I went to the Board meeting that Saturday morning but our chapter president had forgotten to bring the Wiggs award  with her (a signed copy of Susan Wiggs’ latest book).  I should’ve waited to meet her in the parking lot to collect the book from her, but I was nervous about the recognition so I waited a little while but then went home.  Even when someone says “Hey, good job!” I feel like I didn’t deserve it.  It just feels weird.  Plus, now I feel lousy for not waiting around to meet Judi after the meeting.  She put quite a bit of effort into making it into a nice gift, which she didn’t have to do–she’s got a life and career that keeps her quite busy–and I backed away.  So now I have a good reason to feel like I didn’t deserve it. 

Anyway, the email from an old client was a nice surprise.  For whatever reason, he remembers me as someone worth thinking about.  It’s nice to believe I really am somebody.

Video Inspiration

It was audio inspiration for me this morning.  (Deus ex iPod deja vu.)  I have a “first kiss” scene heating up in my head, and I’m crazy about the two characters involved. 

This morning,  as with most mornings, I cranked up the iPod on the way to work and this came on, and damn, did it make me smile because it fits the moment perfectly.  Gabe is a writer who has some issues with opening up to people, but Liz taps on a nerve he thought he’d hidden well, and he finds himself wanting to get close to her.  Liz is a people person who actually hides herself behind a persona, so while she knows everyone around her really well, no one really knows her.  And along comes Gabe.

Anyway, Bruce said it best.  Loving Liz is a man’s job. 

I can’t wait to see where they go from here!

The Good Old Days…

…weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.  (Gotta love Billy Joel.) 

Yes, I’ve been absent for a while.  Has anyone missed me?  (Is that crickets I hear?)  🙂  Things have been busy.  Knitting socks has turned into a borderline unhealthy addiction.  There are days I could keep knitting and skip eating, though right now that wouldn’t be a bad thing.  Mixed with this, I had a deadline to get my Golden Heart entry ready, and I got it in but just by the skin of my teeth.  Now to put a final polish on “Comfort Zone” before I submit to an agent I met in NJ.  I’m dying to work with her, but I want to make sure I put my absolutely best foot forward, and working on the GH entry, I found some areas of the plot I need to tweak further in.  I need to put the knitting down and plant BIC, HOK.  (Butt in chair, hands on keys.) 

So last night there was nothing on TV and John flipped the channels for a while, where we landed on “St. Elsewhere”.  I haven’t seen that show in years, and actually I wasn’t allowed to watch the early shows because it came on after my “bedtime”.  For a little while last night, I got to see what David Morse and Howie Mandel looked like with hair.  Honestly, they’re just as good-looking with hair as without, and hair or not, the talent is still there.  We also thought it was amusing that Denzel Washington hasn’t done TV since St. Elsewhere, but he didn’t have to.  Talk about a springboard to fame!  🙂 

We must’ve caught a show late in the series run, because Dr. Chandler (DW) was just leaving his career behind, and Boomer and Fiskus were also on their way out.  I’m dying to know if we’re close to the very last show, because I did see that one first-run.  At the time, I had no idea what autism was all about because nobody talked about it.  (Spoiler alert:  if you haven’t seen the last show, move on.  Otherwise, here’s a reminder:  the last episode showed that the entire series was all a product of the imagination of Dr. Westphall’s autistic son Tommy.) 

Tuesday was the 10th anniversary of Alex’s diagnosis, and as odd as it sounds, that was one of the proudest days of my life.  By November 1999, we’d gone through evaluations, exams, diagnostics, and even a quack neurologist; we knew he had a speech delay but there was also a possibility of autism.  All we needed was an official diagnosis to send Alex to specialized school and start working on reversing the problem.  It never occurred to me that this was a life sentence we were asking for, so I walked into December 1, 1999 blissfully unaware of what was ahead.

Now, one other thing.  Ryan had been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, so I was familiar with the ride from Staten Island to the orthopedist on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and truth be told, I hated that trip.  HATED it.  I could not think of anything I liked worse than driving the Gowanus, and now that I live in the Philly area, I can honestly say I’d rather ride a bike down the Schuylkill Expressway at 5 p.m. than drive a car on the Gowanus ever.  It’s that bad.  There were nights I’d pray for a safe trip, forgetting that the orthopedist could very well ask for more surgery (and that actually did happen later on, but I’m going off-track here).

The first pediatric neurologist (whose name I’ve forgotten, or I probably just blocked it out of my memory for my own mental safety) asked for a CT scan of Alex’s brain, but to put a very active 2 year old under sedation would require a horseload of tranquilizers, and he wanted no part of it.  I tried several times to put him in 4-point wrestling holds to syringe the sedatives into his mouth, with no success.  Finally the quack—uh, the neurologist prescribed the tranqs in suppository form.  Six of them.  At one time.  I effing think NOT.  I went back to the insurance company and said, “Give me someone else.  I’ll go anywhere.”  And they said, “How about this guy in Brooklyn?”  So I took the name and number and called the neuro in Brooklyn. 

The new neurologist was booked up; the next available appointment was December 28th.  All well and good if we weren’t looking at “a day lost is an opportunity lost”, so I asked if there were any openings, could she call me.  She said, “As a matter of fact, we had a cancellation today.  Can you be here at 3?”  It was 1:00 and I was in my sweats and a ratty t-shirt (white with blue flowers; I’ve since thrown it out), the kids were a mess and we’d just finished lunch so the house was a mess too.  I drew a deep breath and said, “We’ll be there.”  I took the address and froze:  Atlantic Avenue.  Oh shit.  I didn’t even have time to pray for a safe trip; I had to get the boys and me ready, in full winter regalia (because it was about 30 degrees outside), to get in the car and drive to Brooklyn, over the Gowanus, to Atlantic Avenue.  Probably the last thing in the world I wanted to do, but if I was going to get Alex his diagnosis so he could start school and turn this progressive disaster around, it was what I had to do.

And I did it. 

Driving through afternoon traffic like a live-action game of “Frogger”, we got to the office with 10 minutes to spare.  I peeled the boys out of their winter coats and kept them on my lap so no one saw I was wearing sweat pants in public.  The doctor called us in, and in 10 minutes of talking to both me and Alex, he said, “Your son has autism.”  I still think it was the most absurd moment in my life that I was relieved.  Finally our enemy had a name; we knew what we were fighting against.  It was like coming out of the fog and seeing a Star-Wars-type monster facing us, but at least we knew where the rockets were coming from.

I drove home in rushhour traffic, proud of myself for going toe-to-toe with my fears so I could get help for my son.  We’d have lost 4 weeks of progress if we’d waited for the appointment on the 28th, and when you’re dealing with autism and your child is already 3 years old and not getting EI services, every minute counts.  Sadly, I was still blissfully unaware that this was just the first of the many, many demons we had to face, probably for the rest of our lives unless someone comes up with an actual, bona fide cure for autism.  (She says with hands clasped in prayer.)

By the way, when you see me say “we”, that’s actually me.  I won’t give my ex credit for any of this because he didn’t do ANY of the legwork involved.  He did go on one school visit before Alex enrolled, but only because he wanted a day off from work.  All the exams, evals, and appointments, that was all me.  Neener, neener.  😉 

So here we are now.  Alex is 13 and over 6 feet tall; a far cry from the sweet, silent little green-eyed munchkin that walked into the doctor’s office ten years ago last Tuesday.  He talks, sings, writes, does math, fights me on homework and bickers with his brother.  Mostly all typical 13-year-old stuff unless you know that developmentally, he’s about 6.  I love him just as much now as I did then, but I worry about him more.  The future isn’t as far away as it was then.  I want to know what’s ahead for him.  I want to be sure he’ll be okay when I’m not here.  I doubt there’s a mother of an autistic child who doesn’t think she has to live forever to secure her child’s future.  It’s scary stuff.  I know some kids who’ll be okay; they have focus areas they enjoy where they can find gainful employment.  Given Alex’s love of movies, I’m sure he’ll have no problem working at Blockbuster (if they still exist in 10 years; “on demand” movies could phase them out).  The world will change so much, and I’m afraid he may not be able to change fast enough to keep up with it.  My greatest fear is that he will get left behind, and he’s such a sweet, kind, loving person, it wouldn’t be fair to the world to miss out on knowing someone like him. 

If Tommy Westphall can imagine all of St. Elsewhere, what kind of world does Alex imagine?  I may never know, but I bet it’s a wonderful place.