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Speaking in Cursive

Walking through this extraordinary life.

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A dog named Rowdy near McCarville Road.

We had planned this anniversary trip for months. Celebrating 27 years of marriage. My husband had found a beautiful cabin, in the middle of nowhere. I was so excited. He had mentioned there would be no internet or cell phone reception. I was actually happy about that. Until we got there, and panic set in. How would I reach home? What if they needed me? What if something went wrong? But what if it didn’t?

IMG_0105About 10 minutes from our destination, my cell phone stopped. I was regretting booking this place. So many things that could go wrong. We were entering another Fall of goodbyes with our children.The oldest still in China, The 2nd oldest and his girlfriend about to move to Seattle, and one of the twins and his girlfriend ready to return to college for their junior year, about an hour and a half from home. I was filled with angst, and sadness, excitement and fear for all of them. Happy I still would have our Brett at home with us, and of course my 3 puppies.But I felt as though things were starting to spin out of control again,things moving in all different directions, none of which I could control.So we had planned this trip knowing I would, we would, need it. You can’t just make impulsive trips when you have a child with autism(adult now). You can’t leave him alone, so you plan it around your other adult children, to be home. I knew they would be okay, but we have never, ever been out of communication when we leave home. Never. Suddenly we had no choice.

As we pulled into the driveway of our getaway location, we were immediately met by two adorable Jack Russel terriers.They began to bark and ran up to our car. Instinctively we both got out and started calling to them, to come to us. They did.Looking around we couldn’t see the caretaker. He had told us the unit would be unlocked, to go in. So we did.To a beautiful cabin,done all in North woods design. It was stunning, and I should have been instantly at peace, but my heart was racing, and I was in panic. What if they needed me.

We went outside, and I sat on the ground, as did my husband. Here, coming from the green fields on the property came Trixie, the momma dog and her son Rowdy. Within seconds they were in our laps, licking us, kissing our faces. I didn’t know I needed them, until that moment. I think they needed us too. We walked the property, looking for Bill, the owner, as these two dogs became our shadow and our tour guides.With each step I could feel my heart slow and my mind relax. The what ifs that had paralyzed me, were becoming a distant memory. Later , Bill came to our door. My husband explained our home situation, and our need to have some communication with our son. He told us we could use his home phone at anytime. At that moment, I took a deep and soul cleansing breath.

We sat and talked with Bill for a while about his puppies,and how we just loved them.He told us how smart Trixie was and could do many tricks, but Rowdy was as “dumb as a stump”. He explained how at one point his daughters had County Fair award winning chickens, until one day, he came home and saw feathers flying, and a chicken hanging from Rowdy’s mouth. That is when I fell in love with a dog named Rowdy.

Over the next two days, we would go for long walks down McCarville Road, a winding country road where there must have been 50 shades of green. From emerald to sage. There was mile after mile of fields of corn. The hills, valleys and ridges filled with acres of wildflowers and birds. We would walk and talk and laugh. We would take in the beauty and the sounds all around us. We were living in the moment, not wondering or worrying what could happen.We just were.We put on over 12 miles in 2 days. I craved more.

Each time we appeared back on the property, there they were. Trixie and her boy Rowdy. Eventually, Trixie took a step back, to let her son get the attention, and lead the way. He took us out on the property to the trout stream. He jumped in, then rolled around on the grass. Then he would jump into my husbands lap. He was so enjoying having this love heaped upon him.Then he would come by me, doing the same thing, lavishing me with his love.And Trixie faded further into the background. Like she knew she had to let him go.

On our final night, we sat outside with Rowdy, Trixie nowhere in sight. I thought to myself,I know how she feels.We have them, we raise them, and eventually they leave.We fed Rowdy some scraps of our dinner and held him in our laps a few more times.We both felt an immense and deep love for him. Silly to some I know, but there was a connection there.My husband said “it’s like they were there just for us.” I believe they were. We said our goodbyes to this new boy in our lives, and entered our cabin, closing the door behind us. Rowdy wouldn’t leave. For over an hour, as day turned to night, he sat there, facing the door, waiting for us.I peered out our bedroom window, watching him, almost in tears, knowing if I opened the door, the goodbye would be that much harder.And I wondered where his mom Trixie was, and how could she not be worried sick over where he was. Then I realized, just because they’re out of sight doesn’t mean they are out of mind. Sometimes you just have to let them go out on their own, knowing they eventually find their way home.

His brothers keeper

And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brother’s keeper
So the whole world would know that we’re not alone

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the doctor told me I was having twins, simply by looking at me from across the room. Twins are everywhere on my husbands side of the family. Twin sisters, nieces, cousins. Yet somehow I was still shocked. How in the heck could we handle two more babies. At the time we already had a 4 year old and 2 year old son. So at 14 weeks along when the ultra sound showed two more boys, we were speechless.But we were so excited at the endless possibilities about to come our way. We had no way of knowing what the future actually held.

They came into the world fighting, 6 weeks premature.Yet, were by all appearances healthy.They continued that path, for the most part, until about 2 yrs of age. That is when we noticed some delay’s in Brett, but looking back, I see we were in denial about just how many and how severe.The summer before kindergarten they had their screening. The teachers pulled me aside and said they wanted to put them in different classrooms come fall. They were concerned that the twins were relying on each other too much. That Bryce was worried about Brett, and so he always “helped” him.The teachers felt it would help Brett become more independent. I reluctantly agreed. Honestly, I was more worried about the inconvenience it might cause me, having to deal with two rooms and two sets of rules.How selfish I was. So I agreed.

Every morning, I would walk them to school. I would watch Bryce go into his classroom, and I would hold Brett’s hand as he cried,wanting to go with his twin, his best friend.It was heartbreaking.They wanted to be together. They needed to be together.But, they shouldn’t be together. They were two different souls, on two very different trajectories.Just how different I had no way of knowing. I also had no way of knowing, at the time, how much pressure I was about to put on Bryce.Asking him to be my eyes and ears when I couldn’t be.To be his brothers keeper.

Once in 1st grade, I asked that they be placed in the same homeroom. Seeing as Brett would be pulled for special ed most of the day, I felt being able to go into the same room every morning would help ease the stress.They obliged, and from that year until high school, they were put in at least the same home room.And while Brett struggled, and fought every step of the way, Bryce was labeled Gifted and Talented in 2nd grade. So I was dealing with I.E P’s and College for Kids. I was straddling a tight rope. So in my ignorance I put a lot of responsibility on Bryce, to watch over Brett. Every morning I would say to Bryce,” Make sure you sit with him at lunch, make sure you help tie his shoes, make sure you help him zip his coat, make sure you help him with his locker….” the list would go on and on. I did this every damn day for 8 years. I honestly had no idea the pressure I put on him. My husband and I jokingly referred to Bryce as “the informer”. Each night we would say “how was school today, what did Brett do?” He would fill us in. Telling us of the events of the day, and all things Brett. “He couldn’t get his snow pants on mom” or “He fell off the jungle gym at recess, mom.” Each day we would hear all about Brett’s day, and we could feel the sadness in his voice. He was so concerned about his brother, his twin. And he was my spy, so I felt like I knew everything that was going on. Recently we came across an old home video. Bryce is talking to his brother Nate about how Brett sat alone at recess.”Bryce you have to play with him” Nate said. “I know.” he said.

I saw the twins, as just that, Twins. A duo, a group, yet a singular being. We didn’t say their names individually.We said “the twins” or “the babies”. Somehow, I had lost that Bryce was his own person apart from his brother. He had his own dreams and goals.I just was too busy making sure he took care of Brett when I couldn’t. I didn’t even see the pressure this put on him.Until the summer going into their freshman year. There would be no more same homerooms, or lockers by each other. Their paths were about to diverge, and there was nothing I could do about it, except let it happen. Bryce came to me one morning that summer with such a concerned look in his eyes. Those that know him personally, know that Bryce is a man of few words. He does not seek nor want attention. He avoids it. And he certainly doesn’t share his feelings. So I knew something was bothering him.”What is it?” I asked. It seemed like an eternity but then he said,”Mom, who is going to open Brett’s locker, or make sure he gets to the right class? Who is going to make sure he changes into his gym clothes?” He kept going, asking me, basically, who is going to do for Brett what he had done all those years? That is when it hit me, what I had done to him .I had made him be responsible for someone else. “That is not your problem honey, that is mine.I want you to enjoy high school, and do the things you want.Brett is my responsibility, not yours.” And I felt so ashamed, and sad. How did I put so much pressure on him?

As expected their high school years were quite different. While Brett had I.E.P’s all through high school, Bryce had advanced classes. He was gifted academically and athletically. He had more friends than I could count. His high school years were filled with social events, and prom and homecoming courts and with all conference awards for sports. He was Bryce. Singular. And while he would still fill me in on things he heard Brett had done during the day, it wasn’t expected of him to know or to tell. When the time came for Bryce to choose a college, and move away, we left that up to him. It was his life he had to live. Not ours and not his twins. He continues to amaze us with his academic abilities (Deans List 4 semesters straight!)  and with his quiet strength and compassion.While away at school he would text everyday, usually asking “what is Brett doing?” I think, maybe, even without me telling him to, he would’ve watched over him all those years. You see, he never stopped being his brothers keeper.

Wide Awake

 

My son Bryce comes home from college today for the summer, and his twin has been up since 4 a.m. beside himself with excitement. But he will never admit to that. I am not sure he can.

I am a very light sleeper anyway, but I began to hear rumblings at about 3:30 a.m. I went downstairs, only  one eye partially open, dogs following in hot pursuit. The lyrics to the song “My name is NO” forming in my mouth. Brett was up, and I knew why. Bryce, his twin, would be home today. “What are you doing up?” I asked. “Don’t judge me!” he declared.I explained that I was, in fact, Not judging him,but rather just curious. “I just couldn’t sleep.” he said. “Brycie comes home today!” I exclaimed, to which he responded “Oh Shit!” He was trying to act like he didn’t know or care.I knew better.

He began  stimming Continue reading “Wide Awake”

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