Posts tagged ‘disabilities’

The ABCs of ADHD Redux

I wrote this post more than five years ago. These words were expressed when I was working full time and trying to raise 2 kiddos with ADHD, 2 with ADD, and 2 with RAD. I have cooled down a bit, and things have improved immensely. (I know many people are anti-medication for good reasons, but for me, my children would not have survived with out it.) I have nostalgia for several of the comments, and say “GOOD RIDDANCE” to the things I don’t have to worry about anymore!
And so, without further ado, The ABCs of ADHD redux!

I’ve read the articles and books on ADHD. I know the discipline methods, positive reinforcement, rewards and time outs, the methods of Ross Green, sensory diets, nutritional preferences and the medications that work best. But I also know the realities of ADHD. In real life terms, the ABCs of ADHD/ADD are:

Attention! Always on alert for dangerous situations due to impulsive behaviors, such as running across streets without looking, grabbing a butcher knife to cut the end off a banana, running up the down escalator, and grabbing the dog or any other animal roughly and the dog (or other animal) retaliating by biting (or scratching.)

Be careful! Be careful! Be careful” is the parent mantra.

Climbing climbing climbing: out of the crib at age 15 months, out of the bedroom window when a teenager, on rock walls and curbstones and couches.

Don’t touch that! Don’t do that! Don’t hit her! Don’t pull that! Don’t eat that! Don’t hurt it! Don’t break it!

Exhausted parents trying their best to keep up.

Friendships are difficult.

Go! Go! Go! They’re always on the go!

Helpless parents, unable to control their child’s behavior, especially embarrassing in the grocery store under the staring eyes of others, judging them.

If only he’d… If only she’d…. Parents dream for a different lifestyle.

Jumping Bean: he goes here and there from friend to friend to friend, never staying long enough to establish a real friendship.

Kitchen walls are written on, cupboard doors have nicks in them, curtains are ripped, bedrooms are messy.

LOVE. Parents give unconditional love, but the behavior doesn’t change because the ADHD remains…

Medication? Medication? Medication? Should I use it or should I not?

Not paying attention in school so schoolwork suffers: not paying attention for homework, so it’s a nightly fight: not paying attention to other’s feelings, so keeping friends is difficult.

Overload happens easily and tantrums result. Keep it quiet. Keep it simple. Keep it under stimulated for peace.

Psychiatrists have become my best friends!

Questions! Questions from them all the time! Especially hard to escape when you are stuck riding in the car together.

Rewards for good behaviors; cuddles, high 5s, stickers, ice cream, Playstation, tv.

Self-esteem is low; it seems as though parent’s and teacher’s patience is limited; always the troublemaker, always in trouble.

Time-outs in the seat till we’re blue in the face. All the time spent in time-outs would add up to a year in the life.

Understanding is needed from parents, family, friends and teachers; understanding is often in short supply.

Very draining on all, child and adults.

Whining, whining, whining until parent’s ears hurt.

X-rays, CAT Scans and emergency room visits: active behavior results in injuries.

YIKES! What has he done NOW?!?!

Zest for life would be a polite way of putting it…

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To read more about those early years, struggling to raise children, please read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Another Year, Another Memory

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(cartoon reprinted from Readers Digest. Two angels are standing on Cloud 8 with the caption “Well yes, I’m happy. But I could be happier…) Don’t let this be you!

A new year has begun! Whoopee! I am so excited to see what great things the new year brings! I only have two annual New Year’s resolutions:
Resolution #1: I think back on last year, and am grateful for all of the wonderful little things that worked out well.

*Found out about Orange Leaf yogurt place where I could get healthy sugar free, non fat yogurt with my choice of toppings, m&ms, hot fudge (yum!), gummy bears, snickers and all the whipped cream I can fit!

*My daughter, Marie, has finally found a counselor trained in trauma and abuse who is fluent in American Sign Language. After all these years! FINALLY she is able to make some progress in this area. As her mom, I have been the only one she has confided in, and it will be nice to share that weight with a professional.

*I loved watching The Good Wife! And Storage Wars! And Survivor!

*I lost a pound and a half. Not quite my goal of 30 pounds, but at least it is in the right direction!

*I have two new grandchildren on the way with a whole lifetime to enjoy them. (Long live nana!)

*Another year accident free…where’s my check from Allstate?

*Another year major illness free! (The hubby had a bout with colon cancer a few years ago, but has been fine ever since surgery because it was caught early.)

*My daughter, Dinora, has a great new job, a fiance, and a cute little house.

*My son, Steven, (who has autism and ADHD,) has a wonderful new fiancee whose OCD keeps things structured and in place for him, stabilizing his disability. (There IS someone for everyone!)

*During several great movies, (The Butler, Gravity, and all of the Pixar films,) I ate plenty of buttered popcorn and jelly bellies. (Ahhhhh! May be the reason I didn’t loose more weight.)

*My son, Angel, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, has miraculously made it through high school without seriously harming anyone. (Except for the refrigerator he overturned on a teacher…which turned out to be the teacher’s “fault”. In Angel’s IEP was the stipulation that he cannot be yelled at lest the “angry part”, over which he has no control or memory, comes out to protect him, a reflex reaction.) Life with Angel is quite interesting…

*Our cars, both over 8 years old and with more than 150,000 miles each, are still running and getting us places.

*My son, Francis, who, despite his blindness, is still making boatloads of money in the Silicon Valley computer industry. (On less child I have to support.)

*All in all, another successful year with more ups than downs.

Resolution #2: I look forward to the coming year with optimism and enjoyment. Hopefully it will be another successful year with more ups and downs, and I will make memories to put on my list for #1 next year!

Hopefully, your life will also have joy, happiness, love, and some interesting foods to eat!

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To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

And The Paper Creeped out the Bottom of the Door

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A very large, very tall, very old 15 passenger van with a wheelchair lift with over 138,000 miles on it is my vehicle. Not my ideal choice, but “it is what it is” as all of our money is allocated elsewhere. (All those cute little kiddos with disabilities grow up to be cute little adults with disabilities who, unfortunately, find it impossible to be able to work. Not that that makes them any less wonderful, enjoyable or successful, it just puts a little extra strain on our family budget.)

In the van on Wednesday, I was enjoying a beautiful, crisp autumn day, with a slight wind moving the branches around for the trees to show off their few remaining colorful leaves just waiting to join their friends on the ground. Contentment filled the van as I hummed while I drove. I didn’t quite do the lovely singing I usually do because I was on a mission for work. (While driving to make home visits is not usually included in my job description, on this day I was helping out a colleague.) Because I am awful with directions, “mapquested” directions lay on the floor next to the driver’s seat.
As the van whisked along on the interstate highway, I noticed that the directions had moved towards the door. Keeping one eye on the road and one eye on the directions, I watched with panic as the papers moved closer to the door…down one of the steps…down the next step…and finally on the third step. It happened in the blink of my eye (the one that was watching the papers!) As I was in heavy traffic, it took a while to maneuver to the side of the road to stop, and the papers inched towards the bottom of the door. (The door gasket had long ago aged out and fallen away, leaving a space at least an inch wide at the bottom.) Panic set in as a piece of paper entered the crack and ever so slowly inched out…it was like seeing my life flash before my eyes, quarter inch by quarter inch, as the paper made its way free out of the opening. It was so surreal it reminded me of a cartoon…person chasing paper in the wind and the paper is always one step ahead, teasingly just a little bit out of reach! I would have laughed, but inside I was sick to my stomach. My directions were gone! The client I was going to be meeting would be sitting, forlorn, at her home, waiting patiently for the me that would never be able to find her house.
But WAIT! There was another paper there, clinging to the bottom step. Maybe I could salvage the final steps of the street directions. By this time, the van was safely stopped by the side of the road and I flung myself out of the driver’s seat onto the floor of the van to look down the stairwell. On my knees looking down, almost crying with happiness, I grabbed that one precious piece of paper…it included the final steps to get to the client’s home. I would be able to find her! I would make that visit! I was soooooo happy!

While in the scheme of things, losing mapquested directions would not be the end of the world, in retrospect it symbolizes the constant struggles one has when raising children with disabilities. There are often solutions to their problems, but they are flighty and hard to come by. Sometimes they flip through our fingers through no fault of our own and we are left in a slight panic, (sometimes a huge panic…) Fortunately for me, I have always found that last page to my mapquested directions, just enough to make life work out. Just enough to relieve my panic and restore the happiness in my heart. Such is the ups and downs in life…

I Thought It Was the End of the World…Really!

I led a very eclectic lifestyle when I was a child, traveling around the country with a vagabond family. It was a wonderful life, made all that more meaningful by a mother who possessed a natural spirituality. We may not have gone to church Sundays, but our life was naturally filled with the presence of God.

Because I feel that I know you all, I am going to share a personal, life altering childhood experience. We were camping high in the mountains, a favorite spot for my father because he could sit and look out over the valleys and little towns below. For him, it seemed to minimized the stressors of life. How could life be so bad when the people were the size of ants and the lakes the size of large drops of water? For whatever reason, he seemed to feel safe in the mountains Things were good. Things were peaceful. We were content.

One night while I was sleeping, I was awakened by an extremely loud, earth shattering noise. My body shook with such a ferocity I thought I was going to fall out of my top bunk. Although it was later determined to be a nearby bolt of lightning, I will never forget how I felt immediately when I woke up; I thought it was the end of the world! I thought life as we knew it was over. My immediate reaction was such profound joy and love that my heart wanted to burst with happiness. I was deeply disappointed when I found out it was only thunder, and not a joyous entrance into the world beyond and an opportunity to meet God.

As a child who had never read the Bible or been “religious”, in retrospect it is surprising that my first thought was not fear at the concept of the end of the world but joy! It was not something I had learned about in catechism, or had even thought of before. My first feeling was automatic and unbelievable happiness and love. And it is that feeling that I carry with me to this day. For I know that the heart of that child so many years ago experienced a true and prophetic revelation…that God lives in the hearts of all of us, we just don’t always see it. Wouldn’t the world be different if we all knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a joyous eternity awaits us? I was so very fortunate to have learned that at an early age…

Is There a Cupboard for Cans of Food?

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Actual conversation overheard while I was driving children who are blind to activities during the summer program with which I have been working:

Her:   “What street do you live on?”

Him:  “Main Street”, (which is 5 miles long.)

Her:  “What color is your house?”

Him:  “Yellow”

Her:  “YELLOW?!?  I used to live on Main Street in a yellow house.”

Him:  “Wow!  Maybe it is the same one! Did it have two bedrooms upstairs and one bedroom downstairs right next to the bathroom?”

Her:  “YES!  That sounds just like the house I used to live in! Does it have a driveway on the side of the house with bushes by the front steps?”

Him:  “YES!  How about a dining room where it can fit a table that seats ten people?”

Her:  “Oh, my family used to get all together there on Thanksgiving.”

Him:  “MY family gets together there for Thanksgiving!  Did your bedroom have a closet door that got stuck?”

Her:  “YES!  That was my closet door!”

Him:  “And how about a creepy basement”?”

Her:  “YES! YES! I was always afraid to go into the basement.  How about…does it have a  cupboard in the kitchen where you could keep cans of food?”

Him:  “OH MY WORD!  YES!  That is too much of a coincidence!  I guess I really AM living in the same house you used to live in!”

Her:  That is sooooooo amazing!”

Him:  “Isn’t it!!!!!”

And while they were talking, I drove by at least another ten yellow houses on main street.  I wonder if they all have cupboards in the kitchen in which to keep canned foods???

I Wonder How My Name is Pronounced in Chinese

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I am thrilled to announce that my book,The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane, has been produced by e-Book Dynasty into Chinese!  I am hoping to inspire Chinese parents to accept their children born with disabilities with love and enthusiasm, enabling the family to live a productive and happy life.  If you know anyone who reads Chinese, please pass this information along.  Likewise, if you know anyone who reads English, please pass along information on the English Version.

Gee!  I wonder what my name sounds like in Chinese???????

It was Like Playing Leap Frog, but I Didn’t Get to Leap!

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I just returned from a four hour trip that should have taken me only two hours.  The day started out wonderfully enough…I drove up to see Marie and take her fishing. Last week she had birthday money and we spent two hours perusing through Dick’s Sporting Goods to get EXACTLY the right fishing pole, strong fishing line, (in case she catches a shark or something similar,) bobbers, lures, hooks and pretend “bait”  (yeh…like worms are really green with black speckles…)  I am pretty naive when it comes to fishing;  we live on a pond with tons of fish, so therefore all bodies of water have fish.  Driving around Marie’s school, we settled on a nice fishing spot that had some large rocks for sitting and many trees for shade.  It turned out we didn’t need shade for long because it became overcast and VERY cloudy, then began to rain.  This didn’t phase Marie, who is known for 4 season, all weather fishing on our pond at home.  Although drenched, she patiently fished, changing bait and lures several times to try to attract the appropriate fish for the area.  Although no fish saw fit to chow down on her line, fun was had by all. She was convinced that the fish could look up through the water at her hulking body and swam in the other direction.  She vowed to next time dress in camouflage gear. (It was only later that I learned that that particular “lake” was actually the drinking water reservoir for the area…no fish…and I was darn lucky all she was using for bait was plastic worms and tin lures!  EWWWWW if it was real worms!))

After dropping Marie back off at school, it started to pour out.  My good ole van isn’t always so good. In fact, it has an electrical short whereby if it gets splashed with water, the engine shuts off.  (It’s one of those things I should have had fixed, but WHO has the TIME?) If the engine has a constant flow of gas, it works okay even if it is wet.  However, if it slows down and there is no gas getting to the engine AND it goes through a puddle, the engine just stops.  Fortunately, I can hear when it happens AND the car keeps rolling on, so I have time to pull over to the side of the road into the breakdown lane.  Being in rush hour traffic AND in a torrential downpour wrecked havoc on the ride home.  When stopped in traffic, I’d put the car in “neutral” to be able to give it gas, shifting to “drive” again once the traffic started to move.  Of course, this did not always work, and often the engine would shut off and I would have to pull over again.  Although the traffic was very slow moving, and as far as I could tell my pulling to the side of the road neither inconvenienced nor blocked anyone, it was amazing the number of cars that would lean on their horns at me.  If I were paranoid, I’d think they were upset…but instead I just smiled and waved. What nice, supportive drivers! Fortunately, the car always started up again, and I’d pull back out into traffic, doing the “neutral”/”drive” dance in hopes that it would keep running. It didn’t.  Time and time again, lengthening the drive home to four hours, I’d pull over to the side of the road, and cars would pass me.  It was like playing leap frog, but I never got a turn to leap…

I think I’ll make time to have the car fixed tomorrow…

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To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Heat Wave? What Heat Wave?

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Like most of the nation, we have been experiencing a heat wave; temperatures in the 90s and 100s for more than a week.  This could have wrecked havoc in the recreational program for children with disabilities I have been coordinating, as the lovely van of previous posts is our mode of transportation.  Said van does not have air conditioning, or, should I say, any little amount of cool air that would have come out of the sickly air conditioner is quickly usurped by vast, oppressive hot air lingering in the air and not felt beyond the driver.

So, I like to play a little game called “Heat Wave?  What Heat Wave”.  Firstly, before I leave work for the evening, I freeze water bags half full.  (At the Dollar Store I purchase cute, brightly colored little bags which one fills with water. With its carabiner hook, they easily attach to a child’s belt loop.) In the morning, using my intuitive powers of observation, I do not park it in a SHADY spot because at the time of the day we will be leaving, that spot will be sunny.  I calculate where the sun will be and which spots WILL be shady, and I park there.  This enables our little group to later enter a van that has not been cooking in the sun.  I pass out the water bags filled to the top, and attach them to each of the kiddos.  (It is easy for them to find if it is attached!)  Then, as the van commences transportation, which, by necessity, includes entering the sunny zone of the freeways,the anti-heat games begin…

* Playing the “Hot Potato” game…(HOT potato…get it?) students pass around this musical icon.  The original goal is the person who is holding the “hot potato” when the music stops is “out” of the game.  In our game, the person who  is holding the “hot potato” when the music stops gets sprayed with water from a spray bottle!  Now, instead of quickly forcing the item onto the next person so as not to be out, the students take their time passing it, hoping to “win” a spray.  (The seat configuration of the van, in a rectangle, facing each other, is very conducive to this particular rendition of the game.)  This not only cools everyone off, but is also a fun game to play, with lots of laughing and joyful sounds!

* Dancing to the beat of the music, played loudly.  For those who know me and my pension for dancing in the van, this is just an extension of this specialty. The children all bounce and bop, clap and cheer along to their favorite music.  (I, of course, as the driver, save my van dancing for in private, instead choosing to pay attention to driving this precious cargo.)  This creative, exercise inducing activity keeps the kiddos happy and entertained.  After a few songs, as the sweat drenches down their little brows, they take a drink of that ice cold water, and ask for more music, and to TURN IT UP LOUDER!

Good ole fashion water gun play.  Yes, I let them use water guns; small ones that don’t shoot a heavy stream of water.  I keep about 20 filled ones on board, so that when one gun is empty, it can be passed down for another one. (Lest you think the water must get all over the van, need I remind you that it is 100 degrees and any water turns into steam…)

The finale of the trip is arriving at our air conditioned destination, be it the pool, the library, the movies or the mall. Just the sight of the destination is enough to make everyone forget the heat, and to file off the van with great expectations of what is to come.  Of course, after I drop them off, I still have to look for a parking spot in the place where there WILL BE no sun…let’s see…how long will we be there?

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Link to my book

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

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Mother’s Day and Delayed Rewards

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Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to appreciate moms, step-moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, wanna be moms and women who love children. Bless you for making a difference in a child’s life! Don’t you get joy from seeing the joy in a laughing child, the shy smile of a child with twinkling eyes, and the serene look on their faces when they are sleeping?  Ahhhhhh……..what sweet little rewards of being with a child…

Most of us know, however, that it is VERY difficult to be a mom and sometimes the REAL rewards are far apart….

When my son Steven was in nursery school, it was a real challenge because of his autistic and ADHD problems. He had been born addicted to cocaine and heroine and his nervous system was “messed up” (my professional diagnosis.) Bringing him was a real challenge as he would kick and scream and cry, yet I did it because he could not hide out safely at home for his entire life with me vacuuming around him. At first, he would  spend most of the time in school hiding out in the “quiet tent”, playing with his plastic reptiles, sometimes soaking in the information from the teacher. Eventually, he sauntered out of his safe space to see what was going on.  He did not join the other children, but he was with them…a huge improvement.  Eventually, nursery school became normalized for him; part of his routine.  He would come home with his little projects; a paper flower, a painted snake, a play dough alligator.  I had learned not to make a “fuss” over these things, but to quietly tell him they were wonderful while his head dropped to his chest, eyes closed.  (He was not a child who could tolerate excitement of any kind.)  He survived two years in that classroom, and I wondered how he would act on “graduation day”, a celebration seemingly out of his tolerance level.  All of the children stood there in their little paper graduation caps, tassels dangling in front of their noses so they had to keep blowing them away.  All of the children except Steven.  The children sang a song, and thanked their moms and generally wowed the crowd with their antics.  All of the children except Steven.  The children walked in a nice, straight line to get their nursery school diplomas; all except Steven.  When all but one diploma had been handed out, the teacher walked over to where Steven was hiding under a chair, butt facing outwards. (If I had been smart, I would have sewed a smiley face on the butt of his pants, but, alas, I had been unrealistically hoping that he would join the other children in the graduation ceremony.)  The teacher bent down with the document and Steven’s  little hand reached out to grab it.  He quickly pulled the diploma out of sight.  Calm and cool under the seat, he had made it! Steven had graduated from nursery school without a tantrum, yelling or screaming.  He graduated in the manner he felt most comfortable, but graduate he did!  What a reward that was for me; I was a proud mother, indeed!

Diagnosed in elementary school with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Angel, has been very carefully placed in specialized classrooms.  Although intelligent and able to do grade level work, he frequently changes “parts”, (his word for his alternate personalities.)  His teachers and teacher aids, bless their souls, understand him well, and manage to educate him, even if it means repeating the same lesson because a different “part” was out that day, or giving his the test over because the “part” that studied for the test is not the “part” that took the test!  He has a baby part which necessitates him to just “veg out” in a large mushroom chair.  On those days, nothing was learned.  His condition has been kept top secret and no unnecessary teachers or others in the school know about it. Fortunately, he has been living a very “normal” life.  I have found one surprising benefit…he has a “Game Show Host” part.  I work with a recreational group of adults with disabilities, and every now and then we play Bingo or Family Feud. Angel, as have all of my children, regularly comes with me.  One day, he asked to be the moderator for Family Feud and his “performance” was beyond hilarious.  Usually a reserved child with groups, all of a sudden he channeled Richard Dawson! He went down the rows of “contestants”, gave each of them a peck on the cheek, and, while holding their hands in his, asked their names and a little about themselves.  The older women, who probably have not had much attention in their lives, giggled and smiled and blushed.  Then, Angel read each question with gusto, and made a “ding” noise when they got it right, and a loud buzzer noise if they got it wrong.  It was sooooooooooo funny because it was so out of character of the Angel that they knew.  This group of adult with disabilities, many of whom live alone on a minimum income with this once a week outing their only time out of their houses, were laughing hysterically that evening. Ever since then, they look forward to Family Feud and “Gameshow Host” Angel! What a reward for me to see Angel’s  give such joy to these wonderful people!

As a graduation present, my daughter, Dinora, and I took a trip back to her birth country in Guatemala.  She had done fundraising to assist with the opening of a soup kitchen in Antigua, and we were there for “opening day”.  We went shopping that morning, taking a little “putt putt” (2 wheeled open air taxi) into the village, giggling all the way as it bounced along. We bought flowers of all bright shapes and sizes, which stuck out of the putt putt on the way back, narrowly bopping passers by on the head. We spread the flowers out in front of  the  alter where a mass was to be said in honor of the opening of the facility. An overflowing crowd of people filled the make-shift pews, and it was a beautiful, emotional mass. Even though it was all in Spanish I seemed to understand every word, and I could certainly feel the emotion in the songs which the Indigenous Guatemalans sang.  After mass, people lined up for the food in their brightly colored clothing. There was my daughter, a young adult, behind the counter, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, serving food with a beaming smile on her face showing dimples I never knew she had, (or perhaps she had never smiled so brightly.)  She was old enough and cared enough to give back something and help “her people” as she called them. I will never forget the sight of her…sweat on her brow, wiping her hands on her apron, making pleasant conversation in Spanish while smiling that amazing smile…   How could that sight NOT be a reward for a mom after years of raising a difficult teen?

Raising Marie has been the most difficult because of her many serious challenges.  When she came to us, she was street smart at the age of seven.(See post “All She did Was Scream and Say No! No! No!) She had no thought of danger and no social skills.  Although this may sound silly, one of my concerns was the fact that she would litter.  Get a drink; throw the bottle on the ground.  Have a piece of gum; throw the wrapper on the ground. Popsicle; stick thrown in the grass.    Repeatedly, I would have her pick it up and throw it away, explaining that we don’t litter in our family.  Marie could not have cared less…she did not want to be in our family anyway…  It took many months with us before she learned not to litter.  That’s why it shocked me when we were at the mall one day and she casually flicked the paper from her straw onto the ground.  My eyes widened, and just as I was about to ask her to pick it up, she bent down and picked it up, signing to me “I was just teasing you!  I know we don’t litter in this family!”  What a reward it was to hear her say that!  Finally, she felt part of our family!

My most favorite reward I saved for last.  For all of you parents, especially parents with children with disabilities, I will share that there has been no greater reward in my life than seeing my son, Francis, become a successful adult. Despite being legally blind, he has a college degree, is very successful in a job which he loves and through which he is benefitting others, and he recently married a great woman who not only loves him for the wonderful person that he is, but can also drive a car so he won’t have to take public transit to work any more!  There IS no greater reward for a parent; to know that the problems, fun, hard work, love, difficulties and dispersed joys of childhood have come together in a positive way. My son has officially “made it” to adulthood.  Now he can look forward to the rewards he will experience in raising his own children. Then I get the extra rewards of grandchildren!

To all of you mothers and others out there, Happy Mother’s Day!  Beyond the handmade cards, the flowers, the breakfasts and dinners out, and the gifts of the day, so many more rewards await you.  Sometimes you just have to be patient…

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother

I led a very untraditional lifestyle when I was growing up.  My father, whom I later realized was schizophrenic, had the wanderlust to travel, which our family did for about 6 months of the year. He would remove me out of school and we would take off for various areas of the country, living in our Volkswagen van. ( Although I am sure that today’s public education system would not allow it, somehow I think my father would have taken me out anyway.)

It was quite an adventure for a child like me.  I have a vivid memory of cracking eggs in a big, black, iron frying pan over a campfire in the Badlands in South Dakota.  The rocks the pan was on were not sturdy, and the pan fell sideways with the eggs slowly leaking out onto the pine needles on the ground.  (Clumsy then…still clumsy.) I remember traveling in southern Georgia, driving for miles watching red clay cover everything…the houses, the cars, and even the clothes hanging on the lines.  It was at the beginning of the civil rights movement, and I was uneducated in this area, (probably because I didn’t go to school!) The whole concept of a bathroom for “whites only” was a shock to me.  Did that mean that only people wearing white clothes could use it?  (I’m picturing nurses, dentists, pharmacists…)  I couldn’t use it because I had on my only pair of pants, jeans, and a multi-colored t-shirt. But I had to go to the bathroom baaaaad, where would I go?  Behind the bushes? How degrading!  My misunderstanding of this concept is now a slight reminder of what it felt like be African American in the 60′s. I also have the memory of  a bear at Yellowstone Park coming onto our campsite to eat our dinner as we all huddled in the car. My brother, Curtis, was upset because he had left a package of Cracker Jacks on the picnic table.  We had to restrain him from leaping out of the car to get it.  Afterwards, I was not so keen to sit by the campfire…

But most of all, I remember my constant companion; Curtis.  He was four years younger than I was, and he had been born with Rubella Syndrome; developmentally delayed, cleft palate, legally blind, and severely hearing impaired.  He was my buddy.  Because my dad was extremely frugal, (ie obsessive compulsive disorder frugal,) I did not have many toys to play with.  So, in addition to reading a lot, I played in our surroundings with my brother.  I have a memory of  sitting by a stream, sun shining down on the water through the leaves on the trees. Curtis was happily splashing about in the shallow water.  I was looking for rocks that somewhat resembled people.  (They were no Barbie dolls, but some kind of looked like Alfred Hitchcock and Potato Head.) All of a sudden I heard a whoooooosh!  Curtis had ventured too far into the water and the current started to carry him downstream!  Fortunately, I had long, slim legs (in those days,) and with a few strides, I picked him up by the back of his pants. He was laughing heartily.  To him it was a real adventure.  Like the poor person’s substitute for a ride at Disneyland!

We actually had a lovely childhood together. I had to carry him everywhere because he could not walk sturdily.  Carrying him was just a natural way of life for me.  I don’t know why, but I never thought to be embarrassed by him, (although his screeching and attempt at speech WAS pretty scary).  I never ever thought of him as a burden.  He was just my buddy, Curtis.

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My parents rarely took pictures.  (The money thing again…) But I do remember ONE picture.  It was a picture of me and Curtis, standing in front of Mount Rushmore.  I was characteristically giving him a piggy back ride.  The photo shows Curtis, looking over my shoulder, eyes squinted shut by the glare of the sun.  I was wearing a stupid, treasured, red velvet derby hat, (you know, like jockeys wear.) As the dead presidents loomed behind us, I gave my characteristically stupid, toothy grin, (like all children do when their parents ask them to smile.) And on that day, I first heard the song from Neil Diamond which fit my sentiments exactly: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”.  It was a powerful moment to think that someone had put into words what my life was like.

I was so very lucky to have been raised the way I was because it formed my personality, my temperament, and my compassion for others. I personally cannot take credit for the way I live now, fostering and adopting children. I am not selfless, nor amazing, nor wonderful, nor any of the other adjectives readers have used to describe me. I am simply living my life the way I was raised and it is a wonderful life!

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Link to my book  The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Lyrics

The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

But I’m strong

Strong enough to carry him

He ain’t heavy,he’s my brother

So on we go

His welfare is of my concern

No burden is he to bear

We’ll get there

For I know

He would not encumber me

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all

I’m laden with sadness

That everyone’s heart

Isn’t filled with the gladness

Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road

From which there is no return

While we’re on the way to there

Why not share

And the load

Doesn’t weigh me down at all

He ain’t heavy he’s my brother

He’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell

performed by Neil Diamond in 1970

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Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

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