Saturday, January 26, 2013

My middle place



I am a middle person: The exact middle of 5 children and the middle of the three remaining. I am near middle of the gaggle of kids making up my extended family, the middle in my home. Wherever I turn, I am in the middle.

On my outings with Sam and my father I find myself in the middle as well.

Sam is usually the left of me and my father to the right. This lines us up by chronological age as we make our way to our destination. From my place in the middle, I hold tightly to Sam's jacket to curb his desire to run ahead. I link my other arm with my father to support his balance. It is thus we enter a nearby coffee shop: our multi-generational trio, each wearing easy smiles, that trait, my mother often said, a gift from my father.

Once seated I listen to the flow of the conversation. Though their communication styles differ, humor bridges the gap between my father and Sam. I watch Sam giggle and make faces, discreetly looking up to see if he has caught my father’s attention. My father waits expectantly and inevitably laughs. I shake my head and say, “Please don't encourage him.” But once my father starts laughing he can’t stop. He has always been that way. I am reminded how much I love his laughter. I laugh too, suddenly happy to be in on the joke.

Once we've finished our coffee, my father asks, "Andiamo, Jin?" In a mock solemn tone I respond, "Andiamo." We exit as we entered: a smiling trio, arms linked. Our smiles are contagious; I notice neighboring people smile up at us as we slowly make our way out the door.

As I watch my father walk there are subtle reminders our outings will end sooner than I'd like. I brush them away. I’d rather focus on the joy of today. Focus on what we have now and savor this, my place in the middle. 

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

What's the plan?


Each morning I wake to the words, “What’s the plan?”

Because Sam lives in the immediate future it is an easy question to answer. Most days it is simply: “First get dressed, then eat breakfast, then go to school, come home and see Mommy. It’s a good plan.”

Sam officially blesses the plan by echoing, “Is a good plan.”  On the rare occasion the plan does not meet his approval he provides an alternate plan: “First get dressed. Put on my Sam’s shoes. Drive the car to the store. Buy some DVDs. Shrek Two, disk 2. Mommy, disk 2. Disk 2, Mommy!” Negotiations are generally simple and straightforward.

My Sam likes a plan. He takes comfort knowing what’s ahead.

I’ve never been a planner. I prefer keeping my options open and focusing only as far ahead as necessary. Where will we go tonight? What’s happening on the weekend? I am more inclined to ask, “Do we really need to make reservations that far in advance?”

Lately though, thoughts of tomorrow are on my mind as I begin to navigate the murky waters of Sam’s future. The first seventeen years have passed with remarkable speed. Our collision course with eighteen demands we look ahead. The tall teen before me is no longer a child.

I wish we could cling to today where Sam is safe and happy and loved. But only by planning for the tomorrows ahead that I can hope to provide him the same security. But what does the future look like? How will I know what I've crafted is right? As I ask these questions, I understand the comfort Sam finds in knowing “the plan" is complete. Like Sam I find myself asking again and again, "What's the plan?"

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Finding the right


Expressive language deficits
Receptive language deficits
Sensory processing difficulties
Impaired auditory processing
Reading comprehension delays
Impaired social skills

The list grows and contracts. We spend our days correcting deficits. Pushing him, prodding him. No matter how much he achieves, it isn't enough. Each time I leave a meeting with well-intentioned professionals, I wonder, does he do anything right?

We demand he control his extraneous vocals. We want him to communicate more fluently. We expect him to tolerate sounds, lights and textures he finds overwhelming. We want him to find order in a world he finds disordered. We expect him to process auditory information while often ignoring his visual strengths. We send a clearly defined message: be more like us.

The endless criticism would send most mortals into a lifetime of analysis and endless reflection of what constitutes good enough.  

Still, he greets most days with a welcoming smile, eager to please. He accepts us as we are wanting little more than a smile back. He doesn’t care if we are short or tall, rich or poor, articulate or barely literate. Each morning as he smiles down at me I wonder does he grow weary of trying? Does he find our demands insatiable?

To be successful in this world there are skills to master, there is no denying that. But I wonder, in our quest to correct all the "wrongs" do we miss so much that is right? Do we missing the very essence of his being?

Beginning today, I vow to find the “right” each day:

His smile and humor brightens the grayest of days. He brings joy and acceptance to anyone who takes the time to notice. As I reflect on this I know it is my privilege to be his mom.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Yes I am


He is old. There is no denying that. His once confident stride falters as he tries to walk. "Have you fallen?" they ask today. "Not yet," he replies with his sly smile. I watch him lie in bed, drifting in and out of sleep, in and out of dreams. Sometimes talking quietly in his sleep. Occasionally waking, saying, "Jin, you're here."

Yes I am.

"One father raised five children," I've heard him say, "but five children can't raise one father." It is true. When did the tables turn? He was always the rugged man who took care of me. The man who made my world feel safe just by smiling. Subtly our roles shifted and shifted again. Along with my brother and sister, we care for him now. 

He is old they say. He is forgetful. 

I know. 

But he is my father. He still has things to say. "Jin," my father says as he breaks into his slow, wide smile, "you're still here." 

Yes I am.



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