What Really Matters, Part 2

These goodbyes are just about killing me. Since school is out, I did what I usually do at the end of every school year – I write a thank you note to those who had worked with my son, telling them how much I appreciate all they’ve done. Only this time, it wasn’t a thank-you-for-the-great-year. It was an I-can’t-thank-you-enough-for-the-difference-you-have-made-in-my-son’s-life.

A few days ago I sent an e-mail to the Regional Autism Consultant for southern Oregon, who has known Nigel since his non-verbal days and worked one-on-one with him years before she took her current position. I think she has worked with my son for twelve years. So I began with, “You’ve been in the picture so long that it’s hard to come up with an adequate way to thank you” and proceeded to express my gratitude for all that she has done, including designing Nigel’s weekly social skills class (and recruiting other students to be in it) specifically for him. Her gracious response made me cry, of course, especially when I read “Nigel brought such wonderful perspective to the social skills group, he was so very open and honest and a very active participant which really made the group successful – I will miss him so very much.”

*

Last week, I took Nigel to his last Scout meeting, where they had a goodbye party for him. Being in this particular Scout troop has been so beneficial for Nigel, for many reasons. As can well be expected (due to terrible news stories about abuse in some Scout troops), a Scout troop is only as successful – and as good – as its leader. And I don’t see how there could possibly be a better Scoutmaster out there. We are so blessed with the troop that Nigel’s been part of for almost six years. Our Scoutmaster is by far the most patient person I’ve ever known. He also truly cares for Nigel. When the party was over and it was time to leave, the Scoutmaster said some generous parting words about Nigel and his progress as a Scout, and then he asked Nigel to stand at the door so that every Scout could shake his hand on their way out. I was so touched, so emotional, that I couldn’t even watch.

Our main consolation, which I keep reminding myself, is that we have close family that we will be able to see much more often in L.A. The boys can spend unlimited time with their father, who has lived there for over eight years. They have an uncle and two aunts there who adore them. And then there is their grandfather, who plans to take them to Thailand later this year. I have missed all of them tremendously over the years that we’ve been apart, and I’m so looking forward to sharing more of our lives with them. But as important as family is, kids – especially teenagers – need their friends.

As we drove home from the Scout party that night, Nigel said to me, “I don’t know if I’ll be able to find such good friends ever again.” And of course that really did me in. I croaked, “Oh, honey. I know that your friends here mean a lot to you, and you’ll miss them so much. But you’ll be able to find new good friends in L.A. And they will find you. Because you are a very friendly, caring person, and good people will always want to be friends with you. I really believe that, Nigel.”

He simply said, “Yeah.” But there was hope in his voice.

*

The boys have gone now. They are in L.A., barbequing and bodysurfing with their dad, while I remain in Oregon (for now) to sell the house. I have started sorting through things and packing, slowly but purposefully. Over the weekend I came across an assignment that Nigel had done in middle school, during a time when he was being bullied relentlessly. It was from around the time that he had taken his yearbook and scribbled on all the faces of the kids who had bullied him, and when I looked at it later I cried because there had been so many scribbled faces. This assignment that I found was a “time capsule” that the teacher said she sends to all the students when they graduate from high school, so that they can remember what middle school was like for them. It had items like “My favorite foods” and “My pets” listed next to a blank line. It listed “Friends” with a blank line after it to write your friends’ names on.

But instead of listing his friends’ names on the line, like most kids would have done, next to the word “Friends,” Nigel had written “many.” Even then, he believed that he had many friends. Even then.

26 thoughts on “What Really Matters, Part 2

  1. Lex Savko

    What a heartfelt goodbye party. And yes, he will find good friends and they will find him!

  2. Tera

    Tanya, I got my book today. Can’t wait to start reading it! Thank you!

    Goodbyes are soooo difficult. And as many friends as you do make, goodbyes, unfortunately, never get easier. But they do prove you can care and love and treasure…and what greater gift is there than that?

    Hugs Tanya.

  3. Jazzygal

    Oh Tanya…you made me croak too! What lovely sentiment though…they will find you.

    Best of luck with the move, I hope all goes well. It is great that you will all have some family around you :)) xx Jazzy

  4. Paulene Angela

    You’re right it’s tough saying goodbye, lots of energy and emotions embedded.
    ….. They will find you …. I love it.

  5. Cheryl

    OK, this post totally did me in! (Sniff-sniff!) Tissue, please! ;0) We are going to miss you guys soo much! I know you will all do great though, settle in, and YES, those new friends WILL find all of you! I hope you’ll stay in touch with your “old friends” too and come back and visit us when you can! Things won’t be the same without you guys!!!

  6. Dayna Golden

    I know change is hard and you hate to leave the people that know, love and have helped your child in many many ways. He will be fine because he has YOU, and you have been an amazing advocate for him. He wouldn’t have had such a great experience growing up in Oregon without you!!

  7. Niika

    That was a wonderful post! Growing up shy and awkward, I’ve learned that it’s not the quantity but the quality of friends that matter. I believe that Nigel and Aidan will find plenty of friends and adventure in the future. For you too Tanya!

  8. Elise

    When collegeman was in middle school and they had to do a science experiment with friends, I called up the teacher complaining, he had no friends. He would have no friends for the rest of his education in our town. He went from being bullied to being alienated. Today after years of therapy and being in a good place in college he understands that he is liked and could make friends. I know friends will come one day.

    I know Nigel will make friends in LA and that there is great things in store for all of you.

    BTW is it really wrong to wish true karma on persons who were so young when they did your child wrong? I personally hope they get what they deserve. That’s better.

  9. M

    it hurts so much reading this. the weight of the past, fears of the future, and the strong thread of hope running through both of them. can’t even imagine how difficult this must be for you guys, you’re in my thoughts. when i first heard about the move, i wondered about the scouts, i know how good they’ve been to him, you’ve described several stories that were very touching. LA…lot of people there, that can only mean more chances for him to connect and thrive. thanks for the post.

  10. Brenda

    Sobbing. I hate goodbyes.

    But I know that all of you are going to be just fine… with your new friends. I predict a pizza party at the beach hangout.

  11. Julie Hager

    Changes and goodbyes can be challenging and sad. What I have learned is you add more flowers (friends) to your garden, just adding new soil :)
    I wish you and your boys good luck. When we moved our Aspie from AZ to here, I will be honest, he struggled with the change, yet, it all worked out.

  12. Christine

    I just got home from the funeral. I sat for along time after it was over. Good-byes are hard, especially when it is people who have blessed your childrens life. I have no good words, just I know, it hurts.

  13. Carrie N

    Oh you had my heart with this post. Good byes are so so hard. You are very brave and I hope you feel the love and support that are yours as you keep moving forward. Many.

  14. AmyLK

    Its so hard to say good-bye! I felt myself tearing up reading your post. I am so happy that Nigel is hopeful for new friends. That is SO important to have, hope. Good luck with packing and moving.

  15. Kim

    Catching up after being unplugged for awhile. Goodbyes are so hard, this post really tugged at my heart.

    Friends will find all of you. I am sure of it.

  16. Nicki

    I wish you were moving to Chicago! I would be friends with Nigel! 😉 My little sis who is 15 hangs out with many different unique individuals, including a couple boys with Aspergers. So Nigel would fit in with the crowd here!
    But I know he WILL find some great friends in his new school, and its great that he will always be able to be in close proximity to both you and his dad!

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