Tag Archives: love

What Really Matters

This isn’t the first time I’ve moved out of state. And it’s not the first time I’ve had to downsize either. But something about this time is so daunting that I haven’t even begun to pack. The boys are leaving in less than two weeks to be with their dad in Los Angeles, and I’m leaving in less than two months to move to Not-Sure-Yet. Now that Nigel won’t be able to go to the special school we wanted him to attend (at least not in the foreseeable future), I have to get to L.A. sooner than originally planned so that I can get him set up at his new school, which is called Not-Sure-Yet High. At least we have it narrowed down to a couple, and the one we choose will of course determine where I get an apartment. Yes, that’s right – apartment. I haven’t lived in an apartment for ten years. The boys were much smaller then and had fewer things! And I’m downsizing a four-bedroom house into a two-bedroom apartment. That should be fun. Time for creative packing! Ever played the “I don’t know, honey, it must have gotten lost in the move” game? And no, the house hasn’t sold yet. This – this planning and packing and changing our lives – is truly an exercise in belief.  

So, due to our impending move, for the past few weeks the boys and I have been the honored recipients of various invitations for get-togethers, barbeques, and goodbye parties. Last month, we had lunch with my 92-year-old grandmother, the boys’ only living great-grandparent. Last weekend, we went with my mom, sister and brother-in-law, and my little nephew to our spot on the coast where we’ve been going every year for nine years. It’s been bittersweet, of course. On the one hand, I am excited to get going, to get a move on (ha! So that’s where he gets it!) and finish the process I’d begun six months ago, when we were fogged in all day at our local airport and I said, That’s it! I’m done! This was also after an extremely cold December, complete with daytime temperatures in single digits, which I’d never experienced in my twenty years of living in southern Oregon. But it wasn’t just the weather, of course. It was a combination of factors, all of which carried far more weight than the weather. And it’s time for those factors to change. On the other hand, it’s so hard to leave our life here behind, and the people in it.

Last night, the boys had their long-time friends over for one last sleepover. I bought two huge pizzas, soda, ice cream, chips, and stuff for homemade waffles in the morning. The boys walked through my front door, all of them now much taller than I am, greeted me in their deep voices, and loped out to our game room, where we’ve had sleepovers for the past seven years. I have watched these little boys become young men!!  (Okay, must not cry on the keyboard now.) And such wonderful young men they are. These friends of Nigel’s have stuck by him through unnerving meltdowns and endless movie echolalia. They were there for him when I had to homeschool him and they were there for him when he returned to regular school. They have given him the gift that every person needs and deserves – friendship. Words cannot express my gratitude. I love these boys.

There are more goodbye parties to come – Tuesday at Boy Scouts and next week at Nigel’s special education classroom. Nigel’s Scoutmaster, who’s known him for over six years, has more patience than anyone I’ve ever met, and Nigel’s special education teacher has put forth every effort to meet his needs, just in the nine months that she’s known him. The facilitator of his social skills class, who has known him since his non-verbal days, actually created the class two years ago just for him. Just for my son, because that’s what he needed. And there are so many others. I sit here tallying up all the people who have touched our lives, who have shown so much kindness to us, even those online whom we have not yet met. It overwhelms me, this downpour of love. We have been truly blessed.

The best part is that, in thinking of all the wonderful friends and family members we will miss, I have been reminded of what’s really important. It’s the people in our lives. It’s not where I’ll live, where I’ll work, where my kids will go to school, and making sure that everything is planned, that we know where every step takes us.  The Not-Sure-Yets will become certainties soon enough. The packing will get done when needed. Somehow it all works out. What really matters is how we love, and how we are loved. We will go forward into our new environment surrounded by the warmth of those who have cared for us, and will continue to from across the miles. And I’m certain that their warmth – their love – will see us through.

Christmas ’08: my sister (and nephew on-the-way!), brother-in-law, Nigel, me, my grandmother, my two aunts, and my mom. Photography by Aidan!

The Wonderful Thing About Tigger

My son has memorized the dialogue of many movies. Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, the old Pink Panther movies with Peter Sellers, various Scooby Doo adventures, Winnie the Pooh, and numerous other Disney films. Over the years I’ve often wondered if this ability to memorize movie dialogue crosses over into other areas of his memory. And it does, a bit. While it’s true that he can spell any word he’s ever read, and has an uncanny ability to remember dates and places of historical events, his memory for his own daily life generally isn’t as dependable.

On a recent trip to the grocery store, I was curious if Nigel remembered how traumatic it was for him to be in them when he was younger, how his sensory issues were so extreme that all the noises of the grocery store were agonizing to him and he would scream and writhe on the floor. He did not remember a thing. It was as if his mind had mercifully blocked the painful memories. I thought perhaps he didn’t remember because the majority of those incidents occurred when he was mostly non-verbal, aside from his cries of “Go! Go!” mixed in with his screams.

Part of me was disappointed because I thought that his memories would be valuable for several reasons. For one, I think it would buoy his self-esteem to see how far he’s come. Also, it would be fascinating if he could shed some light on what made things so hard for him, how he felt, and what he was thinking. Of course, the answers to those questions are obvious (The sounds hurt his ears! He felt tortured! What was he thinking? That he needed to get out of there!), but I just know that there’s so much to be learned from him, from his experiences. And so I figured that if he couldn’t remember the difficult parts of his non-verbal days, he couldn’t remember the good parts either.

Enter Tigger. Tigger is pretty celebrated around here. I’ve mentioned before how Nigel’s stuffed Tigger (bought at Disneyland during my pregnancy) prompted him to write the first little note he’d ever written. The Tigger and Winnie the Pooh stories and videos have also taught Nigel about friendship. And Tigger is responsible for enabling Nigel to do the first imaginative thing he’d ever done. Nigel used to like eating frozen corn niblets. He wouldn’t eat them cooked, only frozen. I would pour them in a little bowl and he would eat them with his fingers. One night when he was four years old, I poured some in bowl and put it on the kitchen table for him to eat. While I prepared some toast for Aidan, Nigel got out of his chair and ran out of the kitchen. He came back a moment later with Tigger. He gently put Tigger’s face in the bowl of frozen corn niblets and said, “Eat” in his little voice, his voice that was actually forming a word, stoic even from the beginning. I was beside myself with joy.

Fast forward ten years. Nigel, now fourteen, still loves Tigger and sleeps with him on his bed. He came to me a couple of nights ago and told me that he wanted to feed Tigger some corn again, like he did when he was little. My spine tingled. “You remember that?” I asked incredulously. He confirmed that he did. He said that he remembered how he felt and what he thought back then, that it made him happy to feed Tigger, and that he believed that he was really eating the corn. He said that having Tigger around all these years helps him to remember something from so long ago.

“Maybe Tigger has a magical quality because he was a gift of love,” Nigel said. I told him that he was probably right. And then he said, “Love reveals its capabilities in unexpected ways.”

I had to turn away, not wanting him to see my eyes welling with tears. “Yes, Nigel, it certainly does.” And I realized that what he said might have been a line memorized from a movie. But so what if it was? He chose the perfect time to say it. And it was beautiful.