Tag Archives: moving

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!

Nothing I Wouldn’t Do

When Nigel was diagnosed with autism in 1997, his father and I immediately enrolled him in an ABA-based program that we were fortunate enough to have access to all those years ago. We hadn’t even heard of ABA. But we were steered in that direction by the therapists, teachers, and autism consultants who had identified him, and we went with it. We were surprised to learn of the intensive nature of the program – thirty hours a week with two weekly home visits. At that time we were living at poverty level, so the state paid the staggering costs of the therapy our nonverbal son so desperately needed, and we were grateful.

But had we been faced with footing the bill ourselves, we would have moved heaven and earth to do so. As it was, I went back to work shortly after the diagnosis. My then-husband worked evenings and weekends while I worked weekdays. Even with our nearly opposite work schedules, we still had some crossover time when we both needed to be at work. Nigel could not be put in daycare due to the severity of his autism at the time. We tried a few places and were turned down. There was also Aidan, who was eighteen months old then. My father had recently retired and offered to babysit a few afternoons a week to fill in the gaps, and I am forever grateful for that. My boss allowed me to leave work early when needed, and I am equally grateful to her. We made a lot of sacrifices and relied on the assistance and understanding of those close to us to get through those early years.

At some point, we noticed with dread that Aidan had strong sensory issues and a delay in language development and enrolled him in a therapy program similar to Nigel’s, minus the ABA component. Having two special-needs children with all of their therapies, doctor appointments, teacher and specialist meetings, and juggling work and, ultimately, single parenting was painful, especially when their father moved 700 miles away. But I did what I had to.  And I would do it all again. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my boys.

And I still do. When Nigel was terribly bullied at his middle school two years ago and the administration would not, as I requested, talk to the student body about developmental disabilities, I pulled him out and made sacrifices to be able to homeschool him. When Aidan developed an unknown health issue last year, we racked up innumerable hours scheduling and attending all of the various medical tests he endured and then the surgery, once his condition was identified. But that’s what you do. You do whatever your kids need. And it has become painfully obvious that my boys, now teens, need two things: more time with their father and specialized instruction for Nigel.

Nothing I wouldn’t do.

So I take a deep breath as I write this, as I commit the concept to print: We are moving to Los Angeles. Not next week or next month, but soon. In mid-June, for the past eight years, the boys have gone to visit their father for several weeks. This June, they’ll move. I’m putting my house on the market in about three weeks, and I will join them in L.A. as soon as it sells.

It’s a huge change for all of us, but one that I believe will yield many positive results. Nigel will attend a specialized school for autistic students that will target his lack of executive function. And with his recent announcement of wanting to go to film school for college, we’ll be in the right area for that to happen down the road. Aidan, who has had the hardest time living far from his father, will be near him year-round. And I plan to finally find a job that fits a little better with my English degree, as well as spend time with other family members whom I have missed for many years (I was born in L.A. and moved to Oregon for college).

But I can’t begin to describe how much I’ll miss beautiful Oregon and our family members and friends who live here. I have no doubts that this move is the right thing to do, and that this is the right time, but I have spent half of my life in Oregon, and there is much to be missed. It’s not called “God’s Country” for nothing! Then again, the other half of my life has been spent in the “City of Angels,” and, truth be told, my feelings aren’t too mixed about returning to it. But for now, I’ve got a yard to spruce up and lots of paperwork to fill out.

It’s time.