I wrote the following last night at Barnes and Noble after a lovely dinner at Bonefish to celebrate George's birthday.
This is motherhood. I'm waiting on hold, clearly forgotten. Someone will notice the blinking light on the line eventually. I called the restaurant we just left to see if Jack's prized possession, his woobie, his precious, his University of Nebraska pencil, fell under our table.
The minutes tick by. I should just hang up now, right? But I can't. Autism does this to us. If the pencil is truly gone, Jack's world will stop spinning. The tears. Oh, God, the tears and screams.
Right now he's a ten-year-old wandering through children's books muttering about a pencil. He allows himself hope that Mom will find it. Mom will solve his problem. She's got his back.
No, I don't. I secretly hate that pencil, which has been lost so many times and found by me or other adults (my sister searched the longest, after I'd given up that time). My sister-in-law gave Jack two pencils, but for some reason known only to Jack (something to do with the eraser), that back-up pencil will not do. He must have the one that is lost.
There might be a biblical reference in here somewhere, but I've got no patience with that right now. This isn't a sheep. It's a pencil. An unsharpened pencil. Jack self-stimulates with it, calming himself by waving it. He can't do this at school, only at home. But he brought the pencil tonight because he didn't want to go to the restaurant. Restaurants are crowded and noisy and unsettling for him. The pencil calms him.
Until he loses it.
That pencil stands as a symbol of Jack's disorder to me, but it is precious to him. He is precious to me. So I sit on hold minute after minute, pouring out words that won't stop the tears (his or mine) and decide to convert this experience into something I can share.
Somewhere out there someone else whose child with autism just lost his special bottle cap or rubber band or random rock will breathe deep and think, "Thank you, Jesus. I am not alone."
No, honey. You are not alone. And neither am I. It just feels that way.
Welcome to motherhood. Not the soft-focus promise of the religious right and motherhood books, or the happy faces we put on for public consumption. This is the real deal.
Some days are like this. Some days simply suck. Others blow with the storm of tragedy. And others will blow your mind with miracle after miracle.
This is a week of tied shoes (miracle!) and lost pencils (tragedy!). Peaks and valleys and no map in sight to navigate your way as you and your child are pulled along by forces neither one of you understands. It's cliché, but there's no instruction book for dealing with the tragedies or the miracles. You do your best and cling to faith that God's got your back.
The restaurant staff couldn't find the pencil. Jack handled the news fairly well in the car but fell apart as soon as he was safe in his room. Usually, he takes a little comforting and then wants to be alone. Last night, I started to leave his room, and he clung to me, screeching, "Don't go! Don't go! I'm hopeless!"
Such a silly thing to get so upset over, don't you think? Yet how many times do we all feel that tragedy of loss over something silly? How important are things, really, in the grand scheme of life.
Pretty darn important, sometimes.
Today, after church, I will go to Bonefish to search parking lot. I'll either be Jack's hero or his storm anchor in the tragic winds of life.
This is motherhood. And thank you, Jesus, we are not alone.