Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pigpen Boy: 1 of 150

It took a long time for me to agree with the school that Sean had what they like to call "a touch of Autism." I know he is speech delayed. I knew sometimes he likes to spin in the light, play with particulates, eat mud, taste the world. For me, this is being a little boy, just magnified a bit.

I do admit, now, that it is a touch of actual Autism. He is super duper sensitive to certain things, very very particular about his shoes, for example. YOU cannot get him in a pair of shoes that he does not like. Sorry. Not gonna happen. I get looks sometimes when he throws a fit about something because he simply does not understand me; people think at his age he ought to behave "better." But I shrug those off. Don't get me wrong: I get a little mad, a little indignant. But it does no good to explain to those people giving me the stink eye, and besides, I'm too busy trying to catch my wild little boy.

When Sean started school, he communicated far less effectively than he does now. It is amazing what his teachers do for him and he loves them very much. I appreciate them a lot because while I struggled to figure out ways to communicate with my bright little boy, they already knew things that work. From mostly non-responsive a year ago, he can read the ABCs on better than his sister can. He actually is sounding things out, reading simple phrases perfectly. Again, better than Maia does. Now, if you ask him a direct question, he still might not answer you, or his answer might be a phrase from one of his favorite movies "Don't scare Insectasaurus" is one of them or "Scarey" another.

Yesterday, he went to school a little ratty. He is a DIRT MAGNET sometimes. I didn't know this, as his dad was escorting him to the car, but he dipped his hand in the firepit ash on the way out the door and swiped it across his shirt. If I had known that, I would have insisted on a shirt change and hand washing. In the car, he also had a do-nut, so his face was a bit dirty when we got to school. If I had caught it, I would have tried to make it better; however, I cannot be on top of it 100% all the time. It's impossible for me to be perfect; I am not a Stepford Wife. Sorry.

After school, his teacher explained to me that "they" were looking at Sean because of his messiness. He goes to a school that wears uniforms, and while he usually has a nice clean one on when we leave the house, even that five minutes of driving can wreak havoc on the cleanliness considering his dirt magnet-status. He just doesn't understand what all that fuss is about-- why does he have to have his hair brushed, face washed? That's just parents being annoying.

THEY means other teachers, who have, apparently, been saying things to his regular teachers. These regular teachers, who love Sean quite a bit, are frustrated, because while they understand that's just the way Sean is, and we try super hard to work on it, it's not a sign of him not being cared for. But if the "They" of his school are saying things, then it's very upsetting for me, too. Andrew's first response is to go talk to the administration: the principal. If teachers are critiquing an autistic kid's clothing for not being finely pressed, I really want to invite them to care for him for about a day. They'd understand, then, I imagine. But that's pretty much impossible to do.

Anyway. MY solution is to talk more to his primary teacher, see what we can do to increase an understanding of the reasons why my boy is a bit of a Pigpen. But I also want to say something about Autism.

I wish as a culture we would cut parents ALL a little bit more slack, a bit of LESS JUDGEMENTAL understanding. We look at a mom or dad struggling with a kid and we figure "well, they're just not trying very hard" or "why don't they get a babysitter" or "if that were MY kid, I'd...." Sometimes, I'll grant that the clueless parents of the world are letting their kids run rampant and crazy and not paying any attention and not trying very hard. And I'll admit to having been a person without children who sometimes wondered what the heck those parents were thinking, and figuring, smugly, "my kids will behave better." Ah, so karma bites us all on the ass eventually, doesn't it?

But there are 1 in 150 children today being diagnosed with a dose of autism. How many of those kids you click your tongue about are being loved dearly by parents who DO have a clue, but who have a little bit of this growing disorder? And let me tell you: if your kid is a bit autistic, it's really really hard to get a babysitter. They mostly look "normal" (whatever the F. that is). But they might be behaviorally a bit different from your expectations of a "good" kid. And usually, the parents are trying, really, really hard.

There really are mixed feelings about "curing" Autism, as the Autism Speaks website advocates. But there really needs to be some understanding about this issue, because otherwise, you're blaming parents for something even the so-called "experts" don't really understand. These kids are wired a little differently from others, and if your kid is a calm, easy to handle kid that listens to you most of the time and doesn't like to dig in dirt and run faster than you can possibly imagine a four year old can run then count your blessings. You are one of 149 who drew the short straw.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wheel of Time series finale

About 20 years ago I started reading Robert Jordan's series known as the Wheel of Time. I guess it has about 12 of the books into it now, and it's been cruising along for all this time, sometimes a book out every year, sometimes longer between. Jordan himself died about two years ago with the series unfinished. But he had dictated serious notes and his wife found an author to finish the series for him.

The first of the three finale books,the Gathering Storm, came out recently. I had decided to "re-read" all of them before the book came out but I only got up to book four before giving in (I couldn't wait once I saw the book at Sam's) and buying the new one. They are BIG books (some run to 700 or more pages). They are seriously detailed. Sometimes, in the later books, that detail would get on my nerves. I just wanted something to HAPPEN. Some conclusion, some closure. It felt like Jordan had written himself into something he couldn't let go and we'd be strung along forever.

Now, with the deft writing of the new guy, Brandon Sanderson, the books are going very well. New guy balances the tone and characters nicely, and the story has progressed seriously in the last book. Part of me thinks it may be possible that Jordan himself could not have finished it. Sanderson does a good job, mostly because he doesn't get bogged down in the minutiae.

I could not put it down; all I wanted to do was read it. I am sad, now, that I'll have to wait a while until the next one. (I think the author said he was working on book 2 of the finale this June, so that probably means at least a year, probably more.) I don't know if I'm going to read the other five or so books again. I discovered while reading this one that I had actually skipped, for some reason, the last one to have come out. But I read the summary on wikipedia and caught up well enough, I think.

Anyway. Now that I don't have this book to look forward to for a while, I don't know what to do with myself. These kinds of books are the reason I became an English major, the reason I like to teach reading. They enrich my life in many ways (I see people and think of their motivations, sometimes, related to the mythic archetypes Jordan wove into the story).

If you've never read the story, I recommend it. If you were reading it and gave up on it, I also recommend revisiting it. Now that there is an end in sight, the length feels like a gift, rather than an irritating way to draw the story out forever.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Pirates & Tributes

Mother, mother ocean, I have heard you call
Wanted to sail upon your waters since I was three feet tall
You've seen it all, you've seen it all...

My sister's first husband, married and divorced in her wild wild youth, and the father of my oldest niece, passed away yesterday. He wasn't that old, but these things sometimes happen. He had been ill for a while, but that's not what I want to focus on.

What I want to write about is him being the closest thing to a real "pirate" I ever knew. My sister met Eddie Dalton when we lived in Louisiana when I was still a kid myself. He was a little older than her and quite dashing... long cut blond hair, blue blue eyes, muscular. He was a Marine who served some time in the tail end of Vietnam and the discipline he learned there meant he was also one of the neatest men I knew, but neat in a somehow military way. Neat like cowboys, precise, and spare. Tough guy neat.

This is one reason I think he was kind of a pirate. He was the man who once told me that John Hinkley Jr. was the only "ex-Marine"--because he missed his target. He thought that was pretty funny; he had that kind of sense of humor that people don't always get, but I can see the humor in that joke now.

Yes I am a pirate, two hundred years too late
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothin' to plunder
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late

He called his car "La Bamba" and I would sing "here comes La Bamba" when he would drive, fast, into the driveway, loud music playing. I remember he always had cool things from Asia-- a puzzle box I never did figure out. I remember how he drove that car off a dead-end highway and a fencepost landed squarely in the passenger seat through the window. He was fine-- and the car was mostly fine. He thought it was funny. He lived fairly wild, too, and that's why he was not the man my sister stayed with forever. But he never did marry again. I don't know if he carried a torch or if he just never found anyone else ornery enough to take him on. Even so, he helped out our family many times when I was in high school, even when my teen enthusiasms bugged him, a man who mostly wanted to be left alone.

When Sara was born, he was so excited. Back then, I guess people didn't find out the sex of babies as much as we do today, so we didn't know what she was until birth. He brought her a football-- a nerf one-- and held it up to her while looking through the nursery window. That was her first toy. He loved her so much-- and she is probably his best redeeming grace, that face, those blue eyes of hers, the narrow face that looks so much like him. She is a kind, gentle person who cares sometimes too much; it hurts her and she worries a lot. I wish she could take a teeny bit of his strength like that; the ability to tell the world "he wanted to be buried facedown so the world could kiss his ass." It's not a bad lesson to learn, sometimes.

He was an amazing carpenter of boats and this is the work he did most of his later years. He called himself a "fishhead" because of his work in the Destin, Florida, area with fishing/charter boats. The fiberglass he installed is probably one of the things that caused his poor health, but I think he would have found that funny, too. I imagine he built a number of the boats that you would go on if you went charter fishing in Destin. Probably from scratch. I wish he could have done that without the demons that sometimes haunted him. I think he would have been rich if he could have capitalized on that gift-- not that he would have had that as a goal.

And I have been drunk now for over two weeks
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks
But I got stop wishin', got to go fishin'
Down to rock bottom again
Just a few friends, just a few friends...

He once got into a fight with a police officer who had pulled him over and the policeman ended up with the worse end of the fight. It is not something to brag about and at the time, I was really mad at him. But here's the twisted pirate logic: he and his buddy had been drinking too much. Eddie figured he was the MORE sober one so was driving. My niece was in the car (was pretty young) and he wanted to protect her. The policeman who picked the fight, by the way, was the one who got in trouble-- not Eddie.

I'm not going to pretend he was a saint now that he's gone-- oh, no, far from it. In fact, I imagine he would be pissed if people started that. He was a hard man to like sometimes, but Sara loved him dearly. It is fitting that she was the one who had to make the decision to let him go, yesterday. He didn't suffer long, and he wouldn't have wanted it to be a big long ordeal.

I've done a bit of smugglin', I've run my share of grass
I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast
Never meant to last, never meant to last

He wants his ashes scattered across the gulf of Mexico, and they're working on setting that up. I think that is fitting for him, because I think he was most truly happy when he was building a boat or sailing out there in the salty air.

Mother, mother ocean, after all the years I've found
My occupational hazard is, my occupation's just not around
I feel like I've drowned, gonna head uptown.

I have always thought of him when I heard this song. I also have thought it would be kind of cool to be drunk now for over two weeks--just to tell the world to piss off and do what you wanted to do. This is something I think of Eddie with. I probably always will think of him when I hear this song.

May you find fair winds and following seas on your final journey, Eddie.
And perhaps a pirate ship to crew and sunny days ahead.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Roller Coaster Life

It's always amazing to me how fast time flies by. I will be waking up on Monday, tired and not ready for the weekend to be over and then I blink and it's Friday. Where the hell did that whole week go? Why is there another ton of laundry to fold; who is wearing all of these clothes?

And don't get me started on all the things I do not get done in that time. It was a freakin' blink, already, how could I have gotten anything done?

What we've been doing around here is fairly simple.

  • morning routine.
  • daytime stuff-- rental property issues, lunch with Andrew, LAUNDRY, trying to stay half a step against the mess in the house. Teach on Tues & Thurs.
  • pick up kids
  • snacktime for kids
  • grocery for dinner/cook dinner
  • sit outside with firepit.
  • watch the kiddos (yes, both of them) play on and learn ABCs and computer skills. Be amazed.
  • Watch them run around outside in the dark chasing each other with their Nerf Swords. Be amazed, again.
  • Relax for a little while.
  • Enjoy a glass of Pinot Grigio. Attempt to keep it to ONE glass. It's a big glass. ;)
  • Bath/Bedtime
  • rinse. repeat.

Our trip to Texas last weekend was both good & sad. Andrew's cousin Wil was an important part of his life and he's gone, and the funeral events lasted all weekend, so we didn't get a lot of other stuff (visiting with friends, my birthday) done at all, really. But we DID get to spend a lot of time with family members. The old family cemetery was beautiful. And the hill country was amazingly gorgeous-- Fall leaves, sun at that time just before it goes down, hills like roller coasters and happy kids.

This weekend, we're actually having some company over, our houseguests are probably going to start moving into their own place soon and I suspect life will suddenly seem a lot quieter (and that's not altogether a good thing; I've enjoyed having the company).

But I doubt this fast forward button will slow down until far away into the fast forwarding future. Just throw your hands up and enjoy the roller coaster and try not to toss the cookies. It doesn't matter that I don't particularly LIKE roller coasters and prefer the quieter, simpler rides. I'm on this one, so I may as well try to live in this moment and enjoy the parts I can.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pina Coladas Don't Do It For Me Anymore

Waiting, again.
There are magazines and soft music
but the chairs are not soft.
And the conversations
of others

If there were more or less time
then we could
we could
escape this place.

With people we don't know
who don't know us
who don't want to really anyway.

Waiting, for this, for life,
for fulfillment for

I remember a song
about the meek
and flip another page.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tribute to an Era

Early this morning, Andrew got a call from his cousin that his father's cousin Will had finally died. He's been fighting for the last few weeks or so with a heart & lung condition and apparently had just had it. We weren't surprised, although after we had visited him two weekends ago we thought he may have rallied.

Wilford was an ornery old coot. He made that character from that 90s movie City Slickers, played by Jack Palance, look like a wimp. He was a geologist in the oil business and he could tell you long, boring stories about the Earth-- Andrew's dad once asked "why those rocks were black" and the explanation started "well, back when the Earth was formed....." and went on about an hour later.

Andrew's dad & Will had a funny relationship. They'd been together their whole lives-- both growing up on a dirt farm in Central Texas and pulling themselves out of there at the first chance they got. Once, we were out to a fancy dinner and Wilford started to recite some long poetry of the 19th century sentimentalist for "men's ways" sort (huntin' and shootin' poems, you know) and Jim said "Willie, I didn't like your poetry back then and I aint gonna listen to it now".

Sometimes I didn't really like him. He could be an opinionated bastard, and I recall him hounding me about a year before I finally got pregnant about my "biological clock" and I told him "Willie, my biological clock is MY business." He shut up, but he was a little smug when I told everyone I was having not one but two kiddos

Anyway, he was a one of a kind guy and even though he could be a pain in the ass to go out to dinner with when he started loudly spouting off those kinds of conversations, he is one of the last of Andrew's dad's generation. They were all a bunch of tough old coots, in the long run, and we owe a lot to them.

We'll be going to San Antonio for the funeral this weekend, and see family. We're glad we made the trip a couple of weekends ago to see him when he was in a rallying period, too. That's important; see people when they're still here as much as you can.

In honor of him, I recall a cool cowboy poem by Wallace McRae called "Reincarnation". I'm not going to reprint it cause he specifically says not to on his website, but go check it out; it's the second one on the page.