Oh, The Places You Will Go!

:, There is nothing like springtime: warmer temperatures, beautiful flowers, communions, weddings, and graduation ceremonies! For me, Spring has always represented a season of hope and expectation, the opportunity to begin each day anew . The dismal days of Winter are finally gone!! Outdoor festivities and light have replaced cabin fever and darkness-it’s amazing how this transition can change one’s mental perspective… it certainly has changed mine for the better, especially this year, when the Winter seemed especially long. Oh, the places I look forward to going to, even if it’s just to a local park to walk around!

One of the highlights of Spring so far for my husband, Jim, and I, was our niece, Fiona’s college graduation this past weekend! Fiona is a beautiful, young woman, smart, hard-working, and kind. We were thrilled to see Fiona graduate with many honors of distinction this past Sunday. She earned every single award with intelligence, persistence, and patience, the qualities that are typical of all very successful people. We have no doubt that Fiona will soar to even greater heights as she pursues her MBA over the next year. In fact, all 23 of our nieces and nephews are smart, good-looking, talented, and most importantly, kind/compassionate young people. God has truly blessed them all with many gifts! Brian is so fortunate to have so many caring cousins, as we are to have them! Their wonderful parents have raised them well and the tradition continues as they have started to marry spouses who are also “cut from the same cloth” and in turn, impart these values to their children. Jim, Brian, and I love them all and only wish that we saw them more often, as their lives have taken them to various parts of the state, country, and even the world ( we have nieces and nephews in Norway and our niece, Katie, and her hubby, Kit, and newborn, son, Max, reside in Australia!). Oh, the places they have gone, both figuratively and literally!

Milestones, such as graduations, are wonderful celebrations of achievements, and a reminder of the exciting future that lies ahead, but can also simultaneously be reminders of dreams that will not be realized for many special needs families . Such moments always hit me emotionally without warning, intense in their strength, but thankfully short in duration. This weekend was no exception. It’s like a major pulling of a heart-string, an ache, a longing. It’s bittersweet, and it hurts. Thank goodness Brian does not understand; it’s clearly my own issue as his Mom. Even Jim is often more pragmatic about the big picture for Brian than I am, although he too, has confessed his sadness on various occasions over many things we had hoped for Brian as far as milestone accomplishments and life experiences that will not happen. It is not easy- every parent has dreams and hopes for their child and when you are reminded that they will not come to fruition it is sad, yet, it is not the end of the story- hardly! We have (and continue) to have new dreams and hopes for our son. They may not be exactly what we expected or would have wanted for him, but healing, time, and life experiences have changed our perspective and life priorities. We try to have flexible expectations and remain hopeful, even when circumstances have been very challenging and have tested our faith. We have learned that God is always faithful, even when we don’t always trust Him, especially during a fiery trial. Somehow, things work out, even when we don’t feel it or believe it at the time. I only have to look back at the evidence over the past 15 years of my life to know that this is true. Oh, the places we have gone to! Some of those places I’d rather not return to, yet, to be honest, some of my most critical character building sessions have taken place there, making me a more mature, stronger person, essential qualities for raising a child with disabilities, when I look back in retrospect.

We were so proud of Brian this past weekend! There were several transitions and adjustments that he had to continually make: sitting in the car for the 4 hour drive each way, spending time with his Aunt and cousins who he hasn’t seen in a while , sitting in a noisy restaurant eating “different pizza”, and sitting for a 2.5 hour graduation ceremony. These are huge achievements for someone with autism! The aforementioned is an example of a world of routine being turned totally upside down. There is always potential for disaster to happen, we just never know when. We try to prepare with favorite snacks, iPad, music, headphones, etc, to make these changes easier and just happened to be very fortunate this weekend. Brian’s tolerance for the unfamiliar has certainly improved from years ago, but he (nor we) will ever be 100% free from this aspect of autism that causes meltdowns and frustrations for all concerned. That’s when flexible expectations come in very handy for us; I would never leave home without them!

When Brian was first born, we were given the poem, ” Welcome To Holland”, that uses a metaphor to describe raising a child with disabilities, comparing it to a plane ride , where you thought you were going to Italy, but ended up in Holland instead. The parents were disappointed, but learned with time it was just a ” different” place, where happiness and contentment could still be realized. To be honest, I despised that poem, especially early on, and most definitely when Brian was later diagnosed with autism. I would call that moment: “Welcome To Beirut-a Place where no one wants to visit, let alone live in”. I continue to struggle with this final destination and know I always will…

While the emotional wounds will never quite heal over and can be briefly torn open or triggered by various family milestone events, I know there are also our own historical milestone moments with Brian, with more to come. As a matter of fact, Brian will “graduate” next month ( with cap and gown!) and “move up” to the secondary program at his school. This moment in time will represent 12 years of patience, persistence, teaching, and love on behalf of many educational professionals, family members, and friends, who we affectionately call, “Team Brian”. Oh, the places you have taken us to, and the places Brian will go to! Some places will be less desirable than others, but I must always remember that they are not the final destinations, rather, they are merely “layovers” for better locations, a life journey that is really the same for everyone, disabled or not.

Until we meet again, thanks for reading! 😊

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