Waiting for the groundhog…

Don’t be surprised if you hear I’ve been found sitting on the toboggan, teetering on the edge of the grassy slope, shaking my fist in the air as I ask for snow…  If we get winter over and done with, I can start planning for springtime, window boxes, herbs, and tomatoes.

Allowing life to progress at its own pace would be infinitely easier if in August we didn’t get slapped with Halloween, in September with Thanksgiving and in early October by Christmas…the year wasn’t even done and Valentine’s Day started lurking in the seasonal displays at the grocery store. On Sunday, the 29th of January, I came home with packets of seeds I couldn’t resist purchasing because what if they run out????

The relentless attack of the retail-prescribed passing of time is starting to wear me out. Aging isn’t helping either. The “children” with their facial hair and deeper voices are yet another crumb in the butter.  Nearly setting J’s birthday cake on fire with seventeen candles made it quite clear that by May we need a new fire extinguisher if we’re going to celebrate The Great Gonzo’s birthday with anything other than candles shaped like a 2 and a 1.

Children.  I still use that word and every day it becomes more obvious that they’re anything but.  It doesn’t matter how old they get, though, I ALWAYS know when something is wrong, a lie is being told, a problem is being hidden and a favor is about to be requested.  My children believe I am clueless.

Excuse me while I say HA HA HA.

In The Great Gonzo’s defense, I thought I was a bad-ass when I was 20 years old.  Just like every young person grown to adulthood before him, our little Hunter S. Thompson re-enactor is still the same kid who’d run around wearing cowboy boots, a hand-painted Woody from Toy Story t-shirt (don’t tell Disney…I couldn’t afford the real thing so I faked it as best I could,) and some plastic silver-colored armor.  Underneath the tattoos, the earrings, the facial hair and the leather jacket there is still a very soft-, kind-hearted human being who can’t listen to Judy Garland singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas to Margaret O’Brien without requiring masses of Kleenex.  Yes, it’s only once a year while watching Meet Me in St. Louis at Christmas, but the sniffling and nose-blowing is not insignificant.

The Great Gonzo has always been a very vocal being, until he is upset about something. As a mother I often used the Jaws of Life to pry his mouth open so he’ll talk about how he feels.  With my oldest, the more he cares, the less he talks. Other times he won’t shut up, bouncing into the room (a bundle of enthusiasm and desire to communicate) because he thought of something funny or interesting or…but ask him how his day was, or how he’s feeling.  The chirp of one cricket would drown out the sound of his voice.  Suddenly, the kid who can speak on stage -making himself heard in the back row of the theater without the aid of a microphone (clearly enunciating every word)- mumbles an unintelligible, succinct summary of his status and leaves. He is easy to laugh; it’s sustained, lusty laughter. He’s quiet and morose when you try to delve into how he feels.

This morning he slumped down on my bed and gave me a brief description of what had happened to make him so gloomy. J is Tigger…all bounce and joy and woohoohooHOOO.  The Great Gonzo is Eeyore: “we’re doomed; we’re all gonna die; might as well give up now.”  Well…according to Eeyore, he doesn’t want J to suffer because J wouldn’t understand.  (HUH?)  It didn’t really make sense to either one of us as he said it so, patiently, I said what we resorted to when seminar discussions dwindled to nothing within the first half-hour: “say more.”  I think I’ll write a parenting book called: All I Know About Parenting I Learned From Erma Bombeck, My Aunts and Socrates.

Back and forth we went, and the thought became quite clear: childhood ends when we realize that we are not at all in control of much.  A kid left for work last night, something closer to an adult returned this morning.  This is progress.

A patient who reminded TGG of J was his assignment for the night.  What is second nature at work (watching others, caring for them and not getting emotionally involved) didn’t seem so impersonal for one night.  I told him I can’t promise that J’s never going to need tubes, needles, sedatives.  We can try our best to keep J healthy, but there are no guarantees.  J is seventeen now, I said, and “it used to be that you accepted him just as he is, but now you realize there’s a lot more to him than just who he is.”  We get older, we see more of what lies ahead, and we’re aware that we’ll have to do things we never imagined.  Mondo bummer!

“If ANYONE ever HURTS my brother…I will CRUSH them…I don’t mind going to prison…” he started, in his low, emotionally-charged way.  Eeyore sounds like Shere Khan now, but -in fact- he is all Piglet and Pooh.

Whether the groundhog sees his shadow or doesn’t tomorrow morning, the seasons will keep arriving when it’s their time, not when the stores roll out the corresponding merchandise.  I can rant and rave at the skies, but spring comes when it’s spring and not a moment sooner.  I can tell myself that forty-something is the new thirty-something.  It isn’t.

J enjoyed his birthday. He enjoyed the pound cake I made from scratch even with the seventeen candles melting into it (WHY do they put that thick wax coating on the wick?  Half the candles lit are melting into the cake while one tries to light the other half!,) and then -like a seventeen year old GUY- he smiled as if to say “we’re done here, right?” and dashed back to his room.  Another shred of normalcy on his thick coating of autism.  🙂

The day TGG was born, as I looked at him for the first time, I realized I was going to die.  Not right then and there, but I was going to die anyway.  The thought had never really sunk in; I knew that people die every day, and I knew I was going to die, but at that particular moment I became aware of my mortality because suddenly I had something tremendously important and dear to live for…  The day one grows up is the day Eeyore gives his usual spiel and our own voice says “aw, shut up, you miserable, moody donkey! Tell it to Chicken Little!

Then we make a point of buying seeds and potting soil even though the groundhog hasn’t even poked out of his cave…  If you’ll excuse me, there’s a grassy slope that seems ripe for a middle-aged woman and a bright-orange toboggan.


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