Thursday, August 29, 2013

What Is There To Say?

I like to pretend that I’m a beast.  Like I have it all together.  Like I can handle anything that life throws at me.  Like I’m a superhuman who doesn’t need help.

I’m a fraud, pure and simple.

I haven’t updated this blog in over six months.  That’s ridiculous, to the point of being embarrassing.  I’d like to say that I haven’t had time.  People would probably believe me.  I have a full-time job and a part-time job.  I homeschool one son, and deal with all of the autism-related issues that afflict the other one.  I have a husband who I not only love but also LIKE, so every once in a while, I decide it would be good to talk to him.  I’m fairly active in church.  It sounds like I have no time for anything else.  Sure, I’m busy, but there have been plenty of times that I could have posted an update.  Instead, I’ve chosen to indulge in slothfulness.  In the rare moments that I haven’t really had anything pressing to address, I’ve opted to do nothing.  I’m trying to be better. :) 

The last six months have been filled with blessings.  I got a promotion at work.  Josh became very good friends with the new kids next door.  Our best friends got married.  Owen made huge improvements in terms of speech and cognition.  His preschool decided that his academic ability was so high, he needed to be moved to a blended classroom instead of a dedicated special needs classroom.  He started school on the 14th

 The last six months have also been plagued with numerous difficulties.  I’ve been going through some medical problems and am on a lot of medicine.  Our insurance stated that they would not pay for any more speech therapy for Owen this year, due to a special clause in our contract that they neglected to mention when we asked how many sessions he could have.  He’s only gone without therapy for two weeks, and I can already notice some slight regressions.  We try to keep him engaged at home, but we’re not speech pathologists.  It’s just not the same.

On July 8th, our lives changed dramatically.  Within a half-hour time span, our family learned that my mother-in-law had passed away unexpectedly and that my grandfather – who has taken the most active role of anyone in our lives – had cancer.  Upon learning that Bill’s mother had passed, I left work to head home, be with Bill, and talk to Joshua about what had happened.  I was greeted by my mother, who hesitantly filled me on what was going on with my grandpa.  The world stopped spinning.

I am extremely close to my grandpa.  I was raised by my grandparents, so he has played the role of dad for my entire life.  As much as I loved my grandmother, there is no denying that I am a Papa’s girl through-and-through.  I’m 34 years old, and he still calls to check on me when I’m sick, has me let him know when I’ve made it back home after a trip out of town, and checks the oil in my car.  I was gutted.  I’m not an emotional person in any sense of the word, and I completely lost it…alone in the back yard (well, my mom was there, so I guess not exactly alone).  I didn’t want the kids or my grandpa to see me in my fragile state, and I certainly had to pull it together before Bill got home.  He just lost his mother, after all…it wasn’t my time to grieve.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that grandpa’s situation is likely even more grim than originally thought.  His oncologist believes that the cancer has moved into the lymph nodes elsewhere in his body, not just near the kidney as we originally thought.  He’s also got a large abdominal aortic aneurysm that adds even more difficulty to the situation.  Things don’t look promising.  We have no firm prognosis as of yet, but we do know that we’re not looking at a possibility of a cure.

Pa with his grands, great-grands, and a great-GREAT-grand!

I say all of that to say this…

Papa Sonny (a.k.a “Pa”) is an institution around our house.  As close as I am to him, my children are even closer.  The love they have for him is pure, fierce, and steadfast.  He has been actively present in their lives since the moment they arrived.  He waited anxiously in the waiting room while I labored with Josh, and drove me to my first (unsuccessful) trip to the hospital to have Owen. He has babysat both boys from the moment I went back to work following their births.  On days he doesn’t have to watch them, he’s there to visit them at 4:00 SHARP.  He has accompanied me to every doctor’s appointment the boys have had.  He has nursed Josh through asthma attacks and Owen through terrible bouts of stomach flu.  He’s clapped from the audience at every single Christmas program, walked hand-in-hand to the classroom on every single first day of school, made crafts during every single Grandparent’s Day event, chaperoned every single field trip.

Josh knows that those days are numbered.  We’ve explained to him that this is the time to cherish every moment with his beloved Pa.  Now is not the time for bickering, stubbornness, and petty frustrations.  It’s the time for playing together (while Pa still feels up to it), lots of hugs, and expressions of love.  He’s playing the “tough guy” role, but we know it’s crushing him.  You can hear it in the way his voice deepens when he talks about it.  You can see it in his eyes and the bright red glow that comes to his cheeks when someone asks him about it.  He hates it, but he gets it.

But what about Owen?

For the neurotypical among us, death is so final and concrete.  And it is.  But it also isn’t.  You can’t see it.  You can’t hear it, smell it, taste it, or touch it.  You can feel it, but not with your fingers.  You don’t know the time, the day, or the circumstances.  It’s abstract.  It’s unexpected.  It’s not part of the planned routine.   

How do you explain that the people we love don’t get to be with us forever?  How do you explain the fragility of life and that people as wonderful as his Papa have to go through horrible things like this? How do you explain that the man he has seen literally every day of his entire life will someday not be there? How do you explain that “someday” is coming sooner than we ever thought? 

How do you tell your four-year-old autistic son that his grandpa is dying?