The Caregiver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The spider glides across the window pane
The beetle traverses the cold tile
The moth returns to the light
And the mama releases a sigh,
Weary after consoling her child
Again.

She exhales the attempts
To extinguish the flames
That rage within
The neurotic chaos soothed
By anti-psychotic meds
Or Barney’s songs
Or maybe there is no solution
On this particular day.

No solution for what
The blast stole from him
The stroke that occurred
Many, many years ago
And pained those
Who love him.

And the screams rattle the walls
And the windows
And the beetle cowers behind the urn
Which illuminates a translucent prism
Of relaxed bodies
that lean into the silky softness
or slowly cascade from the glow
and drift to lie
upon the patio.

She stretches her tired limbs
The mama who loved him from the start
Her terminal boy who defied every odd
And lived
But in living
Her dreams died a little bit
And she became frantic –
Fighting against the web
And against the light that beckoned
Desperate for an escape
Desperate to find a crack in the floor
Or maybe in the windowpane
Desperate to avoid the patio graveyard
And reject the silken suffocation
And she retreated
to the mat
upon the floor
again.

The spider, the beetle, the moth –
Her friends in isolation
They wait
All three – they wait
And ponder
And shrug.

They consider their Job
Lying still and silent before them
Prostrate upon the cold tile
Seeking the light within
and not the one flickering
beyond the window pane.

The spider eyes her suspiciously
The beetle hurries past her motionless body
The moth flaps mightily
Her friends in quiet contemplation
Living a life not chosen
But yet, it was.
In childlike surrender
The light glimmers within
and beyond.

The spider, the beetle, the moth
They surround her
And peer intently into her dismal eyes
Her hallowed gaze
And they wait
All four, they wait
For escape.

An eerie silence fills the room
Except for the occasional screams
From the child
below.
She sighs,
defeated,
Again.

And then –

A sound –

She untangles her weary body
Her foot swipes the web
as she rises from the sunken mat
and scuttles to the door
flinging it wide
in welcome relief
The light rushes in
And becomes one with the day
Redemption
has arrived!

Hallelujah and Amen!

The fresh air
Ebbs and flows
Like a steady tango
And brings hope
That brushes away
The spider, the beetle,
and the moth.

A burden lifted
Her soul is light and free
A meal, a drink, a gift
Extended
Life-giving sustenance
for the weary and famished.

She exhales
Slow and steady
Not caught
Nor trapped
By light nor silk nor walls
There is grace
Through giving hands
And sacrifice.

She is renewed.
She is seen.
Again.

#seemetoo

This is not a gift.

This is not a gift
The thrashing, slashing
high pitched screams
The inability
To regulate
The nightmarish dreams

This is not a gift
The sensory seeking
And constant smears
The messes
And elopement
Amidst many jeers

This is not a gift
The anxiety to a hilt
The flapping hands
And banging head
The thoughts laced constantly
With guilt

This is not a gift
The non verbal guessing game
A game we play
Because we must
But frustrating
all the same.

This is not a gift
The hours making calls
The sleepless nights
And haunting tales
The writing
on the walls

This is not a gift
Fighting tooth & nail
For every damn
experience
That might just help
My kid prevail

This is not a gift
The dollars always spent
on lifesaving meds
and tall safety beds
Which often deter
Paying rent
This is not a gift
Caregiver fight or flight
The isolation
And heart palpitations
The harrowing screams
Through the night.

This is not a gift
Constant PTSD
The tears
And desperate pleas
For anyone
To please see me.

This is not a gift
This version of the ‘bow
The red & yellow
Black & blue
The constant stress
And woe.

This part is not a gift
But other parts
They sure are great
Like patience learned
& kindness too
Towards those who are different
Than me & than you.

And the breakthrough moments
That make us smile
Those moments
achieved
When we walk
The extra mile.

And when he cups my face
And softly sings to me
And waves his head
So gently
To the sweet, sweet
Melody

The wins
That come with pain
They make it more worthwhile
But truth be told
And tell the truth
I will not spread beguile

This life is hard
For me & him
The loses piled high
We hold on tight
To faith & hope
Until the day we die.

Hope that those
Who follow us
Will learn & love
And prosper
Because we used
our time to teach
And never lost
Our luster

Luke’s Uncertain Future.

Yesterday I enjoyed a lovely conversation with a mama of a 20 year old total care daughter. As we chatted, I was quickly reminded that my Luke will be turning 17 this summer & as of yet, we don’t have a long term plan. Sure, I have aspirations & dreams but nothing cemented in stone.
So instead of being a sane individual & prepping for a move, or writing a book I’m under contract for, or launching a current book (or non-profit work or being present for my 8 children), I spent the day obsessively researching how to become a Medicaid provider & start a residential facility.

Of course I did.

I looked at vacant land, at huge pole barn kits that could be sectioned off into living quarters, duplexes, cheap commercial properties that my handy husband could renovate, & then I began to crunch numbers which only resulted in disappointing results. It’s a HEFTY price tag to have your loved one cared for 24/7 (try $20,000+ a month for ONE caregiver).
My point is this. As many of you prepare to launch your high school graduates off; full of anticipation & hope over a world of possibilities (& I’m doing this as well with my two oldest), there are those of us freaking out about the future of our unique kiddos.

In fact, I believe most of my grief with Luke has nothing to do with his diagnosis but much more to do with the uncertainty of his future & ours. If someone would say to me, “ At 22 years old he will move into this amazing residential facility where he will be well loved & cared for.” That would work! But no one says this to parents like me. We don’t hold our breath for admittance to college at 18 years old. We don’t hold our breath for admittance to anything!

No, we hold our breath that there will be an opening somewhere that provides peace to our souls before our child turns 40 or before we die. Whatever comes first.
We live for years in fear over what the future holds for us & for our children & me being me, I’m sick of the fear & in true Jessica fashion decided to take the bull by the horns & try to control the situation (which may or may not work – we shall see).

It is what it is.

But please, remember us.

In the middle of the big hoopla’s & parties & ceremonies to celebrate the typical ones, remember those of us who aren’t in a major celebratory mood or have much whoop de do going on because there aren’t any options for our grown kiddos.

And you know what, then do something for families like ours. As we show up to celebrate your kids, advocate for our children. Vote for change. Donate to the organizations making a difference in your community. Our societies are only as healthy as our caregivers and that includes caregivers of the typical & caregivers of those like Luke.

Just keep livin.

It Is Well With My Soul.

Over the past year I’ve witnessed the demise of many leaders; often pinnacles of faith who have fallen from grace, men and women who most assuredly began their careers with the noblest of intentions. Individuals who, through the passage of time, became enamored with self and blinded by fame & fortune; who lost perspective on their place within humanity because of a choice to turn from that still small voice.

I believe we each have the innate potential to fall far from grace; to perceive ourselves as better than we ought to. I know I do. Under different circumstances I could really embrace how special I think I am, hold on tightly to the perception that I’ve gotten this life thing figured out real good, lean into pride and her enticing offers & allow her to nibble away at my soul as she has with others who have climbed the ladder of success.

I think about all of this as I prepare to release a book and a documentary into the world.

Two creations that could potentially cast a pretty bright light on my life.

Perhaps.

I’m a first born, “me do it” Enneagram one who thrives on accomplishments and making a difference & these attributes are typically celebrated by society with lots of accolades and praise, & yes, this recognition is nice. I am human. It’s nice to be acknowledged for your achievements & even nicer still to have people perceive you as a good person; a person making positive strides in the steps of humanity; a respectful person with character. Of course it’s nice.

I’ve worked diligently & finished projects which might push me a little bit out of the shadows of anonymity & possibly into a world for which I am unprepared & yet –

I will continue to rise every morning
And diaper my 16 year old son
(which is as humility building as it gets some days)
And help him get dressed
And pour his juice into a sippy cup
And put socks upon his feet
And lace up his sneakers
And assist him to the car
And gently close the door but not until he says in his sweet sing song way –
“Bye! Have a good day!”
And I turn and walk away
With a smile on my face.
This is our routine
Me and my Luke
Every single day.

These monotonous actions serve as a reminder as they did with the apostle Paul – a prickly thorn that breathes humility into my swelling soul & deflates any pride that may try to sneak in; crushing it in an instant as my boy demands yet another round of –

“Paddy cake, paddy cake, bakers man, bake me a cake as fast as you can.”

And as his smile reaches for the stars, I lean into the understanding that he and I are created in the image of our Maker, one not better than the other, simply different with unique purposes & gifts, & the only attribute that makes us great is dutifully reacting in joyful obedience to the hard & holy tasks we’ve been called to accomplish.

Each staying faithful to the race we must run.

This uncomfortable road, this thorn of special needs & autism, this aching joy which serves as a gift – a gift that calls me to daily lay down my life & continuously keeps my head from ballooning & serves as a constant jab reminding me of who I am and who I am not by stripping away any pretenses. This gift which prepares a table before me in the presence of fame & fortune & pride; where Luke & I dine with the Shepherd feasting on humility & special needs & gulping down goblets of grace.

It is well with my soul.
It is well with Luke’s soul.
And that is enough.

Just keep livin