[From May 4, 2013]
Reasoning things through and making connections do not come easily for Courtney. All of the obstacles that her autism and intellectual disability put before her make these seemingly simple tasks very, very difficult. But just last Wednesday, that all changed for just a brief moment in time, and I soaked in every minute of it. My pilates instructor had come over to help Courtney get some exercise, and just made it a really fun, social experience for her. I think the combination of moving her body, feeling good about herself, and just having a “girlfriend” to hang out with brought about a focus and clarity that we rarely get to see. She was animated, and engaged, and we had a CONVERSATION. I was in heaven, just loving watching her, and listening to her, and interacting with her on a whole different level. At one point she made the connection that homeless people need money, we have some money, so why couldn’t we give them some of our money to buy groceries. I know this may not seem like a monumental thought to a lot of people, but for Courtney, to think about that, reason it through, and make those connections was HUGE! She has had her moments of clarity and reasoning in the past, but they have been brief, maybe a half-hour, hour or two if we really help her to maintain it. But this time, I had my girl that I know is inside there, just waiting to come out, for at least 4 hours, until she went to bed. I have to admit that when she woke up the next morning, and that piece was gone, locked back inside, I was disappointed. My enjoyment that previous afternoon had been so immense, it was hard to let it go. But I quickly put that disappointment aside, choosing instead to focus on the memory of our afternoon together, and knowing that if it happened this time, it WILL happen again, and once again, I will stay in that moment with her, enjoying every last minute of the special time.
[From March 29, 2013]
When Courtney was much younger, 4 and 5, and we were still trying to find our way through her diagnosis, there was a lot of frustration on my part, on her part, in our family as a whole. Some days were just so, so difficult.
Every evening at bedtime I would have to lay down with her, just to get her to settle in enough to be able to go to sleep. And every evening, no matter how hard that day had been, I would feel her put her small hand in mine and say, “I love you mommy.” And in that instant, all the stress and frustration was gone, replaced with the strength I knew I would need the next day, to get up, face the challenges, and try to do my best.
Even now, at 19 years old, most days are still really hard. There are old challenges and there are new challenges. And some days I find myself wondering where I will find the strength to do this, and take care of her, for the rest of my life. And then she gives me a Mother’s Day card that she has written herself:
“You’re so kind and Beautiful Mommy I ever had in my whole wide world. You make me laugh and giggle too because I would never loose you your so nice and cool mommy and I really love you. I hope you can have an Fantastic mommy’s Day. Love Courtney, I will always be in your heart”
The grammar may not be just right, but I know exactly what she means to say and in that instant my world is a whole lot better and I have found my strength again.
Really appreciate the small things, because that is where the strength is.
[From March 29, 2013]
I was reflecting on the day our daughter, Courtney, graduated from high school. Amidst all of the celebration of that day, though, I couldn’t help but think of our son, Brandon’s, high school graduation three years prior. As I sat in the stands, watching his future and all the promise of things to come unfolding, I was completely unaware that in just a few days, at my appointment for my annual mammogram, our lives would be completely turned upside down. That is when my breast cancer was first detected and I began a fight that would last for 1 1/2 years.
So on the day of her graduation, I let the memories come in, as I’ve learned that trying to keep them out is a futile attempt. But as I’ve also learned to do, I processed them, remembering what I have gained, and putting them away. Then I focused on Courtney and her overwhelming joy that this day had finally arrived for her. This was the time to sit in the stands and watch her future, and all of it’s promise, unfolding. Her path will be vastly different from Brandon’s, but that is okay. It didn’t diminish that day for her, and it is that positive thought that I stayed focused on, keeping the memories of three years ago tucked away for the time being.