Showing posts from June, 2011

Unless You Become As a Child...

Part of my personal interest in adopting Bethany came from time spent overseas working in what basically amounted to orphanages. No one likes the term orphanage so they clean the name up and give the kids a type of permanence and dignity they deserve but have been so remiss in receiving.  They go by names like "home, foundation, shelter, and institute".

The Prince of Peace Foundation in Ecuador was my introduction to the reality of such a place. It’s place for kids to escape the grip of abuse, neglect, drugs, cultural indifferences, overpopulation, and a host of other situational malignancies. While the goal of these places is to “reunite the child and the family”, the reality of that seemed slim.  These were beautiful children who wanted desperately to matter, to be loved and to have some degree of predictability in their lives but so many things were working against that goal.  Big, things that aren't easily changed in short bursts of time.

One boy had been abused by …

A Daily Dose of Bethany, Just what the Doctor Ordered...

Her knuckles were black this morning from last night’s beating.Her head and cheek was the main subject of attention, although my heart caught most of the blows as well.
The day started with a calm, almost peaceful attitude and somewhere around mid-day all that hope evaporated like rainclouds in a desert.I don’t know how much more of this I can open my heart to – fear only happens when you’re unsure of something, this is so nearly a certainty that I not only don’t fear; I’ve moved so far as to emotionally distance myself from it.
How many days have I muttered this report, how many nights have I gone to sleep with a heavy heart and little hope for tomorrow?Then, like the sun rising after a long, dark night – we have an evening with little conflict.
I came home from work and found Bethany in the living room, clutched tightly in her hand was one of Sherry’s Polo shirts.That little artifact stayed clutched for next 6 hours. Typically, I come home and wonder how long till the next meltdown but…

Seven Seconds of a Siezure

In a quiet moment, early in the morning – I hear a scream like none I’ve ever heard before coming from upstairs.Unsure if it’s a dream or the reality of an early rising, I half-sit up in bed.With Bethany, one scream is fluke, two a distinct pattern, and three means hell came early.
Waiting for a moment, I hear nothing but a strange creaking emanating from the electronic baby-monitor that we’ve positioned on the window ledge.“What in the hell could that sound be”? I think through the haze of a partial nights’ sleep.Suddenly the creaking, high-pitched moan and shifting of sheets is clearly heard through the cheap microphone.
Having your heart go from a resting rate of 50 beats-per-minute to that of a second period wrestler’s heart rate is a horrible sensation.It’s horrible for a wrestler, even worse for the one who wrestles with a special needs child and beyond all imagination for one who is both wrestler of and father to the child now having a grand mal seizure.
Racing up the stairs of an…

My Heart as Story Bait...

My days at work seem to be spent telling stories about complex situations.I’m a strategist by profession, which means I’m supposed to have a plan for anything. The problem is, as you may have noticed from my writing – planning and executing are not my gifts.Living and reacting in an ambiguous flux is more in line with my being.Ask me to plan a party and I fail. Have me turn a funeral into a party; now we have something to work with.
The stories I tell, those are all just experiences I’ve gathered over the years by using my heart as “story-bait”, chumming as it were, in hopes of hooking some big meaning in an increasingly meaningless world.I can tell this is so because when I start to tell those stories, people’s eyes, light up.Their heads actually begin to float with the ebb and flow of the tale; their lips and eyelids move in anticipation of a revelation, yet to be delivered.
I know their hearts are hungry for this relationship, simply because they pay attention, they relate, they want…

Assisted Living

I was a little apprehensive at the thought of taking Bethany along to visit Sherry’s mom at the assisted living center; the thought of all those seniors, lined up like so many bowling pins waiting for a Korean bowling ball to come along and score a spare or worse, a strike.Our helper had left for the day and while Sherry daily makes the visit – I am far less frequent a visitor.It turns out Bethany goes along with some degree of regularity.
Sherry assured me that she was “pretty good” whenever she went there and even as we punched in the door code to get inside, I found myself wondering what “pretty good” meant.For Bethany, pretty good can mean many different things.It can mean she was quiet, polite and carried that characteristic smile that goes from ear to ear.It can also mean that she only took out one set of false teeth, knocked over only three people and only ripped two dirty diapers.
Once we got into mom’s room, Bethany showed me what “pretty good” looks like.She gently took Marily…

Beauty and the Beast

I was away on business for the better part of a week and returning home was a mix of emotions.I’d decided early that travel to and from the city would be far more interesting on the train so I booked a ticket, loaded my backpack, donned my goofy straw fedora, and boarded the train.I felt sad that my wife couldn’t join me for a few days but carried a bit of relief at the thought that she could at least enjoy a “respite weekend” without Bethany or me around.
We have this unwritten rule of “no news is good news”, a protocol we’d agreed upon when I traveled to Iraq in 2004.Chicago isn’t Iraq but still, I heard nothing from home and sent nothing back that way.In the Bible, the book of Psalms has this little phrase: “Selah”, which is a bit of repose – a musical interlude and I concluded that our silence was just that.
Much to my dismay, there was little silence at home.Bethany was hitting herself most of the week and while I was with clients at a cocktail reception – the text messages finally…

What Happens When I let go of that Little Hand?

At dinner last night someone asked me what the “long term prognosis is for Bethany”.  I rattled off the customary answer that Sherry and I have rehearsed for the last five years. What fell off my tongue was one thing – what was seething in my heart was quite another.  I explained that she's physically healthy and will likely outlive the both of us in the short-term, but what happens after we’re both dead is anyone’s guess.

I talk about the epiphany we had when we realized that once she turns eighteen, she’ll qualify to live in a group home – a point at which we’ll finally be released from the day-to-day care that drains us physically and emotionally. We talk about the day that we “get our lives back” and that thought seems to satisfy most inquiries. “So you really only need to hang in there for four more years right?”  I usually reply, “yeah – something like that”.
That thought haunted me all night. It wore me down and finally overtook me early this morning, right there in the sho…

Reasonable Accomodation

One of the drawbacks in a family with a special needs child is that the parents rarely if ever get do something together.  “Together, as a couple” is a construct that rarely crosses our mind.  Typically, one goes out and attends while the other stays and attends to.
We experience this again last night with an event at the local high school.  We had no helpers for Bethany so we decided to take her with to a dinner and accompanying awards ceremony.  It’s a big gamble taking her out like this – last time we did, she ended up sending a fork over about three tables from ours, totally surprising the customers at table 14.  As patrons, they were gracious likely because we quickly hid and they had no idea our daughter had launched it. 
The trouble with events like this at the local high school is not the concern for table manners but rather, the concern for access and acceptance.  High schools are designed through a complex process of time, budget, politics and low-bid architecture.  Accommoda…

Crabby Old Men and Life

I’m not sure if its age or environment that’s influencing my attitude more.  My cynical, “wit razor” is as sharp and dangerous as any sling-blade ever was.  The path of emotional destruction it creates is as unappealing as it is effective. 
I knew old guys like me when I was a kid and it was always explained that they were like they were for any number legendary reasons.  “He got like that fighting the Germans” was a common label.  I remember thinking that my hometown must have been a lonely place with nothing but old ladies wearing funny looking shoes and rolled stockings around their ankles.   It had to be lonely like that because I knew so many old men who were irascible farts with gray hair and angry demeanors; they must have all been in Germany for a good long while.
For some of them, I’m sure war exacted its toll of the spirit.  For others, in reality it was perhaps a life that was forged in the Great Depression and calcified into place with factory jobs that offered little contr…

Morning Anger and a Gentle Reproof

I’m not sure if it was the gentle breeze through the bedroom window or the loud “thunk” against the upstairs wall that woke me this morning.I rolled over to face the alarm clock and thought “damn, up already”.I lay there as if remaining motionless would somehow urge her back to sleep, then a second “thud” of a fist against wall plaster.A second muttering of “damn” and then another motionless moment.
You try not to start the morning on such a sour note, but the gravity of the next few hours lies as heavy on your heart as the lead shot-filled blanket that we use to calm her does on your chest.Mornings are particularly rough, she has no more interest in being readied for the day than we do readying her and she decides to fight every step of the way.
As it turns out, this morning was different.I’d gone upstairs to open the half-height door we installed in her bedroom so she could come down, and she just lay there – still, quiet, staring at the ceiling fan as it’s lazy circular motion slowly…