Tag Archives: autism & marriage

Que Sera, Sera

I’m the silent partner. On Emma’s Hope Book anyway. It’s been a long time since I posted an entry. Ariane has always been the driving (and writing) force of Emma’s Hope Book, but I’ve been completely MIA lately. I went on interferon/ribovirin treatment two months ago. I knew the side effects were going to be extreme, but it turned out to be much worse than I could have imagined – one of those cases where if the disease doesn’t kill you, the cure will. I was basically an invalid, physically and mentally. I had to quit the treatment just so I could function and it took a month before I felt well again.

Ariane did an amazing job holding down the fort while I was laid up. She does an amazing job all the time. I’m very lucky and very grateful. Frankly, it’s been a rough patch for all of us lately. “We’ll get through this,” Ariane said a few minutes ago, kissing the top of my head as she scurried back and forth, preparing for a jewelry trunk show.

“Yep,” I nodded, “we always do.”

Of course, exactly what “this” means is open to debate. I guess it means “today”, because our lives never seem to get less complicated, difficult or worrisome for any significant length of time. This is true of any family I imagine, but Emma’s autism contributes greatly to our never-ending “whack-a-mole” game.

Her progress with language, reading and writing continues at a steady pace – a daily miracle from my perspective. Yet at the same time, she has had a recurrence of her difficulties with being able to go to the bathroom, which we thought was long behind us. Two steps forward, one step back.

I finished my novel a while ago and it is being shopped around by my agent. Ariane submitted a proposal for a book about Emma and our family. Both of us are stressed, bracing ourselves and hoping for good news. The day before I went on the interferon treatment, a conflict with my business partner developed that seems irresolvable, adding to the career pressure. Obviously, I would prefer to have enough success as a writer to provide well for the family, just as Ariane would like her jewelry business and her own writing efforts to be wildly prosperous. I’m sure they will be. It’s a lot easier for me to have faith in Ariane’s talents and potential for good fortune. I come from Irish stock.

Every night for the last week Emma has gone to bed listening to a CD of lullabies recorded by the talented and lovely Alycea Ench. The first song is “Que Sera, Sera.”

The second is “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I sit in bed with Emma and listen to these incredibly poignant melodies and lyrics, so full of hope and unattainable longing. Do they speak to Emma with the same desperate yearning I hear? Does she question whether she will ever have a chance to experience the normal phases of life the rest of us take for granted? Or does she just like listening to the Alycea’s lovely voice as she sings:

Que Sera, Sera

When I was just a little girl

I asked my mother, “What will I be?”

“Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?”

Here’s what she said to me:

Que Sera, Sera

Whatever will be will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que Sera Sera

What will be will be.

When I was young I fell in love

I asked my sweetheart, “What lies ahead?”

“Will we have rainbows day after day?”

Here’s what my sweetheart said:

Que Sera Sera

Whatever will be will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que Sera Sera

What will be will be.

Now I have children of my own

They ask their mother, “What will I be?”

“Will I be handsome? Will I be rich?”

I tell them tenderly:

Que Sera Sera

Whatever will be will be

The future’s not ours to see

Que Sera Sera

What will be will be.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow

Way up high,

There’s a land that I heard of

Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Skies are blue,

And the dreams that you dare to dream

Really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far

behind me.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops

away above the chimney tops.

That’s where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Bluebirds fly.

Birds fly over the rainbow.

Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly

Beyond the rainbow

Why, oh why can’t I?

As Ariane said yesterday in her post, unless Emma is stressed out about one of her OCD issues or unable to attain her most basic needs, she is so incredibly happy in the moment. Blissful. So I doubt very much that she questions what the future holds in store for her — any more than she wonders what lies over the rainbow. She is here. Now. It is Ariane and I that so achingly desire for her to feel and experience all the things kids her age normally go through: having friends, playing games, chattering back and forth.  And as she grows older: dating, falling in love, raising her own family.

Just trying to imagine that kind of normal life for Emma and the rest of us is almost impossible for me. As I write this, I cannot clearly picture it. Even as a fantasy, this truly lies over the rainbow. But even if I can’t visualize it, I have never lost hope that it is possible. In fact, I believe with all my heart that it will happen — someday, somehow – and our little bluebird will fly.

In the meantime, we will get through this — today. As for tomorrow? Que, Sera, Sera.

A Wish

The parent of a severely disabled child asked me a few weeks ago what I wanted for Emma.  She was referring to the long term, the far off future.

“I’m assuming you’re not expecting her to go to Harvard,” she said.

Well no, I thought.  That has never been a goal for either of my children, but I didn’t say that to her.  Instead I said, “I want her to be able to live independently.  I would like her to have friendships, to be able to find something she loves doing and takes pride in.  I would like her to be a kind, thoughtful person who is able to contribute in some way to society and our world,” I stopped for a minute.  “I guess I want her to feel good about who she is in the world.”

She nodded her head.

When Richard and I decided we wanted to try to have children we spent many hours discussing our views on parenting and childrearing.  We were in agreement with almost everything.  Neither one of us cared what college our child went to or even if they went to college.  We both agreed we were more concerned with our children finding a career they loved.   We agreed we wanted them to be kind, to be generous, to consider others and to behave in ways which foster that.  We agreed we did not care what their sexual orientation turned out to be and we did not own them.  We both felt strongly our children, if we were lucky enough to have any, were not an extension of ourselves, but independent beings.  We agreed it was our duty to guide and advocate for them until they were old enough to advocate for themselves.

When I was pregnant with Nic I asked my mother if she had any advice for me.  She said, “Love them with all your heart, tell them how much you love them as often as you can and one day they’ll forgive you.”

It was the single best piece of advice anyone has ever given me.  We as parents will make mistakes, we will use a harsher tone than we meant to or are even aware of, we will say things in anger we didn’t mean, we will model behavior that is not always exemplary, we will do things we wish we hadn’t.  But we can say – I’m sorry.  I made a mistake.  And we can convey our love for our children as often as we are able to.

When Richard and I first received Emma’s diagnosis we were given a barrage of information.  We were told to get Emma between 35-40 hours a week of ABA therapy.  We trained with the ABA coordinator so we could continue using ABA with Emma after the therapists left.  I remember thinking after the hundredth flashcard maybe I should just hold her.  Emma wouldn’t let anyone else hold her, but if I sat in the rocking chair she would crawl into my lap.  I would put my arms around her with her head resting on my chest and we would sit like that together for up to an hour sometimes more.  During that early period it was the one thing I felt I could do with Emma, which no one else was able to do.  It seemed more important than forcing her to do yet another puzzle or one more sequencing game.  I reasoned, for a child who appeared emotionally cut off from other human beings, holding her was a kind of therapy too and perhaps as essential if not more essential than any of her other therapies.

Those hours spent with Emma in my lap were bliss.   Whether the physical affection made a difference or not I cannot know for sure.  My guess is it did and continues to make a difference.  To this day I remember as a little girl sitting between my mother’s legs by our swimming pool and leaning my small body against hers, her arms wrapped around me.  There is something about physical touch, which promotes a state of well being unlike anything else.

It is that state of well being I wish for both my children.