Page 4 :)

 

Light was just beginning to filter into the green leaves that held up the ceiling of Mickle Smith’s pasture. For as far as one could venture their gaze, there was no color to be found except for the varying shades of Mississippi green. Deep greens shadowing tarragon shades of life fell out across the field until it was only subtle shading differences, leaves and grass, that were noticeable at all. Mostly it was a rolling, slowly waving green canvas named for Mickle Smith who fought hard but died with a traitor’s label on his grave during the Civil War. It was a misunderstanding and his name had carried forward through history without the stigma of his circumstances. His name remained current in Magnolia daily life even after most everyone forgot the man and his struggle.

From where he sat on the stack of river stones, still loading his gun in the open field, Elijah could see the outline of the dog’s body standing fifty yards away. The distance wasn’t unusual, it was a healthy hunting distance, but the dog charged wildly about the trees, and, for John Lander’s blue heeler, that was unheard of. Graham Fitch Jr. tried never to move too quickly at any time of the day or for any reason. Cats could cross his path without response and cars could drive by without causing a chase. It was just his way. Some had gone so far as to try appealing to his herding sense but it seemed as though Graham Fitch was a dog separated from his breeding.
Elijah looked hard at the line of trees in front of Graham but he saw nothing and, try as he may to knock the Vicks out of his nose, Elijah couldn’t smell either. He knew the importance of smell to a man in the woods but his hunting had waned over the years and he’d gotten lax.
Ever since he was a child, there had been talk in town. Stories had floated amongst the elder men about wild cats roaming the backwoods of the rural South. Elijah never wanted to believe them but with a shudder slowly sliding down his spine, he wondered if the dog might have discovered one straying from its path. It would explain the dog’s sudden dive into animation. Elijah was from Magnolia and he’d never come to fear much but a cat was an entirely different set of troubles when compared to the normal run ins with deer and turkey and even moccasins.
With his gun loaded and lifted level with his eye, Elijah held both hands tight, one balanced on the trigger, as he stood up and began a trepid walk over to the dog. His feet moved slowly, methodically stepping lightly through the snakey grass while his trembling courage wondered how he might stand down a panther. He’d never been that type of man who hungered to be proven.
He lifted his eye to gauge the dilemma and he could see the dog’s interest turning from the trees to the ground. His mind eased and his courage stood down at the same time as his shoulders fell because he knew, in terms of his own experience, it couldn’t be a live cat. Not even Graham Fitch Jr. would put nose to the ground in the face of a black panther.

His feet jumped and Elijah quickened his pace, closing the distance between he and Graham. He could feel his chest rise and fall with the heavy breaths such exercise induced. If he was honest, he’d have to admit he was a lot like John’s heeler. He didn’t like to move too quickly at any time of the day either. He liked rest and he liked hunting as long as the hunting was slow paced and leisurely.
Elijah knew something wasn’t right but from where he was standing he could hardly see the outline of the stranger’s face. He brought his eyes to the place where the dog stood trying hard to focus a shape but, covered in grime and a lengthy beard, it didn’t look much like a face at all. Lying in the ground the way it was Elijah could barely tell the browning face from the ruddy dirt.
“What’s it boy?” Elijah asked the dog but John Landers’ Blue Heeler kept rounding the mound snorting and sniffing and on occasion letting out a high pitched, come and help me sort of bark. “Hey ya, Peter Rabbit,” Elijah yelled back over his shoulder. He was still eyeing the face before him, as he carefully sat his gun against the crumbly bark of the oak tree and edged himself closer to the face, “would ya take a look-a- here?”

When In Doubt…remember the SPANISH paper.

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There are so many things you won’t know when your kiddo is first diagnosed with autism.

There are so many things that will soon come right along to turn your world upside down.

There are so many things that will do their best to confuse you and crush you and end the dreams you held for your kiddos before they were diagnosed.

There are so many things that will turn your life into a gray zone that seems to hardly ever make sense.

There are so many things and people and words that will make you break into a puddle of tears for no-reason-at-all.

There are just so-many-things.

I felt that way when my boy was diagnosed in 2001.  Oh how I felt that way and oh how that puddle of tears seemed to follow me wherever I went.  I didn’t know how to do autism.  I didn’t know if I was doing everything I could to help my boy.  I didn’t even know IF I could help my boy. I mean…AUTISM.  I thought it was bigger than me.  I thought it was bigger than my little boy.  I thought back then, it was bigger than both of us.  In those days of our early diagnosis, my boy was the classical case of autism lacking words and eye contact and interaction. He was sweet.  He was cute.  He was even cuddly but he was also all of those classic signs that screamed autism loudly into our lives.  He was a Thomas the Tank Engine genius in a world dominated by Thomas, Percy, James, Diesel, Sir Topham Hat, Annie and Clarabel.

There were so many things.  So many things they said he could not do and so many things he would not be because…A-U-T-I-S-M.  And, let’s be honest, it was the experts who were making predictions about my boy so who was I to question them?  I was nothing more than a tired mom….so I crumbled and I cried and I fell apart at every turn because that’s how I rolled in those early, post-diagnosis years.  Until that one day when the person my boy was becoming ran counter to who they said he could be and, on that one day, I decided I’d never again put all my eggs/hopes/beliefs/dreams into any single basket the experts gave me.  I decided right then to let my boy decide who he was going to be.

And that is the one day I stood up straight, strengthen my back bone  and watched as our spectrum journey really began one day at a time, one step at a time, sometimes rolling fast and sometimes at a snail’s pace, and always supporting my boy’s progress.

So you wonderful Wonder Souls might be wondering what any of this has to do with the Spanish paper that’s sitting at the top of this page.  Today my boy is fifteen and I found this in the Spectrum Kiddo’s room on Friday.  It was folded up with the words on the inside sitting on his floor and, on a lark and thinking it was trash, I opened it up.  And then my jaw fell open because…GOBSMACKED.

There are just so many things that I did not expect.

There are just so many ways autism has opened my eyes.

There are just so many ways he leaves me gobsmacked more times than I’d like to admit.

For a boy who was not supposed to make it out of Special Ed classes, for a boy who had a severe speech delay and who still is working on mastering conversational English, for a boy who one teacher recommended this year should have a one on one aide…well, just look at THIS.  SPANISH. My boy, just like any other kiddo in his class, doing his homework in Spanish.

Simple, right?  It’s just Spanish homework, silly girl.

To the rest of the world..sure.

For us..it’s simple and complex and mystical and gobsmacking because he is so much more than the plethora of “theys” said he could or would or should be when their abysmal evaluation listed all the pieces that would never be part of my boy’s life and yet, despite the experts and their in-stone predictions, here we are.

He is already so much more than that limited view of life they predicted would be his goal.  He is so just so much more…on every level.

My boy is so much more than anyone could have ever expected him or projected him to be. And while I understand that evaluations are important in their own right to gauge where a child’s growth currently stands…don’t let anyone hamper your vision of your child.  Don’t ever stop seeing your kiddo as the whole and brilliant child that they are because different is not less.

Always dream.

Always hope.

Always raise those expectations and goals.

And just when you may be falling into that puddle of tears, remember….SPANISH…because Spanish homework papers don’t lie. It’s right there…in brown and white.

Sparkle On, my friends.

 

 

 

The REAL Joy of Yosemite

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This trip we took to Yosemite was amazing and beautiful and stunning… not only because Yosemite is a series of natural wonders but, honestly, because my boy, once again, left me gobsmacked.

As you might recall….
My boy at three did not speak.
My boy at three was expected to have significant delays and his outlook was not going to be rosy according to his medical eval.
My boy at four was labeled difficult and impossible and defiant by the psych at the elementary school who was trying to evaluate him.
My boy at seven was offered a spot BACK in SPED because he was not easy or simple or perfect.
My boy, in those elementary years, rarely had a smiley face day.
My boy at eight screamed for two hours under a desk while the class was evacuated and I was called because the principal and teacher could not resolve the issue (that’s a whole other post.).
My boy at eleven was not expected to remain independent as he transitioned to middle school.

I promise you, this journey has not been simple or easy. This journey has not been filled with a line of people waiting to support or embrace us. It has been a fight and a struggle from day one to raise expectations and goals so that my boy could grow into the man he has the capabilities to be…if others would open their eyes.

He is different NOT less.

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Today he is 15 and, in Yosemite, do you know how much he needed my assistance? NONE.

  • It was the first night we’ve ever spent in a hotel where my boy simply WENT TO SLEEP. No drama, no ultra-awakeness, no agitation.
  • In the very cold weather, he explored…no complaints, no tantrums. Just a boy in the woods.
  • When the chili on his chili dog was not mine AND extra spicy, he never once complained.
  • And, in the morning at the very fancy Ahwahnee, we sat down in the fancypants dining room for breakfast…a buffet. A b-u-f-f-e-t. And when my boy said he wanted to get more pancakes, I had this gut reaction moment when I was going to get up to go with him…but I stopped myself..and I held my breath a bit…and I let my son go like any other 15 year old boy.
    And you know what?
    Along with all the other people, in the line going the right direction, my boy dealt with life in the buffet line ALONE…with no bumps or stumbles or corrections from the public.

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Just my boy…being the man he is becoming.

He is needing me less and less and although those apron strings are hard to untie, it’s very, very good to see him becoming this man I wasn’t sure he’d ever have the capabilities to be…but he does and he is and I am darn proud.

Wonder Souls…don’t ever forget…Who they are at two and three and four and seven ISN’T who they’ll be at thirteen and fifteen. This journey is a process…just keep teaching and supporting and loving.

Sparkle On, my friends.