Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Interesting day we had a few Sundays ago. Upon trying to get to church (which we always run late), we were greeted with a gridlock back-up on I-40. Some guy up ahead got out of his truck, walked up the highway, walked back, and started point to everyone to turn around (on the major highway) to take a detour. I am not positive what the cause was even now, but I think it was a power line fix.

Neither here nor there, because this strange turn of events led us to attend a church that we don't normally go to. It is downtown, in a semi-shady area. We are happy at our on-campus Catholic Center church. But we went to this one today since we missed Mass.

We walked in, and took a seat in the third row from the back. I could tell in the pew right behind us were three tween girls, but didn't see who was sitting in the very back row. All I knew is that she was having a hard time with the new songs for the mass...a trait which I share with her. (They were the same for centuries and now they are being changed. I am having trouble getting on board this new train.) When it came time for the sign of peace, I shook hands with the tweens and then looked up to who sat in the row behind. There was Angel.

We shook hands and said "peace be with you." I then saw Angel's mother, who smiled and waved--it would have been quite a long reach as I was holding Sam and they were two rows behind. But her smile was a hearty and warm one. It was the minestrone of smiles. :-)

When she passed our pew to receive communion, Angel's mom winked at me. It melted my heart and I actually teared up. I was really glad that we went to this unusual church, at the expense even of seeing Father Eric, the former pastor of our usual church who has gone on to work as a pastor and Catholic film producer in LA.

After Mass, we smiled at each other again, and Angel gave a little wave. We were walking to our car, when we heard a loud "Yoo Hoo!!?!?!" from across the street. Here came Angel and her mom, putting in major effort to reach us before we drove off. And how sweet they were!!

Angel's mom, Gladys, walked up and said to me, "I think we have something in common, you and I." She proceeded to introduce herself and then her daughter followed suit. Her beautiful 23 year old daughter, Angel, has Down syndrome. She asked how old Sam was, and then just smiled and said, "you all have such a beautiful life ahead of you!" She went on about how great her life, and especially Angel's life, is. She talked about dance classes, and "girls' night in," and bowling. Angel told us she had a friend named Sam, and told us our Sam was cute. Gladys told us if we ever needed help, or a break, to let us know; that it is sometimes hard but always worth it. Then she and Angel said they hoped to see us again, and have a good week.

Yes. Angel, indeed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sam's Guardian Angel/My Two Biggest Fears

When Sam was in the NICU, his room was right by an automatic door, and by his sink was a motion sensor paper towel dispenser. It was not uncommon for either to spontaneously trigger, despite no motion nearby. One day early on in Sam's life, I remember telling Hubby that it was a ghost. He told me he liked to think it was Sam's guardian angel. Once he said that, I knew her face immediately. I saw her quite a bit in Sam's face, actually. His long lashes, his cupid's bow mouth. The way he slept with his fist tucked under his tiny chin.
The way I wanted him to be out of the ICU and home with his family.

"Grandma Ro will keep you safe tonight, Sam."

When I started this post, it was the 11th anniversary of the day my mother died. A day that left a lot of collateral damage with me. A day that stirred the biggest fear in my heart.

To say we had a turbulent relationship would be an understatement. This was true before she was sick, when I just wanted her to be a "normal mom" instead of always going back and forth between trying to be cool so she could stay close to me and my friends, and being a fierce Mama Bear warrior woman who would take down anyone who crossed me. She was the mom who fought with the principal of my school, and when he thought he had won, took our case to the school committee directly. The mom who embarrassed her only child so much that I wanted to crawl in a hole...regularly. The mom who planned parties meticulously that my friends wouldn't attend because they just found her to be too much. The mom who wouldn't show up to see me receive Senior awards because I wouldn't wear my hair the way she wanted me to.

She got sick during the summer between graduation and freshman year. She was in and out of hospital and doctor offices, never getting a full work up for the pounds and pounds of fluid weight she had gained. No one believes a woman went from 350 to 400 pounds over a couple of months because of fluid's just her out of control eating habits and laziness.

She died two months into my sophomore year, and the year and a half between were excruciating. Her mind left her body long before her spirit did. Having lots of professional experience with delirium, I now know that this stole my mother away long before she died. She was verbally abusive because of her illness, and I try to forgive but still can't forget.

My mom embodies my two greatest fears for myself as a mother. I so fear being too much like her, and being not enough like her.

I am not the outspoken, fiercely defiant mother who will do anything to protect or gain advantage for her child. It's not in my personality. Yet, I am slowly learning that children with special needs require this type of who will advocate and push until they get what they need for their child. It means bucking the system and questioning the status quo. It means doing and saying things that are uncomfortable. It means putting your child's need ahead of your own need to be liked, loved, respected, or revered. It is the top priority. It is trusting the mama instincts that I'm still not quite sure I possess. I need to embrace that part of my mother's spirit, for Sam's sake. I fear that I will not embrace these qualities enough, or in good enough time to really make a difference.

At the same time, I completely fear failing health, like my mother had. I, like her, have a weight problem. I am obese, and lazy. I love to eat and hate to move. I make plenty of excuses to do lots of one and none of the other. I see myself walking in those shoes my mother left to me, and putting my health at risk. I envision leaving this earth while Sam still needs me, and it is terrifying. I know I cannot do this to him, and am trying to use this as motivation to change. So far it's not working. But I start every day reminding myself that he won't be rid of me so easily.

I did not know the joy of my mom zipping me into my wedding dress, or having her blow the air horn when my name was called to receive my degree (as she told me she would during my childhood). I never got to enjoy the change in the mother-child relationship that signifies passage to adulthood. I never got to tell her I was pregnant or ask her what it was like to carry me inside her. I want to be round to celebrate Sam's achievements, right on into adulthood. If I am to do that, I need to face both my fear of being too much like, and not enough like, his guardian angel.