Saturday, December 18, 2010

Grateful Tears

Well, I'm two days late for the Special Needs Blog Hop this week. It's been one of those weeks. The kind you can't believe was actually ONE week because so much happened during it.

The whole Gall Bladder drama.  Was it really only a week ago I doubled over in sudden searing pain?  And now I have a date with a surgeon.

Then there was Thursday.  It started off with a PA meeting, then a trip to the doctors office for repeat blood-work (because my liver panel had come back with scary high numbers), followed by what turned into an all day ordeal at the imaging center.  (I did get a really cool blog post out of it, though.)

By the time I got home from the scan, I was done in.  But no.

Thursday evening was: our apartment building's Holiday Party AND Jakey's School Holiday Party and Show.  (Not to mention, also Ethan's school's annual Teacher Appreciation dinner which I loved working at and would never miss.  Until this year.  Grumble, grumble.)

A week earlier I had apprised Ethan of Jake's upcoming school event and he had balked.  Big time.  I had gotten all preachy about how "he's your brother" and the value of supporting family members.

He dug his heels in that he didn't want to go.  I dug my heels in that he was going.  Then I backpedaled.  It was also our building's annual holiday party, an important event for us.

Our apartment building, like many large buildings in New York City with family size apartments, is also somewhat of a community.  And of all those I've seen, we are more so than most.  We have two awesomely kick-ass building-wide parties a year in our (ridiculously large) lobby: Halloween and Holiday.

We don't miss them for anything.  But for something as important as Jake's school show?  We were going to be missing the Holiday one this year.

And I realized this would cause Ethan much sadness.  He is good friends with the two boys who live right upstairs from us.  They have a standing Friday night playdate.  They run up and down the back stairs at will, popping in and out of each other's apartments.  If the phone rings at 7:30 AM on a Sunday, I know it's the upstairs neighbor kids calling to see if Ethan can come up.

So Thursday I took the "choose your battles" and "try to make your kids happy" injunctions to heart and left Ethan at home with the upstairs neighbors to attend the Holiday Party and eat candy canes until they came out his ears.

Did I mention I felt like 100% shit by 6 PM Thursday night?

They had "challenged my gall bladder" for the scan.  I'd had no idea they were going to do this, would have scheduled the test for Friday if I had known that, so I could go home and just collapse Thursday night, like I wanted needed to. 

But there was no chance for that.  It was Jacob's school event and we needed to go.  He needed to be a part of it.

My husband was likewise less than enthusiastic.  Not a crowd, group, join-y person in any way, shape or form; he loathes large, loud events where he knows few people.  And kids?  In groups?  To say "not his thing"?  Understatement of the year.

And Jacob?  Even though it was his event?  He wanted to stay home, doesn't like going out in evenings much, wants to play with his toys and watch TV.

So you can see what a bundle of joy we were as we headed out to this shindig.   We were stressed and snipping at each other.  Not a jolly thought within a mile of us.  And did it help that it was a frigid, wind-whipped night, and cabs were as scarce as hen's teeth?  No, not at all.

We finally arrived at the Interfaith Center where the party was taking place.  There was a pizza dinner party first, but none of us were eating pizza, so we had purposefully come late for that.  The room was full, at that point a sea of strangers to me.

To briefly explain: Jake's school is unusual.  Instead of being housed in a single building, it is diffuse, two or three classrooms of Special Ed kids co-located in a handful of Catholic Schools (for active inclusion purposes) scattered up and down Manhattan's West Side.  There were only 20 kids total at Jake's specific location, and this was a gathering of ALL of everybody, up through middle school.  And this being Jake's new school, this was my first such gathering of the masses.

And then, as we stood there, surely looking a bit like the lost lambs we felt ourselves to be, I heard a voice cry out from the crowd:

"Jake! There's Jakey! He's here!"  And an eight year old boy appeared before us, with a big grin on his face, trailed by two more.  They hugged and high-fived our son, took him by the hand and carted him off to the table where his teacher and much of the rest of his class were munching on pizza.

Tears sprang into my eyes.  Grateful tears.

I turned to my husband.  "This is why we're here."  And by "here" I meant both this night AND his school.

I was mopping up the tears that kept running down my cheek (good thing I hadn't had time for mascara) as we waded through the crowd to catch up with our son.

When we found "our crowd" all the teachers, therapists, administrators who work with our son smiled at him, at us.  Were so happy we were there.  Many hugs all around.  And I was once again filled with knowing how lucky we were to have landed here.

I can hardly imagine a nicer, kinder, more intelligent, open and thoughtful group of people to be in charge of my son.  And the tears just kept on coming.

Then it was time to move into the great hall and see the show.  Each class had a song or two to show us, and there was a sing-a-long in the plans, too. 

It was exactly as adorably amateurish and goofy as you are imagining.  Some of the kids were so excited, they were bubbling over, jumping around like grasshoppers.
Jake waiting with classmates
Others seemed more subdued, some even a little shy, reticent.  Some needed leading, more direction than others.  It's a very diverse community.  This is not an all autism school, but one that serves kids with a whole mix of special needs.

But the kids do have one thing in common.  They are sweet kids.  There's not a mean one in the bunch.  This is so important to us in ways too numerous to count.

And tonight I am loving everybody.  From the how-could-they-be-that-tiny Kindergartners in their grass skirts doing something like the hula to a tropical christmas song to the loping pre-teenagers clearly not ready to inhabit those awkward bodies, but making a go of it anyway, swaying and singing along to "Feed the World" and a rousing "Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah."

There were, of course, some technical difficulties, but everyone pulled through like the troopers they were. 
Waiting for the music to start
Jacob's class sang a boisterous holiday medley that included "Happy Diwali" in honor of their Indian teacher.
Still waiting for the music to start
Jake's class putting on a fine show
We left exhausted, but with big grins on our faces.  We wouldn't have missed this for all the world.

Wait, didn't I start off this post mentioning the Special Needs Blog hop?  Yes, yes I did, and here's the connection (and the link)...

The prompt this week was "What I Want for the Holidays:" (Actually it was "What I Want for Christmas", but being Jewish, we don't do Christmas, so I'm paraphrasing.)

And what I want is what I got Thursday night: a Community for Jacob.  Friendship and a place where he fits in, belongs.  He has never quite had this before.  We are very, very lucky.

And for that I am grateful, deeply grateful.  And weeping happy, grateful tears.

Note: As it seems appropriate, I am also linking this up to Maxabella loves "Grateful Saturday" blog hop.  Click her button below to join in or just visit this lovely Australian blogger.

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