Thursday, March 31, 2011

Y is a Crooked Letter

"Y is a crooked letter."

I have no idea what this means.

But it's what my mother's mother, my Grandma Dunia, would say to my mother when, as a little girl, she asked those ten thousand questions little girls are wont to ask, the ones that begin with "Why...?"

Not big on answers, that one, my Grandma Dunia.

She was not fond of questions, idle curiosity (unless it was hers, about the neighbors), or anything deemed frivolous, extraneous, unnecessary.

She gave nothing away. Played her cards close to the vest.

And drove a hard bargain over everything else. A hard nosed businesswoman, albeit in a stained apron.

Some of it was probably guilt, survivor guilt over the disappearance of her very large family, the many sisters and brothers left behind to perish. She was the only one who escaped Eastern Europe in time, made it to America, outran the Holocaust.

She never spoke of her lost family. My mother never even learned their names, nor knew exactly how many Aunts and Uncles she had once had. Start to discuss it and Grandma would change the subject, walk away, a chain-smoking wall of stone.

Dunia was decidedly old school, a keeper of old world traditions; superstitions, if you like.  My mother had to bite on a thread if Grandma needed to sew on a button, repair a hem whilst a piece of clothing was still being worn. Otherwise my mother was deemed in grave danger of having her brains stitched together.

Salt, spilled, needed to be ceremoniously tossed over the left shoulder, promptly; praises or declarations of good fortune followed immediately by spitting towards the evil eye.

Walk out of the house having forgotten something?  Spin around three times before you head back, or you are asking for trouble and misfortune to follow you in the door.

The rules my mother lived by, and didn't ask "Why?'

Me, Mom & Grandma Dunia, 1974
I don't remember the day my dying father stopped asking and answering questions, I just noticed, eventually that it had happened. He lived in both an eternal now and also a somewhere and when else, simultaneously. No questions needed.

Jacob asks questions, but not that, most crucial one; the most open ended of all questions, the can opener of a thousand worms: "Why?" Another gift of his autism.

He can now answer "why" questions that have very direct, immediate, specific and concrete answers... or else they turn into cyclical, existential round-de-rounds.

"Why are you crying, Jakey?"

"Because I'm sad, Mommy."

"Why are you sad, honey?"

"Because I'm crying, Mommy."


But show him a picture of a very obviously crying boy holding a very obviously just broken toy, direct his attention to the toy in the boy's hands, point out how it is broken, and then ask him: "Why is that boy crying?" And you likely -- if he's on his game, not having an off day -- to get the answer: "Because his toy is broken."

Progress. Of a sort.

I'm not knocking it.

But I still want to know WHY Jake is sad.

And I still want him to ask me why water is wet, why the sky is blue, why birds fly... the ten thousand questions (typical) kids are wont to ask.

And I promise I won't brush him off with that useless nonsense: "Y is a crooked letter."

I will sit and hold his hand, begin with "Because..." as I did (and still do) so many times with his brother.  As I have dreamed so many times of doing with him, opening up the worm can, and feasting on "Why...?"

And, because it makes the "Because..." all the more delicious, fun in the answering?  The crookeder, the better, I say, so bring on the "Y."

Top Photo: "Mama" New York City, 1952, Jim Steinhardt. My mother named this photo, saying the mannequin reminded her of her mother, always wearing an apron, often stained, and with a torn pocket.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And "Y"? What's so crooked about it, really? Maybe it made more sense in Yiddish.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Asked to write about Kindergarten, my usual free-flowing memory fails me.

I spent just one year in that school. (We moved the summer after.)

And of that year? Nothing remains.

The memory box is empty.

Of the building that I entered daily? There is nothing, less than nothing, not even a shadowy pseudo-memory, mocking me with its vagueness. Just... a blank, a black hole.

Of the classroom where many hours were surely logged, I get... nothing. Almost nothing. A feeling that the walls might have been green. The smell of thick paste and finger paint.

I think my teacher's name began with an "F."  Mrs. F... nothing.  I have been told that I loved her, that I looked forward to school each day.

This is inconceivable.

I am someone who has memories of laying in her crib. I have sketched the layout of the city apartment my family inhabited from my birth to age three and a half, accurate to the utter astonishment of my parents.

I remember elevator rides from a two year old's perspective, buttons frustratingly, impossibly high, mockingly out of reach. The shock of a Central Park orange creamsicle to my toddler mouth on a summer day.

I remember. Everything.

But that whole year of my life?

Astonishingly. Nothing.

Except this: a person.

One girl.

A friend.

Brown pigtails. Blue dress. Brown eyes. Brown skin.

Big smile, just for me.

A friend.

A best friend.



Until we moved, that afterward summer, to the other side of town. Across the divide: Old Country Road.

A different school, a different, "better" school district. Decidedly paler.


Somehow, improbably, our friendship remained intact, though we became occasional friends, different than schoolmates.

Of Cheryl, much remains.

Games of hide and seek with her older brothers Darrell and Victor that always involved basements and crawl spaces, delicious in their slight danger.

The sulfur smell of cap guns mingling with burning leaves on crisp autumn days.

Watching "The Birds" on the little TV in her bedroom and scaring ourselves silly.

The smile that broke across her handsome, dignified, Doctor father's face in the presence of his children.

Her southern raised mother, calling me "Sugar" and melting my heart.

Her mother's home cooking attempting to put some meat on my then skinny bones.

A love pervading that house that was ceaselessly demanding yet unconditional. A rare combination. The sense, always, of high expectations for those children, including the brother with Cerebral Palsy. An example set, which I have never forgotten.


Late night whisperings, gigglings. Eventual sleep.

Riding home from a sleepover in her father's strange, wonderful car. The intoxicating smell of sun warmed leather rising up from the seats.

Our neighbors wondering who the hell we knew who drove a Rolls.

This post was inspired by a prompt at The Red Dress Club. This week's RemembeRED assignment was to write a memoir piece about kindergarten.

Please click on the button above, go to the link-up and read the other wonderful posts you'll find there.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Stream of Consciousness Sunday on Monday: Jacob on my Mind

I know I'm a day late (hence the ridiculously long post title). When I didn't get to this on Sunday, I figured: OK, maybe next week.

But then Fadra wondered on Twitter where I was and reminded me the linky stays live all week. And then today I found there's some stuff stirring around in my brain that I wanted OUT, but I've got neither the time nor patience to craft a thoughtful and careful post.

I just wanted to spew it out in something more like... stream of consciousness. Perfect. Here goes:


Jacob, my son on the autism spectrum is weighing heavily on my mind these days. He's just... off, lately. If you don't know him it's hard to explain. He goes through these phases, these cycles. He's rolling along, moving ahead, feeling like we're on a nice even keel, and then Whammo. Not.

I mean, he's always autistic, clearly still on the spectrum, but when he's "up"?  When things are clicking, when his brain is humming, when he's "on," on a roll, on his game... whatever you want to call it, he is brighter, happier, cheerful, eager to engage, eager to learn, very much related.

Not necessarily easy to be around, since in his cheer and enthusiasm he is often still too loud, close, insistent and repetitive. But still, happiness makes up for a lot.

But when he's "off'? It's not that he doesn't still have these peppy days, hours, minutes. It's just that he is terribly and unpredictably variable. That the the "up" Jake interleaves with the "off" Jake, who is at times: cranky, Irascible, louder, withdrawn, sad, angry, tired, growling, manic, pale, wild, lethargic but generally, globally much LESS related. 

So even in his offness? Very variable. There are "cranked up" and "down & out" flavors to the off. He says "Get out of my way" and "Go away" much more than the "Mommy come here" boy of his happy, shiny days.

And when he's going through one of these variable times? On any given day, hour or minute, you never know which Jake you're going to get: amazing-Jake or not-here-Jake. Flip the coin, your guess is as good as mine.

And the not knowing who I'm getting and the not knowing why he is like this again? Is killing me slowly.


Yes, I'm probably being a little dramatic there. I have to say the last line surprised me. I didn't know I was going there until the words just popped out. But so they did.  So it's obviously something I'm feeling, however deeply buried it usually is.

Also, people? Not only did I write this in a real 5 minutes (I've been known to fudge a bit) I wrote it in a real New York five minutes... while riding on the #1 subway train, on my way to the midtown DMV to renew my street-parked-car's expired registration... at lunchtime... on a Monday... at the end of the month.

Glutton for punishment? Perhaps. But it needed to be done, and the ADD of me just could. not. do. it. until it was overdue. Sigh.

New to SOCS?  It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump.  Want to try it?  Here are the rules…
  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes only.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spell-checking. (BOY, that part is hard for me!) This is writing in the raw.
You can do it, too!  Click on the link and let's hear your 5 minutes of brilliance...

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Have you any Blog Gems?

My lovely friend across the pond, Jen of The King and Eye (and Irish Autism Action) hosts a fortnightly (that would be bi-weekly to us Americans) link-up on her blog. She calls it:

Blog Gems - Air your Archives

It's a chance to get fresh eyeballs on your great posts from the past.  Each time there is a specific theme, and you select a post from your archives that fits the prompt.

But, being the generous, kind-hearted person that Jen is, it's a lenient rule. She states: "Broad interpretations of the prompt are encouraged so this could be a good chance to be creative!"

This week, for Blog Gems #12, the directions were:

"This week is about favourite posts. Link up a post that you love or that got more attention than you expected, or continues to get hits loooong after it has been posted!"

My first thought was to link my most "famous" post From Autist to Artist. But then I thought, nah, most of the folks there have seen that one before.

So I went rummaging about my blog (always a fun Sunday evening activity) and settled on this one, fairly recent (January 2011) but with a lot of good juju to it: Baggage. If you haven't read this yet? What are you waiting for? Click. Read.

So if you blog? I highly recommend that you go over to Jen's blog and join in the linky, it's a nice way to get to know each other all over again.

And if you just read blogs? Still go over there and find some great new reading material from the linky-list.  It's a nice chance to meet some kick-ass women from Europe and Australia, too.

And while you're there, stay and visit Jen for a while.  She's going through a rough patch with her middle son, the one on the autism spectrum. He's having an unsettling and unexplained physical health problem, and she could use some support. So go, listen, and give her a virtual hug. Thanks.

Looking for comments? To read or leave a comment, click on THIS post's title, or HERE, to bring you to the post's page view. Comments should appear below.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SNSS: My Brother, My Brother

Welcome to the launch of my first ever guest post series: Special Needs Sibling Saturdays. If you want to hear my thoughts behind its creation? Read this post that announces the series.

What it all boils down to: I've been feeling the need to read, think and learn more about sibling issues. And what better way to make sure I have the proper reading material than to ask some fabulous bloggers to write it for me?

When the idea for this series came to me, I thought of so many bloggers from the special needs parenting community that I would love to have the privilege of hosting. I also knew, immediately, who I wanted to ask to be my very first guest poster: the wonderful Alysia of Try Defying Gravity.

We all have those bloggers about whom we think "my sister from another family" and "my parallel lives Mom" and Alysia is that for me. 

Certainly not my doppelganger, there are differences: She is younger than me by more than a decade, she has three boys to my two (and none of them twins), she lives in a house just outside Boston not a small New York City apartment, her beloved father died years ago, way too young, versus my elderly father's recent passing. 

But when I read her, when she is speaking about her child on the autism spectrum, her other children, her pain over her father's loss, all I can think is: "YES! YES! YES! I could have written those words!" 

We have never met in real life (although hopefully, if all the stars align right, that will change in May) but I think of her as a dear friend, an important voice in my life.  That I have an intimate connection to the area of Vermont she grew up in? Just more icing on the delicious cake that is our burgeoning friendship.

I was thrilled when Alysia agreed to be my very first guest. Her lovely post captures so many of the contradictions that are just a part of life in a household where there are multiple children and special needs: the sweetness and the bitter.

Thank you, Alysia, for being my guinea pig here at The Squashed Bologna's Special Needs Sibling Saturdays. But I have been speaking for far too long, let me now turn this space over to Alysia, and her moving words:

My Brother, My Brother - by Alysia Butler

I’m sitting on the couch with my eight year old son.  We’re watching the PBS show “Arthur.”  It’s the episode where one of the characters, George, befriends a boy named Carl, who has Asperger’s.  I recorded the show a few weeks ago, even though we had watched it when it first came out last year.  

We’re watching the part where Carl gets upset about a missing piece from his puzzle, and has a meltdown that surprises George.  I look over at my son as he’s watching the show.

“Does that look familiar?” I ask him quietly.

“Yes.  I remember watching this last year.”

“No,” I said, “Does it look familiar from home?”  He glances at me, knowing where I’m heading with this.

“It’s all about a kid with…you know…” He looks at me but doesn’t want to say the word.

“With what?”

“With autism.  It reminds me of Howie.”

When Varda told me that she was starting a new feature on her blog called Sibling Saturdays, I was so excited.  And then when she asked me to be the first guest writer for the series, I was humbled and honored.

There was no way I could say no. After all, Varda is the one who suggested the book “The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda” for my Star Wars loving son, and I have her to thank for the copious amount of paper Yodas covering my house.

In many ways, Varda and I have similar lives.  We both have eight year old boys.  And we both have children on the autism spectrum.  So when she offered me the chance to talk about my three boys and how we deal with autism in our family, I immediately said “Yes.”

Now, I don’t have twin boys like Varda but I have an eight year old named Gerry, a four year old named Howie, and Lewis is our two year old.  My middle son Howie is on the spectrum.

The “Arthur” episode ends and the “Now a word from us kids” part of the show comes on.  It’s a two or three minute segment highlighting real kids who can relate to what the “Arthur” characters experienced.  This time, it’s two girls on the spectrum.  

One is talking about how horseback riding has helped her with her autism.  Another one is showing off her inclusion classroom in her school.  The girl shows the camera the different accommodations she has in the classroom to help her with her sensory difficulties and her organizational skills. 

Again, I turn to look at Gerry.  He’s fiddling with a toy but he’s still watching the show intently. 

“When Howie goes to kindergarten next year at your school, those are the kinds of things they’ll do for him there so he can be in a regular kindergarten classroom like you were in.”

He looks at me in a panic.  “He’ll be in a regular classroom? Are you sure?”

I say yes, he’ll be in an inclusion classroom, and I take a moment to explain what that is.  I tell him they’ll be going to school now at the same time, but that Howie will take the special education van to school, instead of the regular bus.

“Oh, phew.”  The panic look turns to relief.  I ask him to explain.

“I was worried about him being on the bus.  He could get yelled at.  At least one kid a day gets yelled at on the bus.”

Originally I thought his panic was about being embarrassed by his brother.  I realize now it was about protecting him, and worrying about him becoming too overloaded on the bus.

Since our son Howie’s diagnosis in December 2009, we’ve been pretty up front with Gerry about the whole thing.  We had to.  Things were about to be very different in our household – from visual schedules to new therapists to a change in our approach to parenting.  Gerry was becoming increasingly frustrated by Howie’s behavior, and we had to explain to him what was happening and why his brother acted the way he did.

We gave him some books and talked about how his brother’s brain is wired differently, and the things that come easily for other kids would be a bit harder for Howie.  We showed him the new tools that we had to help his brother and told him that as a family, we’d work through this together. 

It was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had as a parent.  And that conversation continues almost every day.

Gerry has made some huge improvements in his understanding of autism and how it affects his brother.  We’ve gone from him saying things like “I think we need an autism specialist in here!” when he got frustrated teaching his brother a new game to now he tells me that “wrestling on the floor together helps Howie with his autism.”  We’ve always made sure he’s part of the conversation when therapists and teachers come to the house so he’s in the loop.

But it’s not always perfect.  Almost once a day we have to remind Gerry that his brother’s verbal stimming and need for constant hugs isn’t something that he can control.  I end many days in tears because I’m pulled in three different directions with each of my boys wanting something, but Howie’s needs always seem to come first.

Gerry does his homework upstairs away from the rest of us because the early evening chaos makes it too hard for him to concentrate.  Two or three times a week, my boys eat dinner in different rooms because Gerry just can’t take Howie’s behavior at the table.

Those are the moments that rip me open inside as a parent. 

We’re only a year into this, and we’re figuring it all out.  As my husband told my son one night: “Howie can’t help what he’s doing, and if there was a way to magically fix it all, we would.  We’re a family.  And families work together and help each other, no matter how frustrating it can be.”

It’s later on that night and all three boys are playing in our toy room.  They have out a play tent, and have created a home for their Club Penguin toy puffles.  All three are working together to create a puffle house – adding couches, laying out toy food, and making silly puffle games.  

I hear laughter.  I see my boys playing nicely together, interacting like “normal” siblings would.  It is a ten minute glimpse into what life is like in other homes. 

I turn off my autism mom brain for a moment so that instead of seeing pretend play and social interactions, I just see my three boys being brothers.  For that brief moment, I am just a mom to my three sons.   

And it. is. awesome.
“I know that we are different, and we've gone our separate way 

But we've got to learn to accept each other, for who we are today 

I know it won't be easy, but we both have got to try 

To hold onto each other, until the day we die 

Nobody knows you quite the way that I do 
And if you're in trouble, come to me, come to me 

My Brother, my Brother, whatcha gonna do 

My Brother, my Brother, I'm here to help you 

Tell me your sorrows, tell me your fears 

My Brother, my Brother, I'll always be here” – My Brother, My Brother by Aaron Neville.


Remember what I said in my intro about parallel lives? Reading Alysia's post I just had to laugh at the end, because right now? My sons are obsessed with Club Penguin and puffles. I've even mentioned them in recent posts.

I am particularly touched by her husband's words at the end
"We’re a family. And families work together and help each other, no matter how frustrating it can be.” And also somewhat envious. 

Right now our family is far from functioning as a cohesive therapeutic unit, and Jacob's brother Ethan rarely exhibits her son Gerry's depth of understanding and concern for his autistic brother Howie. But it's inspiring to read about and I aspire for our family to move in this direction.

Also, did you note that song at the end? That's Alysia's blogging signature; all her post titles are song titles, and she ends each post with the lyrics that have inspired her. Want to read more? You should!  

Go to her blog, and enjoy. If you want more posts about siblings? There is this lovely one, thinking ahead to her son's upcoming transition to Kindergarten, or this one about watching her younger son's development overtake his middle brother's. And then this one will simultaneously break and melt your heart.  

An active member of the Special Needs parenting community, Alysia can also be found posting at Hopeful Parents and the SPD Blogger Network. Finally? Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook.

Thank you again, Alysia for being my very first guest blogger here, for helping to launch Special Needs Sibling Saturdays so spectacularly, and with such soul. 

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Not his 94th Birthday

Jim Steinhardt, Dad, in his early 20s
My father, James Bruce Steinhardt was born on March 25th, 1917.

As anyone who has been reading this blog lately knows, he died last year -- 12 days shy of his 93rd birthday -- on March 13th, 2010.

Today would have been his 94th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

I miss you.

Dad & I with cherry blossoms in Riverside Park, 1998
I was going to write a long post, thoroughly lionizing his life, I was going to have a massive  scan-a-thon session and toss up a ton of new old photos of him, but I am just worn out, without the energy to do that AND parent my kids.

And you know who wins that equation. The boys, they are here with me, and Dad, well, he really can wait, now.  So to hear more about Dad's life? Read the eulogy I wrote for him and delivered at his memorial gathering on March 28th, 2010.

For photos? Here's a post with some of Dad and some of his photographic work. And here's another with many photos of him. I'll likely be putting more up soon.

But I thought, today, in honor of his birthday, I'd tell one of his stories that I have not told before. A story that began with his birth...

My father was not born "James." No, his birth certificate reads very differently. It was supposed to have been Benjamin, but the story goes that the uncle who was supposed to tell the nurse who was registering the name got terribly flustered with excitement, or perhaps he was a bit tipsy on celebratory sherry.

But, in any event, he gave the registrar the wrong name, a different one that began with the same letter, and thus Dad's original birth certificate reads: Bertram Steinhardt.

Now when my father would tell this story to me as a young child, I would take the opportunity to fall down laughing at this point. I thought this was funniest thing, ever.  I would repeat the name, "Bertram?" incredulous, rolling it around in my mouth, making the most of that clunky cluster of consonants 'round the middle of it.

Being quite old fashioned, it had fallen completely out of favor by my time, so I had never, ever, heard the name used, had no idea it was the long form of the rather pedestrian but equally mothballed "Bert." (This was long before Sesame Street made Bert and Ernie household words.)

But it didn't end up mattering, for my father was never actually called Bert or Bertram.  My father was an adorable blond, chubby baby.  Here he is in late 1917 or early 1918:

Sunny Jim
At that time there was a popular cartoon character named "Sunny Jim" and that's just what everyone called my Dad as a baby and young boy.  According to my father's story, this character was a cherubic blond boy from a comic strip, much like himself.

But when I looked it up to provide a link for you all, I found instead that "Sunny Jim" was a strangely coiffed old man created to sell "Force" cereal flakes in 1903.

Maybe Dad looked like a wizened old man, as babies are wont to do, or maybe it's just that "Sunny Jim" was such a wildly ubiquitous character of the popular imagination of the time. And it was a very common moniker; an expression much used (often ironically): "He's a real Sunny Jim!"

In any event, wherever it came from, that's what they called my father, from the time he was born... "Sunny Jim."

And then, as the story continues, one day when he was about five years old, my father got really tired of being left at home when his brother Allan went off to school. He tagged along, and as he was old enough for Kindergarten, and the younger brother of a bright, well behaved student, the teacher went ahead and registered him.  
Baby Jim and big brother Allan, 1917
(Now, my adult mind questions the veracity of this story. Even way back then weren't there more official channels for something as important as school registration? Wouldn't a parent, an official document be necessary for this procedure? But this is my father's tale and this is how it was told.)

The teacher sat my father down, asked his name, and he said: "Sunny Jim" (the only name he had ever knowingly answered to). And so into the record books was entered one James Steinhardt, younger brother to Allan.

No one ever corrected it. His name remained that way in school records, and somehow continued on to his employment records, no questions asked. I don't remember when he acquired the middle initial"B" but that might have been a nod to the original Bertram.

But then he wanted a passport, his birth certificate was unearthed and he was in for a shock: his name was still legally and officially "Bertram" so he had to have it legally changed.  He decided to keep the B. as his middle initial, but as he now had a son named Bruce, he used that as his middle name.

As a child, I loved that my father had acquired his name in an interesting manner, that there was a story to it. In this, as in so many things, he was much less "boring" than most of my friends parents.

All in all? I don't know how much of this is 100% true, as all those who were present at the time are now long gone. But this is something remembered by my father and passed on to me.

My father was not a hidden man. He told me all his stories, in great detail. They live on in me and I will tell them to my sons, so he will live on in them.

This is the story of his name, as my father remembers it, and that is true enough for me.

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Thursday, March 24, 2011


Look: it's another piece of FICTION this week, people! And it's a good thing I'm a writer, because otherwise? I'd be starting to worry about all these other people's voices I'm hearing yakking away at me, inside my head.

Let me begin by saying I fucking hate pink. It's just so... so... pink, you know. And I'm sorry about the cursing. But don't worry, if my kid were around I'd have said "freaking" or some other such almost cuss word. I'm not an idiot, I'm a halfway decent parent, after all. Unless you think I'm all evil and Satan-spawned because I'm my kid's "other mother" but then YOU'RE a hopeless idiot and I don't really care what you think, anyway.

So, my partner, Jess, my kid Ruby's "official mother of record," the one who got to go through the whole 9 months thing, the one she calls "Mommy" (I'm "Mamma-lu", don’t ask) is a bit younger than I am, doesn't have the pink aversion.

Well, actually, a bit more than a bit younger. Really younger, but not scary, could-be-my-kid younger. 12 years. I mean, I guess I could’ve had a kid at 12, but if I'd done that I'd be fucked up in so many other ways, having a somewhat younger girlfriend/life partner/wife/whatever-you-want-to-call-her would be the least of my problems, you know.

It doesn't cause trouble much. Just now and again, we seem to come from different cultures. Because when I was 20? We were Dykes, called ourselves womyn. But when she was 20, it was all lipstick lesbians. Pink? Doesn't throw her a bit.

Me? I got dressed in way too much of it as a kid, well against my wishes. My brother, on the other hand, my twin? Secretly longed for pink. Yeah, we’re that kind of family. We were quite the pair, drove our mother batshit. I was a full-on tomboy and my brother fairly well into the realm of sissy.

I would be rich as Midas if I could've have a dollar for every time I'd heard "you should have been the boy and he should have been the girl, just look at your muscles and his pretty eyelashes..." and then there’d be the tongue clucking, and the pitying looks cast at our Mom who, as always, had her game face on.

But we’re close, my bro and I, real close, which is a good thing, as it’s how I get to have a biological connection to our kid, too.  Because the "father," the guy who supplied the baby juice? Yeah, him.

Our mom was a little freaked out by this, but as it was the only way she was going to have a bio-grandkid she settled in after a relatively short period of kicking and harrumphing (she’s not a screamer, thank God). See, my brother didn't want to take on the full responsibility of parenthood. He's a travel writer and his partner’s a major international finance dude. They are actual globe trotters. And kids? That doesn't really mix.

But he’s happy to be Uncle Dad, and loves Ruby to pieces. They take her shopping, even buy her pink dresses. With gusto. Because our daughter is going through this… this… phase (please God, let it be only a phase), they even have a name for it -- the "Pink Thing."

Now I know the history of pink, that it's a relatively new phenomenon (no self respecting Women's Studies major from my era worth her salt doesn't know all about the social creation & scaffolding of gender difference markers). But it's just so damn much worse now. There's even a new book out about it: "Cinderella Ate my Daughter." When I saw that on the bookstore shelf I laughed my ass off because, crapola, that's how I'm feeling right now.

What happened to my feisty four year old who liked to make mud pies and gave as good as she got? Three weeks in public school Kindergarten and she's all "I'm only wearing dresses now” and “I NEED more pink."  She's all "this is for girls and that is for boys" with most everything I like to do downgraded to the "that" category.

Yeah, I'm feeling a wee bit rejected round about now. Why? Does it show. Yeah. Well, OK, so where I'm going with this...

It was my birthday the other day. Um, Happy Birthday to me. 49. OK? I'm not super uptight about it. It's not like I'm a Hollywood starlet who is likely never to work again once the first un-Botoxable wrinkles set in. But still, with a life partner twelve years younger? Next year will be a big deal. But anyway... birthday...

Besides shopping with Jess for my "big gift" Ruby likes to buy me a little something special by herself with her "very ownliest money." No she doesn't talk that way any more. But she did when she was three and started this tradition. Nostalgia, OK. Shut up.

It has to be a small thing since her "money" is mostly change we've let her keep rather than weigh down our pockets with it. And now, of course that the tooth fairy has started to visit, those precious Sacagawea "gold" dollars.

This year, my birthday gloriously fell on a Sunday, which meant that for once I did NOT have early morning duty. I got to escape watching My Little Hannah Strawberry iCarly Montanna Pony Shitcake with the dear one. (Because Sunday morning is her weekly TV time, folks, and she milks it for all its worth.)

And I got served y'all. Breakfast in bed. Fluffy scrambled eggs, extra crispy bacon. And on a special heart shaped plate: the pinkest frostedest donut I have ever seen.

Now, I have a weakness for donuts. Can't indulge it much anymore or my waistline would be the size of a small planet. But every now and then, for a special treat, like on my birthday...

Ruby knows it, and so this was her special gift for me. A very special donut, the one she would have chosen for herself, the one she would most have wanted to eat, of all the lovely donuts in the fancy new donut store that recently opened up in our 'hood:

Strawberry flavored, pink frosted, pink sprinkled... with tiny pale pink hearts on there as well, just in case it wasn’t pink enough.

A thing of beauty. If you like pink.

As she set the wobbly breakfast tray down on the cleared off nightstand, my daughter's eyes shone with pride. And with something else, too. Love.

I guess I don't hate pink quite so much, anymore. Today.


This post was written for The Red Writing Hood prompt: "Write a post inspired by this photo" 

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: 2005 Edition

Still looking backwards over here. So I set the wayback machine for 2005. How cute are these nearly 3 year olds?

Jake and cousin Michael, Passover, 2005
Ethan sporting a classic yogurt 'stache, 2005
OK, what happened was: I just recently stumbled upon a cache of photo CDs from spring and summer of 2005 while atempting to wrestle some order from the chaos that is my home, and so I uploaded them into iPhoto.

Wow, there are some gems here from the boys' earlyish days...
Ethan will pay me much $$$ someday to NOT show this to his girlfriend
First time alone on a ride. I was terrified, but not them!
Day out with Thomas!
Boys at Shelburne Farms, Vermont with cousin Ilana, 2005
Jake passed out from our big day at the farm
Vermont, 2005
Lake Champlain in

Fresh haircuts!
You know why this one breaks my heart
Jake with Dana, his 1st ABA therapist
Ethan posing for Gap ad?
Also in 2005? My parents made the move back to New York from Florida. We saw a lot more of them. Something I really appreciate, now that Dad is gone.

Also? My work load increased exponentially as I now had four people in my care, not just two. Oh, well. I am glad to have been able to do that, to be there for them. 

Dad & Jake, 2005
Mom & Jake, 2005
One day, when he was four, Ethan watched me getting ready to leave, to take my father to yet another doctor's appointment and observed: "When you and Daddy get old I'm going to take care of you, just like you take care of Grandma and Grandpa." I certainly hope so, kid.

Me being literally squashed by boys & parents, 2005
The boys are so big now, it's fun to look back at when they were little.  And also to see my parents, beginning to fade, but still so vital.  Amazing the difference six years can make.

I’m linking up to Wordless Wednesday at Angry Julie Monday.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Folks? I just don't have a coherent post in me.

Preparing for the launch of Special Needs Sibling Saturdays, writing yet another memorial post for my late father's upcoming 94th Birthday, and having another fictional voice pop into my head and demand to be heard and written about for this week's Red Writing Hood prompt have left me written out.

Add to that real life, with two (SN) kids, an elderly mother, a husband and a cat to care for, and I'm just plain wrung out, too.

And yet here sits my blog with nothing happening on it since last Saturday. I'm watching the tumbleweeds rolling down main street, and none too pleased about it.

Nothing majorly newsworthy going on in my life, but I have little bitty somethings jotted down here and there, bits and pieces that I would love to just throw up here... wait, that's not *quite* the image I wanted to project. Let's just say that while it's not Friday, I'm doing a "Fragments" post today, anyway.

So herewith follow some little snippets I've written that don't quite have enough gravy or gravits on their own to expand into a full blown post, but are too convoluted or substantial to wrap up in 140 characters to tweet out on Twitter...

The other night, apropos of nothing, but everything, Ethan blurted out: "I really miss Grandpa Jim, I wish he were still alive, he was a lefty like me." He then asked for a big lap hug.

While curled up together on the sofa, Ethan proceeded to tell me that he knew how much Grandpa loved him and how unfair it was that he had died while he (Ethan) was still so young. He even cried a little. Way to break my heart, kid.

I hugged him close and confirmed how very much his Grandpa had loved him, was proud of him, and ever so grateful to have another southpaw in the family.


Jacob... Jacob... Jacob.  Jacob is going through... something... right now.

We're tinkering with his medications and supplements. Not found the magic formula yet. A new medication that we had thought might really be wonderful for him, help him to focus? Instead induced some mild mania. Damn. He started being difficult to put to bed, woke up before 6 AM. Every day.

And did I mention he was on this over the February "break."  Yeah.  *That* was fun.

He was just getting over that when we hit... The Time Change. Which I am beginning to think is an evil conspiracy against people with autism & their parents, not just an unfortunate twice yearly event.

Jake laughed maniacally in his bed for 1/2 hour each night and was impossible to wake up in the AM. Things have nearly settled back to "normal" which is a good thing as I am getting *really* tired of this.

The mania has tamped down, but is not 100% gone.  Jake is currently rather obsessed with a MAD TV bit: "The Fast & The Curious, starring Vin Diesel & Curious George." Yup.  He keeps thinking about it and cracking himself up. Loudly. In school, too. At least he has a sense of humor.


I am a night writer.  My best writing... any writing that I do that is at all powerful, lyrical, evocative, my strongest pieces? Were inevitably written around 1 to 3 AM. Something just comes out from me then, in the quiet time when everyone and everything else is asleep. (Well, it *is* NYC, so not exactly *everyone* but the noise is considerably tamped down, here in my sleepy family neighborhood, the UWS.)

It's just my natural circadian rhythm, has been that way since I was a kid. The problem with being a parent and this? I can't really sleep in now, can I?  Jake's bus is coming for him at 6:45 whether I have slept or not. He needs to be up by 6 to be ready for that bus, so I have to be up at 5:45 to be ready for him.

And people? 5:45 AM? Not my natural waking time. Off by about... oh, four, five hours. Sigh. About 10 more years of this ahead of me. Minimum. Sigh. More coffee ice cream anyone?


Ethan has a new obsession: Disney's Club Penguin, an online open ended cyber-community for the seven to ten crowd. And it's free!

Riiight. Unless you want to save stuff or acquire things that are that really cool. Then you must buy a membership. At a monthly fee that's small enough to feel insignificant but large enough to make your kid balk at spending his own hard earned allowance on it..

But your kid can play at the free level for quite a while. Until they are totally hooked and have invested time and care creating their special character.  Gotcha!

Reading a friend of mine's blog about her life with her daughter with Aspergers recently, I felt an odd and uncomfortable envy. It made me think again about how hard it is for me, for my husband, for our family that the biggest manifestation of Jacob's autism is in the realm of language processing. Because the rest of our family? We are talkers.

Conversation is how we relate. We think and talk and talk and think. And talk. About everything. And Jacob is just completely left out of that. So much of my time with him is spent in silence, or listening to his relentless, repetitive questioning about whatever his currently obsessive pet subject is.  Right now it's movies and movie opening dates, or the cat.

Much of the time I try to re-direct him, work hard to steer our conversations toward any other subject.  But it's rather like steering a car with a blown tire, always pulling hard and fast to one disastrous side.

And I know that at age 4, 5, 6, when not yet capable of even this, I would have been deliriously happy to be having these "conversations" with him. But still, it's exhausting, and not very rewarding.

Especially because I am so aware of how else it might be, how a delightful conversation with an eight year old can just blossom forth.

And I know there are parents of more severe, non-verbal kids on the spectrum who would give their right arm to be having these type of annoying and inane conversations with their children.

But still, I sometimes feel I was MADE to be the mother of a precocious, ever-curious, quirky, mildly Aspergers kid because I am the repository of a thousand bits of odd and arcane knowledge.  Nothing would delight me more than spending our time together looking up all the questions that stump me. But that is just so not to be.

Also? I know there's a "grass is always greener" syndrome here, I know how much those friends and their kids also struggle, suffer; would never mean to imply they have it easier, a better life; I do not play the ranking game.  It's just that I was, myself, more like an Aspie as a kid than a PDD kid like Jake, and it seems to be just a bit more comfortable to parent kids who are more "like us." Although, of course, sometimes, so NOT.


So it's a limbo sort of time, this late-winter, this not-quite-spring.  It has been some hard winter, and everything seems to be in retreat, just waiting for the warming. Including, it seems, my brain.

We are in a holding pattern, all of us. I have no big, brilliant thoughts coming my way; just the day to day plodding, trodding of the same earth. I just keeping on putting one foot in front of the other, and l make it through each day, one at a time. Sometimes that just has to be enough.

Spring will come. Warmth and sunshine will return to the earth. The cherry trees will blossom.

Riverside Park, April 1998

And, because I want to leave things on a more upbeat note... the other day Ethan, trying to cheer me up, told me: "Mom, you know I hate Jacob LESS than I hate broccoli, right?"

Well, that's something, isn't it? Because he REALLY hates broccoli.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Coming Soon: Special Needs Sibling Saturdays

Something new is coming to The Squashed Bologna...

Starting next Saturday, I will be hosting a series of Guest Posts on a theme that I have called: Special Needs Sibling Saturdays

"Why?" you ask.

Good question.

I have never had guest posts here before.  My blog has always felt so personal, so "me," it seemed strange to have other voices here.

And yet... and yet... I have loved guest posting at others' blogs. I have loved the feeling of community engendered on others' sites where there are regular guest posts, especially those with a specific focus, a series on a theme.

I have been especially inspired by these guest post series I have had the honor of writing for: "Small Moments Mondays" at in these small moments, and "Mommypants Moments" at Mommypants.

(It is no coincidence that Nichole and Cheryl are two of the three hosts of The Red Dress Club, the wonderful virtual group that is such a lovely and supportive community for writers, whose prompts have sparked some of my favorite posts lately.)

So I thought and thought about what would fit in here, and about what would be meaningful to me.

And I realized that I wanted to do something kind of new and different. (Because I can't just take an easy, tried and true path can I? Don't even bother to answer that one.)

I thought: "What is my biggest, consistently hardest parenting issue? What do I struggle the most with, what do I truly NEED a community for?"

And it came to me quickly... the sibling stuff.

Because Special Needs kids and sibling issues? An explosive combination.

Nothing makes me cry more. Not the death of my father. Not autism in and of itself. But this: the extremely difficult relationship between my twin sons, one on the Autism Spectrum, one not.

I don't have a handle on it. I have NOT figured out how to make it work in our house. There is yelling, there are tears. There are often two unhappy, lonely, angry boys and a mother who is at the end of her rope in our house. I am not proud of this. I am saddened, deeply troubled.

That my children mostly do not get along, that it is so hard for us to function as a cohesive family unit?  Is probably the single most consistent source of pain in my life.

So that's what I'm hosting a guest series about. Not what I do best, but what I do worst. Because that's what I need to hear other voices about.

I want to know how others do it, and how others don't do it.

I know there are families where the typical children are their special needs siblings best friends, function as mini-therapists.  I know there are families where they have had to make the heart wrenching decision to send a child with special needs off to a residential unit, so dangerous were they to their other siblings.

I know most families stories lie somewhere in between. And I want to hear all the stories.

Because in every family where there is more than one child, and at least one of these children has special needs? It deeply affects the family dynamic, the balance, the rules of the house. What a family can and cannot do together. If, how and where they spend family vacations. Every fiber of the day to day fabric of their lives.

I have written about this myself, here. And I realize that while I mention it in passing all the time, with phrases like "...dreading a four day weekend alone with my boys who get along as well as Tom & Jerry..." I have only ever written a full post about it that one time. I guess it's just too painful.

So I want to create a safe place here for people to talk about this. All of it. The good and the bad. The beautiful moments and the ugly truths.

To spark their thoughts on this, I sent my guest posters a set of questions:

How you handle issues that come up between your kids?  How do the NT (neuro--typical) kids rise to the occasion - or not - of helping out their special sib?  How you juggle vastly differing needs of kids, does someone usually get the short end of the stick?  

What you do when the fighting gets bad?  What you do to help your kids support each other? Does it work? Really? How you scaffold your SN kids interactions w/ their NT sibs? How do you talk to your NT kids about how the SN kid's needs affect or limit your family's experiences and activities.  How do they feel about this?

What you do when the typical sibs friends come over – what you say to them about the SN kid and what you do if/when meanness comes up? What you do when YOUR NT kid is leading the meanness towards their sib (yes this has happened here)?  What have your NT kids said to you about their SN sibs - the positive and the negative.

If all of your kids are SN, how do you balance the needs of the most affected one against the needs of the others and vice versa?

And most importantly of all: how do you FEEL about all of this?

But this is just a starting point. I know this series will evolve, that my guests will write about things I have not yet even imagined. And that's one of the reasons I'm so excited about it all, a chance to learn something, myself, on my own blog. I am near giddy with delightful anticipation.

So that's what's coming:

Special Needs Sibling Saturdays: a Guest Post series.

It's starting up next Saturday, March 26th, which is, not coincidentally, the day after my father's birthday. I know I will be looking deeply backward that day. I needed to turn around the next day and plant a foot firmly toward the future, and what better way than to start this series?

I hope you're looking forward to it, I know I am. The first posts are rolling in and they're wonderful. So stay tuned. It all starts next Saturday...

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Friday, March 18, 2011

My Brother's Heart

People? What follows is something really different. This is fiction. Written for this week's "Red Writing Hood" prompt. A first here at The Squashed Bologna. So, with trepidation, herein lies a story...


I have my brother's heart.

I wish I meant this in a metaphoric way, like... my brother really loves me or I hold his emotional well being in my hands, gently. But, unfortunately, this is just not true.

Or rather it is true, was, my brother does love me, did... crap! And I am often his somewhat unwilling keeper. Was. Why do I keep doing that? But that's not the point here. The point... shit... how did I get so far off track?

OK, starting again: I have my brother's heart. Literally.

There was an accident, a terrible accident. A moment of dreadful fucking fate, unavoidable.

We were on a train going... well, does it matter where we were going, really? Since we never got there.

My brother had bounded into the window seat. And, for once, I simply let him have it. I always fight. For everything. And I always win. That's who I am. That's the way with us. Has always been, as far back as I can remember. I know it's childish, but did I ever claim to be mature? No.

He is larger but I am more powerful, wily. I care about the winning more than he ever will. Did.

This is getting tiring, this remembering to use the past tense: he was, not is. And isn't that the whole point here, really?

The point, yes, the point... there was an accident, a major derailing. I'm sure you read about it in the papers, saw it on TV. It was ugly. Newsworthy.

A fucking idiot left his car on the tracks at a crossing, a big suburban SUV that had never been off-road in its shiny life. If this idiocy was by accident or design is not known, may never be knowable. The idiot isn't talking. But does that matter, really?

There was an accident. A terrifyingly metallic screech of brakes. We braced. I don't remember much of anything after the initial jolt.

I was told: our car rolled off the tracks, onto its side, as some of the outside came inside. A stout tree made its way through the shattered window and into my brother's brain.

Hulk tree smashed through his eye socket, destroyed all the higher functioning parts of his brain but left the stem untouched. Autonomic systems intact, it erased who he was, just pushed the fucking reset button.

And me? Pierced my heart (or near enough to). Ironic, if you knew us.

He had the window seat. For once. I thought I was being kind. For once. Mature. Or was I being prescient, my finely honed survival instinct kicked in yet again? My brother has, had none, the ultimate sap.

In any case, it came down to this, a pair of twin brothers straight out of the Wizard of Oz: Tin Man with no heart and Scarecrow with no brain.

Fraternal though we are, were, we shared enough: blood type, some obscure enzymatic factors, the requisite snippets of DNA to make us a good match.

And my, our, poor mother had a terrible choice to make that was not a real choice. You can transplant a heart. Not so a brain.

I have my brother's heart.

She wishes it had been the other way around. She will not say this, but I know he was ever the favorite, the son of her heart. I don't resent it, it's the simple truth, just is.

I was a rotten teenager. I looked out for number one, ever. He was always softer, sweeter, almost the girl she had always wanted. Also, not as smart. Like, Special Ed not-as-smart. Like I was going to be keeping an eye on him for the rest of our lives not-as-smart.

They call it autism now, but back when we were kids, they didn't have a good name for it. The neighborhood kids used to call him, well I'm not going to say it, but it's the "R" word. Or they did until I heard them say it. Then I beat them up. I may have fought with my brother, but if you looked at him funny? He's my fucking twin and you will respect him, understand?

I was academic, athletic. The ambitious one, the winner in all things, the golden boy. I have degrees, a big job and the big money that comes with it. It should have been enough to win the mother-love prize. But I understand why she loved him more.

Don't take me wrong, she was never a cold mother, no refrigerator there (was that ever a stupid theory, anyway). She loved me. Demonstrably. And would never admit to a favorite, claimed to love her two sons both the most, equally.

I'm a lawyer. There is no such thing as equal. Her head may have refused to calculate, but her heart surely did. He needed her. Always would. I'm rather self sufficient.

And my mother loves me still, now more than ever. All she has left. Especially with that piece of him walking around inside me. His big, shaggy heart. And, save our mother, he loved none other more than me, his brother, his twin, his one true friend.

I had the smarts, but he had the bigger heart. Now mine, too. I win. Again. Fuck it.

We set out together for Boston, but neither of us made it, were detoured, side by side, onto diverging paths.

Mine led to this hospital bed in this rehab unit. Will eventually lead home, back to my life that is now other than my life, singular and singularly altered.

His led to a grave, that, in a year's time will bear stone fruit, a headstone solidifying his last place on earth, in it.

His heart however, is still free, walking about this world, in me.

I suppose I will now have to strive to become a better man. More tolerant, find my own inner sap. I owe him that much, that small portion of the everything that I owe and cannot pay back, ever.

I would have given him my brain. What good have I ever done with it, really? One less corporate lawyer in the world? So what.

But it doesn't work that way.

I have my brother's heart.


This post was written for The Red Writing Hood prompt: "Write about a time when you took a detour. Where had you intended to go and where did you end up?" 

OK folks, that was really scary. This is the first piece of fiction I have attempted to write in 15 years, the first I have "finished" in maybe 30.

I actually had two different real-life stories that this prompt drew out from me.  But as I attempted to whittle them down and shape them, pick one?  This STORY just came roaring out instead. And so I was all WTF!?!?  But felt like I should just go with it, since I have been told this is the space to don my daring Red Dress and not my familiar fuzzy pink pajamas.

I am open to, and seeking concrit on this, but as it's my first time, please be gentle ;-)

Let me say off the bat: I know it is too long, I am way over the word limit. If I had another week to finish it, I could probably get it down. The cutting, the honing is ever my weakness. But I wanted to get it up & out there in a timely fashion. So here it is, in all its overwritten glory. Have at it.

And for those of you who read me regularly, know that I do actually have fraternal twins of very different natures, one with autism?  Please rest assured, the characters in my story are not at all my sons. They are not even in any way an imagined or projected future version of my sons. They, and their dynamic are wholly invented, it's just the specific constellation of the family's make-up (fraternal twin boys, special needs) that is vaguely drawn from my own life.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

W is for Wallowing

W is for Wallowing.

It's March.

I am not fond of March, anymore. Probably forever.

This is my month for wallowing. Sorry.

It's not pretty.

I am fairly useless.

I have missed appointments, important appointments. Flaked out on friends. This is not like me, not my usual m.o. At all.

I have not failed to meet Jacob's school bus or appear on time to pick Ethan up from school. Yet.

We're only halfway through the month, so not counting my hatchlings. Yet.

They might not even be chickens, anyway. Maybe dragons. Ethan is certainly reading enough books about them these days.

Anyway, I might have also said that W is for Wandering, as that's what I feel like I am doing here, right now. Purposeless meandering, shaggy ambling through this post, through my life.

I know that for some people, a death focuses them like a laser beam. Not for me.

For me it has the opposite effect. I get unmoored, lost, drift into gray space that is neither here nor there nor... where?

I have written of how waiting for someone to die is like limbo, but there is yet another limbo space, too: the time after. Clear at first, mourning enters into an ill-defined phase when the river of grief carries you to its shores and you find yourself wading back from unknown lands.

There's a reason nearly every culture codifies its period of mourning. There are specific rites and rituals, I think, to help contain what can so easily become an out of control morass. Societies need grief to not swallow up their members, yet death must be dealt with or it all goes underground, bubbling up as depression, paralysis, an ebbing away of the life within those left behind.

So there are rules to be followed, rituals to be observed. I am no student of the fine art of mourning but a few come to mind: the Jewish tradition of shiva, Mediterranean widows' black, the catharsis of an Irish wake.

I am also now very much aware of how much the Jewish tradition of waiting a year to place a permanent marker upon a grave feels so right. This particular point, that I have just arrived at, carries with it a certain gravitas, the end of the first dreadful year of dreadful firsts.

Year one now becomes just another number, a part of the larger passage of time. Much in the way that a baby's first year is so scrutinized, celebrated, counted in days, then weeks, then months, so too a fresh death is counted so slowly at first.

The first days immediately afterward are barely separated into a night and day, such a blur they are. There are periods of light and darkness, yet holding little relation to sleep and waking.

There are many things that must be done, and with immediacy, for wailing babies and rotting corpses are on their own immutable timetables, wait for no one.

Then time speeds up. Days become weeks, then months and finally a year is upon us. I can't count the months any more, it seems silly. So it goes.

My father is merely gone. For how long? Long enough that I must sit for a moment, concentrate to conjure him.

For my mother it is, of course, infinitely worse. I have my children, my husband, my friends and my whole life to keep me more than occupied.

He was, by the end, her whole life. Now gone.

She is without purpose, her too same days bleeding into each other, one just like the next. She used to take care of someone, she used to have a companion. My Dad gave her life shape & purpose.  Gone now.

The social worker at her residence thinks she's depressed, wants to adjust her medications. Um, hell yes, she's depressed. With good cause. She's also just plain sad. She's in mourning. They had fifty one years together, and only one apart. Give her time.

I took Mom to a doctor's appointment today, to have her hearing aid adjusted. Sitting next to her in the cab, in the doctor's waiting room, across from her in the restaurant we lunched in afterward, we fell often into silence.

It's not that we have nothing to say to each other, but rather we are so full of my father's absence, it makes it hard to talk. We don't want to wallow, to obsess, to go on and on about him and the missing of him. But there he is: the invisible elephant in any room we are in, too big to ignore, but really, can't we talk of something else? Apparently not, today.

So we sit in companionable silence. An elderly mother, her middle aged daughter (who is, improbably, still a parent of young children herself at an age when others become grandparents). We cup our warm drinks in out hands. We smile wanly at each other. We sigh.

It is good that we have each other.

To wallow together on a day like today when the missing is strong.

To laugh together on a day like tomorrow, when, surrounded by my sons, her grandsons, we are propelled towards the future, fond memories of her husband, my father, the warm wind at our backs.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And "W"? It's really a double "V" isn't it, not a double "U." So what's up with that name? Really, English, get it together.

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