Hi. My name is Crystal, and I have an unhealthy hatred of elevators. It's nothing personal... well, maybe it is. Elevators nearly tanked my family's Saturday, and they frustrate attempts to enjoy church with my husband's family.
Last weekend, the Baylor Autism Resource Center had a fundraiser to support the work they do and, by association, the learning they receive. It was a parent's day out. For an entire three and one-half hours these sweet graduate students showed these children and their siblings a movie, fed them lunch, and played with them outside. We took our Ryan and Richie (who wasn't really old enough, but they just couldn't resist) and left them with these young ladies for some almost child-free time. Eric, Maelynn and I had a great time having lunch, doing a little shopping, and walking on the Baylor campus for a while. As we strolled (HOLDING HANDS... omigosh! How novel!) up to the building to pick up the boys, a blood curdling scream pierced our hearts.
It was Ryan. I didn't even have to see him. There are some sounds you just know as a mother, and I knew this better than I know my name... he was positively beside himself. This is not the scream of "I didn't get my way", it's the completely disturbed, frustrated, angry, unhinged wrath of a child addicted to an object or action. Once he sees an elevator he has to watch it. HAS to. We can use them, but it has to be in a very matter-of-fact manner, and I have to show absolutely no excitement or negative emotion whatsoever. We use them every Thursday to get Ryan to therapy. There are stairs, but I'm a firm believer in not avoiding these everyday obstacles but hitting them head-on because that's how life is. So every week as we get out of the van, Ryan nervously reaches up and says "pick you up?!" Keep in mind, I'm by myself with he and his sister, who's in a stroller. "Okay, Mommy will pick you up when we get to the building." The whole way to the Draper Center, I have to either hold his hand (which he hates), hold his arm, or convince him to push the stroller with me. There's an emergency button that we have to walk by every time, and he's dying to "push the button" and will try every time to sneak away to push it, so I make sure to stay between he and the button. When we get to the building, Ryan nearly climbs up my legs to "be my backpack", and we hit the button to wait for the elevator as he stims, flopping his hands and humming nervously. I've had to ask him several times to ease up on my neck... he gets so nervous and clings so tightly that I can feel my throat beginning to close. We go up one floor (thank you Jesus that it's not any more) and get off, heading straight for Miss Stacy and the BARC. If he doesn't get to go in immediately, he will try the door, then when he realizes it's locked, will go straight for the elevator every time. Just to watch, mind you. He stays far enough away that (in his mind) it can't hurt him, but he can still watch the doors open. The only thing that gets his attention is the glorious fact that he loves his therapist!
So on Saturday, as the sweet graduate students brought the kids back from watching the movie, they passed (unwittingly, poor things) an elevator. My sweet boy tried the rest of the time to get back to the elevator. It's not unlike the strongest magnet you can imagine. Magnets don't forget they're supposed to be attracted to something, they just keep pulling and pulling... and so does Ryan. When we arrived to pick him up, Ryan was sweaty, shaking and screaming, and the moment when someone relaxed, he took off to find the elevator again. So picking up the boys turned into Miss Stacy keeping Ryan safe as he desperately tried to get back to the elevator (and I am impressed with her, I must add) while I changed Richie's diaper, then other students played with Richie while I calmed Ryan for about twenty minutes before I could even begin to talk him into going to the van. He eventually calmed, but after one store with him stimming on everything and trying to keep up with his wiry level of sheer, unbridled energy and interest in everything spinny, shiny, and illuminated, by the time we found my husband some shoes I was ready for a nap. Or something stronger.
Saturday was not our first encounter with love/hate things for Ryan. In fact, many of those things color everything we do, right down to when I run certain appliances. It used to be cute, his love of elevators. But while we blinked Ryan turned into a nearly six year old boy instead of a baby. Babies can be corralled in strollers, and they're tiny and cute and chubby and expected to "misbehave" and have a tantrum every now and again. Six year old boys? Not so much.
When we first began learning that Ryan was different than his peers, people (even medical folk) said things like "get him in the right programs and he could grow out of this!" All-righty! I can do that! Sign me up! Let's get this under control, because I don't like seeing my boy so rocked to his core by something as simple as a fly buzzing around the house. And yes, it happens. Just last night Ryan sat at the table at dinner holding his ears and shout/scream/growl/yelling while hitting his elbows together, then he said, in a shaky voice, "it's a shoo-fly!" His poor little face was twisted in fear and annoyance... he really can't stand the buzz and unpredictability of a fly. My dear husband, righter of wrongs, slayer of shoo-flies, slayed the beast and we thought he might eat. Nope. Washer and dryer were running... dangit, I forgot. They usually run when he's gone. "Ryan, would you like Mommy to turn off the dryer?" "Mommy turn off the dryer!" he says, and it's off. Still so upset he can't eat. The washer happened to be in a spin cycle, so I put him on top of it, and you'd have thought I bought him the coolest toy ever. Calmed from the motion of the washer, Ryan got right down, went to his place, and finally began to eat.
This spring is scaring us. The more I look back, the more I realize that the reason for that shock and awe that Ryan is so big and still isn't "normal" is due to the fact that we rested in the wrong things. In the times when he was melting down, I rested in the words of men. The well meaning words that were meant to encourage us to get him help, I used as false peace. We did get him help, and so much I have asked God that if it were in His will, please take this cup from Ryan. Please. I've begged. I've pleaded. And Ryan has improved leaps and bounds! God has blessed little Ryan and has used him in my life, for certain.
But the cup... the diagnosis... the challenge... remains.
As we're learning in "Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed: As Study of David", it is at this point that I can become angry and stay that way. I can choose to grow in frustration, not understanding why children are born with challenges, illnesses, and issues, or why they die until the frustration grows to bitterness. The alternative is to cling to Him, to His hope and the knowledge that His ways are higher than ours. I can choose to rest in "because He said so". I believe with all my heart that it's best to believe He is in charge... I'm not. Does this mean it will never hurt again? No. Does it mean that if I have faith enough this will all go away? No. God is not a vending machine.
Through my life, He's never failed me. Even when others left, He didn't. At 2:00 in the morning, when slogging through the daily activities of mothering, housekeeping, serving... even in the pick up line at school... He is there. His presence gives me peace and strength at those times when no one else's words could touch the pain. He's also there to tell me to "suck it up, cupcake" and keep moving, even when I don't feel like it. He has given me and gives me ways to have fun, to serve others, to use my talents, all in ways that I can still put first His responsibilities for me to carry... my loving husband and beautiful family. Through His word, His spirit, my experiences and others, He's consistently cared for me like no one else could. He's carried me through times when friends were scarce or non-existent, through times when people who had been friends chose not to be, when I lost those dear to me to heaven, when the calculator and the checkbook were not friends, when I was at my most scared and lonely. He proved Himself true, and He continues to prove Himself true every day, through every meltdown (Ryan's AND mine). He forgives, he corrects, he disciplines... but always out of love.
This is where I'm spoiled rotten... advantaged, if you will...
I can't deny His sovreignty. I need Him every hour. When answering yet another set of questions, getting another call to pick Ryan up because he's inconsolable, waking up to stick another binky in Mae's sweet face at 3:00 AM, I need Him. I'm not thankful for autism, don't get me wrong, but I am thankful for how close it keeps me to the Father's side. I AM thankful for Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn... and for all they teach me every day. And I am honored to be a mother... and the mother of a special-needs child.
Yep, I still hate elevators... but I love the God who made my back strong enough to hold my boy and face them... and I love what the frustration they bring is teaching me.