And now I know.
Before we were special needs parents, we were Eric and Crystal. We were both teaching band, we graduated with the same degree. And the funny thing is, before we met, we saw each other several times. He was in the audience at a concert the Hardin-Simmons University Concert Band gave at the Texas Music Educators' Associaton convention when I was in college, in the band. He remembers it because the march was super-awesome... yep, it really was. When other music folks give you a standing ovation... yeah, you pretty much ripped up that sucker! I loved band... band was my first love. From the time my Mom took me to a football game at the University of Oklahoma I've loved band. It rained the whole game, but when halftime hit and I heard this amazing sound, I came out from under the blanket. I fell in love for the first time as a five year old when I heard the Pride of Oklahoma.
I loved teaching band dearly. I loved the kids, and I gotta tell ya, old band directors are the coolest people ever. I used to love listening (and still would, given the chance) to the seasoned pros talk about the good ol' days... and the stories about hilarious things that happened to sleepy, brain-fried band directors (remember the chain, Mr. Marsh?). That's actually why I don't do it anymore. I loved it too much. If I were a band director right now, I just don't see how that would work. But that's another blog post. No, I do not think it's horrible for mothers to work... its just not what God wanted for me.
So years later, all the beginners I had are now in college, my name has long been off the TMEA, ATSSB, and TBA rolls. Heck, I can only think of a few people who would still think of me as a possibility to teach a sectional or a private lesson. Time marches on, and in the battle of autism, I begin to think the ol' tiger lady who loved a tight-run rehearsal is just gone. Kinda vanished, and mostly it's okay. Honestly, I usually don't notice until concerts, or the first football game of the season... I always have a short, private cry in the van before I get out to go in the stadium. It's obvious that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. But sometimes I just miss the whole thing so much.
I know, what does this have to do with the price of bubblegum in Beijing?
We have missed several of the usual band/music conventions for several reasons. Having babies, money, back surgery... all good reasons. He'd go, but I didn't. The week after Maelynn was born, Eric went to facilitate a clinic at TMEA, and my Mom stayed with me and the kiddos. As he walked out the door, I thought I was going to die. Not at myself staying home... just not having him around. Last summer I was taking care of Nanny, so TBA didn't happen. Last TMEA, Eric had just had back surgery... no convention. But this year, we decided that Ryan had to go to Morgan's Wonderland. So we would go to TBA.
The whole time we were planning, and even when we got there, I thought I had to be out of my ever-lovin' gourd. When we're there, we walk everywhere. It's in downtown San Antonio, and the convention is huge... and do you have any idea how many elevators there are?!?! The first day, it took me so long to get over the fear of what might happen, how this was going to work, that it was nearly noon before I got dressed. I was terrified of my worlds meeting. Not an hour later, I ran into (obviously divinely) my dear Mr. Marsh and Elaine. Ah, wonderful! Big hugs and love, then not ten minutes later, in the middle of the convention center, the biggest meltdown ever.
Have you ever heard a six-year-old's scream in an open yet confined area? Eric had to get registered. He went with the two littles (who were being fabulous, by the way... thank you Lord) to get us both registered, and I stayed with Ryan, trying every trick I had to calm him. No dice. We passed at least five elevators on the way to the spot where we stood... well, wiggled, squirmed, screamed, yelled, and cried. Soon as Eric got done, we booked it out of the convention center. I wanted to curl up and cry, but just as usual, life didn't afford the opportunity. Ryan asked to go to the mall. Ok, buddy. Here we go.
At the mall (whch was across the street), we went to the Disney store where Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn all found something to spend some birthday money on. Minor fusses, but nothing too awful. We had planned to go to a concert the Madison Scouts were giving, but considering the elevator fit in the convention center, nope.
The rest of the trip was better. I scraped what was left of my resolve and roll-with-it and we swam, wrestled in the hotel room, went to Rainforest Cafe, ate on the Riverwalk, and yes... we rode elevators. Not for fun, mind you... we rode them to use them. We walked by firmly and purposefully, and most of the time, he'd ask once and that was it. He asked incessantly about the "blue elevator"... the glass elevator to the river level in the Hyatt. He even went with his Daddy and I and the littles onto the convention floor to see the exhibits, and lasted a rather long time before we had filled our dance card and wound up in full-scale meltdown. But hey, that one was my fault. I pushed.
While all this was going on, one day, Eric put aside his work and stayed with the boys while Mae and I went to the spouses' luncheon. There's always a fancy meal, door prizes, and a fashion show. There's always music provided by Ditto and the Dots, though ditto lost his dots. Eric and I found it hilarious that there was a clinic that was entitled "the day the dots died"! But just like I did before autism, I went and met Elaine and Anita, Melanie joined us later. Extra treat, my college band director's wife, Mrs. Hanna, sat with us! We giggled at the fashion show, Mae got to go to a real princess tea party (well, I called it that). After the luncheon, I got more hugs and encouragement from my dear "fairy godmother", Elaine, and we all parted ways.
Back at the hotel that afternoon, I got brave. I slathered sunscreen on the kids and took them swimming by myself. Life jacket-clad, our crew toddled, giggled, and stimmed our way down to the pool. Later, I learned that Eric ran into a band director who had just had a son diagnosed... another who has had children on the spectrum for a long time. The next day, as we walked away from dinner with one of my best friends Tina (who just happens to be a fabulous band director), I carried with me even more encouragement, support, and love. More reaffirmation, wind at my back, urging me to go on. Keep going.
After we left, we walked out of the mall, deciding what to do next. About a minute later, we ran into one of the guys from Row Loff Productions, a company that writes a lot of awesome percussion stuff. He was coming back with a drumstick and some music he'd left behind at the clinic earlier in the afternooon. He and Eric traded thanks for the cool music they write, and then as Eric ran into someone else, I visited with him. One of the guys that works for them has a son who was just diagnosed with Asperger's. He was so amazingly interested in Ryan, and genuinely reassuring! Through the green paper crown from Medieval Times given to him at the exhibits, and of course his convention badge (just like daddy)... outfit picked by daddy, accessories picked by Ryan FOR THE FIRST TIME... this man noticed Ryan looking at his drumstick. He asked if it'd be okay if he had it, and of course I thought it was a wonderful idea. Just a few feet later, we ran into one of my friends form the band days, and Ryan even said hi to him!
After we'd had our fun chatting to these folks, I turned to Eric and said, "Let's go ride the blue elevator." We walked halfway across downtown so that Ryan could ride his favorite elevator, Richie could walk across a bridge over the riverwalk, and we just meandered on the way back. We grabbed some "black cookie ice cream" in the Hyatt, and as we walked back to the hotel to swim, it hit me.
Convention is an awesome place for Ryan to learn hi, hello, how are you. It's a fabulous way for us to have a break from the norm. But while I thought we were just going because Eric needed to, Morgan's Wonderland would be great, and at least we'd see daddy at night if we were there, there was so much more.
I learned that Ryan is crazy about carousels, and can recognize when we're getting close to Morgan's Wonderland on I-35 and start screaming for them. Amazed, thankful, and frustrated... all at the same time!
I witnessed the ASD community within the band community, and I pray that we can help each other stay strong.
I received precious, humbling amounts of encouragement and love and acceptance... and the park was just the beginning.
I remembered, walking down the streets of San Antonio, the loneliness of my singleness, and how I wished and prayed for Eric before I knew him.
I reminisced of the days when we were newly together, newly married, enjoying the Riverwalk at convention. The days when we spent our days at clinics together, ran around with our friends, and searched for, talked about, complained about, and generally mulled over contest music and the whole process. Sweet, precious memories for which I am forever grateful.
I saw the gifts of Ryan, Richie, and Maelynn as they charmed others, enjoyed the pool, and got on each other's nerves just like regular siblings.
I saw and remembered the importance of remembering how to be Eric and Crystal... and that although we've changed, we're still we. And I'm so glad.
I saw that it's okay to remember me how I was, as long as I don't forget who I am.
On the way home, I remembered something Shelby, in Steel Magnoias, said... "I'd rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special." So true.
Each day, I wake up and do mostly the same thing. Too often I wake up to screaming meltdowns. I love my children dearly, I am grateful beyond words for them. But autism beats me up. So often I just want to shut the curtains, create a bubble, block out the hurt. Stay in and not take the risk. So often I don't know if I can handle another day of constant, rapid-fire demands for this and that. Another day of screaming, when he can't have it (whatever it is), until he's red all over and a huge vein pops out on his neck. Another day of wailing as he beats his chest, legs, and head. Another day of feeling helpless to help him. Clueless to rescue him. Desperate to understand.
Then I remember another something important...
What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God. ~ Oswald Chambers
My dear friend Darcy had this as her status the other day. It is in the every day. It's in the trenches of the fits, potty training, stretched-to-breaking of every day that I need Jesus. THAT is where He wants me to meet Him. That is where He becomes real... to me, to everyone. He wants me to reach out and do the things I'm called to, even if they're scary. What better way to wake up every day than knowing your Saviour has already walked through your day and knows every turn... and He stands there, hand outstretched, waiting for me to join. It'll be okay. He's there, and He's safe, and He'll carry you if you can't do it... and guess what? You can't. But that's okay.
I pray that we'll all reach out, take His hand, and dig in.
You never know when you'll be missing your thirty minutes if you let go.
|My tired, sweet, beautiful family in front of the Alamo.|