Owen and I made it almost on time for church. This small victory was more impressive since Edward was away, and I was doing things solo. Nevertheless, Owen did not like walking in late, and at first I thought we wouldn’t be able to stay, as his embarrassment manifested through his body. We both stayed tense, sitting on the edge of our chairs, backpacks on. It didn’t help that today’s minister was different.
But the visiting minister was chill. And he had engaging things to say. Owen was able to override the anxiety-that-becomes-hitting, pulled it together, and we followed the unspooling of thoughts. Asked to picture an object that might be seen as carrying a message to me of something deeper, I studied a large ceramic planter on the floor near the window. It looked just like the kind of thing that Edward would tell me not to try to move by myself. It stood on a rolling tray.
I studied that pot, feeling certain that the massive form held something for me to get.
So many things in my life feel so very heavy. The challenges before me feel insurmountable, frightening. That’s if I peer in at my inner self. Usually I keep that door closed, just keep threading my way across the chasm on the swinging rope bridge, and don’t look down. The day to day challenges of assisting a person who needs a great deal of support to get through life can be fatiguing, but that isn’t it. It’s the larger question of how to keep our educational organization Real Voices of Philly (realvoicesphilly.org) alive and independent, and how to create a home for Owen with a small group of typers and spellers, so he can age with friends. Able to communicate his thoughts. Able to do his writing. Funded. Cared for kindly. Safe from predators….
I have no idea how to do those things. I never got training in those things, and more than that, it isn’t what I wanted to do with my life. I know that as Edward and I are setting it up we will be told over and over “that is too heavy for you” and “you can’t/aren’t allowed to do that.”
And the other truly frightening thing – what if my partner in crime, who understands the financial side of the undertaking so much better than I, moves out of this world before we figure it out? How can I possibly navigate this enormous problem solo? (As I am writing this I can feel my blood pressure rise.)
The huge heavy pot sits on a little tray with casters. I don’t remember what was growing in it. I visualize the big clay pot. Something that the minister says reminds me of the history of the wheel – an ancient invention. One of the earliest. A way to carry very heavy objects that has been with us for a long, long time. The tool is there. It is literally right underneath, waiting to be put to use.
Sitting in that room, on the edge of my chair with my backpack on and waiting for Owen to fall apart, I take a deep breath. I believe this pot’s message. What I need to carry my burden is already there. It is under my feet. Start with this room of caring individuals, and the two ministers who lead the group – they all make a space for Owen, and are interested in his thoughts.
And in my life this spring, it is true – remarkable things have happened. People I never dreamed existed have shown up in our lives. Ever since we moved to the Philadelphia area people have arrived seemingly out of nowhere. Even though we spent many days of terrible anxiety or exhaustion, uncertain we could keep it up, actually helpers did arrive. This fall even more people have come out of nowhere, enthusiastic for the mission, presuming without difficulty the intelligence of our non-speakers. Wanting to learn to support communication. Able to take in stride and with compassion the behaviors that autism brings.
Not really out of nowhere. I had to ask. I had to push against the weight – reach out for help. Write a message, find time to follow up. Sometimes ask again. Organize my life better, organize my thoughts. Write a proposal to be able to ask more specifically. I had to talk people through things. Let go of some things.
But, I am not alone. There are now other parents, other students, more teachers, and helpers, aides for just Owen and also for the organization that gives him something meaningful to do with his life. That prayer that I used to say, that if this was meant to happen then it would be you God doing it, because I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I couldn’t possibly do this lift…that prayer seems to be answered. Maybe it IS meant to be.
Because now I see that the heavy pot once rolling, could take new form, could transform. Become a huge hot air balloon lifting the weighty basket of beloved people. Fueled properly, perhaps it rises, independent, airborn, and floats slowly upward, while I shade my eyes watching, in awe.