Sunday, June 10, 2012

Things to be Grateful For

Holding my Mom's hand in the hospital

This has been a really hard few weeks for our family. My frail, 89 year-old mother fell and broke her hip and it has all cascaded downward from there.

On the day she fell, ironically, my (autistic) son Jacob and I were on our way to see her. He had the day off school, so I had scheduled a doctor's appointment for him in the morning, and the plan was to go from there to my mother's apartment at the assisted living building she lives in. We were going to do Grandma's laundry, take her to lunch and just generally spend the day with her. Jake was excited about this, he loves his Grandma.

But it was not to be. On the way to the doctor I got the phone call that my mom had fallen, and I didn't realize how much Jake was listening in to the details of my conversation until I got off the phone to hear him ask, "Is Grandma okay?" 

And then once I had explained to him what happened and that we would be visiting her in the hospital instead of at her home, he proceeded to tell everyone in the doctor's office: "My Grandma is in the hospital. She doesn't feel good. We are going to see her to tell her to feel better." (Whoever says autistic kids lack compassion can go suck it.)

Jake was amazing in the very busy, very over-crowded emergency room - where he had to stay with me for about 2 hours until my husband could swing by to pick him up - patting Grandma gently and telling her to feel better.  He was a little too curious about all the other very interesting things going on around, and I had to stop him from loudly and excitedly asking "What are you doing to him?" when the nurse came to take blood from the man in the bay next to my Mom.

But on the whole? Awesome. (It helped that I had packed his DS and plenty of snacks for the visit with Grandma!) I sincerely doubt that his (sort of) typical twin brother could have been so patient in this same situation, or that he could have been in times past, and I am so grateful for how far he has come.

And then in the weeks following, my husband has had to step up to the plate and become both Mom and Dad; my community of friends has rallied around to help out with the boys while I spend the majority of my time with my Mom in the hospital (as I am her only local child). 

Kids have been picked up from school, school buses met, all-day playdates scheduled on weekends. Even for Jake. Yes, I said even for Jake. Because I actually have two amazing friends who can and are willing to Jake on for a whole day.

They are both moms who have known him for years, their oldest kid is a boy who is a friend of Ethan's, and their youngest is a daughter, 3 or 4, who is fast friends with Jake. Is is magic and a miracle and something I am grateful for every day. But especially in times like this, when for me "parenting" consists of managing my kids complicated schedules by cell phone texts, and getting home from the hospital (barely) in time to kiss them goodnight before they go to sleep.

Jake wants to go visit his Grandma in the hospital to help her "cheer up" and a little later this week, when I see she is feeling stronger, more herself, I will bring him. "You fell down and hurt your leg!" he will tell her. (He likes to narrate people's stories back to themselves, something we used to do with him a lot when he was little.)

And hopefully, she will feel up to giving him a smile and a hug. And he will enthusiastically cheer her on as she takes those painful, tentative steps with the walker, 50 feet down the hall and back, as she once cheered on his first baby steps, nearly nine years ago.

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Varda writes about "birth, death and all the messy stuff in the middle" on her blog "The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation"  She also tweets as @Squashedmom. Varda is proud to be a Hopeful Parent.


  1. I am so sorry about your mum, Varda. Thank goodness for wonderful friends to help you out during this time that your mum really needs you.

  2. Sending you and your family continued strength in caring for your mother and wishing good health and a speedy recovery to your Mom.

  3. Wow - way to go Jake for not being overwhelmed! I'm super impressed he found a way to cope with the chaos of the hospital.
    I hope your mother feels better soon and can be cheered by your son. Sometimes when your support system works well, it is so reassuring that things will be ok.