I had a scary dream last week. I was being hunted. It was sunset in a state park and I sensed something near me. I quickly planned a quiet retreat from a medium-sized grizzly bear walking toward a picnic table. At first, I thought I could manage eluding the animal but when he spied me his fierce growl caught the attention of another sizable bear standing by a stream. Panic set in but I remained outwardly calm. I knew I had only a few minutes before I would either become a light snack or could plan a successful escape.
As I backed up the trail, I realized I was not alone—most of my family was also with me. Ronan wasn’t there but my husband and other children were. The bears multiplied in number and we now had to escape six hungry, wild bears. Soft light from the window of a small building shone down the path. My husband led us to an old lodge built on stilts. We hoped that would be a refuge because there was no where else to go but into the bear’s territory. We tiptoed up the steps and reached for the doorknob. The lodge, whose wallpaper dated back to the 70s era, had wall-to-wall shag rug. It greeted us as we tumbled into what we hoped would be a safe haven.
A woman sat at a metal desk with an IBM Selectric typewriter. She didn’t see us or hear the major sigh of relief we exhaled as we scrambled into her writing nook. Pages of her book, an expose, retold of newly discovered cover-ups in the medical industry. I barely glanced at this minor character in my dream but thought highly of her accomplishment—her efforts were going to help thousands.
Meanwhile, back at the now darkening state park…six bears watched us and lumbered toward the lodge. Another wave of fear set over me. I couldn’t lock the door. It had been solidly secure prior to our arrival but I had loosened the hinge in my attempt to rush in, find safety and slam the door closed. I peeked through a sliver in the doorway that couldn’t be latched and saw another family standing at the doorway. Three people gingerly knocked also trying to hide from the doom and gloom that lingered below. We let them in and stared at each other in fear. Glancing through the sheer curtain-covered windows, I saw silhouettes of another family, and then another. No one spoke but we knew we had to bring them in and stay safe from those hungry bears.
Diary, I was petrified! All the while, the woman at the typewriter continued to type. Her clickity clack was the only noise I heard. Soft light from her lamp and an old television set were her only other pieces of furniture. The TV was on but only static-filled stations were broadcasting with no sound. The bears grumbled and stumbled below the lodge but never came up the stairs. I had a vision of one of the children getting too close to the smallest bear but physically shook myself to keep from continuing that notion. I began to feel confident as I glanced around the small room at the people in our midst. Again, my thoughts were: save my family, help these people, stay safe. And then, I woke up.
Those six bears, I can only imagine “who” they represent. Could it be those government-run groups that take over the airwaves with falsehood about medicine? Is it the education system that is unable to stay up-to-date with our children’s special needs? Is it the medical community that cynically rejects natural remedies that never have to be recalled? Is it the community we live in that refuses to understand a desperate family’s need for help? Is it a once-solid support system that is too tired to listen to the continuous pleas for help from an over-exhausted family member about to make a grave decision?
Or, could it be me, as I plunge into a moment of despair with the mounting ____ (Fill in the blank: problems, road blocks, emotions, finances) of taking care of a child with special needs?
As scared as I was, I knew I had a chance to make it out of that bear-infested dream alive. Not only that, but my family would be safe too. We were scared out of minds but we were so confident that we could even offer to help other people who were lost or scared. Of course the strong survive; it’s what we’re taught from a young age.
I had a relatively easy childhood, a lively and happy teenage experience and quite a successful young adult transition into the real world with a great career. I later eased into parenthood and kept my spirits up as my family grew. Everything seemed to be happening on schedule, and I cherished the thoughts of my future.
When my son started having problems and we were lead to certain groups for assistance, I started to learn how disorganized and draining those support systems were. I kept positive and upbeat as long as I physically could but those high hopes turned into unending stressors. I’ve had to tackle other people’s attitudes to finally get my son’s needs met. I’ve had to make countless phone calls to reach a live human with answers to what started out as a simple question but grew into complicated doubts. I’ve been led, misled and turned around in circles from one agency to another. Faith in myself and in a system, whichever one I was dealing with, was worn around the edges and eventually crumbled.
How does one go on? Why should I even try, try again when I’ve already been there, done that? Because I have faith in Someone bigger than me, a higher power who created and gives me faith in someone smaller than me, Ronan.
Small feats this week remind me that the temporary pains I feel in managing Ronan’s needs are just that, temporary. Ronan has had fantastic reports from everyone who sees him for instruction and therapy. He tackled his tasks and achieved his goals. Ronan’s demeanor was also smooth and happy. He slept well and ate well. He even had 3 days of formed poops! I can see again that he’s baby stepping closer to “our world” while leaving parts of “his world” behind.
I’ve been reflecting on how difficult parts of life are this week to only be reminded daily that wow, Ronan ____ (Fill in the blank: learned a new sign language sign, said a new word, achieved a difficult goal)! Every time I felt myself lose a bit of faith, a small triumph or hopeful gesture crossed my mind to get me out of that funk. I’ve been praying specific prayers to help us survive everything needed to take care of and enjoy Ronan’s life. I’ve received unexpected blessings this week that remind me that while I think it’s tough one minute, another faith-filled person extends a hand to touch me in a way that brings grateful relief. What a great chance to be given!
Even with a beat that is constantly changing, I’m marching through the attacks, the delays, the worries and the changes. Some of those changes are out of my control but the beat forces me to march on. Even with an untimely sickness, a lag in development, an attitude that will not change or my own fears to push through, I walk with my chin up. I will find resources and those people who believe and then share that with others.
My Dear Diary, I am again in awe of where I am in life and how I ever got here. I’ve always been an avid dreamer, not just with my going-to-sleep dreams, but with the aspirations I have for myself and for Ronan. I hated that nightmare with those bears. I woke up in the pitch dark so scared but so relieved. As big, mean and scary as they were, they ended up keeping their distance. My brain was in over-drive, as it usually is when I need to solve a problem but I kept my family safe. We were together, we were forever hopeful, and we met people along the way to help and be helped by. I’m finding that when I stay focused, when I keep faith in God and in Ronan, and when I find the right people, or when they find me, I get to see how walking in faith means walking in blessings, too.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.