Sunday, March 27, 2016

Out of Darkness Comes the Light

This past week, I have been on spring break from teaching, yet the rest of our family’s schedule has basically remained the same. Ed, who was on spring break from teaching at the university earlier in the month, had to go to work in the afternoons, and Alex’s schedule of afternoon therapies continued as usual. Trying not to interfere with the morning routine Ed and Alex have established, I stayed out of their way. Despite my best attempts not to rock Alex’s boat, he seemed to find my morning presence annoying, acting irritable and even feisty with me at the time when I would normally be coming home from school. As I tried to help him get ready for his various afternoon appointments, he did not want to cooperate and preferred trying to argue with me instead.

One morning I walked away from him and found him waiting outside the bathroom door for me, ready to continue a disagreement I thought I had already settled. Usually, Alex is eager to see his support team members so that he gives me no trouble when I remind him that he needs to brush his teeth and comb his hair, but this week he wanted to balk at everything I told him to do. To let me know his displeasure, he would play the passive-aggressive game of simply staring at me when I told him to do something or grabbing my hands to get my attention. Using all the tools his therapists have given us, I would calmly redirect him with the reminders of “making good choices” and “respecting personal space.” When that didn’t seem to move him physically or emotionally, I resorted to my no-nonsense middle school teacher voice and informed him that he would be grounded for the day if he didn’t follow my directions.

Of course, in my analytic mind I’ve also been trying to figure out why Alex decided to challenge me when he is normally docile and compliant. Could this be a developmental phase he needs to go through? Was he unhappy that his typical schedule was changed because I was home instead of at work? Were there environmental changes, such as air pressure, the full moon, or allergies, bothering my human barometer son? Was he not feeling well, perhaps irritated by the discomfort of thrush in his mouth again? After trying to ask him questions when he was not moody, I could get no definitive answers for why he was giving me a hard time, other than because “Mommy is shorter than Alex.” Since that isn’t going to change, I decided to look in his mouth and found the telltale signs of yeast overgrowth, called his doctor for a prescription of antifungal medication, and gave him Diflucan. Soon, he showed signs of healing and thankfully became more pleasant with me.

I have been told that people with Alzheimer’s disease and children with autism show hostility to the person who loves them the most because they know that person will forgive them, no matter what. Alex knows that he can always say he is sorry for his behavior, and I will always readily accept his apology and never hold a grudge. He knows that my love for him is unconditional. He also knows that about his dad, but apparently, I get the “favored” treatment because “Mommy is shorter than Alex.” Nonetheless, he and I share an unbreakable bond that allows us to enjoy each other’s company the vast majority of the time and to work out our differences. I truly believe that Alex knows that I always have his best interests at heart, even when he’s not happy with me for pushing him to be his best. He also knows that I will cheer him on every step of the way, and I will do everything in my power to protect him from harm.

Last weekend, Alex and I enjoyed watching a television presentation of The Passion, a modern-day interpretation of the last week of Jesus’ life. As we watched the events leading up to the crucifixion and the resurrection, Alex enjoyed the music the most, swaying and trying to sing along to the contemporary songs used to tell the story. However, I found myself drawn to the portrayal of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Being raised in the Protestant Church, I viewed the importance of Mary only at Christmastime as the young woman who gave birth to the Messiah. However, The Passion made me think about her role as the mother of an adult son facing tremendous suffering, and I wondered how she found the strength to watch her son suffer in pain and die, even knowing that he would be resurrected. According to the Gospels, she was there when Jesus was crucified. Only in the Gospel of John do we see Jesus acknowledge her as he is dying: “When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, ‘Dear woman, here is your son.’ And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.’ And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” (John 19:26-27)  Before he died, Jesus wanted to make sure his beloved mother, who was there to support him to the end, would be all right. The tenderness of that moment moves me deeply.

On Thursday, after helping Alex through some unexplained anxiety, I took him to music therapy, where his therapist was able to further reassure and calm him. As I waited during their session, I could hear the soothing words of the familiar Beatles’ song, “Let It Be”: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” In those lyrics that Alex and his therapist only occasionally include in their therapy time, I also found comfort. “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shine on until tomorrow, let it be.”  Despite the occasional setbacks––the cloudy nights––the light of hope pushes me forward to help make Alex better. Sometimes all I need to do is wait––to let it be––until the time is right.

As we celebrate Easter today, I’m reminded of the hope we find in the resurrection. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prepared his disciplines for what was to come, saying, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)  From the grief of Good Friday, Jesus fulfilled that promise to return, bringing the joy of Easter Sunday through the resurrection and giving us eternal life through his sacrifice. Although I don’t know what the earthly future holds for Alex, I am certain who holds his eternal future, and I can be sure that He, who gave His only son, has unconditional and perfect love for my son, which gives me peace.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33


K. C. Wells said...

Happy #400, Pam, and thank you for sharing the journey that you and Ed take with Alex. ❤️ (Maybe we need to get you some platform shoes.) ��

Pam Byrne said...

Thanks, K.C, for your kind comments, for your support through all 400 posts, and for your friendship through the years.