By Cathy Jameson
Since I do a lot of driving here, there and everywhere to get my son to his therapies, I have a good amount of thinking time to brainstorm ideas. Some of the ideas are for my typical family needs. Most of them involve my son and his special needs. I’ve been kicking an idea around in some of those quiet driving moments for a few months now, but hadn’t been inspired yet to put it on paper. It’s about the word present. Present has several meanings. The one that I was reflecting on is “the period of time now occurring.”
Present. Now. This very moment. In my life, a moment can include a flash of frustration or a jump for joy. Depending on what Ronan is doing in a specific moment triggers an emotional response from me. I realize more and more that whatever mood Ronan is in, I too am in a similar mood. His happy moments are quite enjoyable to experience. Those include hearing Ronan finally saying a word after going weeks without uttering anything. It feels like a hug full of kindness for something fun I’ve done with Ronan. Those joyful moments are ones that pepper both of our days and can last several minutes with much whooping and hollering. When happy present moments happen I relish them along with the expression Ronan offers me as he realizes he too is happy.
Just as I witness the happy moments, I live through Ronan’s struggles. If he is unhappy or ticked off at something, so am I. Present can feel like an eternity when one of Ronan’s loud, disruptive negative behaviors lasts for three, four or five minutes long. It feels one hundred times longer when that happens with multiple eyes staring at us when we’re out in public. Eternity is how long it takes Ronan to move a hard and constipated bowel movement. Add the watching of the clock to see how long it takes to return to the softer and daily BMs; that’s an eternity and a half! Those present moments are ones that I would rather fast forward but unfortunately get stuck in.
Awhile ago something caught my eye when I looked at the word present. I had a list of tasks ahead of me that were going to be monumental in order to complete. I had so much work to do for some personal issues that Ronan’s daily needs were becoming cumbersome. I’ve gotten used to the intensity of some of Ronan’s care, but the frequency of them started to wear me down. I couldn’t shake some of the negative reactions I was having. My frustration level was growing and my heavy sighs were more audible. I wanted to be done with this marathon healing process it’s taking to get Ronan to recovery. Why can’t he just skip right through all of the trials, the setbacks, the exorbitant fees for care and instead go straight to recovered? I started to resent the work it takes to make every day somewhat successful. I started to resent the costs to find the right people to help him. I started to resent what has been taken away from Ronan, from me and from my family. Resent. It’s a very strong feeling. It’s also part of that word present that I keep thinking about.
Around the same time I really started to resent how much work I do for Ronan, the news reports of the September 11th anniversary were being aired. It’s a haunting time of year for many people, me included. I can barely look at images or videos of the Twin Towers and the other attacks. Our nation held its breath for what seemed like an eternity while we watched the unthinkable unfold. I didn’t think I was ready to relive those terrifying moments again. But then, something about the 9/11 victims’ personal stories hit me hard.
How trivial of me and my negative thoughts about taking up Ronan’s care! He’s here. He’s in front of me. He still has a chance to make it through life. The victims’ stories are filled with who they were, where they lived, what they did and who they left behind. Emotional agonizing memories were filling the stories as tears were filling my eyes. Families and friends who were killed in the attacks only have their past to hold onto. Old memories are the only memories. Their loved one doesn’t physically fill their present moment. They might continue to warm the thoughts of their past, but it will always be the past.
The past. They cling to it. The present. They work through it. The future. They very easily could resent how it was ripped to shreds and taken away that awful day ten years ago.
The families of the terrorist attacks created tributes to remember what life was like before the attacks. They remember how their loved one lived, how life was good, how it was going to hopefully be and how it was what they thought was their only. I can’t fathom the pain, the anger and the emptiness the families must go through each and every day. I can’t imagine how difficult it’s been for those families because the pain they suffer may never have an end. It makes me wonder when, or if ever, they will be able to muster hope for the future. It also makes me realize that through every present moment I have with Ronan, I have the choice to make those moments last.
I want the present I live now to be so much easier even though it’s proving to be a test of my will and my strength. I have cried for what was done to Ronan. I cry during the present when Ronan realizes how hard life is for him. I cry thinking about a future that I sometimes fear. Right now, Ronan is part of every moment of my life, good and bad. Because of this week’s many reminders of how quickly life can change in an unfortunate instance, I want to make a decision to take a step outside of the resentment I sometimes plant myself in. I know I should leave behind parts of Ronan’s past even though I still grieve for it. I know I can remember happier memories I have of his life before his struggles ruled many moments of my day. I should do this now and do it before I lose sight of why I was willing to start working so hard for Ronan in the first place.
Who knows when our present will be stopped short or altered without warning. Who knows how it will affect us and if we will be able to handle those changes. I have a past I can choose to leave behind. Some people haven’t been given the chance to do that. I pray that the 9/11 tributes give families hope and support to make it through today to find tomorrow. The unforeseen changed parts of their lives that they may never get back. I feel fortunate that I have been given the chance to live in the present with my son. If I can remember to keep my strength, my faith and some hope alive, I will continue to walk a path toward Ronan’s future.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.