Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Learning to crawl

Last night was a painful reminder that Annie and I are still learning to crawl.

After the meeting, we had our most intense fight since Ian was born. (I asked Annie if I could write about it; I think the pot flying past my head meant yes.)

We drove in separate cars to the school where the Down syndrome group was meeting. I came from work and Annie - borrowing her mom's car - came with the kids from her sister's birthday party. I got there fifteen minutes early and waited to help Annie in with the kids; I sat in the car and watched as about 20 parents filed in, most with their kids. Last night they had a guest speaker - an 18-year-old with Down syndrome was there to tell us about his life in high school.

Annie was running a little late (she had mentioned that she probably would be because of the party) and with each passing minute I was getting more and more agitated. By the time she arrived I was in what she calls my "quiet rage." Talking through a clenched jaw, eyes shooting laser beams. I told her, like a sulking little boy, that I was going home. With a gentle but immovable determination that made me fall in love with her in the first place, she quietly said, "No, you're not. We're here and we're going in there."

Fine. (Jerry McGuire voice again.)

By the time we got in the classroom, the young man was talking about his experiences, showing us his Letterman jacket, pictures of his girlfriend, of his friends, awards he had won. His parents shared about how they had to battle with the school officials to allow their son full inclusion in a variety of activities. It lasted about an hour and there were many kind and open parents there. After a little chit-chat, we left in separate cars again.

When we got home and put the kids to bed, Annie and I had a short but intense "discussion." Neither of us are screamers, but let's just say that there are some sailors who would be proud of our language and that something was thrown. Not AT someone, and not something breakable, but just thrown out of sheer frustration.

OK, that's what happened. After we calmed down, and actually began laughing at ourselves for falling apart so spectacularly, we talked about why it happened.

As I was sitting in the car waiting for Annie, watching all those parents walking into the building with their children with Down syndrome, I was just kind of freaking out. My world is "fine" when it's just me and Annie and Silvi and Ian, but it starts to crumble a little when we let others into that "safe" little world.

Annie said she flipped out because she's been running non-stop (today is a visit from the therapist and a visit to the eye doctor) and that when I flipped out, she lost it. We've been "managing" our lives, but not really thriving. Making it.

In one way, last night had to happen. It's that "boiling point" cliché. I won't speak for her, but I think we were able to let go just a little more last night. So, in a way, it was good to go to the group. Because it definitely reminded us that we are still learning to crawl.


Tricia said...

Have you read this blog? This post in particular?



I don't wanna say 'hang in there' because heck, we all have our own crosses and demons to bear. But please know that yes, it's never going away? But I honestly do believe it will get easier to reckon with.

Know you are in good company.

Terri said...

I love the way you describe this Tom, because it lets me know that you and Annie have a pretty solid relationship that can withstand hardship and misunderstanding. Fighting is inevitable. It's how you work through it that really counts. This is hard stuff that breaks up marriages all the time. But it sounds like the two of you have what it takes to make it. Blessings to your family in the days and weeks and years ahead as your story unfolds.

Chris said...

You don't give yourselves enough credit. I think you are already crawling. You went to the meeting, you are communicating with your wife, you are getting the information, you are advocating.

I think it is hard to go from walking, maybe even running, to crawling again. You so want to be up and about like you used to.

As Tricia, said you are in good company. I still feel like I am taking baby steps. Have fallen on my butt more than a few times in the process.

Leah said...

I well remember those days of feeling like I was barely able to tread water. If one small wave came, I was done for. Little things came along and splashed water in my face, making me gulp for air and feel like I was already drowning. I needed to learn to swim, but I didn't have anyone around to teach me. Not only that, I hate swimming! I didn't really WANT to learn to swim. Give me a set of water skis and let me be on TOP of the water instead. I remember many many months of wondering "What will she be like at 3?", and at 3 wondering what 10 would be like. Now I'm looking ahead to the late teens.
It's that learning process you're talking about that we all have to go through. It sucks. It isn't fun at all. I can think of other classes I'd rather take. I joined the army at the age of 17, mostly because I wanted to get away from my life here (escapism at it's finest) and meet new people. Having Angela has introduced me to people I never would have met otherwise. Wonderful people. The most accepting group of people you could ever imagine. My entire working life prior to Angela was with children who had a wide variety of disabilities, but that only slightly prepared me for life with Angela. I had no clue about the doctors, the therapies, and the constant advocating. Some days I still feel as if I'm standing in the foothills of a HUGE mountain range. I look back and know what I've climbed so far is nothing compared to what's ahead. That thought is depressing to me at times. At other times, I can't wait for the challenge.

Lori said...

Hooray for fighting! I personally think fighting like you did is awesome because it is communicating which is way better than not communicating at all. Which, by the way, is what Harold & I did for the first 2 1/2 years of Evan's life, which lead to us almost getting divorced. So...fight, talk, cry, make love, laugh, all that stuff that is life. And yes,Tricia, it does get easier as you learn to navigate the waters. Not to say it is always smooth, but definitely better.

bella said...

i know this boiling point.
it feel cleaner, clearer, somehow once it is reached and the space has been cleared and the ground settles once again.
It is hard, i can only begin to imagine, to know this is never going to go away.
those words hit me hard.
Thank god we don't have to do any of this, expect each tiny little crawl at a time.

Kim Ayres said...

As you know full well, communication is key. So long as you and Anne keep talking you can survive anything.

Maggie and I have had a fair amount of shit to deal with. Not as much as some people, but enough to make us realise that Meg's DS is no big deal compared to some of the things we've been through.

But we have survived things that we know would have torn apart a couple less committed to each other, and the reason we've always survived and will always survive is communcating with each other.

It is when we cut outselves off from the other, or each feel that we need to be the ones to shoulder the burden rather than share it, that things fall apart.

Anonymous said...

Crawling, baby steps, steps,running, and then an all out sprint! Keep going! Just keep going!

Tom said...

Tricia: Just got back for a trip but will definitely check out the link.. and it's already easier, just hits some days. Ugh.

Terri: Thanks terri; I don't know how I got so lucky as finding someone like annie. Maybe God likes me... and wanted to give her a few chuckles.

Chris: I don't know if you've seen What About Bob?, but it's so worth it. (your "baby steps" comment reminded me of it) 'preciate the encouragement.

Leah: That's definitely awesome that you've met some good friends via Angela... I know I've just got to give it more time. And I hope that your own "mountain ranges" are MN mountains instead of Colorado ones.

Lori: :) Waiting for those days when I can trade in the boxing gloves.

Tom said...

Isabel: Yeah, the "never" going away is probably the hardest pill to swallow... wishing life had those moving sidewalks like they have at the airport somedays. :)

Kim: I'm thinking Annie and I are way overdue for another soccer match date night... or a night down the pub listening to a mandolin jam session. Thanks, man...

Anonymous: Still going like the energizer bunny. :)