Aw, man, kid…
Seriously. I was groaning internally.
I DID NOT want to sit by the lake.
I DID NOT want to revisit our path from last year.
I DID NOT want to deal with these feelings.
But today was about him…so like the indulgent mother I am, I followed, and braced myself for all kinds of pain.
We love the state fair.
Like…we LOVE the fair.
Which is funny, if you think about it. I mean, I think it’s funny.
Somehow, someway, this kid – sensory sensitive to so many things – has developed a taste for street fests and fairs.
I’d like to claim that I had something to do with that – and sure, I hauled his bum out and about as much as he would let me, as much as we could handle, as much as my heart would stand (disappointment after disappointment), but I really think that at some point along the way, he learned to cope.
And not just cope – enjoy.
If we missed the fair (at this point)…I WOULD NOT HEAR THE END OF IT.
So, we go. And we love the fair.
Creatures of Habit
A couple of things you should know about the kid…
FIRST: He’s a creature of habit. (Not unlike his mother, I’ll admit.) Patterns and processes matter to him in a really important way. And when I say “matter,” I mean they impact him. And often, it’s important to revisit, hold onto, wallow in the rut.
SECOND: On some crazy, one-with-the-Universe level, he’s emotionally intelligent. I know that may be a tough one to swallow. He’s on the spectrum. He struggles with communication. He barely understands how to express his own feelings, never mind be aware of them…but, oh, man, he’s aware. Sensitive to the vibes, is sometimes how I express it to people. Maybe empathic is a better word. But I’m telling you, sometimes these two aspects of his personality collide into a power punch of WOW.
I parked in our typical area and we entered through Gate 8, our usual path.
And we started the morning with Apple Slinkies. This is not what they’re called. Just my nickname for them.
There’s a vendor in the Pitzer Heritage Circle (just past the Grist Mill) called Smitty’s Apples. They have all sorts of apple-based delights. My favorite are the peeled, sliced and cored apples. Just a fresh apple that ends up like a spiral for a $1. Not a big deal, but one of my favorite things that’s become a NC State Fair traditional food stop for us. And a healthy way to start the day of noshin’ all all things fried and sugared.
We walked through the Flower and Garden show, because I wanted him to see the epic Venus Fly Trip and pineapple plants. He was delighted to see Pitcher plants too. (He’s got a thing for carnivorous plants…believe me, we’ve watched plenty of YouTube videos highlighting the varieties.)
And then, because it was right there, we grabbed a bag of (what I would consider THE BEST) kettle corn.
“Mom, let’s sit by the lake.”
No, I don’t want to go there.
“We can eat our corn like we did last year.”
I don’t want to think about eating our corn by the lake last year.
Remembering the Past and Looking to the Future
I was having a slow day (more information about my current status of RA to come in a future blog post), so as he confidently walked towards “our spot” by the lake, I hobbled slowly behind.
Both my body and my mind (and heart) were not eager for the placement and perspective ahead.
He plopped down and greedily munched on corn.
I struggled to find a spot where I could most easily lower my body with the least amount of pain (imagine your feet, ankles, knees, wrists, elbows and shoulders not working as they should – sitting down on the ground becomes a…ah, bit of a challenge).
Embracing the waves of pain, I sat and did my best to ignore my memories (happier in this moment to focus on the physical pain vs. the emotional pain). And while he munched and crunched, I updated social media with the beginnings of our adventure.
There’s nothing like Facebook to set aside reality.
We passed the bag back and forth, and I showed him the pictures I was editing and posting.
I was happy to be focused on the present. Delighted that we weren’t hashing out the past. Thankful that my kid, my communication-limited small human, seemed focused on the pleasure of the moment.
And then, the bag was done – the last of the kettle corn gone too soon. It was time to move on…
It was time to take another dose of pain meds.
I whimpered a little (okay, a lot) getting up, and he came in close to help me. We started on the path towards the main walkway, and he stopped to look at me…
“Do you remember last year when we were here with HIM* and we sat by the lake?”
*He didn’t say HIM. He said his name.
Shhhhhh. Don’t say it. I don’t want to talk about it!
“Yes, honey. I remember.”
“He was mad.”
I know. Ridiculous man-child.
“Yes. I remember. He was mad a lot, wasn’t he?”
“Yes. And he said a lot of bad words.”
And just like that, all the bad memories flooded my heart. All the fighting. ALL THE FIGHTING. Over what?! SO MUCH TIME WASTED. And I was unbelievably sad. I did not want to welcome the memories of times past to our day, our new day – what should be a happy day – at the fair. But this kid was serving it up on a shiny platter and asking me to stare at the details. And so I remembered. So many happy moments – and pictures associated with them – shadowed by the emotional turmoil of unrest and discontent and anger – and fighting.
Instead of backing down from the conversation, I acknowledged the moment. Clearly, it was important and on his mind. And, if he was working through the struggle to get the words out, I needed to listen and respond.
God, please help me say the right things at this moment.
“Yes. He was angry a lot of the time. And yes, he often said bad words. And, I’m sorry.”
The kid looked at me and waited.
“He was an interesting character, right? We had a lot of fun with him. He was funny and he was fun to have with us on adventures. But he was also angry and frustrated – and impatient.”
I reached out to gently touch his cheek.
“I want to be with someone, have someone in our lives, who is kind. Kind and…”
“Patient,” we said together.
I knew that the hope shining in his eyes was reflected in mine.
He turned away from me to keep walking on the path, and as I followed, I realized our day had been reclaimed. A fresh breeze had come and blown away the shadows of the past.
The fair was ours to enjoy without worry and without missing what was over.
And even more than that, we had claimed to the Universe who we hoped to share it with in the future.
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