May 18, 2011

Letting Go

Posted in AMT's Faves, If You Need a Good Cry, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 9:55 am by autismmommytherapist

Even at the tender age of eight, my son Justin has somehow managed to acquire several paramours during his short stint on earth. First, there’s the love of his life who lives around the corner, a girl for whom he would do anything. This dedication includes shoving me out of the room whenever she arrives to play with him (in a painful, bruise-in-the-small-of-the-back-kind-of-way, it’s a proud moment every single time). On a local beachside playground there was a lovely teenaged girl we continually encountered on summer afternoons, a love interest with whom Justin shared his toys, and his kisses. There have been mild flirtations along the way with the few girls in his classes (that 4:1 boys to girls ratio for autism has not been in his favor), including a young blond thing in pre-school for whom he tried to escape his classroom whenever he caught sight of her. Let’s just say, his one-on-one aide was in great shape that year.

And then, there was Kerry.

I’ve written about  Someone Special Needs You (SSNY) several times since I’ve begun this blog, not because I’ve run out of things to talk about (trust me, with autism, you never run out of things to talk about), but because it’s carved out such a unique place within Justin’s lexicon of activities, and within my heart. It’s a group which convenes eight times a year in a church in Colts Neck, NJ (nope, it’s not religious in its origins), and includes neurotypical teen-age peers and children with a range of disabilities as well. Sometimes there’s a theme, such as Christmas/Chanukah or St. Patrick’s Day. On occasion the group’s founder, Vince Scanelli, hosts a full-fledge carnival, or a graveyard Easter Egg hunt. There’s always a craft and an abundance of snacks, which Justin usually consumes as if he’s eating for three. For the most part my eldest only deigns to share his company with the group for about half an hour, but I know on some level, he enjoys his participation.

But the best part for him, hands down, has been his buddies.

Justin has never been a patron of the arts-and-crafts, and I’m pretty certain even the allure of unlimited potato chips wouldn’t convince him to get out of the car at 6:30 at night, at the end of a long week at school. No, the single most motivating factor to inspire Justin to do something other than handle toys that light up and spin, has always been women. This is a trait he seems to have inherited from both sides of his family, with the sponsors being his father and maternal great-grandfather, respectively. My son loves being fawned over (as on occasion, have said father and great-grandfather), and for at least a limited time, will do absolutely anything for a pretty, smart, kind girl who’s been his friend for four consecutive years (that includes painting a damn leprechaun).

And since he was four years old, for most of the time he’s participated in this group, Kerry has played the role of primary reinforcer.

Justin’s fabulous buddy is a senior in high school, and although I’ve had almost half a decade to prepare for her departure (come on girl, what about online learning, it’s the wave of the future), I was still unaware that our April get-together would probably be the last event my son would be able to spend time with her. I thought we had one more gig in May, during which I would have actually remembered to bring my camera and at least presented Kerry with some photos to remember Justin by, but I was informed early in the event that our sojourn to the gymnasium that evening would be our last until September.

Once I saw that Kerry had made it, and that Justin would get to say goodbye to her, I rallied (never let it be said I’m not a rock of a woman). I left the two of them to their own devices, and helped my husband keep Zachary alive, which given the height of some of the equipment and my youngest son’s refusal to fear anything, was no easy task. I admit, I was easily able to put Kerry’s imminent departure out of my mind in an effort to ascertain exactly how many exits Zach could escape from in each bouncy unit (generally, there were no less than three,  Jeff and I were outnumbered).

Eventually, after an hour of gut-queasy bouncing and multiple room changes, the evening concluded. I asked our soon-to-be-former buddy to escort Justin to the car so he, and I, could say a proper farewell to her. Jeff and I successfully strapped two hyper, over-tired young children into our SUV, I counted the twelve bags that comprise our entourage wherever we go, shoved them in the trunk, and asked Kerry to lean in and hug Justin. She did as asked, extending a full-body embrace and a kiss on the head to my boy, then she turned back to me to say goodbye and hug me too.

I opened my arms, got out “thank you for everything”, and totally lost it on the shoulders of an eighteen-year-old girl.

In my defense, just prior to completing that circle of love, Kerry shared with me that she would be studying to be a speech therapist in part because of Justin, and frankly, I’m not certain how I could have contained myself after that declaration. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve managed lately to relegate most weeping episodes to television and film, the finale of Lost and my husband’s cruel sharing of the end of Toy Story Three coming to mind. I just don’t find crying all that cathartic anymore, what with the raccoon eyes that follow with the accompanying migraine chaser from hell, so I’ve channeled my desire for release into other outlets.

No, not drugs. Reality television and the blog, people, the blog.

I immediately apologized for sobbing all over her pretty Gap t-shirt, and managed to state without a full-fledged gulp accompaniment how much her participation in the program had meant to Justin, and to me. I thanked her for her commitment to him, how she showed up during flu season and finals, in inclement weather and sunny skies. I informed her she would be an inspirational speech therapist, and that I was proud my son had influenced her decision, even if only in some small way.

I shared with her that one of the most difficult things for me to accept about the nature of my son’s disorder was that in the truest sense of the word he doesn’t have friends, is bereft of the companionship that has sustained me through some of the most difficult periods of my life, as well as provided me with some of the most hilarious moments as well. I told her that in her own way she had been Justin’s companion for the better part of four years, and that filling this gaping niche in his life had played an instrumental part in his social growth, while simultaneously filling an aching need for myself as well.

Then I took a deep breath, sniffled one last time, and managed to let her go.

After making her promise to keep in touch I slid behind the wheel of my car, accepted the proffered tissue from my somewhat confused spouse, and carefully began backing out of my microscopic parking spot. Jeff asked me if I was okay, which unleashed a second wave of weeping, as I tried to explain to him what this girl had meant to our son and me, and failed miserably (it’s hard to talk when you’re hiccupping). Eventually I got a grip, engaged my GPS so I could find my way home and not rely on my husband’s incredulous instructions (the fact that we were simply retracing our previous steps means less than nothing to my direction-addled brain), and headed for home.

I glanced back at my boy, strapped carefully into his fortress of a car restraint, rocking out to Stevie Nicks and blissfully unaware that this hug heralded the end of an era. I sent a silent plea to the universe I wouldn’t have to witness him searching for her at SSNY in September, then eased into traffic on the main thoroughfare. I filled my lungs deeply one last time, searching for solace in the comfort of air, and in that moment, finding none.

And this time, I let that be okay.

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March 6, 2011

Something to Do

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , , at 11:05 am by autismmommytherapist

It’s the one millionth time we’ve driven home from the boardwalk arcade this winter, and the familiar cadence of Justin’s vowel sounds is once again caressing me like a warm, well-worn blanket. My boy is rocking out in the back seat to Yaz (he selected the CD, he has fabulous taste), and as we reach the crescendo to Midnight I glance back in the mirror so I can view his happy countenance. We’ve frequented this place so many times since the cold weather enveloped central Jersey that we’ve begun cycling through all the venues here, but one thing remains static- our culminating trip to the fudge shop.

Like I said, my boy has fabulous taste.

I have to admit I was bored today, encumbered by the habitual malaise that envelops me on the cusp of every new season. Easter is late this year, which means the rides at our local boardwalk won’t open until mid-April (thank God for Great Adventure, my new best friend), and I have completely run out of things to do with my moderately autistic child, on a Sunday afternoon, in February. Bowling is out, because all the lanes are packed around here on weekends after ten, and we’ve already sat through forty-one minutes of the latest Pixar creation, which means we’re now on our way to the one option left to us, which is home.

Crap. It’s only 2:15. Only five more hours to go.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with my eldest son, because I do. Even though he doesn’t talk (allowing Mommy some actual “quiet time” in the car, which on some days is a real bonus), we always manage to communicate our feelings to one another, are successfully reciprocal in our attempts to convey our needs. One of my (many) profound fears when Justin was initially diagnosed was that I’d never comprehend his desires, would remain unable to fulfill his requests. To date, for which I am eternally grateful, understanding his thought processes has not been an issue.

We just get each other.

But as much as I enjoy this time with him, value his hugs of delight when I tell him to go get his sneakers because we’re leaving the house, appreciate his exuberant kiss on my forehead as we make one last trip to the potty, it’s simply not enough. I want to have somewhere wonderful to take him as we cruise the abandoned streets of this now-slumbering beach town, would like to have an alternative to what awaits us at our house. On this frigid afternoon, with the sun slanting speckled stripes through the dirty windshield of my car, I’d prefer more variety at my fingertips than the computer games he’s pretty much memorized, and the DVDs we’ve all viewed a thousand times together. Instead, I’d like to offer him a really cool locale.

I’d like to transport him to my version of Disney.

“KimIsney”, as I’d prefer to trademark it, is a fantasy I’ve concocted during our many hours in the car together, particularly on weekends as I schlep him back and forth to his riding lessons. In my daydreams as we drive I am the beneficiary of great largesse from our state’s lottery system (to date I’ve won $500, so I’m not holding my breath), and subsequently find myself the happy recipient of a staggering sum of money. This grand prize of course enables me to put one child through college and med school (certainly a four-year-old can already discern his career path), provides the other with a safe place to reside, and affords me access to that amazing farm I’ve created in my mind. Jeff and I are able to pay off our oft-refinanced mortgage before we’re eighty, and I am able to better satisfy my clothing/restaurant/travel fetishes. We then treat our families and friends to “frivolous stuff”, and happily donate to our favorite charities and organizations (don’t worry POAC, you made the list).

And of course, there’s just gobs of money left over for fun.

In my mind’s eye, “KimIsney” encompasses as much land as both Kennedy compounds combined, and is about as well-protected. Within its interior is a snack-bar that not only distributes healthy snacks, which our picky eaters will actually consume, but serves gluten-free casein-free products for those children on the “autism diet” as well (notice I address the food issue first). There are game rooms where unlimited and repetitive play is not only allowed but considered the norm, some with the accoutrement of loud sounds and flashing lights, and several more restrained in deference to children with sensory requirements. An Olympic-sized pool provides lessons to those on the spectrum as yet unable to swim, with a one hundred per cent success rate upon completion.

Hey, it’s my fantasy. Indulge me.

Of course there are in residence two movie theaters, one “typical”, and one reminiscent of AMC’s autism showing (light on the previews, heavy on accepting all legal behaviors). Indoor rides are plentiful, both those with a gentle sway, and ones that accommodate my son’s need to torture his mother’s severely diminished equilibrium. Just for fun we’ll throw in a stable, where Justin can both practice the equestrian grooming arts, and trot his little heart out.

And the best part is, it’s so well-staffed, nobody ever has to wait for anything.

In my opinion, “KimIsney” would not be complete unless there was an accompanying parent component, and since it’s so fabulously staffed with Board Certified Behavior Analysts just gunning to donate some of their abundant free time, parents should have the opportunity to relax. An inviting wing of the compound will include a spa, light shopping (come on, I’m trying to throw in a bit of realism here), and of course a “tini” bar for those who come with a designated driver. Moms and Dads of children on the spectrum will have the opportunity to actually RELAX on a weekend, knowing their kids are safe within the sanctuary of the building, and remain in competent, well-trained hands.

There’s no way I’m donating this structure to the world unless my people can let loose a bit.

I’m just beginning to envision what stores I’ll have in residence when my dreams are abruptly interrupted by a smudge on our selected CD, a blip that forces me to change our music selection so the words “only you” are not forever emblazoned in my psyche. For once Justin is not annoyed at the derailment of his choice, and I quickly “throw the book” at him, and wait patiently as he thumbs through plastic receptacles for our future tunes. I half consider a brief stop at WaWa for the latest lottery pick, but since my chances of a meltdown from Justin when I prevent him from consuming every carb in sight are much greater than landing the motherload, I resist the temptation. For the occupants of this car, on this mid-afternoon, it appears there is no place like home.

And who knows, if I keep playing those numbers from Lost, maybe one day we’ll all win too.

January 19, 2011

A League of His Own

Posted in Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:13 pm by autismmommytherapist

I don’t wallow well.

Sure, there were moments of despair after Lost went off the air (they were dead most of the season, HOW COULD I NOT HAVE KNOWN???). I still haven’t gotten over Shakespeare in Love stealing the Academy Award from Saving Private Ryan (the Weinsteins’ campaign ROBBED you Steven Spielberg, for shame, FOR SHAME!!!). I’ll never understand why Kris Allen beat the fabulous Adam Lambert for the American Idol title in season eight, but I’ve been able to reconcile myself to that finale with the knowledge that coming in second has probably been beneficial to his career. Despite the tragic nature of these outcomes, I’ve tried my best to put all these losses behind me, and move on with my life.

After all, I have children. I owe it to them.

I admit, I had to remind myself just how strong I’ve been over the years, particularly following the “Justin after-care debacle”. I’d spent roughly half my free time putting this opportunity together for him for the better part of the fall, and I’d had a great deal of hope that some kind of peer relationship would eventually result from it for my eldest son. When it became apparent after the first day this activity wasn’t going to work for Justin (the half hour of sobbing prior to my arrival to pick him up was a dead giveaway), I will share that I was fairly upset for a few days. Frankly, there aren’t a whole lot of options for friendship for moderately autistic youth (google it, I dare you), and I had invested myself emotionally in the potential for a positive outcome.

Finally, later in the week, after a few long hours sulking on my couch, I eventually came up with a plan. It wouldn’t involve interaction with neurotypical peers, but it would place him around other children, and the central tenet of the event revolved around something Justin had come to enjoy. Plus, it would get me out of the house, where I might actually engage in conversations with people outside of the realm of cyberspace. I know. I have wild, extravagant dreams.

It was clear to me what the solution would be. Justin would be joining our local special needs bowling league.

I should preface this statement with letting you know that unlike the after-care program, I had absolutely no expectations going into this Saturday morning activity. This particular league is open to children and adults with a wide range of disabilities, some of whom I’d witnessed at other events, many of whom appeared much more evolved at taking turns and waiting patiently than my son. He’s made vast improvements in this area over the years (mostly due to having to share with his younger brother, not to any brilliant interventions on my part), but he still has a long way to go. I knew this was a popular activity amongst the disabled crowd, but since there were a lot of lanes at this particular venue I was hopeful he’d only have to share his with one other child at best. I figured we could at least pull one entire game off after all the wonderful experiences we’d had with the fabulous Miss M.

We arrived just in time, and I almost had to body block Justin to get him to stay still long enough for me to collect his felt foot apparel. It was obvious where we needed to go, as I looked down the length of the alley and saw a few dozen children and parents congregating around what looked like only two lanes. I swooped up Justin’s shoes and we received our lane assignment, and I subsequently realized how much I require lasix surgery as it became clear the league had commanded a half-dozen of them. We trudged over, boy and goody bag securely in my hands, and I was fortunately able to find him an empty swivel chair. I introduced us to the nearest parent, and glanced up at the electronic board regaling us with its list of participants.

On this lane alone, there were six. I was relieved I’d remembered to bring Tylenol.

To Justin’s credit, he did as well as humanly possible. I plied him with snacks and favored DVDs as he waited his turn fairly patiently, only slipping his shoes off once during the course of the game. I even managed to converse for three minutes with a lovely woman whose sons were so mildly autistic their form of the disorder bore absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to the subtype my son possesses (and they were FABULOUS at waiting). We made it through the majority of the game, but I could sense my son’s angst building, and I’ve resolved never to leave an activity on a bad note, thus reinforcing the connection between whining and exiting.

Just call it my life’s work.

We packed up to leave, and I had to fend off the protests of the kind woman I’d met who was dismayed when I told her we wouldn’t be returning, as she pointed out that Justin had really done well. He had, and I thanked her for the compliment, but that wasn’t the point. The truth was, he hadn’t had a good time, and as much as I enjoy meeting new people, this wasn’t (sadly) supposed to be about me. It turns out that bowling is one of three activities outside of movies and computer games that seem to entertain my child, and it simply has to remain fun for him. Despite the opportunity to talk to someone other than my husband, and perhaps score some sour cream and onion potato chips from the vending machine, this is not the correct venue for him to participate in this activity.

We exited the alley, Justin thrilled to be on the move, and me saying goodbye to a number of wonderful people in our community I’ve had the good fortune to come to know. He was bouncing up and down for joy, and for once my mind was clear, already on to the next event, which would be how to keep the moderately autistic child happily occupied until we left for his horseback riding lesson in the afternoon. I realized I wasn’t the slightest bit depressed about our “failure”, and that I’d already come up with a slight adaptation on this theme. We’d be coming back here as a family, claiming one entire lane as our own uncharted territory, with my boys taking turns and hopefully, in their own ways, cheering each other on to victory. I slipped Justin into his harness, settled myself into my frigid front seat, and smiled as I turned the ignition key, because once again I had a plan.

And although Jerry Seinfeld says “there’s no such thing as family fun”, we’re going to give it a try.

December 29, 2010

Purge

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:34 am by autismmommytherapist

I’ve become a technology queen this year, what with blogging, importing pictures from both our own files AND the internet, as well as mastering the art of the hyperlink (Mark Zuckerberg is running scared, mark my words). My husband has been a (mostly) patient instructor in all of these areas so that I might wear the crown rightfully, has generally ignored me as I’ve complained that the kids sucked out all my technology brain cells at their births, and has instead encouraged me to keep on trying no matter how seemingly insurmountable the task at hand. I’ve got a few skills under my belt now (watch breathlessly as Kim learns to download her own photos in 2011 AND send them to the right people), and have since felt a sense of confidence return to me that this old dog can learn a few tricks, and perhaps recapture those she enacted with ease before her sons permanently incapacitated her memory.

Always blame the kids when feasible.

I’ve been on a roll lately, and since I had some time left before my little one came home one day, I decided to knock one more technological item off my list in my remaining minutes of freedom before I donned the mommy mantle once again. It seems I’ve ignored my bookmarked links, which had subsequently mutinied against me and become an unwieldy mess (it takes me three full minutes to scroll down to my own blog, something has to go). So, I decided in the spirit of year’s end to downsize, a skill I’d actually managed to retain all these years (after Jeff reminded me right-clicking was NOT a fast-track to erasing my entire hard-drive). I grabbed the good chocolate and got down to business, reminding myself this couldn’t take THAT long as I had employed the delete button on numerous occasions since Justin graced us with his presence (okay, I’d done this twice since he’s been born, but who’s counting).

As it turns out, when you haven’t conducted more than a light weeding in seven years, and there’s several hundred bookmarks mocking you, you should really prepare for quite a walk down memory lane. In my own defense, I did leave a lot of these sites as visual prompts for when I was writing my manuscript, but since I finished my tome almost a year ago I don’t really have a lot of excuses left for my laziness. So I encouraged myself to indeed let go, and then I got down to business, deciding to go in chronological order for old time’s sake.

We’re just a bastion of spontaneity chez McCafferty.

As I banished each site to the etherworld, I briefly placed myself back in the time period where I had felt it necessary to have that information, perhaps even deemed it vital. With hesitation, I recalled the fear I’d felt in those last few months before Justin’s diagnosis as I clicked to that first excellent site I’d discovered, the one regaling me with early signs of autism that seemed to embody so much of my oldest’s son’s behavior.

Delete.

I recalled the desperation I’d felt when searching for words to reveal to me the mysteries of autism’s causes, and my frustration as the word “unknown” seemed to mock me at every turn.

Still annoyed delete.

I smiled ruefully as I perused the half-dozen screens promising refuge from the scourge of colic, none of which alleviated a single symptom in my boy.

Vengeful delete.

I didn’t even bother opening the myriad pages describing different therapeutic approaches all touting progress, because we’ve immersed ourselves in ABA, and it’s made a profound effect upon my child’s behavior.

Confident delete.

I right-clicked on numerous sites promising the best party supplies EVER for a one-year-old’s under-the-sea theme birthday party, and remembered how I knew in my soul this would be the only party Justin would ever have where he was just a difficult child, not one with a diagnosis as well.

Sigh, and delete.

I laughed as I purged the site revealing the caloric content of Starbuck’s lighter liquid fare, both for my idiocy for caring, and my remembrance that for many months that walk down that long hill with Justin for a break from ABA was my (and truly, our), single daily saving grace.

Joyful delete.

I briefly opened a few of my bookmarks related to the “autism diet” to see if anything new would hit me, recalling how I concocted homemade chicken nuggets from scratch for my reluctant eater for over a year, despite my cooking disability. I remembered my despair when it became apparent Justin was not a “responder” to his new food repertoire, and my elation when the removal of gluten and dairy seemed to appeal to Zachary’s troubled tummy.

Somewhat grateful delete.

I had to pinch myself from rereading all of Doc Jensen’s insightful LOST missives, reminding myself I had a kid getting off a bus in ten minutes and that this iconic show was indeed, despite my devastation, over.

Wistful, soul-sucking delete.

I brutally purged the sites where we ordered the pH strips we used to discern if Justin had left even a drop of urine in our toilet bowl during our year-long potty training debacle, the flimsy papers we’d used in our hopes we’d one day reward him for a single success before he turned fifty.

Exhausted delete.

Next to go, sites which for a small fee would absolutely GUARANTEE our son’s recovery.

Pissed-off, magnificent eye-rolling delete.

And last, but not least, the site with the fabulous review of Speed-the-Plow, the Broadway play we used as a brief escape from our youngest’s regression last year, only to be told upon arrival our boy, Jeremy Piven, was not available to play his role due to illness from mercury poisoning.

For this one, I used the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler SNL “REALLY?!?!?” delete.

The entire activity was as therapeutic as I imagine a good cleanse to be (nope, not old enough for that colonoscopy yet, thank God), and I managed to conduct it in enough time to finish that chocolate and prevent those bus drivers from returning my kid to school. It’s done. Those reminders of the past are gone. Those issues from our past are gone. The only thing remaining is both my gratefulness at having surpassed these problems, and my glee at having remembered how to scourge my bookmarks ALL BY MYSELF.

And for those of you looking to purge, to relieve yourselves of at least some unnecessary worries as we near year’s end, I’ve got one small encouragement for everyone out there.

Just hit delete.

May 26, 2010

Lost and Found

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:43 am by autismmommytherapist

Lost aired its final episode Sunday night. I am bereft, even though intellectually I know it’s only “TEL-EE-VI-ZUN”.

I’ve been sad when other dramas have departed the big screen, none more so than when Sex and the City went off the air six years ago. I remember that evening, recall telling my toddler that “short of him stroking out Mommy was going to see this episode live, so he’d better behave and sleep tonight” (I am just that kind of mom). I was disappointed and mildly disturbed at my lack of closure when The Sopranos went off the air, and my mourning for Six Feet Under was mitigated only by viewing the second last best fifteen minutes of a television series EVER (thanks Alan Ball, genius emeritus).

I also spent ten minutes sobbing in my husband’s arms when I realized not only was Jimmy Smits dying on NYPD Blue, but the little boy who spoke to him in his dreams was his unborn future son, which really put me over the edge (I know, that wasn’t a series ending, but I felt compelled to get that in here somehow). After my children came along I found I didn’t get out much anymore, so good television series, and fortunately there have been many as of late, have been a source of escape for me. I’ve relished every minute, looked forward with unswerving loyalty to every SATC movie that will ever be made, and contributed to every actor’s third luxury home by owning every DVD of each series. I am a dedicated fan.

And then, there was Lost.

Lost aired when my family and I were still living in Northern Virginia, just weeks before our lives would be changed forever by the brusque, slightly irritated declaration of “autism” by our son’s pediatrician as he shoved the names and numbers of some developmental pediatricians into my shaking and outstretched palm. The weeks that followed rendered his parents lost indeed, as we struggled to figure out what to do, who to call, what therapies to choose, what this meant for our lives, and what this meant for our son’s future. My husband, fortunately still employed, got to put it all behind him for the lion’s share of his day when he went to work. For me however, it was continuous, consecutive fourteen-to-sixteen hour days of chores, therapy, general child care, and the sinking feeling that this intruder into our lives was permanent, that my son would not be one of the fortunate crew who would live with his ailment yet be fortunate enough to lead an independent life. Lost became my invaluable escape from autism, and the knowledge that at least twenty-two hours of the year I’d have to stretch my brain for something other than the ramifications of my son’s neurological disorder was a great comfort to me.

I was not the only person captivated by the rich story lines, intense character development, and tantalizing mythological references that comprised the television show. Even famous people have been seduced by its magic, as when Rainn Wilson outed himself as “gay for Richard” after that particular character’s backstory episode aired (I must admit, as much as I loved gazing at those miraculously unlined eyes I reserve my gay for Tina Fey – Mean Girls and 30 Rock will forever have my heart, as will that Brownie Husband segment on SNL). Lost has been viewed and revered by millions, and I’m proud to count myself and my husband as part of the flock. I will miss all of it dearly, from Jeff’s and my unwavering commitment to view every episode together, to our discussions afterwards as we pretended to understand what had transpired, as well as when we fooled ourselves that we could dissect the missives of the brilliant Doc Jensen on EW.com for hidden meaning the following day. We once tried to play “drink mythology” as a way to reward ourselves for figuring out literary references as an episode played out, but when we quickly realized our palates would remain primarily dry we ditched that approach, just laid back, and took it all in. It’s been a wild ride ever since.

It hasn’t just been the excellent writing, the consummate acting, the eye candy of Matthew Fox or Josh Holloway, or those fabulous one-liners intermittently dropped by Jorge Garcia on his loyal viewers. There have been the themes to explore, a handful of which I feel pertain strongly to my life as well. Sacrifice. Redemption. Choices. Faith. Producers Lindelof and Cuse have included something for every viewer, should they care to drink at the trough.

All of the characters on Lost had to make gut-wrenching sacrifices in order to grow. Clearly, as any good parent of a child with or without a disability does, my husband and I have made sacrifices too. Our relocation to New Jersey from Virginia somewhat stalled my spouse’s career, and definitely tanked mine, at least for the time-being. We left behind a fairly rocking social life for two almost middle-aged people with a child, and found it’s taken almost four years to begin to build one again. Then of course there’s the financial aspect of autism, where we pay out-of-pocket for every therapy our oldest has, because our adopted state south of the Mason-Dixon line has yet to get on board in the insurance wars. We’ve given up stuff. The truth is however, we’re parents. It’s our job.

I’ve found, through sacrifice (which trust me, I was not inclined to make too many of prior to giving birth), that I am a kinder, gentler person. Letting go of my singular desires for the good of another person, particularly a child I adore, has redeemed me from the somewhat career-obsessed/what are we doing Saturday night individual I once was in my twenties and early thirties. Having a child with a major neurological issue forced me to dig deep into my soul, question everything I thought mattered. My son, and his autism, redeemed me in a way, encouraged me to make better decisions about how I spent my time, more insightful choices as to what would define my life from now on. He’s made me a better person.

As I’ve watched each character on Lost struggle with the choices that have lead to redemption for many of them over the past six years (many were engaged in battle in two worlds simultaneously, I should stop complaining), my husband and I have endeavored to make the right ones for our son, then our sons, then our entire family as we’ve taken this journey. I’m not certain the choices we’ve made have always been correct. Some days, just like the characters on Lost, I think we haven’t even come close. I’ve witnessed the actors fight to exit the island with all of their will, and sat mesmerized as many of them realized departure wasn’t the answer, that escaping a geographical location would not release them from their inner torments. I mirror their conflict when I contemplate how I regard my sons’ “extra”, when I attempt to consolidate my acceptance of their plight with my understanding that I will never be completely at peace with it. I understand it is ultimately my choice as to how I view this disorder and how it manifests in my family. It may truly be the sole event over which I have any control.

I have to admit that the one theme that has resonated most with me over Lost’s tumultuous journey is the one embodied by the good doctor, Jack Shepherd. Watching his tenuous transformation from a man of science to a man of faith for more than half a decade has enabled me to define my concept of faith, and to whom I bestow it upon. Back in the day, my faith was unquestionably linked to my parents and grandparents, then as I grew older came the subtle shift to friends and husband. Ultimately, my choices have lead me to a greater faith in myself. This feeling, this certainty, is stronger than any I personally have ever encountered in my Presbyterian parish when I was growing up, or later in the great cathedrals of Europe as I prayed and waited for a feeling, a moment, even the slightest sign that indeed something was out there greater than myself. I tried. It never came. It hasn’t to this day.

But what has evolved in me is a confidence that although there will be bumps along the road of life – polar bears, Smoky, a disastrous detour of a storyline – eventually my husband and I will figure it out. Sometimes it won’t be pretty. I have not been above imagining a sideways world myself, one without sleepless nights, the vagaries of intermittent OCD, and a seemingly endless supply of poop. I had twenty months of “normal” with my second son, and although that experience was difficult at times too, it never carried with it the emotional pitfalls that an autism sentence inherently conveys, and for me that has been the most difficult concept of all to transcend, the idea that this is permanent. There is no escape for this family, no plane that might or might not be blown up to whisk us away from autism island.

I have learned, however, that a fairly happy ending is indeed possible.

I know there are naysayers, but for this fan, I now feel this is THE BEST ENDING OF A TELEVISION SERIES EVER. No, not every mythological question was answered, and we’ll never know how long each of the characters lived in their parallel universe, and how they died. I do know however, that as we watched Matthew Fox’s eye close in the only possible last scene that could have given me closure, my husband and I had already been bawling for twenty minutes and had vowed at least six times to become better human beings.

I hope it lasts.

So for now I’ll say goodbye to the show that has followed my family’s progress from downright miserable to most days enjoyable, and at the very least, tolerable. I will count the months until the six season box set is made available for my viewing pleasure, and will voraciously explore every extra, deleted scene and actor’s chat made available to me, save the choice to be regaled by the aforementioned options in Spanish. I will hope for yet another hit show or movie for Matthew Fox whose work I’ve enjoyed since his Party of Five days, and pray that no other network will feel compelled to try to emulate Lost’s success with some flimsy replica which I will be forced to disparage. Some things in life, and in art, are simply epic, and cannot be repeated.

To the writers, actors, directors and producers of the show (and the craft services employees who kept them happy), I bid a fond adieu, and my thanks for six incomparable years of entertainment.

Your fans, are indeed, lost without you.