Happy 57th, Barbie! *

10 Mar HBD Barbie

Barbie 02

*Barbara Millicent Roberts turned 57 yesterday, March 9, 2016.

I’ve never been a girly kind of girl. Ask anyone who knows me. Apart from a short interlude with a Fisher-Price Mandy doll and a 1974 Baby Alive doll when I was nine or ten, dolls were never really my thing. I liked reading and playing video games more.

As a young girl, I hoarded back copies of Reader’s Digests from my relatives and spent the bulk of my allowance on Nancy Drew books. I bought music cassettes with what was left of my allowance, spending hours sitting by my huge “portable” radio/cassette player (the kind that needed six D-cell batteries to operate). Long before emo and goth were fashionable, I was the girl in black in the middle of summer, listening to songs of loss and death, writing essays about the futility of “being” and the death of love. In short, I liked solitary, nerdy, dark things and not the glitzy, glam, bedazzling life of a Barbie doll.

ballerina barbie

Wish I had been able to keep mine. (Source: http://www.giank.it)

Eh, Barbie dolls? I only really had one. It was a Ballerina Barbie with pale blonde hair, a white and gold tutu, pointe shoes, and the highest arched heels I had ever seen in a doll. She was so beautiful she made me want to become a ballerina myself. She was my inspiration for taking up the dance in my childhood, never mind that I always had thirty pounds over my peers in weight and body mass. Unfortunately, Ballerina Barbie suffered an early demise. She survived me for all of a year, until my younger sister Joee accidentally decapitated her in a brief struggle for ownership.

My sister Joee was the one who loved Barbies. She still has many of them today, dolls we bought together on summer trips to Hong Kong. Given time to explore the small city by ourselves, Joee and I would find ourselves entering dimly lit stores along Mody Road, looking for Barbie dolls to take home. Along the stretch of Nathan Road, we found many of our treasures and hoarded them happily- Barbie for her, Hello Kitty and Game And Watch for me, or as much as our combined allowance for the three- or four-day trip would allow.

All of my love affairs with dolls ended unhappily and lasted no more than a summer’s worth of boredom. Even as I maintained my fascination for Sanrio, books, and video games, I lost interest in dolls, Barbie dolls most of all. On hindsight, I think my body and self-esteem issues as an adolescent contributed a lot to my inability to connect with a Barbie doll. Try as I might to look or feel like one- beautiful, glamorous, perfect- I was always a gawky, nerdy ugly duckling in my mind.

DSC07819 copy

My first Silkstone- Trace of Lace: A♥ got her for me because her hair is like mine. *blushes*

It thus comes as a big surprise that as I cross the threshold of middle life, I find myself an owner of not just one or two Barbie dolls, but, ehrm, quite a few. Silkstone Barbies and Kens make up my current Barbie collection. They are all beautiful in their exquisite ways, all perfect, and all mine.

What caused this change of heart, you ask? For starters, they were gifts from my husband. He must have noticed me spending a little more time viewing doll pictures on Facebook and so he gave me one on Mother’s Day three years ago. This was followed by three on my birthday, and some more on the countdown to our 22nd anniversary. So, even as I whine and complain about the cost (Silkstone Barbies are not regular, play line dolls and do cost a bit more), I find myself quite fascinated with them.

The truth is, despite my long history of angst with what I used to perceive as the “impossible perfection” Barbie endorses, I have made my peace with her. These days, I no longer see Barbie’s beauty and unlikely body proportions as a critical reflection of my deepest personal flaws. I don’t diss her choices to become a nurse, secretary, cheerleader or any of traditionally female gender work roles that stereotyped her for years; after all, she has made larger strides in gender equality in her 57 years. I don’t blame her for materialism, eating disorders, intellectual inferiority, promiscuity, or the sexualization of young girls. These problems are not Barbie’s doing; they come from a much deeper place than a doll or the ideal of the doll. Instead, I think of Barbie as a reflection of the changing times. She is not perfect but she knows how to adapt and survive. And while I would wish for her to temper her mind blowing expenses on fashion, I laud her for the zest and love of life she espouses, for the kind of giggly enthusiasm that is hard to match by jaded men and women of her years.

(Below are some of my dolls. Click the picture to view it on a larger scale.)

barbie 01

barbie 07My silkstone dolls (well, some of them)

barbie 03

barbie 04I love the doll and dress sets best!

barbie 05Lingerie Silkstones 1-6 
barbie 06My favorite Barbie and Ken set- Darya and Nicolai

I can only think of one more argument that trumps all of the above and it is this: all of my Barbies have been gifts. As such, I choose to focus on these acts of giving. For the first time in ages, I know what it feels to be a girly kind of girl, even just a teeny weeny bit. I doubt I’ll ever be one completely, knowing how most days, I’d give up a bath for a couple of hours of The Sims 4 or Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer. Some things never do change. But if there’s anything I learned from my experiences with Barbie these days, it is that Mattel might have had it right all along.

“Girls can do anything.”
“Be who you want to be.” 
“Be anything.” 

I am A♥’s best friend. I am a mother. I am a geek. I am a wife. I am a nerd. I am a gamer. I am a collector. I am an advocate. I am a girl.

And I like being all these.

I like being me.

Happy birthday, Barbie! Thank you for the inspiration.♥

HBD Barbie

Sundays with Alphonse

22 Feb

blog 01Since A♥ started working farther from home last year, weekends have been used for one of two things: running errands or sleeping. Our date and movie nights have suffered seriously because of his schedule, but we’ve adjusted by turning our errands into dates, and our sleeping days into lazy dates! Winking Face Emoji (Twitter Version)

Of course, with Alphonse around, we’ve been hard pressed to find time for these “dates” so we’ve taken to bringing him with us when we can. It’s not a mean feat preparing him for a few hours of the outside world; aside from the mental and emotional preparation, there are the physical ones we have to overcome first. Packing a bag of essentials is a must; his carry on usually has a  change of clothes and underwear, his PECS cards, bubbles solutions-a bigger bottle for refills and a small one with a wand, a small towel, wet and dry tissues, snacks, and a a reusable adult wee bag for those times he cannot wait. (The iPad is optional since he tends to use cards more but it does come in handy for social stories.) The car is also prepped with extra golf umbrellas (to form a makeshift cover for him when the calls of nature come suddenly and unannounced) and cushions and pillows to prevent headbanging.

Yesterday was one of our errand days but Alphonse also needed to get out of the house. He has been acting very angsty since A♥ went on an overnight work trip last week. We figured a little time outside with us would help calm him down.

We left the house later than we planned. The sun was already high and hot above us when we left but Alphonse was in good spirits. Aside from picking up our week’s rations of vegetables from the supermarket, we had planned to drop by to visit Dad at the cemetery and A♥’s Mom at the nearby church ossuarium. The last time we went to Loyola, Alphonse couldn’t wait to get back in the car (it must have been the heat), so we were happy to see him stay for a while. We were even able to say our prayers before he signaled for us to go.

Alphonse 22116A

Alphonse brought flowers for Lola, Great GrandLola and Tito Lolo. ♥

And then came his favorite part of the day- grocery shopping! I wish I took a video of how he helped us choose and bag vegetables. He was quite the helper yesterday!

Alphonse 22116C

Alphonse stopped by the CDO hotdog stand and asked for one. Mom had to hold it lest he swallowed the whole thing in one go. He wasn’t too happy about it though.

We made a few more stops for pancake and rice cake mixes before we headed to the check-out lanes. When Alphonse got the cart near the counter, he suddenly broke out in loud, uncontrollable laughter and shrieks. And then he grabbed four Kit Kat bars and hugged them close to his chest! Ah, this young man is a little boy at heart (and mind) still! You can see his smiles below; they’re truly the most heartfelt of smiles.

Alphonse 22116B

The sweetest smiles are reserved for his Papa… and Kit Kat. ♥

Having less people around Alphonse has allowed him, by necessity, to gain a measure of independence. We’ve gone a long way from when Alphonse could only look at the world from the inside, peering through windows and watching life pass him by. These days, he is happy to mingle and take part- however limited the interactions may be- in the world around him. And we are happy to hold his hand and make this journey possible for him.

I wish all days were like Sundays.

 

 

Present and Accounted For

25 Jan 12647688_10207356738890657_797840846_n

I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe how Alphonse has been in the last month or so, but no matter how I rack my brain to do it, nothing seems to fit. Aware? Conscious? Sensitive? I find myself at a loss for words. Somehow, these don’t seem apt at all. Then too, if I use them, do they betray a prejudice against individuals with autism by attributing them with the lack or absence of these traits? Alphonse is certainly aware, conscious, and sensitive of us and his environment; if at all, he is painfully burdened by an over-awareness of everything that goes around him. Perhaps the word or words I am looking for are more related to a perceived emotional distance, an aloofness that disconnects him with other’s intentions and motivations.

And yet, today, even as I write this, Alphonse seems more here, more present with us these days. I can’t explain it at all. I don’t know why or how, he just is.

He tries to reach out more often, making himself seen and heard. Would you believe that we’ve been able to have conversations with him- funny ones at that? Despite his inability to communicate through spoken language, he has managed to make his responses understood. There is also a remarkable degree of restraint in him these days, something we have not seen in a long while.

Consider this.  When his nanny absconded early last year, despite a promise to return (with an advance on her salary, a paid-for return airplane ticket, and a borrowed cellular phone), Alphonse didn’t break out in tantrums right away. We had given him a social story on his iPad to read before and during his nanny’s absence. I made sure to include a calendar marked with her vacation days. Three days after she was due to return and with news that she had eloped, Alphonse finally had that full-scale meltdown. He pulled our hair, threw all our borrowed dining chairs, and even tried, on several occasions, to bite us. It took about a week before he calmed down.

Knowing his reactions to loss, we resolved to make the next transitions smoother. With our previous successes with social stories fresh on my mind, I worked on poster pictures for Alphonse, giving him copies on his iPad and printing out some to post on the walls. I even kept copies on my mobile phone so would always have them on hand and ready for viewing. We showed the pictures to him every day, and after about two weeks, he began to really understand what they were for.

No pulling hairWhen another nanny informed us of her plans to “retire” soon after the others, we redoubled our efforts at showing him these pictures. Three weeks before his nanny left, I gave him another social story, a goodbye book to prepare him for her departure. We took pictures of his nanny waving goodbye. We told him she would not be coming back, but that she would keep in touch through Facebook and phone calls. On the night he first read the book, Alphonse shrieked and yelled in heartbreak. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he proceeded to throw what he could lay his hands on BUT he did not pull our hair. When I ran toward him to comfort him, he sobbed even louder, burying his head in my shoulder. I noticed his hands were clenched in tight fists. He had clenched them so tightly that his hands were bright red and his nails had dug marks into his palms. That was when we began to realize the extent of his self-restraint (no pulling hair, Alphonse!) and his new-found understanding of what he may and may not do.

That he’s been more attuned to us continues to be a source of our amazement and joy. We ask him questions and surprisingly, he gives us answers. The easiest questions are those he can reply to with a nod or a shake of his head. Of late, he has also started verbalizing more, often accompanying his nod with a “Ya” and the shake of his head with a “Na/No.” Even more amazing, he would say “Ayaw ayaw ayaw” (I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to) when pressed into doing something against his will (like bathing with cold water, heehee). When presented with choices, it’s comforting to know he knows what he wants and can often choose to his satisfaction. Little things to many, but for one who has never had his own voice, they certainly mean a lot.

Just this New Year, on the way to lunch with the rest of the family, we asked him what he wanted to have for lunch.

Do you want chicken? Na.

Do you want pizza? Ya.

Shakey’s? Ya.

Pizza Hut? Ya.

Yellow cab? Weh? (He’s never had Yellow Cab Pizza, I forgot.)

Poor thing. We ended up eating at Max’s Fried Chicken because Shakey’s was closed and we didn’t want to take another stab at finding parking. It took a while before his gloomy face brightened and only after we bribed him with a whole Max’s fried chicken. Still, it makes us happy to know he has opinions and choices; we only need to find a way to help him bring them out in the open.

I can only imagine what the future has in store for us and for Alphonse. But if this is any indication of what we can expect, then we shall see Alphonse evolve and continue to grow as he ages. All children grow, and children with autism are no exception. But Time, it seems, is what they need the most of.

For now, it is enough he is here, present and accounted for, struggling against the mighty wall of his disabilities. We shall continue to arm him with the picks and axes he needs to tear down these walls. Time, I pray, will do the rest.

12647688_10207356738890657_797840846_n

 

Image

Keep Calm and Break Resolutions

8 Jan

Broken ResolutionI have only two resolutions for 2016 and on the eighth day of this new year, I realized I’ve already managed to break them both.

The first one was to write more. I’ve been putting off writing for a while now. When my PC’s hard drive died on me at end of the year, I figured I had gotten off easy with fulfilling my first resolution. I shushed the voice inside my head that nagged at me (“But don’t you have a laptop? And an iPad?”) and pretended that the death of my PC was the most compelling reason not to write. The truth is, it isn’t for lack of anything to say. In the last few months, writing- the physical act- has become more difficult. I can’t hold a pen firmly and my handwriting, once the stuff teachers raved about, has become illegible. Even typing is hard, as my fingers lack the strength and the feedback it once had. All I feel now is a lot of achy pins and needles in my hands.

Fortunately, while fine motor movements are difficult, gross movements can still keep me busy. I can cook and bake, but my knife skills are shot. I can still whip up a mean cake, but I can’t ice it. I can hold a doll, but I can’t brush her hair or dress her up in her fine little clothes. I can only look at my little Sylvanian toys now so I play video games more; smashing buttons is easy. Little things that I took for granted are once again the bane of my existence. Heck, I can’t button my clothes or hook my bra! Even typing these last two paragraphs have taken longer than usual as I now need to look at the keyboard more often to see if I am hitting the right keys. My fingers feel thick all the time.

I don’t know what caused this but I have a nagging thought that my neck, stiff and unyielding again, is related to it. (I’m also keeping a close eye on my blood sugar levels, promise!) So while I muster the nerve to show up at my orthopedist’s office, I will have to manage this the way I did seven years ago- through sheer grit. Wish me luck I can squiggle my way through this.

My other resolution was to walk more. I’ve been taking daily walks with Alphonse since the start of the year, nothing big, just short walks around the neighborhood. The plan was to walk slowly and build up my momentum so I can go back to longer distances. Somewhere at the back of my head, I thought that maybe I can even manage to learn how to ride a bicycle. (Unless my husband caves in and buys me a three-wheeled bike! Please, A?) But in the last two days, Alphonse has had other things in his mind except walking and we’ve been stuck inside the house. Resolution two broken before it even got off the ground.

The good news is that there are still 358 days left in the year, time enough to restart and get a do-over. Also, there’s another New Year coming up in about a month, so if this New Year isn’t enough to galvanize me into action, maybe a second one would finally give me the shove, errhm, push I need.

So here’s to the New Year, dear friends! May it be kinder than the year that passed and may God bless us all!

“No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” ~Buddha

Thanksgiving

1 Dec

This post is a little late for Thanksgiving, but then again, each moment with good friends is a moment for gratitude and  appreciation.

quipple846Last Thursday was the first time in 30 years that my own “band of brothers”- A♥, JD, and JI- was complete. In the three decades since we left high school, we have not had the chance to get together again as a group. We had seen each other on separate occasions, though these meetings were very few and far between. The last time I saw JD, it was at my father’s funeral last year. He had come to comfort A♥ and me at a time when we were both reeling from our loss. The last time I saw JI, it was in August of this year, when he and his wife graciously opened their Dallas home to A♥ and me. Yes, thirty years have stretched our ties and pulled us all in different directions.

I looked at the men before me and tried to remember the young boys they were in high school. I know A♥ the longest, having met him in debate team in the latter half of freshman year. JI and I became fast friends when we became classmates the following year. The three of us- JI, A♥, and me- became classmates with JD in junior year. Soon after, our little gang of friends was born.

ajj copy
Back in high school, JD was the quiet one, but beneath his baby-faced looks, he was always sensible and smart. He helped temper my brashness and impulsivity with sound advice. JI was funny, carefree and adventurous, but he was also highly protective of his friends. He would make sure I was right behind him when we crossed streets, reminding me so often to look both ways. A♥ was my counterpart in nonstop chatter. We both liked the same books and music so we always had much to discuss. Out of kindness, however, he would always let me talk more. These three boys were my lifelines then. We were were all fiercely loyal to each other.

As I looked at each of their faces that night, it struck me how we have all been changed in so many ways. Now in our middle years, we all tread different paths and circumstances. Our lives are bigger than just our dreams now. We have beloved spouses and children, work and responsibilities, extended families and communities. But even just for several hours that night, I remembered how it was to be surrounded by my closest friends and feel secure in their friendship.  And just like in high school many years ago, we reached out to each other in genuine acceptance and cast anew bonds that hold us together not only as friends but as chosen kin.

It dawned on me then how apt, how fitting, nay, how right it was that we got together on a date that was celebrated as Thanksgiving, for truly, such a moment was what Thanksgiving was all about.

 

Alphonse at 21

3 Nov

I can’t believe you’re 21 today, son. I can’t believe we made it this far.

Happy birthday!

Many times, over the years, I often wondered if we would ever get past those years of heartbreak and violence. I wondered if we would live to see this day, if we would ever reach this point when we could look back with relief and, yes, gratitude, that we made it through those long stretches of heartache. And mind you, son, we have lived through much.

We’ve had times when our whole world was in shambles, when we lived in sorrow and darkness. We wept for days and clung to each other in helpless surrender. We forged through your terrors and rage. We loved you, always, even when anger blinded you and fear made you reject and push us away.

Now, here we are. Twenty one years into a life we never knew could change us so much. A life with you. A life with autism. A life shaped by adversity, tempered by grace, made whole by love.

Thank you, Alphonse, for all that you have brought and continue to bring to our lives. Thank you for teaching us to love unconditionally, without hope of return or reciprocation.

Thank you for showing us the limitless spools of our patience. We have learned to wait and find joy in the waiting.

Thank you for teaching us to endure, to be steadfast and unwavering in our fortitude and faith.

Thank you for teaching us to bend, to kneel, and to submit wholeheartedly and with all humility to the One who gave you to us.

Thank you for bringing out the best in us. Who knew that Mama, your scaredy-cat mother, had strength and courage? That Papa, firstborn and strong-willed, came with an inexhaustible supply of steady, constant patience?  Or that your Kuya Alex, your big, burly full-bearded brother, was capable of so much spontaneous outpouring of gentle love? Your presence in our lives allowed us to find these wellsprings of kindness in our hearts.

Thank you for showing us the pleasures of little things, the wonder of tiny miracles, and the sheer delight that comes from just being alive.

And thank you, for knowing and finally accepting our love, and for loving each one of us back with your kisses, hugs, and many more quiet acts of tenderness and love. Yours is love in action, our son.

Happy 21st birthday, Alphonse. Ours has been a journey of unbelievable, unimaginable adventures and it has only just begun.

We love you always.

Alphonse as a newborn, two weeks early, two days late
alphonse 02 copy

Loved since birth

alphonse 03

and loved always, even when autism came (diagnosis at 18 months old).

when autism came 01

Cute and cuddly, (and wearing Mama’s baptismal dress), falling in love with this little baby was always easy.

Alphonse as girl

But as he grew older, he developed differently. While typical little boys play, he would prostrate himself on cold floors for hours at a time.

when autism came 02

Our baby went to school earlier than most, his days revolving around therapy centers and special education. 

Alphonse toddler

At his school, he was the youngest child to be diagnosed then.

Alphonse cutie

Alphonse was different. His fascinations were different. He loved twirling the plastic rotor blades of his Fisher Price helicopter.

Alphonse teddy 01

But there were times we could almost pretend we were “typical” and “normal,” and have our pictures taken like regular people… 

alphonse 51a

Even as his interests grew differently from his peers. He has always loved water and could spend hours playing with the hose.

Alphonse and the Hose

And pieces of string and twirly slinkies could keep him preoccupied for hours.

Alphonse teddy 02

With autism came periods of stress too, of self-injurious behavior, which caused us grief and endless worry.

Self injury AlphonsePicture copy

But his gorgeous smiles always made the hard times worth it.

alphonse 71 copy

Bestowed with the gift of beauty,

alphonse 72 copy

yet often fierce and funny,

alphonse

this boy spreads joy with just a smile.

alphonse 03

And as he grows older,

Alphonse

and bigger,

My Alphonse

wiser and stronger,

Alphonse at work2

may his smiles remain with us

Alphonse and mama 02

to give us light when darkness comes

Alphonse 031315

and to bind us in love and kindness always.

alphonse summer 03

Happy birthday, Alphonse!

VM 02

We love you so. 

 

How to Survive Your Husband’s Retirement

22 Oct

Published in HerWord on October 20, 2015.

 

pic for blog 05My husband Anthony retired- or shall I put it more accurately- was retired in late July of this year after almost 26 years of service to the company. I suppose you could say we were surprised when it happened, but, in truth, with the change in ownership in 2013 and the merger of two papers this year, it was no longer quite as shocking or unexpected.

Amazingly, he took it all in stride. This was not to say that he was happy with the decision, but always the optimist that he is and, between the two of us, always the one who saw the good in people’s actions and intentions, he respected it and chose to dwell on the experience of gratitude. He was indebted to the Boss, Mr. Raul Locsin, and Mrs. Leticia Locsin, his first employers, who saw potential in the fresh college graduate he was in 1989. And he focused on the privilege of working with people he considered his second family. These thoughts carried him over fear and worry.

In the beginning of July, he said goodbye quietly to his closest friends even as he started to dismantle more than half his life into boxes. On his last day of work, he gave back the keys to his office, had lunch with a few of his colleagues, and drove back home with the last of his personal boxes. At the age of 47, he jumped, once again as in the beginning of his journey with the company, into the great unknown.

pic for blog 04

Lunch with some of his colleagues on his last day of work: a farewell, not goodbye to good friends

We’ve all read the same studies: retirement is never easy. My father retired in his sixties after a series of debilitating strokes that put him longer and longer in the hospital with each stay. In the last few years of his life, he would often wake up disoriented and unable to recognize his caregivers. But he remembered, quite distinctly, the work that he did all his life. He would rifle through old papers and books, looking for his ledgers and checkbooks. He remembered the names of his suppliers and how much business he did with them. And he would often end up in a state of panic as he scrambled to locate papers he thought he needed, from a business then more than 10 years closed. Even as his mind began to wander, he never forgot his work. It was what defined him most of his life.

If retirement at old age is problematic, then retirement at middle age is doubly difficult. No one ever quite prepares to lose his/her job in his/her forties or ever dreams of having to look for one again. For many, there is an unexpected void to their daily lives. There is boredom and lack of socialization to contend with. The sudden freedom that comes with the absence of structured activity may be exhilarating at first but wears down quickly with time. And though foreseeable financial issues weigh in heavily on the retiree, especially for single-income families like ours, there are far greater things at stake than the loss of a paycheck; the absence of an integral part of their days begins to rub raw the definitions of self and worth.

pic for blog

photo from Groovy Grandmas on Facebook

For the spouse who is left to deal with the newly retired husband/wife, the sudden change in your routine as a family may throw you off balance. Your plans, both for yourself and for your family, may have to change, putting undue stress in your long term goals. It may even put a strain in your relationship, as the hours of interaction become forcibly longer. Problems you could avoid when one or both of you were at work suddenly turn into problems that stared at your faces 24 hours long.

I can only speak for myself and how we dealt with the changes in our lifestyle, household, and family since the end of July. I do hope, however, that this piece of insight we gained over the last few months makes others realize that retirement does not necessarily have to be a bad thing.

It helped that in 24 years of marriage, my husband and I have always had open lines of communication. We don’t hold back thoughts; we don’t keep secrets from each other. We discussed the situation rationally, keeping our emotions and personal opinions in check, but allowing each other the space and time to vent, if necessary. Again, between the two of us, I was the one with the unrestrained hostility to work out, and he took this as a challenge to help me get over my anger and indignation.

Once we got over the first hurdle, we discussed what we were facing head on and decided to implement changes to keep our household working, a sort of a post-retirement game plan. Since we have a severely disabled child who requires 24/7 care all his life, we resolved to keep the most important parts of our child’s life consistent. From scheduling, to decisions on education, to treatments and medications, we agreed to sacrifice just about anything but we would not touch Alphonse’s life unless it was absolutely necessary.

We made a loose time frame to follow for the period he was home but other than that, made no demands of each other’s schedules. We kept each other busy by tending to chores and errands we could do together. In his now “almost all” spare time, I noticed he read a lot, watched movies, wrote his sports columns, and caught up on his sleep. I ended up chucking my chores just to sleep with him when he did (it was so tempting), and within a few days of his being home, our body rhythms, once so disparate (he was an early riser and I was a late sleeper), were in sync.

We decided to take a long trip together. Although I worried about leaving our son, I also felt my husband needed the distance to heal and recharge. We entrusted our son’s care to my family and took the trip to reconnect with his family abroad. Seeing my husband with his father, the joy in their faces so palpable, I knew it was well worth the time and money spent. My husband went home tired, but happy; a little broke, but also richer in love and experience.

pic for blog 02

With Daddy, in one of my favorite stores (heehee)

They say that in marriage, “give as you would take,” and we took this to remind us to be kind and loving to each other even when the 24 hours of imposed togetherness sometimes took its toll. I have to credit my husband for his extended patience when mine wore thin and I vented on him, as I did on our third day in New York.

It was beastly hot, the walk from subway stop to the theater and back was tough under that heat. Worse, I had a migraine headache to deal with. At the end of the day, I was snarky and irritable, certainly not the best person to be with, 13,000 kilometers away from home. I threw up twice in the hotel bathroom. Livid at the weather and helpless at its relentless effects on me, I grew angry at him instead. Nice “logic,” right? My husband helped me undress as I crawled under the cool sheets and ignored him deliberately. I fell asleep sullen and cross.

I woke up at two am, finding myself cradled in his arms. He had put his arms around me and I was too out of it to even notice. He woke up when I squirmed and said “I’m sorry, honey. I hope you’re feeling better now.” I grew ashamed of my own actions. Think about this: when spouses become victims of their husbands’ or wives’ anger, how many would be able to draw on love and not pride to carry them through? Over the past couple of months, there would be times my husband would lapse into bouts of unusual and unnerving silence and the memories of that day helped me to reach out to him in patience and love. Give as you would take.

Remember the synced body rhythms? This worked great for us after our trip, when jet lag kept us up at three in the morning. What did we do then? We talked a lot, nonstop for hours, it seemed. We cuddled. We prayed for our children and for each other. We held hands. And when we found ourselves drowsy, we held hands some more till we fell asleep.

In the end, his retirement proved to be short-lived. Going back to work was an easy decision for him. Perhaps, and we say this thought out loud, that were both our children independent adults, we would have no second thoughts living simply with what we have. We could run away to the province, live off the land, and experience Henry David Thoreau’s Walden in action. Still, the reality of our situation makes us take stock of our decisions. Parents of children with special needs cannot afford to be foolhardy.

We realized that because our child would need care all his life, we would need more resources to help him and his older brother manage in the future. We disagreed on when, however. I wanted him to stay at home longer. He insisted he needed to get back to work, for fear of losing our little savings to inaction. After a period of thought, we established a timeline we could both live with. I am proud to say that my husband has gone back to work, as of this writing, for a very reputable firm in another industry, a decision he made with purpose.

Losing work is not easy, more so when it is almost a lifetime’s worth. The reentry to the labor force is another period of adjustment that can also be difficult under the circumstances. Still, it is wise to remember that when faced with the prospect of change, whether favorable or not, there is no wall as easy to breach as a fragmented front. Communication and planning are key elements to holding your family together in times of crisis. Most importantly, a marriage that is strong in love and held together by faith, fidelity, and a steadfast belief in each other’s abilities will always thrive. Looking back, I can honestly say that I loved every second of my husband’s time at home with me.

pic for blog 03

I not only survived my husband’s retirement; I aced it- with him!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,486 other followers