A friend asked me last night, “How does that make you feel?” referring to the fragile relationship I have with Alphonse these days. I had to pause and think of an answer. I haven’t been asked that question in a long while, so concerned are we all about Alphonse that no one ever bothers to ask how each of us feels anymore.
I told her I was sad but at the end of the day, it wasn’t about me, it was still all about him- Alphonse. Because no matter how hard we try to NOT make him the center of our lives, he IS. And it isn’t because we choose to. It isn’t because we’re masochistic martyrs who need the drama in our lives. It’s because he NEEDS us to. There is no one else but us. If somehow, by some strange twist of fate, he gravitates towards the periphery of our family’s life, if he becomes less important than he is now, then who else will be there for him? No one. Sad but true.
The truth is, I am still mourning over the ways my relationship with Alphonse has changed. I no longer have 100% participation in his daily life and it is not because of lack of trying. The many times I have tried to insinuate myself in his daily life, he would lash out at me with violence and anger after an initially very positive response. It’s a special kind of anger he reserves solely for me, and not for anyone else. Certainly not for his nannies who have become the orbiting satellites of his existence today, and if only for that, I am still deeply grateful. I cannot bear the thought of him hurting anyone else.
Then too, my presence creates more work for them, as they end up mopping after the emotional wreckage that Alphonse becomes after days with me. They are the ones who have to calm him down, who have to help him process this rage and let it go. Me, I feel like a puppeteer most of the times. I hold the strings that move our lives, but these strings also keep me always an arm’s length away from him.
As sad as I am over these changes, I do understand that he will have to move away from me to grow. If I allow Alex, my eldest boy, his freedom to be who he is without me hovering like a helicopter parent, then I must accept that Alphonse, by virtue of his age and size, requires that same kind of freedom from me. It’s a difficult and tricky slope to maneuver, balancing his special needs (of which he requires almost 24/7 supervision) with his desire to become an individual separate from me.
Still, there is no time to wallow in self pity. Battle scarred as we all are now, we’ve learned to seize opportunities when they do come. The early mornings when he wakes up and there’s just the two of us around, those are mine, all mine. That’s when I still sense the special closeness that existed between us all these years. That’s when he recognizes me as Mamam and calls me such. I cling to these moments fiercely, guarding them as my precious, albeit, tenuous links to my baby, now almost all grown.
When the clouds are forever hiding the sun, you learn to squint your eyes and look hard for the silver lining. And true enough, by God’s mercy, they are always there.