Tag Archives: family

Love in Lasagna

15 Nov

lasagna-copyThe very first dish I ever learned to make was a lasagna. Not adobo, which took me 15 years to learn; not sinigang, which I could not stand to eat till I was in my forties. Apart from grilled cheese and liver pâté sandwiches my father taught me to make for our midnight snack dates, lasagna was the only thing I knew how to make for years. I learned from necessity, because I wanted to eat it.

In the beginning, I cooked only for myself. I would make one 9 x 13 pan and devour it in one sitting. No leftovers, I’m not kidding! Well, most of the time, really, heehee. Today, I’m sorry I did not share with my brothers and sisters more, maybe then, I’d  have shared part of my heft too.

When I had made the dish enough times, I found the confidence to share it with others. And so, I made it for my friends in med school. They seemed to like it, judging by the empty pans I would lug home. Well, it was that, or they were just being kind to me.

I also made lasagna to impress my then-boyfriend and years later, when we got married, the dish became his special request for occasions like his birthday or our anniversaries. Of course, as much as we would have wanted to have it everyday, it was a bit over our measly budget as newlyweds and, later on, too labor intensive for new parents.

One memory that comes to mind when I think about lasagna happened when we were very young. On his 25th birthday, amid a series of family disputes (long story), I burnt the lasagna meant for his birthday dinner. In the drama of the day, I totally forgot about it and by the time I remembered, thick, black smoke was coming out of the oven. I remember holding the burnt pan over the sink, crying over it and our woes. I was about to throw the whole thing in the trash when A♥ silently took it from my hands. He set it on the table, helped himself to a huge serving, and ate it without complaint.

“Thank you for a wonderful birthday, hon,” he whispered in my ear.

“It’s burnt,” I bawled loudly.

“I could eat everything in one sitting. I love it because you made it. And I got to spend my birthday with you again,” he said gently.

I cried even harder after that. I also never burned a single pan after that day.

Last weekend, upon request, I made lasagna for the family and an extra pan for Alex’s friends. I worked late Friday night to get them ready and then woke up extra early to bake them. Making them was not easy for my numb, clumsy hands anymore, I discovered, but I worked with only the best ingredients and poured my best efforts into making sure they tasted the same as they always have.

Alex has already asked me to teach him how to make it. On occasions when he is inspired to make something more than a lazy cup of instant ramen, this son of mine dabbles in the kitchen. One day, he will be making the lasagna in the family. Hopefully, he will share it with friends, with loved ones, and with the family he will make. I find this thought comforting.

When he makes his own lasagna, he will be sharing more than just food that has become a special part of our family. He will be passing on years of our memories, of a family history that included one special dish, and all the joys and sorrows that came with it. He will also be passing on love and snippets of our lives.

Which, I hope, much like the lasagna I served for lunch last Saturday, will be enjoyed to the fullest and to the last bite.

When Life Happens: A Birthday Rolls Around Again

7 Nov

I owe you all an apology again for not having updated in a while. Each time something happens, I make a mental note to write about it, even going so far as to draft it in my mind, but for one reason or another, I never get around to sharing it with you. There’s been a flurry of changes in our home in the last three months. Even as the weather has changed from being hot and unbearable to being cold and rainy and then back to hot again, so has our home and our lives. It’s getting harder to just roll with the changes when they do come, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just part of getting old.

The biggest news in our lives, and I mean that of the pleasant variety, is that Alphonse turned 22 last week. I’ve been dreaming of throwing him a party for his birthday for forever, but it simply has not happened and not for lack of trying. He still doesn’t do so well in crowds and noisy places so we figured another way to celebrate this special occasion. Instead of one big blowout, we decided to serve him his favorite dishes- one special dish a day- on the days leading to his birthday. We had pizzas one day, KFC fried chicken the next, garlic shrimps after, and Tita Lulu’s tokwa’t baboy (tofu and pork) after that. On his birthday, we went Asian with Chap Chae as his birthday noodles, Korean fried chicken with honey garlic sauce, and Szechuan style prawns. Not bad for a homemade birthday feast, right?

Aside from the special dinner we shared with a few of our extended family, we planned a picnic for him last Saturday. This one may strike you as strange, but it really isn’t, considering he hates crowdsalphonse-nov52016 and noise. So where to have a quiet picnic away from everyone else? At the cemetery, of course. by my dad’s graveside and on a weekend after All Souls’ Day. Perfect, right?

We brought mats and rechargeable fans, an extra tent, umbrellas, and four pizzas, three orders of buffalo wings, and lots of cold drinks. We sat around for two hours and made small talk while we ate, Alphonse in the middle of it all, relaxed and unfettered. When the temperature soared, we packed up our stuff and cleaned up, then headed home. Alphonse was content and happy, singing his wordless ditties all the way home.

Unfortunately, the planned Sunday trip to Tagaytay didn’t push through. We had a sudden home emergency that necessitated scrapping our plans at the last minute. Poor Alphonse! He was all dressed up and ready to go. I knew he was disappointed, judging by the way he puckered his lips into pouts the whole day. Later in the day, he took two short rides with his dad but even those didn’t seem to make up for the canceled plans. We have to reschedule soon because we made a promise to him; here’s hoping the next one pushes through.

I know I haven’t shared much about Alphonse in recent months. Truth is, as Alphonse gets older, it gets harder to keep writing about him. Physically, he is an adult. Already, he has almost four inches on me and can match me pound by pound, weight-wise. He is strong and strapping, with firm arms and sturdy legs. Cognitively, however, he functions somewhere between three and five years old; emotionally, he is at an even lower developmental level. He is impulsive, obsessive, and requires 24/7 attention. The mismatch between his size and mental age have obviously become wider with time. As such, behavior that may be considered amusing when done by a young child no longer seems cute or funny at his age.

As his family, we see him always through the lens of love. Even at the worst of times, when our lives are consumed by rigidity and explosive violence, our anger comes from our own helplessness and failings and not from a place of hate and indifference, not of him or his autism. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of others who may now view him as threatening and frightening. This is the quandary I find myself in. To keep writing about Alphonse and all his challenges may mean creating fear and revulsion in those who do not know him or have no wish to get to know him. To stop altogether may mean sweeping his story, and many others like his, under the rug, at a time when we severely need to rectify the public’s misconceptions on autism.

Forgive me for the reluctance to share more stories about him in the future. I will not stop writing, that is a promise I made to myself many years ago when I started to blog, but perhaps it is time to reconsider the direction I may wish to take in this online journal. I’d like to think of it as a way to redefine and reshape our relationship as he grows older. And though you may see him still through snippets of our lives, he will occupy less and less space on this journal as I allow him the privacy demanded of his age.

Thank you to all those who have loved him, even from afar. And thank you for watching him grow up through these pages. It’s time for him to be 22.

730 Days Gone

18 Jul

I wrote this on July 15, 2016, on the Second Death Aniversary of my father.

The Home Above

Two years ago, while my sister Jas and I were going through boxes of old papers, a single letter fell on the ground. It was a letter from the Carmelite missionaries, dated July 15, 1978, saying that July 16 was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I told Jas about it, wondering at the coincidence and pondering on the importance of this unexpected discovery. It turned out to be Daddy’s last day. A week later, I found a stash of old cards we gave Daddy, and this was in them. I think Daddy was sending us a message. I know for sure he is in heaven now.

It was late on a rainy night much like this two years ago when Daddy left us. Alphonse, normally in bed and asleep by ten, could not sleep that particular night. He paced around the room, restless and seemingly bothered. We tried to appease him by blowing bubbles with him, an activity that almost always soothes him, but he angrily shooed us away.

When the phone rang twice at 11:00 pm, Alphonse stopped walking around the room. He stood near the foot of our bed, transfixed and silent. When I put down the phone, he seemed relieved. Then, without fuss, he allowed himself to be led to his bed by his brother. I often wonder about this night, how Alphonse seemed to know of or sense Daddy’s passing even before the call came. Daddy passed away sometime after ten in the evening, alone in his room in a private care facility in Taguig.

I broke the news to our mom as soon as the call came. She started wailing loudly, her heartbroken sobs interrupted only by the anger and blame she directed at me. I stopped her from going to the facility that night. There was a storm coming, I told her repeatedly. I promised we would all go back when the storm had abated. How was I to know?

At one in the morning, amid strong rains that whipped and lashed at our convoy of vehicles, we made a slow, sad trek back to Quezon City with Daddy. We finished signing papers at two in the morning. The funeral staff had brought him to the preparation room but they allowed us access to him. Daddy was soft, but cold. He smelled faintly of baby powder and dried blood. The attendants had wiped Daddy’s face clean and we kissed him on the cheeks and forehead. We held his smooth, cold hands one last time. And then we left him lying in a metal slab, a white cotton sheet tucked around him as if he were sleeping.

The power was out when we returned home. It was going to be light soon but we needed to rest our weary bodies and troubled minds. My husband and I tumbled into bed and fell asleep, my fingers knotted in his. I closed my eyes and willed myself not to cry. There were still so many things to think of. I made a mental list of them, going through each item over and over again until sleep finally came.

Hours later, I woke up unexpectedly from my dreamless slumber as I felt a cold chill pass through me. Sometime during the early hours of morning, A♥ had let go of my hand and rolled over in a fetal position, his back to me. I turned over to reach out to him but in the darkness, I saw my dad lying between us. Daddy seemed to be just sleeping. I’m a self-confessed scaredy cat but somehow, I didn’t feel scared; I felt comforted. I stared at the figure before me and whispered “Let’s rest na, Dad.” I rubbed my eyes of their tears and closed them again.

Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) made landfall in Metro Manila early that morning, leaving much of the city in shambles and without power. The rains fell without let-up but Mom, A♥, and I needed to brave the downpour for one more errand. Daddy needed new clothes. All his old ones were much too big for him. He had lost so much weight in the last six months that he needed to hold up his pants with a tight belt. And his shirts, even the new ones, they all hang off his scrawny frame loosely.

Mom went through all the racks of suits they had and chose a navy blue suit, a light blue shirt, and a striped tie. A♥ hurried to pay for our purchases while I oversaw the packing of the suit. The saleslady reminded Mom to hold on to the receipt so we could exchange the suit if it didn’t fit. Mom looked at her sadly, eyes brimming with tears, and said “We won’t be bringing it back.”

Daddy’s wake lasted all of five days. We did not expect so many people to come. From early morning to late at night, we sat with guests who wanted to pay their final respects to him. We told Daddy’s stories over and over again and in turn, we heard snippets of his life from those who knew him as their friend, as mentor, as business partner. Daddy felt most alive to me then.

The night before his funeral, I finally allowed myself to cry. I knew that the next morning would be the last time I would ever lay my eyes on his face. After that, I would only get to see him in my dreams, and only if I got lucky. I burrowed my head in A♥’s arms and wept till his arms were drenched in hot, salty tears.

At six in the morning of Daddy’s funeral, I woke up suddenly again, shivering. My teeth chattered from the cold that wrapped itself around my chest and back. I knew it was Daddy hugging me goodbye.

Over the next year, I would dream of him intermittently but often, and in each one, he grew more robust and less frail. I dreamt of him frequently as the father I had in childhood but of late, I see him looking more like he did in his early sixties. The last dream I had of him was a few months ago. In it, I saw him through my bedroom window looking up at me from the garage. He looked healthy, happy, and serene. I saw him mouth the words “I love you” over and over again. I woke up with cheeks wet from tears. I think he’s telling me- us– that he is alright where he is.

It has been two years since that rainy night in July. Seven hundred thirty days without Daddy. I don’t feel the pain and loneliness too much these days, but God, I really miss him still.

There’s No Easy Way to Say Goodbye

11 Jul

We were going to do some grocery shopping Saturday afternoon, not a lot, just the usual eggs, bread, and milk for the coming week. Because it had been a long, tiring ten days since we got home from our vacation, A♥ said “Maybe we can take in a quick movie too? We won’t be long.” I didn’t even think about it. I said yes right away.

Alex was home to keep an eye on his brother and we had temporary care lined up to help Alphonse. I couldn’t resist the lure of a movie to distract us from the daily grind. And it was a real date, even if there were groceries involved.

I hurriedly changed into a new outfit I had been saving for the next date- a pair of tattered jean capris and a loose white cotton blouse I had purchased in Fuji on sale. I took out my hair rollers and gave my hair a quick run through with my fingers. I dabbed some sunblock, laid over a primer, and worked through my makeup as fast as I could. When A♥ saw that I was ready, he grabbed his keys, flashed me an OK! sign, and gave final instructions to Alex for his brother’s care. And then we were off. Almost.

When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we ran into Alphonse on his way up. He was humming a wordless ditty but upon seeing us, he stopped. He looked at us- first at me, then at A♥- and took in our clothes and the makeup on my face and then, just like that, it seemed as if a universe of happiness was sucked out of his whole being. His back bent into a stoop, his shoulders slumped, his hands stopped flapping. As he became still and small, his eyes turned vacant and glassy. The corners of his mouth drooped into a sad little pout. He didn’t make a sound. If I could describe what betrayal looked like, I’d have said that Alphonse, at that very moment, personified all its hurt and sorrow.

Despite my promises to return with presents for him, he just stood there, staring at us, that same sad, wretched look on his face. If he had grabbed at us, perhaps, I would have been firmer and maybe we would have made it out the door. But that afternoon, when it was all too possible he was still wounded and hurting, he needed, nay, wanted, us to be there for him. How could we leave him?

A♥ took command and got Alphonse dressed and ready to go in no time at all. The three of us headed to the grocery store and ran our errands, the movie and date forgotten casualties of parenthood. We passed by McDonald’s for a treat before we went home. Alphonse was quiet, but he was smiling again.

Later that night, as Alphonse hovered around us again, I asked him a few questions.

Mama: Alphonse, are you sad when Mama and Papa leave you at home?

Alphonse nodded.

Mama: How do you feel? Ouchy? In here? (I point at his heart.)

Alphonse showed me this.

Alphonse crying copy

Once in a while, this nonverbal, profoundly autistic young man opens up to the world and it is a rare, amazing insight into his heart and mind.

Don’t be afraid, son. Mama and Papa will stay as long as we can.

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.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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