Stop the world, I need to breathe!

8 May

To say that the last week has been a bit eventful would be like saying Hitler was a bit aggressive.  It’s either feast or famine in my life.  Things will chug along, same-old-same-old, for weeks at a time, with nothing changing and nothing really newsworthy happening.  Then all of a sudden, I will have several weeks’ worth of events will flock to me like mosquitoes flock to my husband (seriously, bugs love him and for the most part, avoid me.  Why is that?)

Last Sunday I ran a race, the Sporting Life 10K in downtown Toronto.  It was a phenomenal event featuring more than 14,000 runners and superb race organization.  The logistics of planning something that involves that many people must be akin to a nightmare, but these guys pulled it off flawlessly.  The run itself was a lot of fun.  The route was easy, downhill most of the way, and the weather was perfect.  The predicted thundershowers failed to materialize, but the cloud cover and the gentle breeze were in evidence.  I completed the run in 1:05:00 – fast enough for a personal best time for the distance, but still leaving plenty of room for more personal best times in the future.

A quick word about something Gerard did for me before the race.  When he and James dropped me off at the start line, I gave James a kiss, and then went round to the back of the van to pick up my bag.  Only to see that Gerard had propped up a framed picture of my Dad next to my bag.  Dad, who died five years ago, was also a runner – one of the best in South Africa at his prime – and this was Gerard’s way of telling me that Dad was with me.  I was so touched, it brought tears to my eyes.

Several hours after the race, I started feeling a little off.  I figured that I had pushed myself on the run, not eaten soon enough afterwards, and consumed way too much coffee.  Feeling a little sick made complete sense to me.  But then – there’s no polite way to describe this, really – I started tossing my cookies.  Big time, for several hours.  Many hours, in fact.  Until 4:00 the following morning.  Even when there were no cookies left, the cookies continued to be tossed.  It was clear that I had a bug.  I had felt fine for the run – perhaps the bug was lurking there in the corner, just waiting for its moment to arrive.  Although the throwing-up incidents came to an end after about sixteen hours, I felt weak and drained for several days.

On Sunday afternoon, about an hour after I started feeling sick, I heard from Robert, the brother of my friend Tim.  Tim, who had recently been diagnosed with stomach cancer, had passed away.  Tim and I were friends for years.  We wrote columns for the same e-zine, and Tim was my unofficial tech support guy.  When George was diagnosed with autism, Tim was the guy who recognized my need for an outlet; a place to write and vent about autism and what my family was going through.  He gave me a forum to do so, and he was supremely supportive of everything – my parenting, my running, my writing.  He was also one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.

Fast forward to Thursday afternoon.  I was sitting at work, an hour away from going to the Keg with a few of my coworkers to bid farewell to someone who was leaving to go and live in Abu Dhabi.  I had resolved to drink nothing but water at the Keg – I was still feeling mild effects from the weekend stomach bug.  Work was going smoothly enough, when I got a phonecall from George’s therapy centre.  The news was good and bad.  The good news is that they wanted to put George into something called the school stream.  Instead of receiving one-on-one therapy, he would be in a simulated classroom environment with four other children.  The concept sounded good but the timing sounded bad.  When I expressed the opinion that George would not be ready for this by the proposed start date of September, I was told that if he continued with his one-on-one therapy, he would most likely be discharged in December.  Meaning that by January, he would be thrown full-time into a school system that he is nowhere near ready for.  The one day a week of school that he does get is challenging enough.  What this whole conversation left me with is the feeling that I am having to make a critical decision that could make or break George.  It’s like playing Russian Roulette with my child’s future.  What I decided, there and then, was that we had to fight as hard as we needed to to get the best for George.  Thanks to the advice of someone I know who has been through these fights for her own son and knows the system backwards, I was able to tone down some of the anger and gloves-off fighting attitude that I would have gone in with.

I didn’t only drink water at the Keg that afternoon.

On Friday morning, Gerard and I had a meeting at the therapy centre.  We got to see the classroom that is used for the school stream kids, and we were allowed to observe proceedings.  We asked a ton of questions, and got a clearer picture of the program.  In school stream, a teacher works with a group of five children in a mock classroom setting.  Each of the five kids still has a one-on-one support staff member with them, to prompt them as needed.  It’s kind of like a cross between what George is getting now and school.  The whole idea is get kids used to the idea of following school routines, walking in line, participating in class discussion.  In essence, school stream prepares kids for full-time school.  It’s a half-day program; for the other half-day, the kids are in fact in school.  That aspect of the program is simply to get the kids used to being at a real school every day, even if it’s just for a couple of hours.

Here’s what sold us on this program: social communication.  That is George’s single biggest challenge – one that, by its very nature, one-on-one therapy cannot really address.  The school stream program could be hugely beneficial to George from that aspect alone.  The whole thing is based on group interaction and the need to communicate and participate.  The program typically lasts for a year, but if the child needs it for longer, it can be extended.  It includes regular speech therapy, occupational therapy, and social communication workshops.

We said yes.  On seeing the program in action and getting all the facts, it does seem like the right thing to do.  It is the next logical step in this roadmap that is George’s life, and I am excited about the potential it has for him.  He will be continuing with his current program until September, and then switching to school stream in September.

After this was all sorted out, Gerard and I went on to James’ school where there was another occasion for us to attend.  James is a new inductee to the school system, having just started Junior Kindergarten last September.  With a Christmas birthday, he is the youngest and smallest kid in his class.  He needed special nurturing in the beginning, and his teacher, Mr. T., took him under his wing.  James adored his teacher, who was popular with the entire student body: he doubled as the school librarian and frequently gave the kids a break on their late fees.

In December Mr. T., who had recently celebrated his thirtieth birthday, contracted pneumonia and died.  It was a huge shock for everyone; I found myself with the task of explaining the meaning of this to a kid who was still a couple of weeks away from his fourth birthday.  I had to try and make him understand that Mr. T. loved him very much, but was never coming back.  Over the last few months, James has dealt with alternating cycles of grief, denial, and acceptance.

On Friday, he got to say goodbye.  The school put together a memorial assembly, a celebration of life in honour of Mr. T.  James and his classmates sang a song called “It’s a Great Day”, a cheerful song that Mr. T. would have approved of.  My heart swelled with pride and my eyes filled with tears.  There were more songs performed by other classes, quotes, a wonderful slideshow.  I had the honour of meeting Mr. T.’s family – his wonderful parents, brother, and partner.  Will this be effective closure for James?  Only time will tell.

So now I am in a state of exhaustion and very heightened emotion.  I feel overwhelmed and a little stressed.  I know that I just need to give myself time to wind down from all of these happenings.  I am sure tomorrow’s 19km training run will help!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: