Monday, August 9, 2010

House Rules

{gigantic sigh, heard round the world, or at least round my living room}

A good local friend, who is also a mom of a child on the autism spectrum AND a speech pathologist, loaned me a book recently. It's "House Rules", by Jodi Picoult. I should have known better, and my hubby even said so later (privately), but I graciously accepted the book and began to read it a few days later. I've read Jodi Picoult before, at least 3 of her other books, and I always am left feeling emotionally drained, even stunned sometimes---see: Handle With Care, about a young girl with a rare condition causing her bones to break at the slightest thing, etc. Talk about an emotional roller coaster.....her parents sue the OB, who also happens to be the mom's best friend. Oh yeah, good times.

And now we have House Rules, recommended to me because the main character has Asperger's Syndrome. Generally, I like seeing portrayals of these kind of characters in books, on TV, etc. because I'm curious to see how accurate they are, how much time the writer has (or has NOT) put into his research in creating the character. Well, Jodi Picoult has put her time in, that's for sure, and maybe that's why the book is so hard for me to read.

The main character, Jacob, is more severely affected by his (imaginary) Asperger's than is Mr. L, for what it's worth. Jacob's family has had to make many more accommodations in their daily lives because of his extreme need for order and routine---see: White Food Day (first of every month), avoidance of all things orange (including no parking next to an orange car, etc). You get the idea. But these aren't the things that get to me when I'm reading, it's the fact that Jacob is arrested and charged with the murder of his social-skills tutor. And the fact that he is communicatively and socially impaired, combined with the fact that the police and judicial system know NOTHING about autism or how to deal with him, scares the *#@# out of me.

Because he's 18, he's legally an adult, meaning that his mother can't be there to advocate for him, isn't allowed to make legal decisions for him, etc. But he is in no way competent to make his own decisions, despite what the police think which is only based on how brilliant he is and the fact that he can quote the Miranda rights verbatim. And it just keeps spiraling from there, horribly bad coincidence after misunderstanding after misinformation after terrible unfairness.....I know you get the idea. But somehow I can't stop reading.

Disclaimer: I am about 2/3 of the way through the book at this point. No I don't know how it ends yet, and please don't tell me. Let me break my own heart on my own time, ok? Surely, this brilliant young man who does remind me a bit of my own first-born cannot have really committed murder. Surely he will be exonerated, and the people involved will all be miraculously educated about autism and live the rest of their lives educating others......right? RIGHT?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

time passages

Early August always brings on the flood of "well, this is the anniversary of the day that I _____________..........", and it all revolves around Mr. L's birth in 2001 and my abrupt, jarring introduction to preeclampsia. Yesterday was the first of many such days to come over the next couple of weeks--the anniversary of the day I went to an outdoor marching band exhibition and was bombarded by veteran Moms telling me to sit down and that I didn't look "well". Gee, just what a preggo lady wants to hear, thanks!

It was my first pregnancy, so how the hell was I supposed to know what it would feel like and what was "normal"? (oh how I hate that word) I kept telling them "I feel fine, really, I'm ok", but would humor them by sitting down in the lovely blue and white striped folding chair because they wouldn't take no for an answer. In 48 hours, I would be in a doctor's office being told that under NO circumstances could I teach school that fall (first day of school was only a day or so away) and that I should now consider myself "on bedrest", effective immediately. 96 hours after that, I was being prepped for a c-section. It all happened so fast, and by now, 9 years later, it's just one big blur in my mind.

Ever since that early August of 2001, I have had preeclampsia permanently stamped on my mind, my heart, and my physical body as well, in the form of 2 c-section scars and lingering high blood pressure. Along the way in this journey that I never chose, I have met so many amazing women who are fellow survivors of preeclampsia, and I am forever grateful for their friendship and the knowledge that I am not alone in what I have suffered. You ladies know who you are, and I consider you all my sisters, no matter how far away you may live. I can admit that my memories are fading a bit with time, and that the emotional pain of the preeclampsia experience is not as sharp or as fresh as it once was, thank goodness. However, it's still there, and here's how I know.....the twinge in my heart whenever I hear news of the healthy, safe delivery of a full-term baby by someone I know. I would never, ever wish my experience on anyone, and I don't begrudge other women their easy, happy pregnancies, their "natural" childbirth or their 1-night hospital stays followed by the joyous homecoming of mother and baby. But you'll cut me some slack when I point out that, no matter how happy I truly am for you, it still hurts, and that's the bottom line.