Monday, October 25, 2010

Part II. Autism, The World Series, and Me: An Anniversary

I have been a White Sox fan my entire life. I grew up at the old Comiskey Park. I turned 16 during the summer of 1979. It was the summer of the player-manager, Disco Demolition, and my name in lights on Diamond Vision. “Happy Sweet 16, Lynn” It doesn’t get any better than that. When the park was razed in 1991, some of those beautiful old green seats were sold as souvenirs, and I know that at least one of them had a permanent imprint of my butt on it.  My father’s company had sweet season tickets along the third base line right behind the home dugout. I loved everything about the game of baseball, but mostly I loved my team. I have followed them my entire life knowing that, since their last World Series win was in 1917, there was a pretty good chance that I would never live to see them win another one. All of that changed in 2005. After a tremendous season, they practically swept their way into the World Series that October.

October 22, 2005: Game 1 of the World Series in Chicago. Chicago White Sox vs. Houston Astros. Joe Crede hits a tie-breaking home run in the bottom of the 4th. Manager Ozzie Guillen famously gives the “fat guy” signal for Bobby Jenks to come in for the save in the 8th. It was a squeaker, but we are one game up. Woo hoo!

October 23, 2005: Game 2 of the World Series in Chicago. The Sox are down by two runs with two out in the bottom of the 7th. Paul Konerko comes up to bat with the bases loaded. It had been a long inning, and I wanted to get Audrey off to bed so that I could enjoy the rest of the game in peace. Like an idiot, I paused the TiVo just as Paulie steps into the batter’s box. As I’m trying to get her to sleep the phone starts ringing off the hook. I knew something big had happened. To the chants of “Pau-lie! Pau-lie!” Konerko rips it out of the park on the first pitch. GRAND SLAM!! The Astros came back and tied it in the 9th, but just a few minutes later Scott Podsednik, who hadn’t homered all season, hits a walk-off. I thought my head would explode from total euphoria. Oh. My. God. We are two games up in the World Series! The announcers start spouting the statistics about how few teams have come back from a two game deficit in the World Series. We are headed down to Houston with the Astros on the ropes. I can’t believe it! I’ve been waiting for this my entire life! The White Sox are going to win the World Series!! Can’t…breathe…can’t…speak…too…much…happiness...

October 24, 2005:  Audrey’s 18-month wellness check. The day that will live in infamy. The day the Earth stood still. You have got to be KIDDING ME. Of course, my overriding emotions were all of the typical ones associated with the grieving process: shock, denial, and excruciating pain and devastation, but I also had a little of the anger kicking in, perhaps more than Elizabeth Kubler-Ross would think normal on day 1 of the grieving process. But she most likely never sweated her butt off in 100-degree heat watching another grounder dribble through Don Kessinger’s legs, so she can suck it. I could not believe that I was not going to be allowed to enjoy my team finally winning the World Series. My anger was completely irrational, which only made me feel more guilty. Where was my perspective? What exactly were my priorities?

For the most part, I reacted normally, with all of the renewed perspective on life that one would expect. Of course, nothing in life is more important than the health and well-being of your child. There is no team, no sport, no championship that matters a whit in comparison. But here was where the bargaining phase started. I had always thought that bargaining was the stupidest of the grieving stages. Does anyone really believe that God is open to negotiations? “Please, God, don’t let me have cancer. I’ll go back to church. I’ll go every Sunday. I swear.” You know that you totally wouldn’t, and God knows it too. Besides, he’s much too busy making sure that Beyonce wins another BET award to listen to your bull.

I may have never thought that I would succumb to the bargaining phase, but the possibility of an impending World Series win would prove far too tempting.

“God, I know I’ve been praying for the White Sox for almost forty years, but I’d really much rather that my daughter didn’t have autism. If you could just make it so that she doesn’t have autism, I will never misplace my priorities ever again. I promise that I won’t ever again prop her up in front of a Baby Einstein video on the portable DVD player just so I can watch another meaningless sporting event.”

This made watching the final two games of the series quite confusing. Should I assume that God listened to me and root for them to lose? If they lost, did this mean that Audrey wasn’t autistic? If they won, did it mean that she for sure was autistic? Were my prayers really that potent? I became borderline obsessive-compulsive about it. “OK, if Iguchi turns this double play, then Audrey is totally not autistic.” In retrospect, I think I was having a small nervous breakdown.

Games 3 and 4 of that World Series were played the following two nights in Houston. On October 26, 2005, Paul Konerko caught a throw from Juan Uribe for the last out of the game, and my beloved Chicago White Sox had won the World Series. I have never cried so hard in my life. The celebrations began on the field and in Chicago. The players’ families came onto the field, and one of the players held a little girl. I looked over at my husband and he was sobbing. I’ve never known another circumstance where I was crying for so many different reasons at once. I was crying happy tears for my team. I was crying out of intense nostalgia for my youth, because at one time in my life this would have meant everything to me. I was crying from homesickness because I was 2,000 miles away from the party. I was crying because that player holding his daughter would never, ever understand how lucky he was. But mostly I was crying because my daughter had autism, and nothing would ever feel normal again.

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Five years down the road, we've gotten somewhat used to this new normal.  But that doesn't keep me from looking back on that time and still mourning a little.  The best way to deal with such an anniversary is probably to forget about it.  Maybe someday I will, and it will be just another day on the calendar.

We have spent the last five years doing everything in our power to help Audrey.  And she has spent seemingly every minute of those five years working her ass off and withstanding everything we've thrown at her.  I couldn't even begin to enumerate all of the therapies and interventions that we've pursued.  Ironically enough, she is now the exact age at which that pediatrician said she would be caught up.  She is not.  But it is certainly not for lack of trying.

For Audrey, that October day was 75% of her life ago and means absolutely nothing to her. She was the same child on that day that she had been for the previous 18 months, and that she has been every day since: a beautiful, amazing, courageous little girl that is loved more than she will ever know.


29 comments:

  1. Damn you Lynn... For making me cry, again. I love this. I love you and I love Audrey and that picture of her is the absolute sweetest thing I have ever seen. Big hugs...

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  2. So that's where her Baby Einstein obsession came from!!

    I love love love that pic of Audrey!!

    I did the "if onlys" with Gd so many times. If only she'd walk. If only she'd talk. If only she'd stop flapping her arms (still working on it). If only she'd get her fucking fingers out of her ears. I can keep going, by the way...

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  3. Wow, that's a fabulous picture (and you say you can't take good pics of her)!

    Another beautiful post!

    I do know that negotiating tactic well. And the jealously of the ease that other people have with raising their kids.

    It isn't fair. It sucks ass.

    But it gets better with time. At least for most of us! And for that, I'm grateful!

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  4. Your post totally had me tearing up. I really love this post - even with all the hilarious posts you write, this one is one of my favorites. Audrey is a sweet, loveable, and highly intelligent little girl - that picture of her is adorable. And you are her awesome, amazing mom.

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  5. I bargained too. More like demanded that it not be happening. I'm bossy like that. I didn't get my way.

    Fantastic post sister. Anniversaries like this kick me in the gut too. Pretty sure they always will.

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  6. you made me tear up girlfriend
    A will continue to amaze and astound you

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  7. Wow, having just seen Another Kind of Cool (Sacramento's B Street Theater) and hearing a very similar sentiment. I realize there is something lucky LOL to being a parent on the spectrum. I was never surprised or shocked by the diagnosis. It just was what it was, which, I guess is where all parents get to eventually (right?) Just for reference on the other planet we live on, I was surprised to hear people really do check fingers and toes when their babies are born. I was like "breathing on her own? Check. Alright, all is well with the world." Not waiving or talking? Well, fine. She smiles okay. Nothing new in having to work for a living. Hugs.

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  8. This is lovely! (Even though I don't know ANYTHING about baseball!)

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  9. When will I learn not to read your posts at the office on my lunch hour?! Turns out crying at my desk....is.. just as awkward as peeing from laughter.

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  10. Well I hope you're happy. You've made a huge tattooed man cry like a baby. Thanks. Now I am going to have to endure 50 questions from son as to why my eyes are all red and puffy. I could probably write twenty paragraphs telling you how I relate to this in every way and (to use a horrible cliche) how you hit it out of the park. But I won't. I'll just say - beautiful.

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  11. I don't know anything about baseball, but your chronology totally makes sense. It sucks to have those reminders.

    I too have been longing for "days past," for days where life was easier and more fun. Having a kiddo on the spectrum still feels like a dark cloud to me, and I keep wanting it to go away (it does sometimes, but does follow me!)

    Your daughter is beautiful, by the way!

    Chris
    www.acrazykindoffaith.blogspot.com

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  12. You guys know that we have like the greatest little cabal going. You guys are all so awesome...why does everyone live so far away? Except for Aimee who refuses to hang out with me every single day (bitch). I posted this on my other blog and I got like one person who was like whatev, check out Brain Balance Centers.

    I love this little corner of the blogosphere, where I can make a big tattooed man, as well as all of my fellow moms, tear up a little. NO more tears until the 10th anniversary!!

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  13. So very very beautiful. You made me cry, and think of our life B.A. (Before Autism) and that slow creeping knowledge that ended up whalloping me in the face with the reality of it.

    Your daughter is such a gorgeous, unique creature ... like mother, like daughter :-)

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  14. Yeah, you made me cry too!

    Audrey is so pretty! :)

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  15. Beautiful beautiful post Lyn- thanks for sharing such a personal moment!

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  16. Wow. Just wow. Amazing and sad all at once. Thanks for sharing

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  17. holy shit, woman. That is one brilliant piece of writing about your world exploding and the moment you broke through to the other side where autism became the new normal.

    joy, love, grief, and bravery all rolled up in one small moment.

    I have a kiddo with an ASD, too. You just gave me goosebumps.

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  18. Ack. So sweet and so well written.

    xo

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  19. What a beautiful, loving post. Your daughter is gorgeous.
    Came over from SITS to say hi.

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  20. great post. I laughed and cried.

    I don't think sports are stupid, especially baseball. I share your baseball obsession but for the pirates instead. They suck now but as a child they were actually good and it was a big part of my childhood. i love going to baseball games.

    anyway, i can only imagine what you were feeling then...and I am sure that is only the short version.

    an anniversary of sorts is coming up for us too and i am thinking of blogging about it too soon.

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  21. Great post! I'm crying now. At work. Not sure if for you and your family or for me. But you reminded me that we need to fight for all the interventions for our kids that we can get our hands on. It doesn't matter how tired we are, just that we get what our kids need.

    Thanks.

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  22. Amazing post, brings back lots of memories and a few tears. Great picture of your daughter too and I know how hard those are to get!

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  23. Lynn this is such an amazing post. Thank you for sharing. Everyone has pretty much said what I wanted to say but more eloquently. So I second everything said above but I'll add-

    YOU GOT YOUR NAME ON THE BOARD AT OLD COMISKEY?! That's pretty much the coolest thing ever.

    My fingers are crossed that our Boys in Black will one day bring home another World Series Win that you can celebrate without the mixed emotions.

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  24. Awesome.
    I've briefly mentioned in one story I wrote about receiving the diagnosis but I have yet to go into detail about the emotion and severity of that time for us.
    Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us, your blog postings are one of the things I look forward to when I have the chance to go online...

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  25. @Kim @Lou: I'd love to hear your stories. These were a couple of long posts by my standards, but as you know there's just so much to say. Thanks for using your precious time to read them!

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  26. Truly amazing to read, Lynn. I've never read the story of how you came to know about Audrey's autism. You've made me tear up before . . . but this was pretty full on, balls out crying. She's such a sweet thing.

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  27. As a Sox fan who remembers that '79 team, I figured I would enjoy this post. But, I didn't expect such an emotional wallop. Beautiful, beautiful post, Lynn!

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  28. @Yuji: Thanks so much for taking the time to read it! When the Sox win it all this year, here's hoping that nothing will put a damper on it!

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