Sunday, October 11, 2009

He Shoots, He Scores!

My oldest son and I drove across the bridge connecting Washington to Oregon, the Columbia twinkling like diamonds as the last of the sun fell into the horizon. The river was flanked with trees that are changing -- the birch tree leaves have turned golden and the maples are flushed with feverish red. The early night matched my good spirits -- a shift in the air. You see, tonight I saw my oldest son score a goal in hockey. He has done this many times, but this was a first for me.

I wrote about this in a book I have been writing. A chapter, that happily, will need to be revised. Here it is:

It was hard on his brother. There was a time that Sean would hit him for no apparent reason or yell at him. We were grateful that our oldest boy was such a patient and kind little boy. He felt bad for his brother and sad that his brother didn’t always seem well. He loved Sean. When Sean would cry at night his brother would grab his pillow and sleep next to him. So many mornings I found them rolled up like crepes, together, their sweet faces touching. When Sean would yell and cry it was his brother who after looking at my tired face would go to his brother, rub his shoulders and say calmly, “It’s okay, Sean. Don’t be sad. Do you want to watch cartoons?” When I would lose my temper with Sean, his brother would look at me his eyes pleading, “Don’t Mommy. He’s just going to get more upset.” At times he understood Sean more than I did.

As our son got older, it was harder for him to get along with Sean. Sean would bother his friends when they came to the house, poking and pinching them. It was embarrassing. When I would go to my older son’s soccer games I spent the whole time keeping Sean from running onto the field. At hockey games I stayed with Sean in the parking lot or the car, the loudness of the rink too much for him.

“Did you see my goal, Mom?” he asked. His face flushed and his body overtaken by an enormous green and black hockey duffel bag.

“Sorry, bud, I didn’t see it.” I said sheepishly, grabbing his stick.

“Why not?” his smile slowly fading.

“Sean didn’t last in the rink. I had to take him outside. He was getting too loud and he kept covering his ears. Let‘s go. He‘s out in the car.”

“Oh,” he whispered, “Well anyways, it was awesome -- a one-timer shot.”

To this day I have never seen my son score a goal in hockey. He’s a heck of a player -- I know that because that’s what the coaches tell me. “Plays with so much heart.” I would do anything to see his next goal, to see him windmill his stick, skate on one foot, high-five the other players.

He took it all in stride. No complaining or whining. He understood - a boy wiser than his years. His brother spilled his paints, left the caps off of markers, tore up his baseball cards, hid the Wii controller and peed in his bed -- they were all forgivable offenses. No grudges were held. Maybe he’d be frustrated, sigh loudly but he would always end with a soft, “It’s okay, Sean.“ All was forgiven in his brother’s eyes.

And that made me feel worse. I wanted him to tell me that it wasn’t fair. That he was sick of Sean ruining everything. I wanted him to shout, “Enough already!” But he never did. He remained loyal to his little brother. He protected him and made every attempt to love him in spite of the time and attention that Sean took away from him. He would never look at it like that. In his mind, Sean had been dealt a heavy blow and it was up to the rest of us to make adjustments.

So tonight, my son and I smiled all the way home. I am so proud of the boy he is. I am so happy to be his mom. I am beyond thrilled to see him score a goal, his arms pumping over his head, his stick waving in the air.


Lauren said...

Wow...what an amazing big brother. Sean is one lucky kid. Keep up the brilliant writing, Katie.

Gimky said...

A sweet, sweet boy. That's the one thing about about autism and siblings... it has the potential to influence sensitivity and purpose in the neuro typical one. One of the only 'professionals' I felt I could trust, was yet another Ivy League degreed neurologist. But the reason i felt I could trust her is that she has a brother on the spectrum. She knew how to talk to us, she was very practical and thorough on the subject matter, it has been part of her life from the beginning and she was in it for other reasons than making a buck, which is probably why she's making more than a buck. My point is, our boys have made sacrifices, but hopefully their lives, both personal and professional, will be more grounded and real as a result. This is my hope (without putting more pressure on my older one to become the 'model' son.)

I am so glad you had these days with your boy and that you had the chance to see him make a goal!! He's such a good boy and you are such a good mom!

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for a gorgeous post. I've got twin boys with autism, but my little man who is less affected and improving every day, watches over his brother who struggles more. It's so hard to want them to take on that challenge, but it's so touching, too. Congratulations on your wonderful moment of balance with your oldest!

Cinda said...

Hi Katie,
I am a professor and program director in special education at Seattle University. Just up the road (!)! You write beautifully about life with Sean and your family. I always strongly stressed the importance of family in my twenty years of work in the field of special ed. But now I really know what I am talking about. Last night my daughter and I presented together to my class of grad students on bipolar disorder (hers) and the journey (ours). We have finished a book together and are working to get it published. Ahhhh, the heartbreak, the worry, the fear, the joy, the insight, etc. etc. I am not talking about the book as I am sure you know! I need to shorten this but I just have to comment on the whole notion of parents "fixing" autism if only you spent the time, money and lived in the right location. So much guilt around disabilities!! My students come in with so many misconceptions from the media. I really like your thoughts on letting go of the notion of finding the "cure" and continuing to have hope and do all that you would for any child, including meeting his or her special needs. Take good care of yourself. Enjoy your babies. They grow up so quickly!

Katie Donohue Bevins said...

Cinda, Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. I am so touched by what you said and appreciate your candor and sharing. Good luck to you with the book -- when it's a go please let me know the title so I can read and share it. The one thing I have gotten from all this is that I have met the most wonderful and loving people -- whether it be the teachers that choose special education and do so with such energy and hope or the stranger at the airport who gives me a smile and asks if she can help. Thank you again. I wish you and your daughter the very best. Katie

Cinda said...

I have been trying to get my blog and our website linked to themomsblog but can't seem to make that happen. My blog is The website for my daughter and me is Please share when appropriate. Thanks and I love your poem!! Cinda