Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Postcard to Bertie

I went to a writing retreat last week. One of the speakers handed out index cards and asked us to write a "postcard" to someone we haven't had a chance to have a good chat with. For some reason, like most things in my life, my thoughts went to Sean and how often we have been struggling to make sense to each other. I knew I was probably supposed to write to an old friend or a family member I hadn't seen in some time, but my mind kept going to that red-head who even when he sits next to me can feel like he's a thousand miles away.

The teacher told us to write. We had three minutes:

Dear Sean? Bertie? Blythe?

Who are you today? This morning your hair looked like a tangled plate of spaghetti in red sauce and your eyes yawned open -- bright bluish green like swimming pools and I wish I could've jumped into them.

We had a tough morning, didn't we? Too much tug of war and not enough working together. And, honestly, I was glad to see you off to school. I needed a break. I do love you, little guy. Heart and soul. Be better today. xo Mommy

When the time was up we had an opportunity read aloud what we wrote. Only a couple other people knew that Sean has autism but the rest of the class, probably 16 others had no idea. As I read I heard laughter and people nodding. Yes they had all been there before with their children, grandchildren, friend's children -- wanting to rush the little grouchy rugrats out of the house. A break from the whining. Good riddance.

I hadn't meant to make people laugh, or smile or find it relatable. And I couldn't help thinking what if they knew my child was handicapped -- would my words seem harsh, maybe even cruel. Was I a lesser person for saying it? Would they feel bad laughing if they knew that Sean was autistic?

Gosh, I certainly hope not. If it's anything at all it's honest. Kids are tough. Kids with special needs can be especially draining and it's okay to turn away from the bus or the school drop off line and feel a bit euphoric daydreaming about a cup of hot coffee and reading the paper uninterrupted. When Sean is with me he is with me -- he is right next to me, his little mind racing asking me question after question ("Miss Judy call me Bertie? I was Bertie when I was in your tummy? I was never Sean.")

The teacher asked us to flip the index card over and gave us our second writing prompt. He asked us to write a postcard from the person in response to the one we had just written. Three minutes and go:

Mommy, I am in here. I am sorry that I am having a tough day. My neurological wiring has been off lately and I'm struggling to keep it together. I really need you to be patient with me. I need you to answer the same questions over and over -- it makes me feel safe and connected. I am floating, sometimes in the unfriendliest air, afraid to breathe or shut my eyes -- afraid the world will go black and swallow me. I don't mean to be like this. Most days I just want to show you who I really am. Love, Bertie (NOT SEAN)

Luckily we had the option to read what we wrote and I opted not to. I think it might have been too hard. It's the truth though. It's what keeps me connected to him, to loving him with all heart and soul. Because deep deep down, I know these are words that he wants to say but can't. And he needs me to believe that those words swirl in his heart and mind, and although he has never spoken them outloud, I trust that he speaks them in his dreams and thoughts.


Gimky said...

Is that not the most beautiful post, Katie. 'His' note brought tears to my eyes. I know some days are really hard, but he is so lucky to have a mom who loves him so much.

Linda V said...

Truly beautiful. Thank you for writing from the heart.