Thoughts on my 46th birthday.
Who would have imagined that on their birthday , in august no less, they could look out the window and see icebergs floating in the arctic ocean? or eat haagen das ice cream while flying over the East Siberian Sea while it is a balmy -72F outside? These things amaze me and make me happy. Sitting on a plane for 15 hours does not make me happy. my knees are starting to hurt, my head feels foggy and an endless stupor is settling in. However it has been an eventful day so I will try to elaborate.
The day started like any other vacation- make sure you have all your luggage, the stove is off, the doors are locked, everyone had a last bathroom break and remembered to flush?? Then promptly at 6:30am we headed to the airport. We got there in plenty of time and the airport was still relatively quiet so security lines were short. We made it through with only one minor glitch. We were going over the security rules with the kids and explained that the computers and iPads each needed to be in their own bin. My sweet daughter asked if the cell phone needed a bin and i said no, meaning it could get lumped in with other stuff in a bin. but she had meant does it need a bin at all. So when i said no she tried to go through security with the phone in her pocket, thus setting off the alarms. It took a minute to figure the problem out but the TSA agent was very nice, in a firm TSA sort of way. The phone went in a bin, went through the check and we proceeded to put our shoes back on on the other side. The gate was not too far away and the bulk of our burden had been left with checked luggage so this was a breeze. The kids noticed a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream place across the way from our gate and asked if it opened before we left could they get some ice cream (remember it is now about 9am) but i said sure, what the heck. Se the minute they saw an employee their they dragged their dad over and got breakfast waffle cones 🙂
Ok, i skipped over a really important part of our morning. Last night my Middle Son started saying he won’t remember this home or our home town. Being a little, ok more than a little, tired, stressed anxious myself, my immediate and most unhelpful reaction was to tell him that was so rediculus as he is 17 and he will remember things pretty clearly. Besides we are coming back to visit in 10 months. But he was not convinced. Luckily his dad stepped in and talked to him. What it really came down to was that he knew his sense of place and perspective on his home and hometown would change and it would never be quite the same. This is true and is an interesting idea that i had not really explored. But he seems to wollow in the melancholy-ness of it, which sort of puts me over the edge. So we got past that existential crisis and didn’t have to face the next one until we were in the car heading out of town. Then he said “I know I am leaving forever” I didn’t argue or confirm this one. In a large way its really true. He will come back for visits but will be heading off to college as soon as we return , so this will be home base, but not on a daily basis. I can imagine that this is a scary thing for anyone, but especially for him as he has such a hard time seeing himself in the future and imagining himself in new situations. My sense of guilt in taking him away from all he knows was growing by the moment. But in the back of my head I remembered that just two months ago I took him to a sleep away camp – that he had chosen and begged to go to – where he told me he could not stay and had a full blown existential anxiety attack, and yet once the program started and he got into the routine he loved it and now wants to go again next year!
On the plane we asked that he work on his college essay which is another huge challenge for him as it requires introspection, which he struggles with on a good day – on top of struggling with writing. So we got the expected stalling tactics – let me just finish watching this movie, let me eat first , they are serving the meal soon, i am really tired…..finally we said it was time to work and he sat down with his dad to supervise. Suddenly another attack of melancholy/anxiety occurred. I don’t doubt that they are real but sometimes they are so well timed to avoid doing work that I really struggle to be sympathetic.
A few things made this incident different. First, let me jump back to the moment that the kids went to get ice cream: I called my mom to say goodbye and just chat and ended up crying, practically sobbing, while sitting at the gate waiting to board the plane. I have been telling everyone that i will finally be able to relax and be excited about the whole move once we are on the plane. But what i really found was that I have been so busy coping with daily life and getting ready to go that I have totally suppressed my feelings of loss and anxiety. I pulled myself together talking to my mom. The kids returned and my daughter noticed i had been crying and she gave me a big hug. Hubby noticed and gave me a shoulder and a squeeze on the knee, Son was oblivious. Really I was trying to pull myself together so he wouldn’t notice as i didn’t want to add to his anxiety so this was fine. Then my sister called. She has been my guardian angel through this, sprinkling little sylvan gems of wisdom to me just when i need them the most I explained about Son’s comments about never returning to his home town. She suggested to me that instead of denying what he is saying , acknowledge it as valid but point out that there will be many new good things and memories yet to be discovered. Know that he may not fully get it now but planting that seed of an idea will be helpful. If cyber hugs were possible she would get a huge one!!!!!
So here we are, with hubby and son, standing in the bulkhead. Hubby explaining that Son is feeling real loss and is not up to writing his college essay. Son is looking anxious like he is waiting for me to make some argument or disapproving look. But I didn’t. I told him I understood, that I couldn’t be in his head and know exactly what he is thinking/feeling, but that I had spent some time at the airport crying in acknowledgment of my own loss and I really understood and not writing his essay right now was fine. (in the back of my head a voice is screaming we will all pay for this later because he will have to get over jet lag and produce an essay at the same time.) But you can only do your best at the moment and this was our best choice). He looked really relieved and grateful. I asked if I could hug him. Often the answer is yes and he lets me hug him, but with no real reciprocity. This time he gave me a real squeezer of a hug. It was a good moment.
Then another miracle occurred… since you can fit a lot of movies into a fifteen hour flight my choice for movie number two was a cartoony/claymation looking one that looked quirky and funny called Mary and Max. I HIGHLY recommend this movie. It says its based on a true story and my new mission is to find that story and see if Mary is still around, I would love to meet her! Basically the plot is this, Mary is a lonely, only child in rural Australia who is at best neglected and perhaps verbally abused and takes it upon herself to pick a name out of a new york city phone book and that person should be her pen pal. The name she picks is Max. Their relationship developed through the letters they send to each other and the short narration they give of their own lives to fill out the move. It is clear to me early on that Max is aspergery but I wait with baited breath to see how they handle it. Sometimes the tell tale behaviors and traits of Asperger’s are just used to show someone is ‘quirky’ and for laughs. But no, this movie addresses it head on in all its struggles and glory. It gives great insight into the mind and feelings of an Aspie and the misunderstandings that happen between him and others due to their different perspectives on the world. I cried and I laughed – really. I was watching my life struggles and my struggles of this day with my Son played out in a wonderful movie.
So now here I am, turning 46, facing huge changes in my life and hoping to do a reasonably good job helping my kids deal with the huge changes in their lives. For now, though, it’s just me and my computer 5511 miles from home at 33,000 feet , traveling 473 mph over Russia where it is currently a balmy -77F outside. Time to stretch and give my kids another hug.