|Stacia Napierkowska (1891-1945), silent film star|
I have been sorting through books and papers in preparation for our across-town move in a few weeks. All sorts of memories surface; some are kept, others shredded. It has been a busy five years since we arrived in New Jersey, but I forget that. I wonder sometimes why I am worn thin, and then I discover scrap pieces of paper that tell me why.
In a box of my children's school papers I found a scrap paper with a few days and times scribbled on it, along with email addresses of my autistic son's first therapists. I started to throw it away--who needs a therapy schedule from six years ago? But then I noticed the initials scribbled next to each time slot and remembered the way we traded off meeting at our home with the therapist and our son. We were trained to be his in-house therapists so that every moment of our family's life would become therapy for him. Our daily schedule to meet with the therapists (who were grad students with grad student schedules):
Thursday: 11:00-2:00 and 2:00-5:00
The first session was videotaped by the therapist. I held a Thomas the Train toy in my hand, my son's favorite. My job for the next two hours was to hold on to the train and refuse to give it to my three-year-old son unless he said the word "train." For two hours he tantrumed, crawling up my leg to try to reach the train. Screaming, crying, raging, and all I could do was keep my calm and refuse to give him the train unless he said the word. On videotape. After two hours the therapist turned off the camera. She had to go. She would be back the next day. In the meantime, I was not to give my son the train unless he said the word.
Two minutes after she walked out the door, my child glared at me and spat out the word "train." I gave him the toy and then laughed and cried into the night. He only had ten other words, and this was the first word we'd been able to teach him deliberately.
We met with those therapists for several months. At the same time, we both worked full time, selling the house, preparing to move to New Jersey, and trying to parent our oldest child. I don't know how we got through those months, but we did. It was the after time, later that next year and the year after that life fell apart. We can only go so long without sabbath. We can only go so long pushing through life without affection for ourselves.
I didn't learn much from that time, it seems. I am here again sorting through papers, wondering why I am so tired. The disorganized pieces of my life are slowly finding their way into file folders (or the trash can), and I am in awe of all that I have done in five years. There's something very satisfying about that. But I wonder if in this next move I might pick up the habit of stopping more often to rest, instead of sprawling half dead on the road after pushing too hard too long.
Perhaps. But tonight is a beautiful night, cool and breezy. The cicadas and frogs are loud, the cats jumping at every noise. As I thumbed through books to pack into boxes, I found my Zorba the Greek. I flipped through a few favorite passages and found this. Advice first from a holy man to Zorba and then from Zorba to his protogee:
"'...My boy, if a woman calls you to share her bed and you don't go, your soul will be destroyed! That woman will sigh before God on judgment day, and that woman's sigh, whoever you may be and whatever your fine deeds, will cast you into Hell!'"
"If Hell exists," he said, "I shall go to Hell, and that'll be the reason. Not because I've robbed, killed or committed adultery, no! All that's nothing. But I shall go to Hell because one night in Salonica a woman waited for me on her bed and I did not go to her..."
I wonder tonight how many of us are sighing into the wind. Perhaps the time is not right or the situation all wrong, or things to do, or work that must be done. But who is calling with sighs on the wind? Will you go?