Dedicated to my late grandfather, Jack Arnold
I am conjuring you up in my mind, Pop. It feels so good to take this time out of my day and think of you. You were a wonderful and warm presence in my life for 36 years, and I am so grateful we had that much time together. Twelve years after your death I can say with confidence that you are with me every day.
Today I am sharing one particular example of your kind and wise nature. I am referring to the steady and calm way you advised me over the years to “take it one day at a time.” You spoke those words softly to me with a hint of a smile in your gentle gray eyes. “Ok Pop,” I would say, trying to calm myself about SAT scores, upcoming midterms and later, work stress.
But you know what Pop? Your advice never really sunk in, not until well after my son Gabe’s autism diagnosis, that is. It took motherhood and the monster-size diagnosis of autism to get me to truly take it one day at a time. And despite taking on some pretty heavy stuff, in many ways, I am a happier person today because of what I’ve learned. Looking back, you were the first to guide me in the direction of being present.
It’s not like it just happened. Once Gabe was diagnosed it took years to process all the new information, weed out which therapies were needed and which were not, and to accept our new circumstances.
After the first few years, I started going to therapy. I vented, complained, worried, and worst of all, I was angry. I talked about not wanting to be consumed completely by the uncertainty of my son’s future. I didn’t want to carry the weight on my shoulders every minute of every day. It was, and many times still is, exhausting.
Eventually I found a therapist who offers walk therapy and mindfulness. Her program promotes both physical and emotional health. We go to Fairmount Park. Nature beats an office visit any day of the week. The combination of walking in a natural setting and talk therapy has helped me tremendously.
I started to focus on what I’ve learned over the past five years and put my energy into starting a business. There is a large community of families out there that share both the joys and challenges of raising a child with special needs. Especially Needed Curations has given me the opportunity to think creatively, problem solve, and ultimately help others connect and grow as families.
After hours of sessions, life experience, and just getting older, I think I figured out how to take it one day at a time. And I think of you so often Pop, as I recite your words in my head and smile to myself.
I can’t see the future. I don’t know where my son will be in 5, 10, or 20 years. I don’t know if the corona virus will actually turn into a national pandemic. I have no control over the fact that lightening bugs are going extinct along with hundreds of other remarkable species.
What I do know is that I am here typing this. I hear my son in the other room bouncing on the couch and shaking a tambourine. I hear my husband’s footsteps upstairs as he gets changed after work. We are about to sit down for dinner.