Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Struggles

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Yesterday as Erik and I were getting ready to go to school, I heard updates on the story of a 21-year-old woman who disappeared from this area in 2003. They found her body in the last week or so buried in a shallow grave in the woods, and two arrests have been made. An autopsy revealed that she was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. She did not die a pleasant death and was terrorized by her killers before she left this world. Her father cannot afford her funeral, which takes place this week. He is a bus driver here, and his coworkers set up a bake sale at a bus stop off the main drag. Erik and I loaded into the Jeep 15 minutes early and went in search of the bus stop. I saw a couple small folding tables manned by volunteers on either side of a small street. I parked in an adjacent lot and approached one table, where a sleepy-looking woman without makeup wearing a brown, flannel shirt sat. Behind her in the back of a truck sat a bearded, silent, tough-looking man and a large dog. There were muffins and brownies scattered over the surface of the table in crudely labeled plastic bags. I chose three of each and gave her the contents of my wallet. After she thanked me profusely for my extremely modest donation, we made our way to school. I lead Erik up the hallway to his classroom, where he walked in by himself and demonstrated his skills removing his jacket halfway. A therapist led him to his cubbyhole and helped him deposit his things, hanging his jacket on a metal hook. They made a big fuss over the new football zipper pull I just purchased. Bev handed me a stack of information on Therapeutic Listening(tm), including the phone number and name of our local specialist, and I headed down the hallway to parent group.

Parent group was packed. I set my collection of baked goods on an end table. There were three children present, including two babies and a 6-year-old autistic boy who grabbed one of my muffins and proceeded to scatter banana nut-flavored crumbs evenly over the carpet and furnishings from one end of the room to the other. I resisted the intense urge to search for a Dustbuster. There was no set topic of conversation this week. We talked of being teenagers and of the stupid things we did. Of course, my misadventures paled in comparison to the women's tales around me. The stories they told were knee-slappingly funny, but there was an underlying sadness to them all. Their stories seemed to hint of various levels of abuse, absent parents, alcoholism, and custody battles. One woman told of her child jumping a train at age 12 in an attempt to run away. He was missing long enough to print and post missing posters. One woman was shot in the buttocks by an angry landowner with rock salt after she and her friends refused to stop trespassing. Most of the time I forget that these women differ from me at all anymore. While they seemed completely foreign and almost unapproachable a year ago, I found that we have a lot in common, and I now feel at home with them. It is obvious they love their children as much as I do my own. However, sessions like this remind me that I am indeed from a different world, and Erik will be, too. I have learned to count my blessings. As I watch textbook cycles perpetuate before my eyes, I sometimes feel the world is hopeless, full of struggles with no end. We all seem to pass our struggles on like a dark legacy, no matter where we come from or what we have experienced.

After our sessions were over, I picked Erik up and we walked down the hall and out the door. He said nothing, as the children bustling around us were happy and noisy. Once we escaped into the fresh air and relative quiet of the outdoors, I heard his voice say a word I have not heard from him before.


I looked down at him and stopped in my tracks, completely forgetting we were obstructing the waiting taxi and buses in the tiny parking lot.

"What did you say?"

He repeated it clear as day.


He lurched forward again, looking at the sky. I looked to my right. Sure enough, there was a silver Volkswagen Beetle parked there. One of the new jobbers. I laughed out loud. When I told my mother about this later, she informed me that during their afternoon sessions watching vehicles drive by from their comfy seats in front of the picture window, she is absolutely certain about a car's make and model before she reports it to Erik, as she knows he will remember. He can also now identify a Jeep Grand Cherokee from a mile away.

No matter where I am in my head, the boy can always get a smile out of me.

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Blogger John A. Frye said...

He's definitely a car guy! I really enjoy reading this Nance, I know I don't have much to say, but I'm listening and reading these every day. I love you all!

11:21 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

JA -- I think of you often because of his love of the wheel. There are times when he looks EXACTLY like you, too. Brian and I both agree on that.

Thanks for commenting. I love you!!!

11:50 AM  
Blogger Nicole said...

How funny is Erik!! I laughed out loud thinking of him saying, "volkswagon". Thanks for that today!!

I wish I had some information to share with you on therapeutic listening. I really don't know too much about it. I remember the OTs at the school I used to work at went to a seminar on "Tomatis Listening" and were raving about the potential benefits. Although, the way it goes is you rave about whatever the latest seminar was you attended. Let me know what you find. I'm very curious.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I think you should start Erik on the "punchbuggy" routine - you know, when you see a VW Beetle, you yell "Punchbuggy!" and punch someone. Although I suppose he is with you most of the time so you will have some sore arms. :)

1:49 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Nicole -- I'll make sure to report on my findings, good or bad, about the whole Tomatis deal (Therapeutic Listening). You KNOW I'll be honest. ;) I'm pretty skeptical seeing no bad reviews at all. That's never a good sign.

Kerry -- It's "Slug Bug" over here on the West Coast. I think Erik is strong enough to give me a hematoma, so I won't start that game. :)

4:40 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

I have heard you speak of the parent group before with sarcasm. So glad you found a comfy spot among them. It seems like your the one who holds the sign "From a functional and loving family with married parents. A stable upbringing without serious drama."

It's women like you that remind the rest of us what it was supposed to be like.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Rosemarie -- Good or bad, black humor and a bit of sarcasm are included in my coping mechanisms. It's not a fun group to sit in every week for sure (I still would rather be somewhere else), but you're right -- I have a place there now. That's a good thing. Who knew I would grow to care for these women like I do?

6:58 PM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

I know the perfect sticker for him LOL...that is so funny...Slugbug...OR hippies HAHAHA...I bet Erik would have a blast with Chris and all his cars and tools and wheels...Such boys!!

Love you

7:23 PM  
Blogger Miss 1999 said...

That is so pitiful about the poor girl who was beaten and murdered. I am SO sorry to hear of this, and I will most definitely keep her family in my prayers. God Bless you, for helping them out with a donation.

How wonderful that Erik has a new word! You may be raising a future mechanic or car sales man with his love of cars! :0)

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Aspen said...

His love for cars has already started. The 21 year old WS I know in town is also an avid car lover. He can hear an engine and know what it is, what is wrong, and name the car year make and model. It must be a man thing. HA!

10:29 AM  
Blogger kathi said...

He not only makes you smile, but all of us too.

So sorry for the father of the girl they'd found. How unbelievably hard that would all be.

9:51 PM  

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