Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Graduation

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Graduation

Summer is making itself known today. Erik's plastic-encased legs are sticking out of a new pair of shorts, my tan from a bottle is slowly tinting my Viking skin a faint, dirty tangerine color, and there is a roaring wildfire to the north emitting a choking, carbon-infused haze that permeates the horizon in every direction and adds sweeping Technicolor to the sunset like the end of an old spaghetti western. I just fastened the long cushions to the metal skeletons of our chaise lounges on the back porch and am attempting to cool the house down to a less than hellish temperature. Erik is technically supposed to be sleeping in bed with his stuffed puppies (Stinky & Dog), but instead I can hear him in his closet spinning one of his favorite toys. Brian drove off in his Jeep in his softball attire to play a game across town.

So here I am with a glass of red wine and my thoughts.

This week has been fairly calm, but looking ahead on the calendar, I see next week will be much different. Sunday Kathy and I are doing the local 5K breast cancer walk/run. Having successfully worked out for weeks now, my calves, thighs, and portions of my arms are beginning to bulge to proportions never seen on a human female before. I foolishly thought that perhaps I would become a slightly more slim version of my former self. Instead, I find I am only adding on to my already Amazonian stature, enlarging like a steroid-shooting member of the Super Friends. However, I digress. After the race, we plan on joining Kathy's family at a nearby lake for some rest and relaxation with the boys before a week that contains one salon appointment to rid myself of my split ends, an appointment in which we must hold our screaming child down to have his teeth lacquered, one session of pool therapy, our first transition meeting with a rather intimidating panel of professionals, and our neighbor's graduation party, which, while in the midst of some sort of fleeting manic, euphoric state, I agreed to help set up. In addition, I have to cram work in there somewhere.

Admittedly, however, the big day is Tuesday, which is Erik's end-of-the-year party for his early intervention program (EIP). This isn't our actual end yet, as Erik attends four more weeks of summer program. Then it's officially over for good, as Erik will turn 3 this fall and transition into "normal" preschool. In short, this means no more EIP.

I confess that I find myself more than a little sad about this. After all, EIP is where we began our journey, and I will never forget meeting the first members of "Team Erik." Frankly, I had no desire initially to meet any of them and bristled at the whole experience, thinking it was all temporary and that Erik would soon prove everybody wrong, including his pediatrician, but as I surrendered to the horrible permanency of our situation, I have grown to appreciate all of them and even feel love for some of them. I will soon no longer be required to pass by the little evaluation room on the way to Erik's classroom each week and feel my heart break a little bit every time. I have only been inside that room once on just one very horrible day. I can't stomach the sight of it with its child-sized wooden kitchenette and brightly-colored educational toys. Its cheery contents mask the absolute gut-wrenching heartbreak that is experienced inside. In rooms like these I now never fail to notice the very subtle but ominous presence of a single box of tissues ready to absorb grief. I see the table where Brian and I sat that very first day and the two-way mirror through which we were observed. Most weeks I pass by this room without turning my head, but when I accept an occasional self-imposed dare to glance that direction, my stomach lurches on my way by. Sometimes there are parents and a child casually playing on the floor inside, but mostly the place is deserted and quiet. I resist an occasional urge to stop and stare. It's crazy, but I am certain there is a piece of me still trapped in that room. I recognize it as ghostly vapor in my peripheral vision as I pass, but it vanishes when I turn to look at it. It is no longer mine. It is forever lost to me, doomed to haunt the place forever. Perhaps one day another mother will feel it pass by in the middle of shaking her head at the forms piling up in front of her like a paper snowdrift. Perhaps she will wonder at the sudden goosebumps on her skin and turn her head to smile at her child sitting on the floor staring blankly ahead for reasons about to be discovered as she begins a nightmare of her very own.

I now have four weeks of parent group remaining in the room just down the hall. In this particular room, we are on our second coffeemaker, and the chairs are almost always full. I have watched mothers and fathers come and go, most of whose names never sank into me somehow, and I sometimes briefly wonder what happened to them. As for me, I will soon be a memory here and will leave my wooden rocking chair for another mother with a newly jumbled heart to occupy. This fall when I enter the front door, I will turn to walk down a new, unexplored hallway to Erik's preschool classroom, but I will undoubtedly glance through this familiar doorway on my way by, too, remembering the first day I my feet took me into this room instead of straight out the front door to my car. I will always remember this room, but I will no longer be a member inside. The metal door will be closed tightly, and through the safety glass window I will glimpse another pale face silently floating over a cup of lukewarm coffee. Our eyes will meet, and I will turn to continue my way down the hallway into a brightly lit classroom filled with construction paper turkeys, long tables, and tiny chairs instead of therapeutic swings and exercise balls.

Thank God.

I will graduate right along with Erik this year.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous katie said...

Oh Nancy,

Its funny how it feels hard to move forward sometimes even when the past has been so challanging. There is a familiar comfort that makes you feel 'better the devil you know'.
Eric is growing up so quick. You are a wonderful mother and i love reading your posts as you have this knack of describing alot of feelings so familier to me. Your a great therapist :)

Good luck with all that is ahead.

love Katie.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Time certainly does fly. I remember when Michael went to his preschool for the last time - I looked around knowing that although I may see these people again, it would never be in this litle cohesive community we had going. The teachers I loved, the familiarity of the routine, the classroom, the classmates whom you have seen grow up.... one door closing to another opening.

This fall will be exciting - school shopping and getting ready... It is always a little sad to leave the ones you loved behind. I don't know how I will deal with not having Lisa, Tara and Vikki at my house every week. They have a bond with Brady that is solid - in fact our ST Vikki has gone private but kept Brady because she couldn't leave him.

Sounds like you are due for a great weekend - make sure you get another glass of wine in there somewhere! Have fun!

6:21 AM  
Blogger THE PASLAY'S OF IDAHO said...

AFTER READING THIS POST THREE THINGS COME TO MIND!

1) HAPPY GRADUATION FROM EIP ERIK! YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE SO MUCH FUN IN PRE-SCHOOL!

2) GOOD FOR YOU GUYS ON GETTING OUT MORE AND HAVING FUN!! HAVE A BLAST WITH KATHY THIS WEEKEND!!! AND EVERYONE HAVE FUN UP AT THE LAKE!!

3) WHEN YOU WERE DESCRIBING HOW YOU ARE "BULGING" FROM ALL YOUR WORK OUTS.... WHAT CAME TO MIND WAS "HERCULES HERCULES HERCULES" HA! :)

LOVE YA GIRL AND GIVE MY FAVORITE ERIK A BIG HUG FROM HIS AUNTIE!!

4:23 PM  
Blogger kathi said...

I was talking to someone recently, who had recovered from an illness that I, too, had had for a long time and recovered from. We were talking about how as glad as you are to be 'done' with it, there is a part of you that feels confused, as if you're missing a part of yourself because it was what you'd known and lived for so long.

You're such a strong woman (yes, you are). The next chapter is going to be better than the last.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Aspen said...

I have thought about this a lot lately. Daven is also approaching 3 and will be graduating on to the Preschool program in town. However, because he was born late in the year, he will get to stay with EI through the spring semester. I have yet to decide if this will be good for Daven...or if we should go ahead and allow him to graduate to the new program.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love reading them and feel every word you write deep down inside.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Joke site said...

very nice, i like it.

HAPPY GRADUATION FROM EIP ERIK!

10:09 AM  

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