Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Roller Coaster

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Roller Coaster

It's too early again. I believe the first time I squeezed my eyelids together in order to see the red numbers on the dark face of our alarm clock, it was four-something, and it's almost five now. I have made it two nights in a row without Unisom, but I'm tired without it.

Yesterday Erik graduated from the Early Intervention Program (EIP). We stopped at the grocery store for juice and muffins on the way across town and headed to the end-of-the year party at his little school. The street there was lined with cars, as if there was a wild party going on. Apparently the event included the children and parents of both weekly classes. Brian had left work for the party and appeared around the corner of the Jeep as I unloaded Erik. As he saw his father, his hands instantly began flailing about -- a cross between jazz hands and an impression of a cockroach trapped on its back. I call them "happy hands." As he ages, I see them less and less, and I smile when this kind of pure joy manifests itself physically like this. We made our way into the building and up the hallway to the classroom, where pastel-colored balloons hung from the ceiling on limp strips of lavender curling ribbon and tables were set up for the children to gather around and put their hands in sand or decorate paper gift bags filled with small toys. Brian and I retreived Erik, who ignored the other children and began pushing a toy mini van around the room, sat on the floor, and went through the motions of coloring a bag with a brown Crayola pen, despite the fact he had no interest at all in this activity. After he pushed a doll stroller around, stole a classmate's toddler-sized walker, and spun every wheel he could get his hands on, we moved further down the hall to the gym, where more parents stood around looking junior-high-dance awkward and children ran back and forth across the padded floor. I finally saw the familiar faces of my parent group in the corner and made my way over to say hello, eyeing the counter loaded with Jell-O cups, cookies, and pretzels. A tiny girl with spiky, white-blonde pigtails made her way into the room holding onto a metal walker, slowly and deliberately putting one perfectly white tennis shoe in front of the other. Suddenly I remembered why we were here again, and the disabilities that aren't obvious to me anymore sprang back into focus. I saw painfully thin, awkward limbs, temper tantrums spilling hot, adult rage from tiny bodies, a deformed limb encased in a plaster cast, and a boy who smiled but never spoke. As for Erik, he allowed his father to place him atop a toy with a sticker that said "Roller Coaster to Go." It consisted of a plastic car atop a bumpy ramp, and Erik rode down it several times with Brian's help. Brian and I both had a laugh about the dubious safety of such an item, but Erik seemed to like it. Beyond that, he showed little or no interest in the table filled with water and toys that most of the children found irresistable and steered clear of the other children when he could, although their squeals of delight did not upset him like they used to. After I shared a very dreadful, store-bought chocolate chip cookie with Erik, the three of us went outside to the playground to watch children dip giant plastic wands into bubble solution and spin, creating soap bubbles as large as our heads. Again, Erik showed only slight interest and instead found a plastic bulldozer, which he silently pushed around nonstop until his physical therapist finally took it away from him so he would be forced to find another activity. His face immediately turned tomato-red, and his bottom lip stuck out in a silent bawl. We managed to coax him up onto the play equipment, where he backed away from the other children or skillfully used the slide as an escape ramp as if he was evacuating the burning wreckage of a plane, only to have us place him back atop the structure. Finally, we went back inside with the other children to receive our diplomas, sing our goodbye songs, and gather our things. I reassured myself by thinking about all of the transitions and changes our son will go through as time goes on. This is just the first of many, and I am thankful for that. I just wish sometimes I wasn't so freaking nostaglic about it all. I detected genuine emotion in a few of the therapists there, who said they would miss Erik terribly and thanked us for allowing them to work with him. One of his therapists was obviously quite relieved we would at least be in the same building in the fall so they would see him in the hall occasionally. At the beginning of this, I wanted people to love my child, but I find that Erik is indeed very special with some amazing qualities that surpass all of my expectations. I can see that now. He is simply wired to love people and be loved, never seeming to forget a name or face, even at his young age. In fact, although he didn't speak much in this noisy environment, when a beautiful little girl toddled by, he quietly murmured "Angie" before he went back to playing with his toy. As I didn't recognize this child and concluded she was likely a sibling of one of his classmates, I became curious as to whether he was correct. I crossed the room and asked another bored-looking mother sitting in a chair what this little girl's name was. She said, "Oh, that's Angie. That other mom babysits her during the day." Amazing.

In two hours, Brian and I will go back to the school alone and meet with the panel for his first transition meeting. One hour after that, my own father will bring Erik to me and Brian in the parking lot down the street at the dentist, where my favorite silver fox, Dr. Mike, will instruct us to hold our screaming child down so he can put a protective lacquer on Erik's teeth. I will most likely fight back tears as I do this. Pool therapy is tomorrow, and I am looking forward to Erik greeting the physical therapy staff by name and then having an hour in a nearby grocery store to be alone in the cleaning products aisle.

This week has been a "Roller Coaster to Go" for me as well.

6 Comments:

Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

Congrats on graduation from EI. Erik sounds like he has an amazing memory for names and faces.
Good luck at your transistion meeting! Hope that the dentist is not too bad. (I do the same thing...cry while I have to hold Abi down...or before..or after. It is really hard to MAKE your child cry out in total fear!)

Maybe PT should be held at a Spa so mom could enjoy it too! Hey..that's a million dollar idea...a therapy center for special needs kids/day spa for mom(some dads).....

Noel

7:10 AM  
Blogger THE PASLAY'S OF IDAHO said...

OOOOH NANCE! THANKS FOR SHARING ERIK'S DAY WITH US! I FELT LIKE I WAS THERE! THAT SWEET BOY, JUST GOING ABOUT HIS OWN BUSINESS PLAYING WITH EVERY WHEEL HE CAN GET HIS HANDS ON! BLESS HIS LITTLE HEART! BUT GOOD THAT HE WAS RE- ROUTED AT TIMES, I KNOW I WOULD OF GIVEN INTO HIM IF I SAW HIS FACE TURN RED AND THAT LITTLE BOTTOM LIP POKE OUT! BUT I CAN GIVE IN TO HIM, I AM HIS AUNTIE!!! :) AND I LOVED THAT YOU SHARED THE EXCITEMENT ERIK SHOWED WHEN HE SAW HIS DADDY! HOW PRECIOUS IS THAT!

GOOD LUCK WITH THE REST OF THE WEEK! YOU ALL ARE ALWAYS CLOSE TO OUR HEARTS AND IN OUR PRAYERS!

I MISS YOU!
DAWNITA

7:49 AM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

Our kids are growing up fast and as the mom's before us said, "Savor every moment!" Boy, were they right.

Julia's had some progress these past two days. Sharing to come soon on my mommy blog.

Roller coasters….they're exciting and fun, but they can also make you sick after awhile.

Maybe it's time to get off and take a deep breath. Hopefully the summer will bring that for you and the family as you walk slower and take in the views wherever you are.

7:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I relish the opportunity to spend some time alone in the cleaning products aisle! I totally get you. Ha!

Congrats! Change is exciting and hard. Here's to the road ahead.

Sandra

10:55 AM  
Blogger kathi said...

I'm so sorry for how tired you are, I know how hard that makes the day. I take Lunesta, and when I go without it (for no other reason than I want to be able to go without it), I'll be struggling with 1 hour of sleep here...20 minutes there...all through the night. Been like that since I was a kid, I use to get in so much trouble for being up in the middle night, playing in the dark... So I feel for you babe.

Transition is hard enough without all the added stuff Erik's got going on. Bless his heart, sweet little guy. I so hope that it's not as hard today at the dentist as you're concerned it might be.

I pray you get some much needed, and deserved, rest.

2:59 PM  
Anonymous Aspen said...

Happy Graduation to Erik. I know this must be exciting and terrifying for you. I dread when it is our turn while at the same time, excited to see Daven's interaction with other children.

I hope the Dentist trip wasn't as miserable as you were expecting. The thought of taking Daven to a dentist office at this moment is so far out of my scope. I couldn't imagine the fight he would put on.

I pray you have a quiet restful end of the week. LOVE YOU!

7:24 AM  

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