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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Life does have a way of balancing the score and keeping us humble.

Dorian's great artistic triumph has now to be measured against one of those incidents that grays the hair and encourages nightmares.

As has been a new "tradition" dating back to a few weeks ago, I drove out to the suburbs to spend the day with the man in my life (new Wednesday commitment). On the drive home my cell phone rang and at the other end of the call was a distraught Dorian. She could hardly speak. It seems that as she was washing her brushes at the sink -- just before the end of her day at NIAD, there was an unprovoked attack by a young man who suffers from autism. He struck her on the right side of her face near the eye and again on her back before staff could intervene. In the process her glasses were damaged but not nearly as much as her pride and self-confidence.

He is someone who attends the program only two days a week and apparently has an attendant who accompanies him on those days. NIAD is a relatively new experience for him and he's still learning to navigate a system that has rules that he's ill equipped to either understand or comply with.

Dorrie, on the other hand, is confident and reasonably talented but lacks the mental capacity to understand autism, or, the reasons why anyone would be so out of control. The damage to her psyche was far more serious than the blows she received, though today there is still soreness and some swelling. We managed to get through the evening relatively well (once I reached home from my tryst) except for my own feelings of guilt at not being available to her at such a time.

Almost instantly as I logged off from her hysterical call, the phone rang again. This time it was from one of the staff at NIAD feeling just awful and fearful of my reaction (I'm sure), and needed almost as much reassurance as did Dorrie. I listened as well as I could while weaving through rush hour traffic, and told her that the miracle was that Dorian has reached maturity without ever having had such an experience before. Considering the population that wonderful program is working with (so beautifully), it is small wonder that they manage to balance all of the disabilities that fill the studios without experiencing anything more serious than this. As soon as I was assured that Dorian had not suffered any real physical harm, it sounded as if they'd handled it well and that I could pick up the rest of the pieces when I eventually reached home.

She was waiting at the door with an icebag on her face and tears streaming! However, despite all -- it took no more than an hour or so to make things right, and we did.

The offender has been suspended (unfortunately since he probably needs the program more than we do) and won't return for a week. He was made to apologize for being out of control, but that may beyond his power to feel -- even though the process needed to be gone through for his sake and for the sake of on-watchers. The staff tried to make it clear to Dorrie that his actions were not caused by anything she'd done or said, but I'm not sure that she could understand that to be any more true than he was to actually feel his apology. Makes me wonder about the emptiness of some of the practices that we've put in place to handle such events in our attempts at socializing the afflicted. He'll continue to feel threatened by having been placed in a program he doesn't yet value, and she will be fearful of his rage because it is irrational -- too much for even the professionals to deal with confidently. Tis a dilemma.

But, while I was still half asleep this morning under my down quilt -- I could hear her up feeding her two cats, packing her lunch, brushing her teeth, and by the appointed hour -- setting out to wait for her bus. I drove over to NIAD at noon time to pick her up to get the eyeglasses repaired (to get rid of this evidence of the traumatic event)and found her well into her new sculpture (something that defies description at this point, except that I hear the word dragon) that has her excited again. We've weathered another storm, and it won't be the last.

However, I'm planning to take off for five days in early March for Ashland, Oregon, to see several plays. It's important to me. This was going to be another attempt at exercising Dorian's reconstituted independence. I was reminded that there is always the unforeseen -- impossible to plan for or guard against. I have no doubt that she can handle being alone again, but I have a new worry to deal with. I'd give almost anything to feel just a bit less responsible. As is almost always the case, I'll have to try hard to turn down the panic buttons and give her the chance to deal with life on her own. Keep reminding myself that David is completely reliable and caring and that the risk is small.

We'll both survive.

Besides, she's been asked by a NIAD staffmember if she'd like to try to design a logo for Special Olympics -- for a postcard to be used by the local groups (I presume). This may have simply been something offered to distract her from the trauma of yesterday, but it doesn't matter. The request validates her status as "artist" and she may opt for that over "victim." Some get trapped at that place and never recover. She has a lot of good credits banked from the last art show and can draw on them now to maintain herself. My biggest job may be to stand back and let that happen and to convince myself that "the world" will continue to do the right thing by her. One day that will be her only buffer and learning how to navigate the social system now is vitally important.

I'm trying to make myself see this an another opportunity for growth and to keep my "mothering" from getting overblown and undoing all the good work we've done over the years.

Life goes on.

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