Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Do you suppose ... ?

that a lot of the angst that I'm feeling (and interpreting as the natural depression that heralds gittin' ole) is really masking a new bout of separation anxiety involving Dorian? We worked for her entire lifetime to prepare her for my death and her survival without me. We had it nailed for some years there, but then the social system began to fray at the edges from state budget cutbacks and to finally collapse totally. Bringing her home to live with me for the first time since she was in her pre-teens less than a year ago was a defeat for us both. Over the past months I've evolved from "super-friend" back into "mom" with a vengeance. Try as I might, the inevitable has happened and I find myself fixing her breakfast, even brushing her hair and packing her lunches for her days at NIAD. I worry and fret when she hasn't returned from the mall when expected, and have become dependent upon our constant cell phone connections even when off on a tryst with Tom. It's crazy! And there isn't the time to do it all again.

On the Monday before I left to visit to Mendocino, I'd called her case manager to say that I was ready to begin to look at living alternatives for her; that we were beginning to seriously regress; and that someone needs to help me to move us toward a new separation. When I returned (and after a thought-filled 3-hour drive, alone) I found myself pushing all such thoughts to the back of my mind and ignoring the need to act on it. The pressure had been eased by my 2-day respite and I felt rested.

Her case manager had agreed that we needed to begin to look at next moves. It seems that Dorian had given her therapist a call sometime the week before when we were battling over her spending habits and her inability to resist the cellphone hawkers. She wants her independence back. We both need our lives back to live out each in our own way. I cannot protect her by robbing her of the chance to continue to grow and learn. She will live beyond me. With or without the ideal social support system I tried so hard to tap her into, it is her destiny to live through the risks that her disabilities manifest, and no amount of motherly protection can change any of that.

This truly capable professional had given me the telephone number of a possible group home that is near enough to NIAD so that her art programs can go on uninterrupted. That was over a week ago, the day before I left for a 2-day visit to Mendocino. I promised to give the referral a call just as soon as I returned (on Thursday). I have since lost the phone number and am reluctant to ask for it again. It's buried here on my desk someplace. It was written on the back of a scrap of paper that I no longer will recognize... All very predictable.

Mentally, I'm thrown back to the time when I first experienced the pain of sending her off to The Cedars, a residential program in beautiful Marin County -- and it's all refreshed and achingly familiar. It's as though all those feelings were carefully stored in some remote part of my mind and are back to taunt me enough to crowd out everything else. We lived through it again when -- at 13 I hired someone to fly with her down to St. Vincent's Academy in Santa Barbara because I couldn't bear to do it. I knew that the rules of that wonderful school dictated that I could not contact her for the first 6 weeks, and my awareness of the pain that would surely cause was almost unbearable. I've never recovered from the guilt I felt for the trickery involved. But we both survived and she thrived in that setting with those loving nuns.

Dorian has by now pretty much forgotten about having made the call to her therapist in anger and I've had a few days of respite with Tom. The sense of urgency has passed. There is little incentive to make that call now, but I surely recognize the need to find that vital scrap of paper and proceed with plans to give her back what little autonomy that I can by letting her move away and back into her own life.

I'd never have guessed that it might be even more difficult this time. Having now lived with her underfoot for almost a year, I've become aware of just how vulnerable she is, and of how serious are her mental deficits. The risk factors are huge. The guilelessness and natural generosity of the retarded make her a prime target for those who would do her harm. And -- my trust in the ability of "The World" to protect her has diminished over the years, and I have little left to comfort me now. When we were both much younger; when I felt my own inadequacies so much less and trusted "The World's" systems so much more, it was far easier. I've lost my innocence. She's doomed to exist in her's.

Maybe, having written out the words, I can go about the business of retrieving that important link to our much-needed freedom and make those calls. It will be only the prelude since the goal is to begin to investigate possibilities now and -- hopefully -- to have her resettled in early summer.

Wish us luck,

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