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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

No longer waiting to exhale ...

It has been less than 24 hours since those crucial decisions were arrived at to begin a 90 degree turn in the pattern of our lives. I'm feeling less pain than relief -- though this may be a temporary state and not one to count on quite yet.

The immediate crisis has passed. Life at home is again on an even keel with little sign of the trauma of the past several days.

The biggest change is the one taking place in my mind -- coming to terms with where we are in space and time. I've been living with a daughter who is chronologically at middle age with a mental age of a rebellious young adolescent. She is composed of a mind that is riddled with empty spaces where logic and judgement and rationality should be residing; a mind with huge deficits controlling a normal healthy body, with a raging libido and all of the hungers of an adult woman. A necessary hysterectomy performed about two years ago has thrust this healthy female body prematurely into menopause -- adding the ultimate combination of traumatic physical/emotional elements to an already compromised female system. I am no match for what nature has wrought. No one is. It will take a team of professionals blending abilities and training to even begin to address something so complex. Everything short of that will fall short of what is needed to maximize her again.

I know what that looks like because -- when she arrived home from several years of schooling at St. Vincents Academy in Santa Barbara at 19 -- that word would have described her. She had been maximized. My hopes for her were realistic in light of what she'd been exposed to. She had received her high school diploma with the ability to enter any community college at the vocational level. She was self-confident, capable of holding her own socially, and with enough training to benefit in sheltered-workshop situations. It was all I could have asked for. My sense of what she might be capable of was strongly influenced by what she'd been given up to that point in her life, and of how much she'd profited from it. I had high hopes that didn't take into account the slippage in the safety net that would follow in the wake of huge and consistent cutbacks in what the state allotted to the services to the developmentally disabled.

When assessed in that way, I feel fortunate to have been able to cope so well for so long. There is no disgrace nor failure to rue. Superfriends are immune to all that. We just do the best we can given the tools we have to work with. The trick is to know when the system reaches overload, and to begin to increase the universe of minds required to deal with it as needed. I've done that.

Now I will concentrate on doing those things that keep me whole and capable of letting go gradually. We will probably have until August before the necessary processes have been worked through by those in whose hands our fate now rests. I will concentrate of my role as protector-mother until circumstances change that into whatever comes next.

She will swim this weekend at the University of the Pacific and will come home bedecked with ribbons (as always), filled with pride of achievement. She's preparing for the next NIAD art reception and exhibit in about ten days and that will hold us in a comfortable relationship where she is fully occupied by good things.

Me? I'll begin my own process of separation -- already begun as you can see -- which will be so much easier now that next steps are beginning to emerge. I'm no longer alone with the decisions and -- even better than that -- I trust those in whose hands our fate now rests. It's been a long time since I've had the will or the strength to allow that to happen.

Her future is not as I'd envisioned it when she was a toddler -- when I was coming to terms with the life ahead for her -- but it can still work. I will still be needed but in a new way; one that is ill-defined right now, but one that may require more distance between us than ever before. That will be hard. But I'm beginning to understand that her ability to adjust to those next steps may be embedded in my ability to allow for the distance between her life and my own to be broadened considerably.

A life of my own ...

Now that's a concept that I don't think I've ever really considered ...

...maybe I'll see the birth of at least one more Betty; one who's outlived or outgrown the need to mother. Or, maybe I'll learn whether one of my lesser "Bettys" will emerge to take over. It would be lovely if I found that my "woman" has stepped up in front of my "mother" to take charge of the 'bod' and that there are still discoveries to be made from yet one more edge of my being.

I'm sure that he'll appreciate such an outcome.

We'll get to test that out this weekend while Dorian is in Stockton and while I'm aware that this is the beginning of something unexpected but probably long overdue. We'll start with dinner and a concert on Saturday evening ... and maybe I'll begin to let it feel 'normal.' My cell phone will be fully-charged and waiting for word of disaster (as always) but maybe just a little less so than before.

Life will go on, and for both Dorian and me.

Photo: Dorian Leon Reid upon her graduation from St. Vincent's Academy in Santa Barbara.


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