My boy’s grandmother passed before I met their father.  We sometimes wonder what our lives would be like if she were here, living and knowing her grandsons.  Her eldest grandson, the one who’s been called autistic, who bucks that status quo every day, and her youngest – the most dignified wise-ass you will ever meet.

I hear stories about her and what life was like before, with her in this world.  The wonderful story that involves a woman living with a cancer diagnosis for 17 years longer than predicted, and her sense of fun and humor that sustained their days and extended her life. 

I can only imagine how wonderful it would be if she were here, sharing in our belief that this life is a good life, regardless of our supposed “challenges”.  She would likely remind us, with our without words, that every day is a good day when you wake up, open your eyes to see the morning, get out of bed with legs that stand and allow you to walk downstairs to greet your family.  Your family, the same people you see every day that cares about you and your welfare.

She would have to laugh out loud at her sons antics with her grandsons – like today…. our oldest son chooses not to answer the phone when my husband called to check up on him.  So, when he finally got through to our autistic son who stayed home from school, he disciplined him for the indiscretion.  It wasn’t too much later our son called my husband back on his cell phone.  Yeah, sounds like the eldest decided to call his dad out for his own lack of phone manners and rudeness that laced his worried voice.  His father’s poor behavior cost him hamburgers and a vanilla shake for dinner.  I don’t think grandma would take this exchange for granted knowing how far that grandson has come to make that call. 

Our two little white dogs would have tickled her funny bone.  They are her son’s girls, mark my words.  If she could watch him carry them around in his arms, just like he did our boys when they were babies, cradled and safe from harm.  She too had a little poodle dog, named Snoop.  My husband laments that dog to this day for being so crabby with everyone but his mother. 

My late mother in law was a kindergarten teacher.  Her son followed in her footsteps and has carved a career out of teaching elementary aged kids their ABC’s and 123’s.  Sometimes I meet past colleagues and students of hers while working in a local teacher’s credit union.  When I ask if they knew her I am always told how radiant of a person she was and how deeply missed she has been.  Just last week, an old friend of the family shared the story of her “jelly buddy” that popped out of her swim suit top while they were having drinks in the hot tub.  Always, I’m told, she armored up with humor regardless of how she felt. 

I know she would be as proud of her youngest grandson as we are for wanting to follow in his families’ footsteps and be the next generation to work as a professional educator.  He’s working to be a history professor, and we believe he will be one of the very best.  His sharp wit and improve style of humor adds that certain something to every conversation.  I hope she wouldn’t be too worried that he has had to grow up so fast and seems unnaturally responsible for his age.  We know he’s got his wild streak….he is just clever enough to wear his invisibility cloak at the right times, in all the right places.

 While my husband misses her, sometimes intensely, my kids and I miss the idea of her.  I don’t think she’s too far away – I believe she’s right here, with us.  She sits with us at the dinner table, laughs at her son’s quick witted jokes, watches her grandchildren grow and prepare for their future endeavors, and finally – she believes, just like we do, that life is a gift worth living.  ~ Wendy Frye

“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” ~ Josh Billings


Lesson Plan

Looking out the window – I note the beautiful day outside. Birds are flying, trilling and fluffing newly laid nests. Trees have bloomed, popping out flowers to puff pollen into the air, ensuring a lasting heritage for their kind. The air is still, yesterday’s stormy winds have left the air swollen with fragrance, kissed by the promise of a beautiful spring. The first season, Spring. Time for renewal, fresh starts, new growth, tilling the possibilities for a bountiful future harvest.

Like farmers with their precious crops in a field, parents grow their children. We parents nurture our children, teach them, learn from them only to ultimately let them go. As Graduation day approaches some of our children are gearing up, going to prom, taking finals and steadying themselves to plant the seeds to sustain the lives they will live.

In our family’s world, the segment of the community that dwells with a disabled son, we too anticipate a bright and bountiful future for our son. The son who was diagnosed Autistic at a very young age. The same boy who has been going to school since he was 3 and 1/2 years old. The 18 year old who is ready to take on the world in his own way.

Reflecting back, way back over all those years, it has been a phenomenally interesting journey. Our road that’s been full of peaks and valleys – on a path full of wonder, surprises and an enormous amount of humor. And now, standing at the gate to the future, I take a look at the past and recall some of the memories we’ve collected along the way:

The way my mother explained, in plain terms with blue language, that my devilish son looked her square in the eyes while he unlocked the door and attempted to exit her Mercedes car that day. She was trying to drive him back to preschool. He didn’t want to go. She “insisted”. He still didn’t agree and decided he was going to leave the car and her company. They were parked in the middle of a busy intersection. He didn’t care. His grandma did care…..sounds like my 4 year old, disabled, autistic son brought down the wrath of my mother that day. And from that moment, the moment he locked eyes with her, she never argued that he didn’t understand absolutely everything – including “get your ass back in this car young man before you get a licken you’ll never forget!”

The picture presented to me by my son’s favorite middle school instructional aid. The one where he hung 26 different colored sticky notes across his face, arms and shirt front. He was by himself in the teachers’ lounge for some reason, bored and had decided to take it on himself to break the afternoon monotony. “Lori”, “Hey, Lori??” “Need a sticky note or anything?” Laughter erupted – my son, the epic champion of classic deadpan humor.

The winter celebration dance staged by the local tribal casino. An event you never hear about that occurs twice a year. The Tribe picks up all the special education classes from all the districts around the city, drops them off at the casino in the ball room. They dine, dance and socialize. My son? He’s the one who packs his own pizza, drinks down 17 sodas and proceeds to take over the dance floor. Nothing like it, stimming off caffeinated, caramel colored, artificially flavored fire water has advantages to the socially challenged, didn’t you know?

And most notably, the night before he started his high school career, yells from the basement…”Hey Mom!, Look at me!” Turning halfway I struggled to hold down my gasp reflex…..”I shaved off my eyebrows!” He further explained he saw it on the movie trailer for My Best Friends Girl.

Graduation day arrives the 9th of June. My son will walk with his class and graduate from my own alma mater. Our friends and family will make up a good slice of the audience during the procession. We will bring camera’s, recorders and our best sense of humor. And when our son goes to pick up his honors – he will no doubt hear our cheers, cat-calls and applause, and in the auditorium full of people, our boy will know that he will never be alone again.

We dream bigger…. ~ Wendy Frye

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” Pablo Picasso