8000 Days Later

13-x

It was on a Sunday afternoon in late October, 1994, when I knew I would marry my husband. Which was strange, because I had woken up that morning feeling relieved that it was finally over between us.

It had been all wrong. I was eighteen years old and had only known Dave for three months. We were touring together in a musical group with a strict rule against dating. We each called a different state home, and neither of us had ever lived on our own before. To make matters worse, Dave had a girlfriend away at college. He could not live with the guilt of falling for me, and I was not interested in being the other woman. Besides, I had plans for my life that made letting go of him inevitable.

That month of October was the most exciting and heartbreaking time in my life. When we realized we both had feelings for each other, we had built up too much tension to act reasonably. We fell hard and we lost our minds a little. Then came reality. The guilt. The long talks. What were we doing? All the while we were traveling the country with eight other people who were oblivious to what was happening between us.   Continue reading

In the Beginning….We Had Everything

....and my parents paid the photographer.

….and my parents paid the photographer.

I don’t remember being all that worried when my car broke down for good along I-94 in the spring of 1996. We were coming back from our appointment with the wedding photographer. A nice couple had picked us up and took us to the Helmer Road exit in Battle Creek, where I called my dad for a ride.

It was a 1979 Plymouth Horizon, previously owned by my Great-Grandma Hill. From the time I was born I had gone to her house every Sunday, and sometime around the age of sixteen I had stayed with her while she recovered from surgery. During this week she must have decided I needed a vehicle, and so it was that the little red hatchback came into my possession.

We had our battles. That car taught me early on how to be nervous at every little engine sound, and how to stop at lights and stop signs without completely stopping (if I ever wanted her to go again); but that final year she gave me a lot of miles. I think it was the wedding we attended in Kansas the previous month that finally took her life.

One last road trip.

It was a half hour drive to my job as a Meijer’s shoe clerk, so the loss of my vehicle meant I would have to quit. I was a month away from my 20th birthday, and two months away from my own wedding day. I should have been panicked, but my young mind thought the time off would be convenient. Who needs money? Obviously we had no money for a car. I was engaged to a man with epilepsy who didn’t even know how to drive. This, combined with the fact that my car had broken down so much I was used to being without a vehicle made us believe we didn’t need to have transportation, either. Continue reading

This Is My Life Today

Beach

You know how some mornings are.

You wake up and within minutes are alerted to the obvious fact that today is going to be one of THOSE days. Maybe you’ve stumbled out of bed to an unexpected “accident” painted across your child’s wall. Maybe you were woken up way too early- or never had the luxury of sleeping at all. Perhaps you have been rethinking the decision to not give your child medication as she runs full speed loops through the house (and jumps up and down on the bed you aren’t prepared to leave yet). She has been screaming “bye bye car” for thirty minutes straight. And she has no actual desire to go anywhere in the car. It’s just a thing she says. A lot.

You aren’t ready for what lies ahead….but it’s not because of you, your child, or autism. In fact, you feel just fine this morning. You woke up ready for whatever life had to throw at you today. Except, you weren’t ready for the look on your partner’s face. The tone of his voice. The realization that he has woken up in that familiar place that all of us parents find ourselves in now and again. And you know exactly what it means, because you might have been there yourself just yesterday.

Some days we let it get to us. We overthink the future. We even tell ourselves lies that make us feel worse, just because we need a justification for our mood. We think, “This is my life now.” Some of us will be compelled to add the word “forever” to that thought. It might not be accurate, but we aren’t exactly in a place that accepts rational thoughts; let alone hopeful ones. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about human nature and mood. Hopefully as a partnership we take turns visiting this place so that the other one can continually offer reality checks until we snap out of it. And we will.  Continue reading

I Played Swear Football with the Best of Them

 

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My husband keeps labeled photos on his phone for Teghan. She loves to thumb through photos on our phones, and will often use this as a communication tool. Sometimes she just wants to laugh at videos of herself. The other night she found a picture of my friend’s son Jacob. She said his name and just stared at it. She looked at him for an incredible length of time.

I know she likes him a lot. She is excited when he comes over and will follow him around. She likes to sit right next to him. But what does she really think? Who is this kid to her? I have little to go on. I know when I was her age I was in love with no less than twenty boys. Twenty exactly- I even had a list. I ranked all the first grade boys by how much they impressed me romantically, and my (dreaded) list was distributed weekly.  Continue reading

Destinations

Ludington, 1982

Ludington, 1982

When I was a kid we used to camp every summer at a park in Ludington on Lake Michigan. The campsites were pretty packed together, but the beach was long and you could find plenty of isolated areas. There were also lots of trails for hiking and biking, and I liked taking my bike for long rides during the day.

One journey was particularly memorable. After exhausting all the wooded trails throughout the park, I decided to venture onto the road just outside the park. I had a little change, and figured I would find a convenience store or something.

I was maybe ten or eleven, and I had plenty of experience riding my bike along main roads. We lived in a rural area, and any destination was a pretty tiring bike ride. I often rode to a party store a few miles away, or Fort Custer had a beach that was within a (somewhat) reasonable ride. These rides pushed me to my young bike riding limits, but were totally worth it just to be at a destination. Those of you who grew up in the country know-

Any destination.  Continue reading

On This Seventh Day of August

 

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I met my husband on August 7th, 1994. It was a pretty weird day. I had recently graduated from high school, and I had made the decision to join a touring group. It was the day I left home and embarked on one of the strangest and most important journeys of my life. I don’t often talk about this part of my life; I have no idea where I would start. There was a lot of crazy packed into that journey.

My friends Josh and Mike drove me to the place I would be staying. It was a Sunday night, and they had come with me to my Grandma Hill’s house that day to say my goodbyes to my family. We arrived at my destination after dark, and were met by a kid my age named Todd. The others had all gone to the airport to pick up some other new group members, and Todd had been left the task of greeting the new girl coming by car. Josh and Todd immediately hit it off when Todd saw that Josh was wearing a t-shirt with a camp logo on it from a camp he had also gone to.

Todd showed me to my room. I hugged Josh and Mike, and spent the next hour unpacking.

And waiting.  Continue reading

Losing a Part of Our Youth in a Wisconsin Motel

1995

 

There was a brief period of time in 1995 when Dave and I were engaged to be married, but we were living in two different states. We were young. We had jobs one would expect youngsters to have. We both lived at home with our parents. We had gotten our first taste of freedom by joining a group that toured the country and required no actual independence or responsibility- and we had spent that year falling madly in love.

There was never any question that we were going to get married. Breaking up was not an option, and we were absolutely young and naive. But, to our credit- we were right to have acted on that stupidity. It’s still the best decision I ever made.

I lived in Michigan, and Dave lived in Illinois. During this time of separation, a trip was planned for a family reunion in Wisconsin, where I would meet my future father-in-law’s family. I would take a train to Chicago, where Dave and his brother would pick me up. Then we would swing by and pick up Dave’s other brother in Madison on our way to LaCrosse. Dave’s aunt and uncle owned a motel where we would all be staying.

When we arrived at the motel, they were overbooked. Dave’s sister thought it would be fun if she and I spent the night in a tent in the motel parking lot. And yes, even though I could see a nearby motel with vacant rooms, and I had cash in my pocket- that is what we did (this isn’t crucial to my story; I just needed to talk about the fact that this happened).   Continue reading

The Road from Infertility to Autism

 

Since having our daughter, I don’t think much about having a baby anymore. Do I wish we had more children? Sure. We are also very open to adoption. But I just don’t spend time thinking about it the way I once did. It’s no longer a priority in my life.

For years I remained fearful of having children. I married my husband when I was twenty years old, and I had no intention of inviting tiny people into that world before I turned thirty. I wondered how we would manage having a family on our schedule. We often went to bed after the sun came up, and setting our alarm for noon was not uncommon.

Things changed once I got a day job. Suddenly I was getting up at eight and going to bed before three… Having children seemed (a little) less intimidating. This was good, because we did want to have children. And thirty was getting closer and closer. Around the age of twenty-eight, I began thinking that it might not be so easy for me to get pregnant. So we decided to discard all birth control a little earlier than planned.

And wow how that did not make a difference.

Continue reading

Time of the Season (For Loving)

 

Something about the cooler air and changing leaves makes me feel more introspective than usual. It creates a mood, which I like. It brings up nostalgia for school days and youth, and the anticipation of what the next year might bring.

I also really like sweater weather.

Autumn is the best time of year in Michigan. Well, once we get over the fact that the last true beach day has really passed us by. But a fall sunset over Lake Michigan should not be missed, and I plan on seeing a few this month.

We all went for a walk this morning– perfect weather. Now we are settled in with our coffee, hot chocolate, and projects. I’ve got my laptop, Dave is working on some drawings, and Teghan is happily tapping on various parts of a Saved by the Bell Board Game.

The soundtrack? The Zombies….Odessey and Oracle. For some reason this record just sounds better in the early days of fall. No reason. Maybe I first liked it in October or something. I will also watch Amityville Horror at least once this month, and start drinking caramel apple cider again. It’s all part of a kind of brainwashing that doesn’t really offend me.  Continue reading

Experiencing the Wonder Years. Again.

 

The other day I decided we were all going to enjoy a marathon viewing of The Wonder Years. It had been a while since I had seen it, and there were many episodes I had not watched since they first aired. I suspect there are several installments Dave has never seen at all, since he grew up in a household without television. And while this meant it wouldn’t trigger any nostalgia for him, everyone enjoys a well-written show that stands the test of time. Except maybe Teghan, who mostly just noticed the music. But I’ll take that.

For me, on the other hand….well, I was surprised at just how nostalgic it was. Not because I remember coming of age in the late sixties– I don’t. But because in 1988, as we watched Kevin Arnold enter the seventh grade, I was also entering the seventh grade. I can still remember watching in the living room with my parents as if it were yesterday. Watching again twenty-four years later reminded me of some great moments in life that I had somehow forgotten. Specifically, junior high romance.

It’s funny how we forget things. For example, I have been lucky in love. I take it for granted most of the time. I have been in love with the same man since I was just eighteen years old, so I don’t really think much about the pursuit of love anymore. But once in a while I remember those days from before.

And not just any days. The love life of our youth is a unique and important part of anyone’s story. It is never completely forgotten. Something about the (slightly) more experienced and painful years of high school love can bury those details of junior high. But that is where it all awkwardly began.  Continue reading