Madam Librarian: At 4 P.M. yesterday, as instructed, I showed up at the Ridgefield Library, located in our daughter’s soon to be new hometown. As most continental Americans know, July 12th, 2011, was one hot day. Our daughter emerged from the library panting much like puppy dog Wags whom I had just left at home. She was accompanied by her apartment-mate and the ABD individual day coordinator who had brought our daughter from the DSO to be interviewed for a volunteer position. The first words from our daughter’s mouth were a request to get something to eat. She was hot and hungry. But the interview went well and her first day at the library is Thursday, two days off.
A Love of Books: Practically raised in our town library, and familiar with most of the libraries within a fifteen-mile radius, this was a no-brainer for our gal. One of the activities she was on board for when young, even prior to reading, was a library visit, any library, and we frequented many. Seated Indian style, with a swirl of books spread about her, head bent over dog pictures, horse pictures, cooking and reptile books, she entertained herself for hours, oblivious to the mess she was making or the folks forced to step around her. Thankfully most librarians are forgiving, and her love for libraries and books remains undiminished. The challenge of the volunteer job will reside in understanding and maintaining focus and attention on the task at hand, whatever the volunteer work entails, which for the moment remains an unknown.
PB&J and Some Cherries: On route to procuring food and drink for this ravenous and possibly dehydrated young lady, I was able to ascertain that the day was great, but the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a Ziploc of cherries for lunch hours ago had left her famished and focused on food. Seated in a local restaurant and nourished, our gal shifted into one proud and excited young lady. The second day of DSO (Day Support Options) included a music class, a visit to a supermarket to recycle bottles, art, and the addition of friends to the circle. Renzo, who apparently is actually Lorenzo, and either mom misheard or Lorenzo has a great nickname, still ranked high on the list of enjoyments but overall membership in this new group seemed to be the most appealing feature: “Mom, I’m going to this all summer, right?” Yes, summer and more. Big smile. This is familiar, a group, activities and a great leader. “I’m glad I don’t have to be in school all summer. I just want to have fun.” Hey, girls just wanna have fun!
The End of Eighteen Years of Summer School: True, these two days are fun, neither volunteer work nor school work. For 18 consecutive summers our daughter has attended school. Children with significant special needs attend five weeks of academic summer programming in a school setting to prevent “regression” or loss of newly acquired skills. Though there was always a “camp” component to the programming, both in the public school and at boarding school, it was clearly school. What joy for her to think of summer minus math and earnest, well-meaning educators hovering over her.
Glowing Like a 60-Watt Bulb: Following our meal and a trip to CVS for toothpaste without baking soda (“I don’t like the taste”) we hurried to our local supermarket to purchase “stuff.” There we ran into three different acquaintances all of whom were regaled by our daughter’s description of her new life. Emitting some pretty powerful wattage of pride and excitement reminiscent of a lightning bug on a summer night, she told folks of her pending move to Ridgefield, the apartment that reminded her of an English cottage, of her apartment-mate, her Ability Beyond Disability group (though she leaves out the ability word) and her future volunteer work. POW! Everyone got it. I love how folks pick up the threads, and join in the celebration. All these people are there to shop, get home, make dinner, feed kids, perhaps relax and go to bed. Yet they stop, listen, and show enthusiasm. I am so touched and grateful.
A Home In Two Towns: As I drove out of the parking lot I felt a surge of joy and relief. This is working. She likes it. And she can have homes in adjacent towns, her new home and the old family home, minutes from each other. What richness for a special needs young adult who is reliant on supports to have them accessible both where she is from and where she is going.
Highs and Lows: That’s how parenting goes.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011