An Embarrassment

In my last post I talked about a power outage in our neighborhood this past week. About a half hour after the power went out I heard a knock on my front door. It was my next door neighbor, Kathy, wanting to know if the power was out at my house. I told her it was and told her I called the power company and found out the estimated time for restoring our power was going to be about two hours. She thanked me and said she just wanted to be sure it wasn’t just something wrong at her house.

I met Kathy a few days after Bill, Shantel, and I moved into our home which has been almost 2 1/2 years ago. At that time Kathy told me she has lived in her home since it was new, and that her husband passed away two years before we moved here. She said she takes care of her grandson, Alex, and explained to me that Alex has Autism. Kathy stands out in front of her house everyday with Alex waiting for the special needs bus to pick him up to take him to school. Alex always has a headset on and will  pace back and forth constantly while waiting for the bus to arrive. At the end of the school day, Kathy will be waiting out front of her house again for Alex to arrive home. Since our initial introductions when we first moved here, Kathy will say hello when she sees me but other than that she pretty much keeps to herself. So I was surprised that she came over to ask me about the power outage.

While I was telling Kathy what the power company told me about the power outage and estimated time for restoring service, I noticed Kathy looking at the tile on our living room floor. She said she loved that tile and that she had looked in our house as it was being remodeled prior to us buying our home and the first thing she noticed was our beautiful tile. I invited Kathy in and said I would show her the house if she liked. She was hesitant at first but did come in and walked to the kitchen and family room. She told me she loved how I have decorated our home and was very impressed with our new sofa and rocking chair in the family room. I asked Kathy if she would like to sit down, but she said she couldn’t stay. She looked around and asked me where Shantel was and said she hadn’t seen the dial-a-ride cab bringing her home anymore. I explained that Shantel had moved out in May and was now in her own apartment. Kathy wanted to know if Shantel had roommates and I told her no, she lives alone. I told her I talk to Shantel everyday and I go over once or twice a week to help her get groceries or run errands. Then Kathy asked me if Shantel was completely blind. I told her Shantel lost both her eyes to cancer just before she was two. Kathy asked me if Shantel was adopted and I told her she was and that her biological mother is my oldest daughter.

As I was talking to Kathy I noticed she was beginning to get a little emotional. Then Kathy just opened up and started telling me all about her grandson, Alex. She said her only daughter gave birth to Alex, but Kathy has been caring for Alex since he was seven weeks old. Kathy said at first her daughter would come and see Alex from time to time, but never really spent any real quality time with him at all. Kathy said she thought it was just a temporary phase her daughter was going through and that she would eventually settle down and want to raise her son.

As time passed Kathy said she began to notice Alex was not developing normally. He wasn’t doing the “normal” things other children his age were doing. His speech was very slow in developing and he had a lot of difficulty staying focused on anything even for short periods of time. Kathy asked her daughter to take him to a doctor to be evaluated but her daughter told Kathy she didn’t have time and told Kathy to find someone to look at Alex. Kathy took Alex to several doctors and all the doctors said the same thing. Alex has Autism and he is going to need constant supervision for the rest of his life. Kathy told me when she called her daughter to tell her what the doctors said, her daughter said “well, you can just keep him because he is an embarrassment to me and I don’t want any more to do with him.” Kathy said she didn’t say anything to her daughter, but she was thinking by her daughter saying that about her own son, her daughter is an embarrassment to her…! I told Kathy she is a much better woman than I, because keeping my thoughts to myself in a situation like that has never been my strong point!

By now Kathy was in tears and told me she worries constantly what will happen to Alex when she is  no longer able to take care of him. I was very surprised when Kathy told me she is seventy-four years old (she certainly doesn’t look her age to me) and that she doesn’t have any other family members around to help her with Alex. I asked her how old Alex was and she told me he is just sixteen. Kathy asked me if I worry constantly about Shantel and I told her I do, but I know Shantel can care for herself, and I do have family and friends that would help her if she needed help and Bill and I were not around.

I wanted to talk to Kathy about looking into a group home that Alex could live in once he was out of school but I could see that particular day was not the right time to even mention that. I know of another boy with Autism and his parents (they were a little older as well ) made that arrangement for him so he could adjust to the home while they were still able to check in on him to be sure he was being cared for properly.  At last report, that boy was doing well and enjoying his life.

My heart aches for Kathy, and all mothers who love and care for all the precious, precious, children with special needs. No one but another mother of a child with special needs can truly understand the pure joy these children bring into our lives, or the piercing heartaches sometimes endured. These special mothers are always in my thoughts and prayers.

Stay Tuned!

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gotham girl
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 15:10:15

    There are a lot of special mothers in this world and let me tell you…YOU are one of them! xoxo


  2. Ellen Kaufman
    Aug 23, 2014 @ 23:24:27

    That is so sweet Virginia of you taking time to talk with her. So many Mothers and Grandmothers who are handed this responsibility are sure to have a special place in heaven and you are one of them.


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