There was a time in my past, that time when Fartbuster started making a real effort to be happier. He got contact lenses. He started working out. Bought some new clothes and experimented with hair products. I found myself saying, “He’s getting better. He’s taking care of himself.” Duh! He exhibited every cliched sign of a cheating man–right down to the lipstick on his collar. Once the lies came to the surface, I sat all alone in the ruins of my life and said, “How could I have missed this?” I was so ashamed that someone had fooled me like that. How could I have been so stupid?
There was a time in my past, that time when Richard couldn’t seem to shake that cold. He had no energy. Sometimes, he’d spike a fever. He finally went to the doctor but the doctor said it was bronchitis. The antibiotics didn’t clear it up but it was the end of the semester so he was feeling exhausted anyway. That was probably all it was. His grandmother died and he felt low. He had bruises, but said they were from skiing…back in March? And now it was May? Then there was that blood vessel that burst in his eye and didn’t get better during two weeks of vacation. His vision began to cross so he finally went to an ophthalmologist who thought there was a chance he had a retinal bleed. When Richard mentioned that he hadn’t been feeling himself for a while, the doctor ordered a CBC. Within 48 hours, Richard was at Johns Hopkins on the oncology ward. A few days later, our film from that vacation came back and when I saw the pictures–him resting on a driftwood tree, his legs covered in a solid swath of bruises from yellow to purple–I was so ashamed that I had “let him” walk around like that, so obviously sick. I hid the pictures. And I asked myself, “How could I have missed this?” How could I have been so stupid?
Red flags. Why didn’t I see them?
I know, I know–it was never my job to police a cheater. And I know, I know–leukemia is easy to miss in an otherwise healthy 37-year-old man who doesn’t like to go to the doctor. No one blamed me because I didn’t order a CBC right away. But because I’ve been spun sideways by a couple of doozies like these, I sometimes feel like I am just living in wait, waiting for some shoe to drop.
I thought that shoe had fallen back in December when I took my darling son in for his well visit and left with a handful of red flags. Filling out those social/verbal/motor skills inventories threw me for a loop. I thought he was independent, a free spirit….but maybe he doesn’t know how to interact with other people? I thought he talked when he wanted to talk…but he’s falling behind his peers. Where’s the line between a hard-headed little boy and a syndrome, a condition, a diagnosis? When our doctor said, “I don’t think he has autism, but let’s get him screened now that he’s three,” the first thing I asked myself was “How could I have missed this?” How could I have been so stupid?
Now it turns out that my son has some kind of language issue. I haven’t wanted to talk about it here (and as soon as I typed that, my stomach knotted up and I thought about deleting the whole thing for the 1000th time) because it’s still hazy. He’s getting speech therapy and he’s making swift progress. The doctor is encouraged. I’m encouraged. And the fact is that he’s still my baby boy, no matter what. I write about personal things here, but usually it’s things that are resolved. Lot of rear view mirror stuff on Baddest Mother Ever. Not things that are “we’ll see.”
The whole thing got me thinking about this reflex of saying, “How could I have missed this?” Because when I sat across the table from a speech therapist who says, “Yeah, he’s not making sentences,” I felt like an idiot. How could strangers be telling me something about my own son?
The same way a doctor knows how to read a CBC. It’s what they do.
Now I’m looking for red flags EVERYWHERE. I won’t be fooled again. I will figure this OUT and by sheer force of will I will……
I will accept whatever comes along.
Because that’s what I learned from the other doozies. Even if I HAD seen the red flags from Fartbuster and Richard, I couldn’t have changed anything. I can’t “fix” what happens with other people, even my own kids.
All I can do is love them where they are, how they are, who they are.
I am hopeful for Carlos. On the first day he started getting speech therapy, I picked him up and decided to spend some car time working on his conversation skills. The therapist said he needs to learn to express “Yes” and “No” and I could help him with that by asking simple questions. We also want to increase his “mean length of utterance” to an average of 3. So I asked him, “Is your name Carlos?”
His reply? “That’s funny, Mommy.”
Then he started saying his colors in Spanish–he LOVES Spanish. I pointed to my shirt and asked, “Que color?” He said, “Wojo!” I said, “Si! Mi camisa es roja!” Then he said a few more color words. I was at a stop light, so I picked up my knee and pointed to my black pants. “Que color, Carlos?” I lifted my knee higher and waggled the fabric.
He caught my eye in the rear view mirror and said, “Drive car, Mommy.”