Atypical

Have you seen the Netflix series Atypical? My husband and I watched the first three episodes last night and we are both in love. We are both in admiration and appreciation anyway; I’m probably alone in declaring love at first sight. The series chronicles a family whose teenage son has autism, whose teenage daughter is both begrudgingly and lovingly, fiercely protective of him, and the relationship of the parents as they ride the whitewater rapids of life with a child whose disability makes parenting and marriage more challenging than it might otherwise be.

Elsa, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, becomes especially troubled as her son decides he wants a girlfriend. She defines herself as “Sam’s mom,” his strongest, most intense advocate, and finds as her son is maturing, his need for her control over every variable in his life is diminishing. She is a control freak who thinks she has done all of the right things to help her son find his way in his world. Maybe she has, probably she has, but he’s reaching out in new directions, toward more sophisticated horizons. She is struggling, unsure of her very identity absent her starring role in her son’s life.

I love the character Sam, the eighteen-year-old protagonist, I adore his father, and his big sister, Casey, is simply freaking amazing! As we were watching last night, I asked my husband if he recognized shades of me in the character of Elsa (*spoiler alert* minus her dalliance with the hot, waaaaay too young bartender because obviously I’m not combing the bars seeking that type of attention). To his everlasting credit, my husband responded instantly sporting an expression of utter confusion: um, no, you’re not at all like her.

When I began blogging, my son’s diagnosis of muscular dystrophy was all I could think about. All. I. Could. Think. About. MD became my full time job; my coronation as Empress of My Son’s Diagnosis was immediate. I GET Elsa. I get who and why and how. (Though I don’t get the hot bartender fling, but I’m only a few episodes in, so I hope she does right. Five more episodes will tell that tale.)

I get how easy to define oneself, myself, as that mom could be.

But I hope I haven’t. I would hate to wake one morning to discover I occupy but one dimension.  Being an attentive mom is my full-time job, but I also want my children to see the many facets of my personhood, to grasp that their mom is the sum of her parts. I’m a mom all day, every day, sure. It’s the biggest gig I’ll ever get.  But it’s not my only duty.  I’m a goofball wife and loyal friend.  Nine months out of the year I am a baseball mom. I’m responsible for the success of many speech-language pathologists. I’ve got this knucklehead dog I am crazy about.  I like to cook, I’m a big fan of this one band I travel all over to see, I’m an avid reader.  But yeah.  I am the voice of muscular dystrophy in our household.  I sincerely hope that my children see me as more than that mom.  You’ll tell me if I begin to slink down that rabbit hole, won’t you?

Watch Atypical.  Not because I’m telling you to, but because it’s excellent, and it provides a world view with which most of you are unfamiliar.  The world is filled with perspectives; this provides a good one.

Happy New Year

In other news, it’s almost 2018.  I’m squishy sentimental over all these year-end retrospectives and the promise of the baby new year.  Receipt of a billing statement last week reminded me that I begin many a tale here, but lack follow through.  So, though I make no resolutions at the dawn of any new year, I resolve to resolve a few items here.  Clean slate and all just in time for the new year.

Go, Huskies!

Number One Son met the entrance criteria and was accepted at his top high school choice.  He’s a Husky!  Just this past Monday, after months of groundwork, seemingly endless waiting, and the anxiety of delayed notifications, he received his acceptance letter into Ronald Wilson Reagan College Preparatory High School.  I’ve not seen my son so proud of himself in well, ever. He did the entrance work, but the real work lies ahead. He’s going to work harder than he has ever known academically, and says he is up to the challenge. Proud mom.

Insurance Fail

I was royally unsuccessful in my bid to persuade Great Benefit Insurance Company to cover my son’s brain spectroscopy last summer. Despite consultation between our neurology clinic, the hospital’s billing department, and my insurance company, we ended up stuck with the entirety of the not insignificant balance. I still feel a little pukey when I think about it, but the money is gone. I’m over it.

Un-Broken

One broken collarbone, one Little League shoulder, and one rotator cuff injury later, 67% of our injured family is healing as expected. I have come to grips with the fact that I will never be made whole again. A Cortisone injection followed by months of physical therapy was tremendously helpful, but not a 100% repair for my shoulder.

I head into the new year not with resolutions, but with resolve to remain in good health. It would be extremely easy to give in, trace an easier path, and waste away in front of a television, inert. But I am better than that, and I encourage you to be better than that too. Do something fun. Do something a little dangerous. Do something just a little bit outside your comfort zone. Do something to show the ones you love you’re more than the one thing you’re best known for. Defy what defines you. Be a little atypical.

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A Very Long Needle Inserted A Very Long Time

Six weeks of impatience, little sleep, and no small amount of pain have passed.  Ninety eternal minutes in the orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room prior to being seen culminated in an eight minute appointment and a road, only somewhat twisted, to recovery.

Confident upon arrival after having sat on the sidelines for almost two months, my bravado faded proportionate to my time elapsing in the waiting room.  Injuries associated with age and overuse can suck it.  I was one of the younger patients waiting, and people, let me tell you, getting old, like elderly old?  It is slow.  And loud,  And confusing.  I hate myself for seeking comfort through humor, but I felt anxious, so I began texting my friends (you wish they were your friends too)  a waiting room narrative.  I’ll share but a few highlights here.  Let’s just say that being a smart ass and falling out with nervous, inappropriate laughter seems to be the way I’m going to ride off into the sunset. Or hell if such a place exists.    


I just ached for the elderly woman so confused and upset over the foamy hand sanitizer. And the man who so loudly commandeered the rest room? Not funny at all now, really. Age and pain can strip one of one’s dignity right quick.  It’s rare that I’m the young’un anywhere anymore, and pain makes you do stupid things.  Me?  I laugh.  We’re hilarious, just ask us.  We are. 

The surgeon entered my examination room, and opened with, “I can’t tell you how much money is saved by my having a busy schedule.  You’re healing already, and I didn’t have to order an MRI to assist in the diagnosis.”  I was feeling more like, “Hi, I’m Wendy, pleasure to meet you, and my shoulder fucking hurts, man” but a surgeon’s instinct is to cut, literally and figuratively it seems, so there was no time for chit chat.  He cranked my shoulder around, I cried just a little because pain, and within minutes of making our acquaintance, he injected cortisone into my rotator cuff, and sent me off with a prescription for physical therapy.  Voila!  Au revoir!

I’d heard others sing of their miracle cortisone injections, so I too thought I’d be healed instantly as if Christ himself had laid hands.  Somehow even after almost five whole decades, I remain a total rube.  The needle covered the length of my pinky finger, but I’m tough, and the ninety minutes in the waiting room sapped me of any resolve I strode in with.  Just bring it on.  Immediately prior to and during its insertion was the time period in which Dr. Cortisone revealed his bedside manner, cracked wise a bit, and confirmed for me that I am in fact, pretty tough.  Injecting the drug, the actual push of the needle, felt minutes long instead of the probably forty seconds it was in real time, but a few days out, I do have increased range of motion.  I’m not back to normal (save your “normal” joke, thank you very much), but the trajectory is arcing up.

A new single titled Lookin’ Up was released this week, and I can’t help but feel buoyed by the Barenaked Ladies’ timing.  I am lookin’ up.  Even though I’m lookin’ down the barrel of a very large, very round birthday, there’s something positive on the horizon.  For example, now that I can attach my bra and apply deodorant without that familiar wince and accompanying tears, I could probably try to scrub the kitchen floor.   Oh yeah, that’s lookin’ up right there, y’all.

 

I Couldn’t Stand Being Left Out

I mentioned last week that I didn’t believe I had substantively much to offer here these days.  I’m saving my blogself for “The Road Trip” which is to commence in T-minus three days.  After rerouting no fewer than fifty-three times, at last our hotels are booked, activities planned and purchased where that could be done prior to arrival, and Caleb the Wonderdog has visited his day care provider, AKA my husband’s brother and his family, to acclimate.  *pleasedon’twreckalltheirshitpleasedon’twreckalltheirshitpleasedon’twreckalltheirshit* 

I’m 82.4% certain that this adventure is going to be pretty cool, and only 17.6% (but often it feels exactly like 100%) that my failure will go down in the annals of family history as epic.

I’ve dubbed 2017’s summer The Summer of Appointments.  I cannot recall two consecutive days where I haven’t trotted one or both children to a symphony of piano lessons, a dentist, orthodontist, orthopedic surgeon, pediatrician, emergency room, physical therapist, imaging department, or sports medicine specialist appointment.  And that doesn’t even include baseball practice or games, and my children do NOT maintain freakishly overscheduled lives.  Despite having been fitted for an orthodontic retainer of my very own at MY AGE, I must have been feeling neglected, left out.  I wanted my very own orthopedic injury.  Kid #1 has a broken collarbone and Kid #2 has that separation in his bone growth plate, but what about me??  I want to be like the cool kids.  Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa, I want an Oompa Loompa right now!

Somehow I’ve destroyed my rotator cuff.

And yeah, I say “somehow” because I have not the slightest inkling how the injury occurred, aside from just being old(er).  Naturally I blame the dog for having pulled fiercely when I walked him, because he’s a total jerk on his purple leash, and only walks decently, OK, really, like a canine prince on his Weiss Walkie leash.  His misbehavior is the most likely culprit, legit.  In the runner-up spot for destroying my shoulder is yoga, but I do not believe that my centering has taken me this far off-center.  I don’t.  I don’t know how I wake up one day having lost the capacity to move, but who am I to argue with nature?  It hurts.  Like makes-me-cry hurts when I engage in certain angles of movement.  Getting old and overuse is Bachelor #3 for etiology, but I just don’t wanna go there. Crap. 

A short list of things rendered excruciating by a wrecked rotator cuff:

  1. Sleeping.  Holy shit you guys, what I wouldn’t do to sleep on my side or belly.  Or not wake up yelping in pain.
  2. Walking the Wonderdog, although with the Weiss Walkie leash, it’s mostly OK.  I feel like the Weiss people should flip me a couple bucks for my endorsement here.  Right?
  3. Putting on or removing a bra.  I have preparatory tears as I consider retiring to bed tonight.
  4. Sitting erect.
  5. Typing on my laptop.  I hate this computer, but until this week it hasn’t inflicted physical pain, just emotional.
  6. Hold the phone.  This is not figurative language.  It hurts to hold my cell phone in my hand at the position and angle needed to you know, see it.
  7. Washing my hair (and washing the floor, but let’s not fool around here–I’m no more likely to wash the floor now than I was before).  Most hygiene tasks are complicated–shaving my underarms or applying deodorant leap to mind–and if you think that’s too much information, clearly you are new here.  Welcome. How are ya?
  8. Cutting food with a knife and stirring.  Also, cutting pizza hurts like hell.
  9. Eating.  But I like to eat, so I suck it up.
  10. Pretty much extending my arm more than about 40 degrees in any direction, crossing midline, raising my arm, and moving my neck to the left.  Super for driving. And being.

I’m a quirky kind of ambidextrous.  I consider myself a lefty because I write and eat with my left hand; I also bat and play tennis left-handed.  But I throw with my right hand, cut food with my right when I eat (but when I prepare food, the chef’s knife is in my left), and I use a right-handed scissors.  What I do with one hand I absolutely cannot do with the other though. Drat my quirky.  It’s my left shoulder that’s jacked up, so my body is so confused.  And so, so tired.  I’d donate my spleen to sleep longer than three connected hours. Do you even need a spleen?  Like a lot?

Boo-hoo, Wendy, put on a brave face, load up with ibuprofen, and keep moving.  I am.  Like my firstborn, I am badass with pain.  At my husband’s insistence however, I made an appointment with my general practitioner yesterday.  I say my husband made me, but when I am willing to go see a medical professional for myself, you know I’m one step from the grave.  I don’t go to the doctor unless it’s categorically necessary.  Quirky one, right here.  But I went, was sent for x-rays, and referred to an orthopedic/sports med doc of my very own.  My appointment with the orthopedist?  September 14.  I’ll be paralyzed or have descended into madness from lack of sleep by then, so I’m gonna have to trust WebMD for all my physical therapy needs.  (Also, I’m gonna totally possibly hijack my son’s PT appointment this morning and inundate my ballplayer’s therapist with “hypotheticals” about rotator cuff injuries which are totally in line with pitcher’s rehabs, so my questions won’t sound completely out of left field. It’ll be our little secret though, OK?)

After a star-studded June and July, the Explanation of Benefits statements from our health insurance carrier have begun to roll in, and give it up for Wendy! I only snot-cried like once.  I don’t get paid again until mid-September, such is the life of a public educator, so I’m not all summer eager-beavery about all the checks I am going to have to write.  The Summer of Appointments price tag will run upwards of $4,000 out of pocket.  Maybe that’s not a king’s ransom for you, in which case, you’re quite fortunate.  It’s not going to bankrupt us, but I can’t say it doesn’t sting.  Oh, and I have “good” insurance.

As I checked into my imaging appointment yesterday, the receptionist informed me that they required a $50 co-pay prior to my admittance, and the facade cracked.  The guy next to me was yelling at the woman checking him in about not broadcasting his address (you know how they ask you questions just specific enough to confirm you’re who you purport to be? “And Mrs. Weir, you still live on South Sesame Street?” or “Your phone number ends in 7777?”), and I needed a moment.  Just a quick moment to collect myself.  My eyes prickled from pain, but also from that feeling of “Stop it, weird over-reacty guy! I just want to get out of here, stop yelling at her!” I stared intently into my purse, searching for please-don’t-cry-right-this-second.  Found it!

I’m down, but not out. Never out. I’m the mom, ain’t no time for pain. I got some great mail this week, and mail you can touch and hold from a friend who always seems to know just what you need never fails to buoy my spirits. And my shoulder. 

In my mind, my two sons and I are lined up á la those see/hear/speak no evil monkeys, except we’re bandaged, casted, and splinted. I’m the short, hunched over one in the center.  A modern day visage of Larry, Moe, and Curly, us three.