April, May and June of each year are full of anniversaries of some of the worst tragedies I've experienced. Some years I do better than others with those times. I've worked through the feelings, done the grief work and still sometimes my body remembers anyway. This has been one of those years for remembering things I don't usually have occasion to think about.
In April of 1976 my grandmother and mother were killed in a tornado. For some reason, this year the memories that came to me were of how my youngest son and daughter, who are very severely disabled, reacted to being left with strangers while we went to my dad after the tornado. Both of them came to me through the foster care system and never really left. I knew that when they arrived at my house. The placement was supposed to be temporary but due to their disabilities, I knew they weren't going anywhere. By the time of the tornado, they had been with me most of their lives. My daughter stayed with friends and my son had to go to Children's Medical Center. Both of them were unbelievabley difficult to care for so we were lucky to have had any options for them. Both of them were about four years old at the time.
While we were gone, one of our friends who also had a child with severe disabilities, called to tell us that our daughter had laid down in her bed with her eyes closed and would not respond, not even to eat. She said that she had been that way for three days and thought we should come back. So my husband jumped in the car and went back. When he got there, he just picked her up. She immediately opened her eyes. He fed her and held her and when she was back to herself, he returned to my dad's. Apparently, she did fine after that. She just needed the reassurance that we had not left her forever.
When we returned from being with my dad, I picked our son up from Children's Medical Center. He was very quiet on the way home. I carried him into the house and set him down on the kitchen floor just inside the back door. He immediately lay down on the floor and began to cry softly. He just lay there for almost an hour, crying softly - I think with relief because he was finally home. He too probably thought he had been deserted forever.
Both of these two are now 40 years old and I am always aware of my responsibility for them. for the past 20 years they have lived with roommates in homes in the community with 24 hour staff assistance. Their disabilities make them vulnerable in the world and the only consistent person they have in their lives to look out for their safely and well being is me. Sometimes that responsibility is heavy and I would rather skip some of the things that need to be done. But I always remember that my daughter tried to die when she thought we had deserted her and my son could not stop crying with relief for an hour after he came home.
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