Dearest Rachel –
It seems I owe my sister an apology. In fact, I think we both do.
The thing is, we were in over our heads in so many different areas of our life. And only now am I trying to work my way through rebuilding some of those areas that so desperately need attention.
The problem is, I think I’m trying to handle too many things at once. And while I can handle a few things at a time, those are mostly things I can do on my own, or at least by engaging professional help. The one Jenn confronted me on the other day, I don’t think I have total control over (although she insists otherwise) which led to the incident I’m about to relate.
Over these past few months, you’ve heard so many stories from me already about dealing with the dog and cleaning up the house. If you didn’t know better, you would probably think of me as being alone here, trying to deal with everything by myself.
But I’m not. As you well know.
Daniel is here too, and he misses his mother. And like me, he doesn’t know what to do about it.
The thing is, his reaction is basically the opposite of mine. While I’m doing this, that and the other thing to get my mind off of things, he is retreating to – or more to the point, remaining in – the comfort of his chair.
Look, I’m in no position to pull him away from that. I have always loved a good rocker recliner, and I have instilled that love in him in turn. But staying there to the exclusion of all else, yes, he needs to do more.
But in all my own busyness since your departure, I think I’m kind of ignoring him, and letting him do – or rather not do – as he wants.
So this past Sunday, the family got together after church services at the folks’ place for the first time in over two years. It wasn’t exactly for Daniel‘s birthday, but since next week is Father’s Day, Mom and Dad decided it would be better to celebrate this week then next, due to the change in focus.
Everything seem to go swimmingly, with them catering in make-your-own tacos from – of all places – the neighborhood sports bar on our side of town – which, in fairness, had come to them highly recommended from surveys in the regional newspaper. Our niece Joanna, now back from college for the year, was chattering a mile a minute with Daniel, and everything seemed to be well with the world, barring the obvious (but of course, there’s nothing to be done for that.)
But as the meal started to wind down, and we moved on to desert, the subject was brought up by Jenn that Daniel needs to find gainful employment – and that I need to put my foot down and make him do it.
Look, Jenn is very well-educated in the field of special education. I think the only reason she hasn’t bothered with getting her doctorate is that the time, expense and aggravation of assembling a dissertation wouldn’t result in any increase in pay. And at the same time, a doctorate would put her in the rarified world of academia, where she would no longer be able to deal directly with her the children with special needs themselves, which is her whole reason for getting into the field in the first place. Now, I may be mistaken about this assessment, but that’s how I see it.
And of course, Daniel being her nephew, she takes as a particular challenge to solve. I suppose I should be grateful that she wants to bring her knowledge and expertise to bear with regard to his situation. And I can’t argue that having a job – even a volunteer position somewhere – would give him structure to his day-to-day life that I’ve never imposed upon him, and he so desperately needs. However, the problem lies in knowing how to make him do something like this, something that he clearly does not want to do.
Now, you know that I have never been able to get either of you to do what I might have thought to be a prudent course of action. I could never get either of you to get to bed at a reasonable hour, despite attempting to set a good example of retiring at 10:30 at night, give or take an hour. I would always grow frustrated, as well, at the fact that he could never seem to get his homework done – or even started – until the very last minute (which was about the time that he would inform us of the outstanding homework, causing us to scramble to help him to get it all done in time). And then there was college, for which we set him up in the dorms for those last two years so that he would get the full experience, including associating with his peers over weekends, only to have him drive home literally. every. weekend.
Admittedly, I did not think to use any of these arguments at the dinner table with Jenn. I merely pointed out that forcing him to get a job wasn’t as simple as she seemed to think. This did not deter her; she insisted that it was a matter of simply saying “You are doing this, son, and you have no choice in the matter.”
As correct as she may be about it, this is how it came across to me:
And considering how much else I feel like I’m “just doing” already, well…
You know, I wonder if, to Mr. and Mrs. Einstein, whether Albert was always ‘their little boy,’ regardless of his accomplishments in the field of physics. I know Ben Franklin was one of the youngest sons of a very large family; I wonder what his siblings – especially the older ones – thought of his accomplishments from time to time?
But here Jenn is offering me a solution, with something of a take charge attitude, and well, I’m just not ready for it. Not from my little sister. And it’s one thing to “just do it” when it comes to doing things for myself, but it’s another completely different matter to “just force someone else to do” whatever “it” is.
Only I wasn’t as diplomatic as I should’ve been, and that’s putting it mildly. And her reaction – despite having come some time after my poorly-thought out comment – has been eating at me ever since.
The point is, I upset her, and I owe her an apology.
But apparently, she was also upset because, for all her efforts at trying to solve Daniel‘s problem, this was just one more in a series of rejections of her offers to help. It seems she has been rebuffed at every turn by you in the past.
I don’t think I’ve been privy to those conversations, so I don’t know specifically why you would refuse her help. I can make some guesses, though. I know your parents required you to do certain things that you didn’t appreciate, and you didn’t want to force those things on him, lest he resent you for them in turn. In a way, I’m dealing with that same problem right now myself. It’s possible, too, that you saw employment as primarily a means to earn money, which, thanks to your parents (and their parents), isn’t really that much of an issue for us. And then of course, there has been my experience in the workforce, which I guess we both tacitly agreed we didn’t want Daniel to have to deal with.
But he can’t – and he shouldn’t – hide from the real world forever. He has to get out there and make his way somehow. I just don’t know how to make him do it, especially when I feel like my hands are full of the things I’m changing about myself in this house all at the same time.
Which is yet another thing. There are all these changes going on, all around him, all at once. And needless to say, he’s not reacting well to them. Honestly, it stands to reason; even without his special needs, these have been a thoroughly traumatic few months for both of us. To ask him to do something else life-changing, something he doesn’t want to do, I think may be a little much just now.
But then, what do I know? I’m not the one with the degrees. I’m just the one who’s got to get him engaged in doing something, whether I know what I’m doing or not, and whether he wants to or not.
Still, for what it’s worth, I’ve gotten in touch with Maddie and Pam at church. What with VBS coming up next week, I’ve basically volunteered him to work there, hoping that one or the other of them can figure out where he could be slotted, and best do some good. It’s not the same thing as an actual job, but it’s a step in that direction, so that’s something.
Wish us luck, honey.