Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Empty Nester/Retirement (from work) (09/10/09)
TITLE: In the Middle
By Margaret Villanueva
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I have another friend named Roxanne. Roxanne and her husband will never have an empty nest. They are both in their seventies, but their 34-year-old son, Joshua, still lives with them. Josh has Down’s Syndrome, and he will never be able to fully take care of himself. He is a beautiful boy with a heart full of love, but he functions on about a 2nd grade level, and so they knew early on that it would be impossible to expect Josh to ever be independent. They are great parents, though. They don’t complain, at least not to me. They include him in every part of their life that is possible, and they often do things together, like going to the beach or the park. Josh’s spirit is so innocent and free—it is beautiful to see. Of course, Roxie and her husband worry. Will the plans that they have carefully made for Josh so that he can live in a group home and be well cared for after their deaths be sufficient? Will he receive the same loving care after their deaths that they have given him all these years? He has no brothers or sisters, so he will be entrusted to an institution—a great one, carefully researched, but an institution nonetheless. Day to day, though, they try not to think about it. They are thankful for the time that they have with Josh and they live each day with him rejoicing in his innocence and purity. I am amazed at their peace in this situation. They tell me that it didn’t come easily.
I believe them. I am not like them. It doesn’t come easily to me, probably because I’m at a different place. My son, Jamie, is seventeen. He is autistic, high functioning, with something called Asperger’s Syndrome. He functions well on a day-to-day basis, but we aren’t sure if he can function independently. Things that he should know by now: how to take a bus, how to cook simple meals, how to pick up after himself—haven’t yet been learned. Learning to drive a car hasn’t been discussed for years, but he doesn’t seem to care. On the other hand, he is very intelligent, and his therapists all say that he has great potential. So I guess you could say that at age 52, I am in the middle. I’m not looking towards being an empty nester, because I don’t know if I ever will have that opportunity. I don’t think of a life caring for my son, frankly, because part of me is afraid that if I do that, I’ll give up and just make it happen. So while others my age begin their walk down the path toward freedom and independence, I stay behind and wonder what my future will be. Will I be alone, a widow with married and grown children? Will I be a caretaker mother to an adult child with autism? I don’t know, and neither does Jamie.
There is no easy end to this piece. I wish that I could say that I have reached a place of peace and trust in my future. I haven’t. I don’t know what my life will be like, and I worry about the expense and work of caring for a grown son. But I do know that God is in control, even if it sometimes doesn’t feel like it. So Jamie and I wait and pray, and we hope that in the years to come we will live separate lives. But even if we don’t, I know that in the years to come, God will provide a way. Somehow.
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