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Finding Comfort In The Storm

February 12, 2013

© 2013 Pinecone ProductionsIn all of my life I can’t say that I’ve ever been comforted by a storm, comforted in a storm, yes. It’s been raining on and off for several days now, and last night, sleep wouldn’t come easy; it didn’t come at all.  

I’d been uneasy for months now, about the unfair changes and challenges and chaos concerning my son. Thoughts of him transitioning to yet another school, with new teachers and therapists and strategies and techniques, all with the hope that this time he would be in the right soil and climate to grow.

Suddenly the raindrops that were knocking on my front door became teardrops tapping on the window of my soul;

I didn’t want to cry, I needed to, I hadn’t in a while.  I needed to cry for and about my son. I needed my tears to release and begin to wash away the ugliness and the pain and the uncertainty from my mind.  The darkened sky understood and her steady drops of rain in no way would judge me for the rush of tears that fell from my eyes.

The harder I cried, the harder it rained, as if nature itself didn’t want me to feel alone. In a remarkably peculiar way, and one that I won’t soon forget, I was held by a storm who understood my storm of emotions. I trust that both our storms will pass soon, and reveal the beauty of the sOnshine…

Seldom do I open the most intimate pages of my heart but I was again comforted by the words I penned at the time of my son’s diagnosis three years go. I share them with you now…

An unusual tear

I have cried many cries in my lifetime.   I know the childhood cry of a toddler whose apple green lollipop has fallen to the ground and bears spotted bruises of dirt on both sides.  That cry is short-lived because daddy has another lollipop is his front shirt pocket and this time it’s yellow like sunshine.

I know the slow silly sob of a teenager who checks for a dial tone every minute on the hour just to make sure the phone is working, just to make sure his call can come through. But, it’s been a floor-pacing three hours, and still no ring. That cry is short-lived too because his friend is better-looking than he is anyway. And tomorrow she’ll make sure that she tells him so.

I know the cry of a young woman leaving home to attend college thousands of miles away in a land where she knows no one, not even herself. It’s a controlled pre-meditated tear that falls from one eye and is dried by her father’s handkerchief which he keeps in his front shirt pocket, right behind the endless supply of lollipops.

I know the cry of a bride whose love has vowed to an eternal journey, hand in hand, no matter the storm…no matter the storm.

But this is an unusual tear.  I’ve never seen its’ shape before. No tear I’ve cried has carried this down-pour of heat like that of a southern summer sun baking freshly poured tar. This cry chokes the very air from the room.


Who knew you could hear if you weren’t breathing. Her voice sounds like a train whistle in the distance but I can’t tell if it’s approaching or if its’ already passed. All I can do is cry this unfamiliar tear.

“Mr. and Mrs. James we know so much more than we did even five years ago. With continued therapy, children like your son have a chance at a better life. Children like your son…”

“His name is Grant”, I said in an attempt to stop the statistical language that was beating my thoughts with data.

Grant Raphael. We liked that name. It carried an unmistakable authority that caused your mouth to move intentionally whenever you said it.  Our son Grant hit every milestone with ease. Rolling from his back to his tummy sparked a genuine curiosity that led to sitting up.  Sitting up led to pulling up, and then came the crawl.  We were pleased that he learned to quickly travel on all fours.

But there was a hint of dissatisfaction in his big brown eyes.  He seemed quite insulted with the small returns of crawling, and decided to place a larger investment of his time into the art of walking. Soon after his decision, he walked.

But it was his voice, or lack of, that caused alarm.  He babbled the normal da-da-da, and sounded the infamous baby, “uh-oh,” but those heart-warming phrases slowly faded until there was nothing at all. He would lead us by the hand and point to what he wanted, or more often than not, try to get it himself.  The piercing screams of frustration and the sudden burst of tears were no less than heart-breaking.  These unfamiliar tears were becoming all too familiar, and once again, I felt the boiling water in my eyes.

“There are many programs for Grant, and many support groups for parents with children who have Autism.”

There is the sound of the train whistle again.  This time, I know it’s approaching.  This time, I know without question, our journey has just begun.

“Thank you,” said my husband scooping his handsome 34-month old name sake into his arms, “Wave good-bye Grant.”

The picture of the three of us walking from the psychiatrist office to the front door was framed in silence.

We touched the double glass doors and flung them open and in the same moment exhaled the very breath we’d been holding for months. The outside air was much kinder and found us in a family embrace. We hugged deeply…  I was on Grant’s left side and Raphael on his right.  He was sandwiched by the two people who loved him most. He tolerated our desperate need to hold him, but only for a few seconds before remembering the freedom his two legs brought him.

Over the next year, our schedule would bear a cumbersome load.  There would be therapists in and out of our home, speech and language camps, ABA Therapy, evaluations and assessments, summer school and regular school, IEP meetings, and finally, much needed respite programs.  From the beginning, though non-verbal, Grant’s brilliance awed his network of people. Exhibit A: The countless broken spaghetti noodles around the house that he patterned after the slender gold keys that unlock bedroom doors. The broken noodles were the exact length of the model. He must have laughed to watch mom and dad scratch their heads knowing good and well that at some point, the door was indeed locked. Exhibit B: The nearby calculator he placed by the television so that when Deal or No Deal came on, he could try to match the numbers on the screen.

The end of this year finds an almost four year old Grant walking in his own rhythm. He spells his name using magnetic letters, he counts to ten using vowel sounds, he sorts his shapes and colors, he knows the beats of his favorite nursery rhyme songs, and he puts puzzles together, without assistance, almost every time. He is using his proven keys to unlock life’s most challenging doors.

I’ve cried many cries in my lifetime.  Now I know the rain refreshing cry of a mother who loves and believes in her son much deeper than words…can say.

Originally  Published  in “Scenes  From The Rear View Mirror: Selections from the Work of 12 Lowcountry Memoir Writers”  © 2010

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Shelli Quenga permalink
    February 12, 2013 3:11 pm

    The second reading was no less challenging than the first time I read the story of Grant’s diagnosis. It is gut wrenching, maybe more so now because I love your family more now than I did those few years ago. And maybe because I’ve recently been going through some rather gut wrenching events in the lives of my own children, both neuro-typical and ASD. The journey of parenting and loving someone so thoroughly is unmatched in soaring joy and crushing heartbreak. I am thankful for your invitation to journey with you. Good company improves all experiences.

    • February 12, 2013 6:39 pm

      Shelli, You were one of the first and few who I asked to read this three years ago. You heard and read with your heart then as you do now. Thank you so much for that. For every support you’ve given through word and deed and contact, you have enabled us to journey on and become better able to succeed!

  2. February 12, 2013 11:15 am

    As always, Sarena James has used her remarkable talent with words to show others that there is hope. To be comforted BY a storm is unusual indeed. Sarena has expressed to us that there is no shame in releasing those tears that too often are locked inside of us. Oh, I can only imagine the verbal pictures that this writer will paint to describe her son’s journey once it is over! Write on, Sarena. You are helping so many people to believe!

    • February 12, 2013 6:35 pm

      FC: Sincerest of thank you’s for your uninterrupted support on a journey that’s been quite unpredictable. Thank you for seeing the sOnshine on the cloudiest of days.

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