It was Everything

Lil D using the flippers on his hands.

On our sixth (fifth, or was it the seventh? Who knows? I’ve given up counting) snow day, when it was deemed too unsafe for busses to drive kids to school but I could drive and other desperate parents who needed to get to work or just get their kids out of the house could drive – I pulled my car out onto our unshoveled driveway and uttered a prayer out loud:

Please God. Please. Please. Please. Please. Throw me a bone. Let him enjoy this. Let him have a good time. Let things go smoothly. Let it be good. Let it be good. Good. Be good. Please. Do this for me. I need this. He needs this. I need this.

Our therapist had come by earlier (I’m down for home therapy, he texted to me. Are you and Lil D? Yes! Yes! Do come over!), and we made a plan to take Lil D to the pool.

The pool has usually been a winner for Lil D, but nothing is ever for sure with him. The actual pool time may go well but the transition out can be horrible. You never really know. Oh, there can be some indications, but you never really know which way it’s going to go.

Up until two, maybe three months back, one of our therapists had a regular weekly pool date with Lil D. It was our way of combining something that supposed to fun with some time spent in the community.

The gym we go to has been super cool about things, allowing Lil D’s therapist to accompany him, even though he isn’t in our family membership plan. And, though there have been meltdowns, the gym has never made us feel unwelcome.

But the last pool visit 2-3 months back ended with an epic meltdown of a disaster – one that left our cool-as-a-cucumber and infinitely loving and tough therapist shaken. He, who has served in the Marine Corps, who has seen and helped (and been on the receiving end of) Lil D through some pretty epic meltdowns and self-injurious behavior, who has handled with respect, grace and strength the best and the worst Lil D has done, came back from that pool visit saying things he had never said before:

That wasn’t safe. That wasn’t good. That went badly.

When Lil D started getting upset that day in the pool, his therapist assessed the situation and guided him out to the family dressing room. There, all hell broke loose.

The details shared left me shaken and upset to my very core. The horrible aftermath of that pool visit was visible all over Lil D’s body. And I knew we needed a better way of doing things. Both Lil D and his therapist needed a safer way.

So, we decided to nix the pool visits for some time. I wish to God that I could realize certain truths in foresight rather than hindsight. Like in the winter, a fast exit out of the gym’s pool is impossible because bodies must be fully dried and clothed (whereas in the summer if things get escalated, Lil D and his therapist can just walk out of there in their wet swimsuits. and it doesn’t matter).

And you need to have a fast exit in any situation with Lil D. It has to be an option.

We also decided that when we felt Lil D was ready and willing to go back to the pool, there had to be two adults present, especially in winter months.

So yesterday, when his therapist offered to come over, and I was desperate to find something for Lil D to do outside of the home, I broached the idea of the pool.

And his therapist, God bless him, was eager to try it again, given that I would be coming along.

They went ahead in his car, and I followed, uttering my prayer as I pulled out of our garage.

Lil D and his therapist in the pool.

At the gym, I walked in and the girl behind the front desk, who knows our family well by now, gave me a thumbs up. You’re fine. They’re in the pool – go right in.

And there they were, splashing and playing. Lil D had flippers on his hands and an intermittent smile on his face. Sometimes he allowed his therapist to come close and interact with him, and at other times he pushed him away, asking for his own space.

He jumped off the ladder into the deep end and came up splashing and happy.

Happy.

I sat there poolside and watched – happy because he was happy. And as much as I’ve struggled not to rely on his happiness for my happiness, to be able to find my happiness in the myriad of other good things I am blessed with in my life, to recognize all God has given me, I still find myself relying on Lil D, on others, to find my smile.

And the truth is — I have been in a funk of late. A snippy, mopey, resentful, ungrateful funk over a thousand irrational and rational things. I’m struggling to find my inward happiness because I am upset over so many outwardly things – things I can’t even explain, things I feel ashamed to explain given all that is so good around me. I need to get past this.

And so I sat there and watched Lil D in the pool having a good time. And I watched him transition calmly out of the pool, get dressed, and then wait patiently with me while his therapist got dressed.

Then they went off to get a snack, and I went home.

It was the smallest God-given victory.

But it was everything.

About Dilshad Ali

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