I went up to Cheshire and Justin’s house on Wednesday with the promise of holding Wilbur for an hour or two. Two weeks old and not spending too much time with eyes open. He had a doctor’s appointment earlier in the day and it tired him out. He nestled in my arms, moving his extremities the way a new baby does—random and without purpose. Amazing how dear such movements can be. And I cannot help but remember when his mother was that age and we brought her home to First Avenue in the East Village.
All is well at Wilbur’s house. Baby sleeping in adequate chunks of time; his bodily functions all working at full tilt. When else is farting charming? He has a good suck, fills his diaper regularly and cries in protest every time his little body is without clothes. Mama and Papa are content, and not as exhausted as I remember being.
Driving from my house to theirs, the Autumn tease of the last few weeks has turned into full on Fall. No more practice time. The season shows off its extravagant colors and I cannot help but declare how this is my favorite season of all. Please disregard all previous statements about Spring and Summer, and my love for the first snow fall. Today, the equinox, equal day and night, and almost time for witches’ brew.
Two Fridays ago, a few days after Wilbur was born and after Julia started her last semester of school related services, Julia had an interview at Gateway Arts, a day program for people with disabilities who want careers in art. To secure that interview, I had coaxed and prodded the director of the program and Julia’s DDS counselor for almost a year.
And the interview was awful.
Y, Julia’s Inclusion Facilitator from Community Connections (“CC”), and I tried the best we could to get Julia ready and to make her feel comfortable. But we failed. I don’t know how we could have done better.
We tried mock interviews but Julia was not amenable to the idea. She brought some of her art into CC during the week. Different people talked to her and asked questions. Some of that worked. A bit.
Julia wanted someone to go into the interview with her but asked that I not be that someone. So, I asked Y to go with her and she met us at the studio in time to be at the interview with Julia.
Julia was asked to bring art work with her and she picked more than I think was necessary. Knowing nothing about portfolios—not that she has a portfolio—I let her bring what she wanted as long as there wasn’t too much repetition.
We arrived early by ten minutes which seemed like a comfortable amount of time but once we went upstairs to the studio, they had us wait twenty minutes beyond our appointment time. The was not good for Julia. She sat on a little piano bench in a hallway and her anxiety soared. She not so quietly stormed around the space and complained—she didn’t want to be there, she wanted to go to college (she has never said that before), this place was boring, she didn’t want to be stuck here. She refused to be distracted by talking about Wilbur and her visit with him the day before or talking about the best parts of her summer. By the time the interviewer took her “back” to look at her art, she was loud voiced and agitated.
And from what Y told me later, it went downhill from there. Julia refused to talk about her work, refused to respond to anyone, and no one interviewing her attempted to try to make her more comfortable. It was after hours in the studio. No artists were there; no art was being made. Supplies were cleaned up and put away. During the tour of the facility, Julia voiced that she was bored and did not want to be there.
After it was over, Y and I just wanted to get ourselves and Julia out of the building. The best that Y could say was that Julia was not aggressive and she did not talk about self-harm. And in the end, we went home, watched some violent dragon movie—her choice not mine—and ate popcorn.
And let it all go.
I need to add, without trying to cast blame, I felt she had been set up to fail. The wait, the empty studio, the lack of warmth in the interviewer, how could she succeed? Julia does not have the social tools to make the best of an unfriendly situation, she hardly has the social tools to make the best of a good and supportive situation.
And so, I was not surprised when I heard from Y who heard from the DDS counselor that Gateway did not accept Julia. Not surprised, but still shattered. This is one of two arts related day programs in the area. (The other does not answer my email or phone calls.) For so long now, I have hoped and held onto my prayer that Julia would make art as an adult. For anyone who might say she can make art at home in her free time, I say, she might, but she will not, without training and focus do more than sketch in notebooks or paint canvases when the mood strikes her. For anyone who might say that other programs might allow clients to make some art, I say that stringing beads or coloring or playing with clay is not making art. Letting go of the idea of art programming is not easy for me.
And so, I am back to square one, back to the drawing board, without passing GO, without collecting $200. What will Julia do on January 16, when she turns 22 and can no long be served in the public school? I want Julia in a full day program—she needs the stability, people to see and form relationships with, I need my days to be an adult in an adult world. From what I hear, there are very few programs with availability because of staffing shortages and some lingering covid restrictions. I’ve been advised to learn about and utilized the DDS Self Directed Services where the client, but in reality the parent, gets funding to put a program together themselves. Right now, this sounds like a nightmare although I expect to get working on it next week. My biggest fear is that come January 16, Julia will be at home with me full time except for a few hours of programming a week to which I will drive her. And life will be a bit too similar to the long months of Covid shut down.
Give me a few days and I will pull out of this slump.
And something else. Something that I’ve refrained from writing about because it was so new and unsure, but it occupies my mind, intrudes into my days and shows up in my journaling. To continue to refrain from writing about it feels disingenuous.
A bit over two months ago, I began seeing someone. Even writing this down here feels very daring. Dangerous even. I don’t quite know yet where we are going; however, we appear to be going somewhere together. His life experience differs sharply from mine. His passions do not touch mine, although we both seem willing to find common ground. We both seem willing to listen. We both have complicated lives and I don’t yet see how these lives can fit together, but even contemplating fitting together is exciting. And for the record and right now, he makes me very happy. And it has been a long time since I’ve been happy.