It was brought to my attention recently, “You haven’t written on your blog lately.”
It’s true. Unfortunately, that is because there has not been much worth writing about. Nothing that most people would want to read about, at least.
Most people know by now, I did not pass the July bar exam. To put a little salt in the wound, it was by less than seven points. To pour a waterfall of hydrogen peroxide on the wound so it visibly festers, it has made looking for a job almost next to impossible, and manifests real financial worry. The well-meaning crowd has been encouraging with a light bump on the shoulder and saying, “Next time!” But there’s a little thing to get through in order to even make it to next time called “five months as a single parent.” That is five months of bills and a mortgage, none of which give a fart in space if your job search is going terribly; five months of combing job sites and cold calling for any job, even jobs that a high school kid would sooner be chosen for (like day care and babysitting, and I have plenty of experience working with children. I’ve birthed one and kept it alive. Hell, before that, I was a kid and my ex would probably say I still act like one); and the main duty: five months of trying to support a child on your own. So, if you can get through “five months,” without losing your credit score and wallet, you’ll make it to “next time.”
The bar exam can be – and actually is – a rant all on its own, and any such rant would only resonate for those who have taken it and know what it entails. Simultaneously, it would bore the hell out of anyone else who had to read about it.
So, off and on for the last few months, I have been job searching, being the star of “Real Housewives of Suburban Des Moines,” and basically just channeling my father’s and late grandfather’s fondness for watching classic television and an equal fondness for grumbling about everything: weather, sports teams I don’t follow, the neighbor’s dog that has barked once and I’ve declared war on if I hear it again, and other people’s children’s behavior in public.
Like I said, there hasn’t been anything going on that anyone would want to read about. I wouldn’t even want to read about me right now.
Essayist Charles D’Ambrosio recently said in an interview with The New Yorker, “In a way, writing maps a path out of the self. Instead of sobbing, you write sentences.” And so with this extra time, I have tried to spend doing two things, specifically: write and be more involved with what Judah is doing in school. One of these endeavors has been prone to insufferable writer’s block, guttural cursing of the heavens and a desire to make daytime intoxication socially acceptable (for reasons why, see above paragraphs). And the other endeavor is advancing by leaps and bounds. One guess as to which one is going well.
I’m at a slight disadvantage, though very slight, when it comes to Judah’s education. Other kids can come home from school and say what they have learned or liked about their school day. Judah cannot. While the teachers are diligent about his communication log, the general education teacher has 22 other kindergarteners to work with, and the special education teacher also has numerous students who need one-on-one time with her. So a few Fridays ago, I ventured over to the elementary school and decided to follow my child around for the afternoon. My property taxes pay for it, so I figured I was entitled to know what my child does all day. It’s not like he can sit in a regular classroom all day and learn basic math or how to read. Initially, I intended to read a book to the children, maybe sit in for a few minutes to see how his classmates responded to him, then leave.
“The kids have PE today,” Judah’s special ed teacher, Mrs. K., told me as we exited the classroom. “We usually put him in the walker and let him walk around while the kids do their activity.”
“Uhhhh, Judah doesn’t use a walker anymore,” I said.
“He uses it,” Mrs. K cheerfully replied.
I smiled, feeling a mix of irritation (don’t I know my own kid better than anyone else?) and confusion. “Are we talking about the same student?”
“Judah is the only student in this elementary school who uses a walker and a wheelchair,” Mrs. K said, still upbeat and kind. “I am sure we’re talking about the same little boy.”
We walked down a wide hallway to the gym, passing upper level students trying to stuff snow pants into lockers and the open cafeteria doors, where a cacophony of first grade shrieks, giggles and chatter spilled out into the hallway. At the end of the hallway is the gymnasium. It is far nicer than any elementary school gym I have ever seen, and nicer than some high school gymnasiums I have practiced various athletics in. From one wall are plastic pull-out bleachers that are a deep purple, one of the school district’s colors. Under the baskets, the walls have purple and gold mats declaring, “Go Warriors!” and “Warrior Territory!”
For as noisy as the hallway and cafeteria had been, the gym was silent except for the PE teacher – a very petite woman with an equally petite baby bump and pink yoga pants – setting up the day’s activity. The red walker was already out, waiting for its occupant to take it for a spin. “We like to have a few extra minutes to get Judah situated in his walker before the other kindergarteners come in,” Mrs. K explained to me as. With the help of two other people, including the school principal – this is a 50+ pound, almost 4-foot tall child – Judah was lifted into the walker. We all stood around Judah in his walker – me, Mrs. K, the gym teacher and the principal. The silence was expectant, as we all stared at this child, waiting for him to do something.
Then Judah boldly stepped one foot, then the other, and inched the walker towards us. “OH!” I abrupt declared, shocked. Then a few more steps, then a few more. The two kindergarten classes filed into the gymnasium, giggling. I remained oblivious to the noise, still focused on Judah and red walker, which was inching closer to me slowly, but steadily. He walked to one end of the gymnasium, stopping occasionally to watch his peers. Then he got turned around and started toddling, again slowly down the other end of the gym’s length.
It wasn’t necessarily cool because this is something he had never done before – it was cool because it was something he hadn’t attempted or been successful at in a long time; it was something that I thought he had forgotten to do or failed to achieve.
There was about a year where Judah stopped using his walker to get around. I would joke that he just wanted to be a hotshot and be carried around everywhere than do something for himself. I knew, though, my child was not able to actively make the decision to do something or not do something. He can typically only do something, reach for something, or use something after being given several tactile cues, and then it’s a signal that he should react because the cue to react was given. What I didn’t know if is he simply forgot what to do when placed in the walker and given the cue to start walking in it. I also didn’t know if it would be permanent or it could be relearned.
A year is longer than five months, and a hell of a longer time to be frustrated with yourself when life isn’t going your way. But still, Judah was able to get through the interim to “next time” with no complaint and no worry. I suppose I can, too.