Life is Short

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Oh how I wish that Cade would stop picking his skin. This phase of his is driving me nuts. The slightest bump or blemish is poked and pulled until the remaining wound meets his satisfaction. Scabs and lesions cover every part of his body.

“Stop picking.” I tug on Cade’s arm.

“Stop picking,” he repeats. “That’s gross. That’s ugly. That’s disgusting.”

Lightly I dab Neosporin across his cheek. “Not your face,” I tell him. “You don’t want to look like Killer Croc.”

“No,” Cade agrees. Speaking of himself in the third person, he continues. “You want to look like Batman.”

I let out a sigh knowing that Cade really can’t help it. The only way to make him stop is to distract him. Although exhausted from a lack of rest since 1997, I set out for a day of fun. Opening the back door I notice the dog rolling in the mud.

“Damn it Tramp!” I yell. “I just gave you a bath last night.”

Tramp stops and looks back at me. “Life is short,” he appears to say. “Enjoy the dirt.” He then continues rolling in the mud.

I glance back at Cade.  He’s still picking at his skin. “What do you want to do today?” I ask.

“Go to the movies,” he replies. “See The Predator.”

So we do. And for the next two hours we sit through a shitty movie with hope and a bucket of popcorn. What exactly do I hope to gain from a science fiction gore fest? A distraction for my son. A distraction from his endless obsessions. A distraction from the worries of life. I glance again towards my son. No longer is he compulsively picking his skin. I stop, look back at the movie screen and no longer am I compulsively worried about stopping him. “Life is short,” I think to myself. “Enjoy the shitty movies.”

We have an enjoyable day, my buddy and I — a stupid movie, a mediocre lunch and a rainy stroll through the park. Driving home, I stop at the local craft store. There’s an event that I’m attending this evening and I don’t want Cade remaining idle at home. An idle mind and skin picking abounds.

Who’s going to do all of this when I’m no longer around? Consumed with fear, I worry about my son. I worry that he will never be independent. I worry that he won’t always have someone to go the extra mile. To be the Mickey Goldmill to his Rocky Balboa, the Alfred to his Batman, to be the Donkey to his Shrek.

Autism has stolen something dear to me. It has stolen my peace. I will never have the peace of knowing that one day my son can survive on his own. Survival–it seems like a simple wish, doesn’t it? After all, it’s a basic human instinct. Some parents dream of their children growing up to be great philosophers, scientists and lawyers. I dream that one day my son can take care of himself. But like the many parents of severely disabled children, I realize that it’s merely a dream.

Arming Cade with water colors and a superhero activity book, I head out to my event. While there I receive a call prompting me to write the following post to my Facebook page.

 

Get involved they say. Show them a better way. Show them that there’s hope……

Me: You’re still young and have plenty time to turn your life around. Come stay with us in North Carolina a while.

Joshua: You’re right Uncle Kelly. And I do want to do better.

My nephew was a drug addict. However, when taken away from the negative influences he became a 31 year old with a childlike zest for life. My home has been Joshua’s vacation getaway / rehab facility for many years now. His sheets and pillow case are still in the laundry room from when he left last week.

Joshua: I had a great time. I promise I’m never doing that shit again. I love you.

Me: I love you too. Just remember you’re never too old for an ass whipping so don’t lie to me.

Joshua: No. I promise.

Yesterday Joshua got high one last time. And at 6:30 this evening he took one last breath.

…..Get involved they say. Show them a better way. Show them that there’s hope.

Although my intervention wasn’t enough to save my nephew, he knew that he was loved. And love is something desperately needed in this world.

My advice to anyone reading this: Take a break from the petty bickering. Stop relishing in the downfall of your fellow human beings. Stop the bullshit for a moment and just love.

 

How do I explain this to my son? How do I explain death to a person that still believes in Santa Claus. While physically, Cade is a large adult; emotionally, he remains a small child.

“Cade,” masquerading my sadness, I join him at the table. “Cousin Joshua has gone to live with Jesus.”

Cade sits silently for a moment contemplating what he just heard. “Daddy, where’s Joshua?” He asks.

“Joshua has gone to live with Jesus,” I take a deep breath and repeat.

“And Uncle Larry, and Aunt Delores and Uncle Pookie too?”

“Yes,” I reply. “With Uncle Larry, Aunt Delores and Uncle Pookie too.”

Again Cade sits silently for a moment. Although he doesn’t understand the finality of death, he does realize that when loved ones past have gone to live with Jesus he has never seen them again. Searching for a distraction, I take out Cade’s new activity book and the two of us paint for hours.

Who’s going to do this when I’m no longer around? When I too go live with Jesus? My fear takes over as I worry about my son. Laying down my paint brush, I stare at the sunset through the picture window. I watch the squirrels running along the playhouse, the birds soaring through the sky, the dog once again rolling in the mud. Shaking my head, I snicker to myself and then adoringly gaze towards my son.

“Life is short,” I watch as he continues to paint. “Enjoy the many spectacular colors.”

Kelly Jude Melerine