Rusty’s 35th birthday was this week. I can’t shake the feeling of disappointment that I missed seeing him. I had emailed the director of his day program that I planned to stop by and to please let me know if that wasn’t okay. Since I hadn’t heard anything, I drove to his program that is quite a distance from my house. But first picked up a pumpkin pie and a bag of Fritos corn chips. I took a friend and had hoped to get a new picture of Rusty with me to share with his social worker from New York.
As you have most likely concluded, Rusty was not at the day program when we arrived. I was torn that once I finally had made time to see him and it didn’t happen. I left the pumpkin pie and corn chips but he’ll not know who they are from because he didn’t see my face or hear my voice.
You see, Rusty has profound intellectual limitations but that makes my love for him no less than for my other sons. We traveled through more than 16 years of his life together on a daily basis with numerous medical obstacles that he somehow defeated. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t know if he would stay with me or return to New York State. Rusty could be hard to live with because of his constant banging, screeching, and throwing of toys. Yet, he has an infectious smile and happy personality.
I understand the goal for parents is to raise their children to maturity and move on in life as an adult. I also know that for some with special needs and intellectual limitations, the parent might have more conflicting feelings about letting their child go and this is how it is with me. With my other sons who have moved on, they can understand enough language if someone tells them, “This pumpkin pie and bag of chips are from your mom”. Rusty would not understand such a statement. In fact, he most likely doesn’t even understand the meaning of birthday but can relate the day is focused on him with extra attention and maybe a couple of gifts.
I left the day program saddened. I hope he enjoyed his pumpkin pie (a tradition of making pumpkin pudding for his birthdays because he didn’t like cake) and his favorite snack food of Fritos corn chips. I left without a new picture to share with his social worker in New York who placed him in my care so many years ago. She continues to stay in touch and is interested in how Rusty is doing. I’ll shake the feeling of sadness and trust the people who care for my adult son today. Following is a poem I wrote more than thirty years ago ~
Rusty, my boy, you now are my son.
How many obstacles you have won!
We do not know what you understand
And sometimes you’re off to another land.
You were just three when you came to me
From your loving foster family.
Sad was their day when I took you away,
Your care was too great – you could not stay.
I wish the medicine routine could stop,
So you’d be alert, cheerful and bright as a top!
On the other hand, thank God you can chew
Or I’d never, no never, get them into you.
When you don’t want to sit on the chair anymore,
You squirm and slide KABOOM to the floor.
Then you roll and roll as free as you please
And brother Derek you pester and tease!
You’re a contortionist – foot on your ear.
Your crazy right leg whacks anything near.
Your long arm can reach unreachable things
But, oh, when you smile, my heart truly sings.
When you’re feeling good, you eat anything
From cheese and pudding to your own shoestring.
Your liquid brown eyes squint and sparkle with glee
I love your half-hug accompanied by EEEEE…
We had a rough time getting off to a start,
But you’ve won a special place in my heart.
Closer and closer we grow day by day.
Rusty, I love you; you’re here now to stay.
Rusty stayed with me until he became a young adult where he has lived in the same group home. And he is here to stay in my heart.