Packing Up the Pieces

What was that sound? It is 7:30am. I have not even finished a full cup of coffee. My mind is barely focused on the day that lies ahead. I am still wearing my pajamas. Trying to linger in the quiet calm of the morning for just a moment longer.

Mornings should be peaceful; still. Mornings should be about reflection and new beginnings.  A fresh chance to embrace a new day should be calming.

There are a lot of things that mornings “should be”. But, as we navigate the ups and downs of my son’s autism spectrum disorder; things never really seem to be as they should be.  

We have only been awake for one hour. One hour and more screaming and tantrums than I can count. And then the sound. The sound that froze our house still.

The sound was glass. Shattering glass. A sound I am all too familiar with. Shattering glass behind the closed door to my son’s bedroom. A door I closed mere seconds before. A door I closed as he raised his storm trooper figurine above his head. A door I closed just seconds before he released.

There is a progression of thoughts that race through your head after glass shatters in your home at 7:30am.

My first thought is about my son and his safety. As my husband sped into the hallway to find us, I knew his first thought was the same. We slowly crack the door open to see our son standing, at a safe distance, behind the glass. His eyes are wild with fear and anger and sadness.  

It is only after he is lifted and moved to safety that the other thoughts begin to come in.

My second thought is of my face and the seconds that separated a shattered mirror from a shattered face. It would not have been the first time I was hit during a tantrum. And it surely would not have been the last. But in that moment, I am thankful that on this particular day the broken thing is truly a thing; and not a face.

My third thought is of the neighbors. Of the bedroom window I cracked open just moments before the glass shattered. Of the terrifying sound that filled our home. That often fill our home. Of what people must think of those sounds. Of what I think of those sounds.

My fourth thought is a logical one. I am thankful that today is garbage day. I am thankful that we do not have to live among the evidence. Thankful that I will not walk by the shattered mirror in the garage. Thankful that the physical object will not be here for my son to fixate on. I do not want to think about that mirror. Or what it represents. I want it gone. And today I am thankful that it will be picked up with the other garbage and broken things sitting outside of our home.

My fifth thought is about the day that is still ahead. After all, we have only been awake for one hour. And this single hour of our life was filled with more emotion and mayhem than many full days. I think of school and how the incidents of the morning will impact him there. I mentally start to prepare myself for the phone call from school. “Your son is having a tough day today.” And for just a moment I will fight the urge to say “so am I.”

My last thought is a frequent thought. It is a thought that fills my head over and over again. Many days it is the first and the last thought of my day. It is everywhere I go. I sit quietly and think to myself; “Am I strong enough for this?”

And I know my thoughts and fears are justified. But I also know that this is not about me. Not really.  I know that this journey is not about my almost-broken-face. Or my actually-broken-heart. I know that the center of all of this is my son.

I finish my coffee. I go to school with my husband and lead my other son’s 4K class through a tornado science experiment. I push every emotion inside of me down far enough to get through the motions of the morning.

And then I return home. The scene of the crime. I head into my son’s room with boxes and cleaning supplies. And then one item at a time I pack up the things sitting on his shelves and hanging on his walls. It is not punishment. It is protection.

I know that things will continue to break. I learned early on that autism and “things” do not mix. So, I detached myself from “things” as much as any person can. But as I stare around my son’s stark bedroom, I feel sad. While packing things away I exposed the holes hiding behind his artwork. Holes from tantrums long ago. Holes that were out of sight; and out of mind.

And all at once the walls of his bedroom tell a story. Our story; his, and ours. I listen for a while. I remember. I let the tears fall down my face. And when I cannot take anymore; I pull the door closed and walk away.

This journey is a one-day-at a time kind of journey. And some days are better than others. Today was a hard day. Today I reminded myself over and over again that things can be replaced. That hearts can heal. That I am strong enough.

JS

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