I hefted Crew’s car seat from the shopping basket and into my minivan’s back seat. At four months, he had no less than three chins, was already wearing size 9-12 months clothing and weighed nearly 20 pounds. I smiled at this fat little life and nuzzled his cheeks as I secured the seat in its base. The car seat itself had to weigh nearly 20 pounds and this daily routine was a workout. I paused for a moment to admire the biceps that had developed so nicely for me the last four months. As Crew cooed and giggled, safe and warm in his seat, I lifted the back hatch and began to unload our full basket of groceries.
Half-way through, I noticed an oozing bag. Upon further investigation, I was disappointed to find that my 18-pack of eggs contained almost half that were cracked or smashed. How had that happened? A careless bagger? Had I simply not checked the eggs before placing them in my basket? Either way, this was unacceptable. We were on a strict budget and these eggs were destined for omelets, homemade pudding, Waikiki meatballs and more. I set them aside, finished loading the rest of the groceries and slammed the hatch down, slightly annoyed. With my keyless remote, I locked Crew in the car and took my crushed eggs back to Albertson’s.
“Hi,” I said to the checker. “I’ve got some broken eggs here. Would you mind sending someone back to get me a replacement?” I nervously looked out the window to check that no one had abducted my baby.
“If you want new eggs, go get them yourself,” the checker responded without even a glance in my direction. She kept her attention on the customer she was currently helping.
“Excuse me?” Albertson’s was always number one in my book for customer service. This was so out of character.
“But I’ve left my baby in the car,” I explained. “I can’t just leave him out of my sight and go to the back of the store for more eggs. Will you please have someone do it for me?” I asked again.
This time the checker did look at me. She was annoyed. She was hostile. “Look lady, get a replacement if you want one – but you’ll have to do it on your own.”
I looked back at my Nissan Quest and could clearly see that Crew was just fine. And it was also clear that this cantankerous cashier was not budging. Partly to make a statement, partly to save time, I set my drippy and broken eggs on her conveyer belt and sprinted to the dairy section. I must’ve made it back to the parking lot in less than 30 seconds.
But it was too late. My van was gone. I scanned the parking lot, frantic. It was nowhere. My vehicle was gone and so was my baby and I was an idiot for leaving him there. Then some screams drew my attention to the steep road that bordered the south side of the grocery store. People with shocked and horrified faces were pointing at something – it was my blue van, careening down this hilly street, straight towards an intersection with a red light.
I dropped my eggs and without checking for traffic, ran into the middle of this four-lane road after my baby. I ran faster than any human can. My lungs burned and protested and my legs already screamed at me. I cringed as the van approached an intersection of busy traffic. The light was still red and cars with the right-of-way continued through, unaware. Miraculously, the van made it through the red-light without being hit. I too made it through unscathed. I continued to chase down my van, my baby – cursing myself for being so irresponsible and praying at the same time that God would have mercy on me, forgive my horrible mistake and help me to save my baby.
Another red-light intersection was nearing and I screamed as my van nearly missed an oblivious black SUV traveling through his green light direction. Again, I ran through the intersection, getting closer now to my target, but I was near giving up. How could a human overtake a vehicle? What were the odds? My lungs were crying, “Uncle,” and my legs were no longer muscle and bone, but Jell-O.
Then suddenly and miraculously, I was in the passenger seat of my van! I whipped my head back to find Crew safe and apparently unaware of the last harrowing five minutes. He continued to coo and babble. Then something even more miraculous happened. Just as I was about to move myself from the passenger to driver’s seat, my husband, Scott appeared there.
He smiled at me with his casual and crooked grin (the one that mesmerized me in News Media 101 twenty years ago) and said, “I gotcha babe. It’s okay. I gotcha.”
And then I woke up.
And I’m documenting this dream because it means something to me and I don’t want to forget it. I knew what it meant the minute I awoke. It was a priceless reminder. One that I needed.
But for the record. One: I would NEVER leave my baby in a grocery store parking lot. EVER. It’s important to me that you know that. Two: Crew is six-years-old now. Three: I don’t own a mini-van anymore. It was demolished in a tornado last May. Four: My biceps aren’t really that awesome anymore. It’s been a while since I’ve lugged babies around. Five: I can’t really run as fast as an out-of-control minivan. Six: I can’t really just teleport from the road to inside a careening minivan. And Seven: Scott can’t either. Oh, and one more thing. Albertson’s employees are really friendly and professional. That should have been my first indication that this wasn’t real.
So here’s the crux of it all. Scott was my hero in this dream. He showed up when I needed him most. He disregarded the fact that I’d been an awful mother by leaving our baby in the car. He could have ripped me in two for such negligence. But he smiled instead. He smiled and comforted and reassured me. And he said to me what he often says to me in real-life. “I’ve gotcha, babe.”
And he always has. He held my hair and rubbed my back when I threw-up 25 times a day with my pregnancies. He followed the ambulance to the hospital during every pregnancy when something life-threatening happened. And it always did. He held me in the parking lot and cried with me when we had a professional confirm to us for the first time that Adam probably did have autism. Life has been difficult for him too through all of this, but he’s always been a rock. He’s been my steady and ever-reliable source of comfort. He’s endured countless dinners of chips ‘n salsa or Kraft mac ‘n cheese when autism just didn’t allow time for anything else. And he’s never complained. He’s always had my back and quite frankly, there have been many times when I did not deserve his support. He’s less judgmental than me, WAY easier to get along with, usually more amiable and just a true gem. He takes me for who I am and doesn’t let a day go by without saying, “Geez – you’re beautiful. How’d I marry such a gorgeous wife?” He says this on days when I’ve not had a shower, or am wearing yesterday’s clothes. He says it when I know he can’t possibly mean it, but I’m grateful for his consistent showers of love and compliments anyway. He’s such an awesome man. I mean, who else would drop everything to teleport themselves to save me and my out-of-control minivan?
This just happened last night. So it’s fresh. It’s short. It’s disturbing. But it taught me.
Recently we’ve been working with several social workers in California to help us secure the services here that are available to children with autism. They’ve all been awesome, kind and helpful people.
Last night’s dream social worker was awesome too. He called, very concerned that I’d been caring for and teaching Adam these last six months without any support. “Is there anything I can do?” he’d offered. “Do you need some assistance?”
“Actually, yes,” I admitted. “I’m tired. I could use some help with Adam.”
“Enough said,” my social worker assured. “I’m on it.”
Less than an hour later there was a knock at my door. Two large men stood there. “We’re here for Adam,” they said in voices too unbending. My gut told me right away that something was awry.
“What do you mean you’re here for Adam? I asked, instinctual panic racing in my chest.
I wanted to scream to the other kids, “Get Adam out of here! Take him! Hide him! Call Dad! Get me my shotgun!” These men were here for my 15-year-old angel and I wouldn’t let them have him without a fight.
I heard Adam’s familiar hum and turned to find him standing behind me on his tiptoes, flapping his hands with a huge smile on his face. (He smiles like this all of the time in real life too). He was curious about our visitors and came to investigate.
Quickly, one of the men pulled out a strait jacket, while the other restrained me. I screamed and clawed and kicked and watched in horror as the bruiser wrestled Adam to the ground and finally confined him in the jacket. Adam looked up at me with confusion and terror. “It’s okay, buddy,” I assured him. “Mommy’s gonna get you. Don’t worry. It’s okay.” Adam trusts me in real life more than anyone. We’ve worked so hard, the two of us, at developing our very tender and real relationship. So I tried everything to comfort and reassure him. At this point, he was crying, but not taking his eyes from mine. Roughly, the man pulled Adam to a standing position and pushed him out the front door. I bit the man’s arm who had me restrained, but he didn’t budge. The other man shoved Adam in the back seat of their sedan, much like a cop does a criminal. When the door was shut, I was let go. I ran to their car but watched helplessly as they drove away with Adam, his face glued to the back window searching my face for answers.
Next, our entire family was being led down a long white, sterile hallway. There was nothing kind, warm or inviting about this place. A faceless worker directed our family to a room. Adam was sitting in the center of the room, on a bed and alone. I raced to him and embraced him. He hugged me back. The entire family embraced him. He’d been gone from our home for I don’t know how long, but long enough to know that we’d missed his thumping size 11’s up and down the stairs 100 times a day. We’d missed the fridge door being left open every five minutes, the fingerprints all over the sliding door, the crumbs in my bed, the stolen iPhones and iTouches, the un-flushed toilets, etc. We’d missed every single thing about that boy and we just wanted to bring him home.
But we weren’t allowed. “You asked for help, and now you have it,” we were told by the same worker that took us to Adam.
“But I didn’t want him in an institution!” I protested.
“Next time, be careful what you ask for,” the worker admonished.
And then I woke up.
I woke up grateful for the opportunity to care for Adam. Most women my age and in my stage of life have more free time than I do. I had a small pity party for myself last week. I bemoaned the fact that I’ve not been out to lunch with a girlfriend even once since our move here. I’ve had to take both Crew and Adam to the Obgyn with me, for crying out loud. These boys come everywhere with me and if I want to shop without children it needs to be a 4 a.m.-Wal-Mart shop. By the time Scott gets home from work, I’m frankly just too tired.
But I don’t care. Last night’s sleep woke me up. And I’d gladly take Adam with me anywhere I need to go. He’s become such a buddy these last six months. He’s so good – there was really no call for my pity party last week anyway. He’s a joy, he’s developing and learning and kind and compliant….and instead of focusing on the freedom many of my friends now enjoy, I should really be focusing on the life-changing work I’m blessed to do on a daily basis.
My nightmare last night was a poignant reminder. And sometimes I wonder if we are sent the dreams, we need the most.