I began reading Mary Herschelman’s columns long before I knew her personally.
I often read them and feel as if she is speaking directly to me, offering guidance and bringing clarity I hadn’t previously realized I was lacking. I find myself thinking of them long after I read her words. Lately, my thoughts keep returning to a column she wrote last November for A Grace Filled Journey, titled “A Five-Year Anniversary.”
If you haven’t read it you should. She writes about letting go of dreams and begins the column by quoting a beloved character from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Albus Dumbledore. “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.”
There are numerous reasons why my subconscious could be bringing this particular column to the forefront of my thoughts. If I were to make an educated guess, I would say that it has something to do with G starting kindergarten this year and our upcoming appointment with his developmental pediatrician.
It’s hard for me to clearly remember either of my boys toddler or early preschool years. So much of that period in our lives was dominated by Autism and early interventions. My memories of that time feel like a vivid whirlwind of colors, fast-forwarding so quickly that I can’t quite make out the individual details.
The fact that I have few tangible memories of that time is my own fault. I was so focused on getting G help–on “fixing” him–that I had little room to notice much else. Without fully realizing what I was doing I set this moving benchmark for our lives to resume. When he was diagnosed with Autism I told myself that we would do all of the things the specialists recommended and when he started preschool he would be able to speak.
While other two-year-olds were watching cartoons and playing with toys, G was working. Between his early intervention services and his outpatient therapy through Teamwork Rehab, he had six different sessions a week, often back to back. Weeks turned into months and months turned into years, and I kept moving the benchmark. Adamantly holding on to my dream, the resumption of our lives hinging on his ability to speak.
Letting go of dreams happens in increments, millions of tiny moments of grief and resolute acceptance. It was going into his second year of preschool that I began to stop dwelling on dreams. That memory remains in vivid clarity.
One of the benefits of traveling to Champaign for G’s appointments with his developmental pediatrician is that we get to spend extra time with Miranda and Harman and our nephew Gus. We were snuggled together in the guest bed, Cor and the boys fast asleep in dreams of their own making. Yet even as the wee hours of the morning encroached, I was far from sleep. My mind raced with thoughts of the appointment the next day. As I lay there, wondering what his doctor would say, wondering if this would be the year our lives would resume, the tears I had kept so tightly bottled up throughout the day broke.
I laid in that bed, with G’s tiny body pressed against me and the stillness pressing down upon me and I let go of the dreams of our past. They poured out of me in silent sobs, leaving salty tracks down my cheeks and dampening the pillowcase beneath me. I unclenched my hold on my dream and decided to live in our world as it was. No more waiting.
Sometimes I think of life as an endlessly swirling wind, catching us up and propelling us toward the places and people we most need with little effort and minimal awareness on our parts. It was less than a week later that I first sat at the editorial staff table, interviewing for my position at The Journal-News–something that hadn’t even been on my radar the night I surrendered my vision of the future to life’s.
While we can stop dwelling on dreams, they never fully dissipate. They remain where you leave them, like a discarded scarf, waiting patiently for you to slip them back on. While we continue to work on verbal communication, I generally don’t spend too much time thinking about the fact that G is not functionally verbal. There are many ways to communicate and we have adapted to understand our boy. However, there are moments when I stumble across the dream that he will speak to us. Sometimes it comes in listening to the conversations between the parents and their children as I walk G up to the kindergarten entrance of the school. Our conversations are one-sided–me talking to him–generally rattling off his schedule for the day or encouraging him to practice using his indoor voice and staying in his seat. While cutting, the dream no longer has the power to obscure our lives. The sadness it brings fleeting in light of the joy our rambunctious, Mickey Mouse obsessed boy brings us every day.
Every morning as I watch him walk the hall to his classroom, I feel a rush of gratitude that he no longer wears the weight of my dreams on his back, and that I am no longer missing life with him. I am grateful for the people who helped guide me out of a world of ill-fated dreams.