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Friday, September 23, 2016

Keep the Crazy To a Minimum

It seems like everywhere I turn in my small world, there is some kind of crazy going on. If it's not one of my boys, it's the other. If it's not one of them, it's my mother. If it's not my mother, it's my husband or it's me. I just woke up from a morning nap. After I dropped Blue at school this morning it hit me, the crazy has been slowly draining the life out of me.

As for my husband,  yes, we drive each other crazy, but he is my safe place to land and I am his. We can say some pretty shitty things to each other when we're frustrated with one of the kids; when he's frustrated with work or whatever. (Okay, it's mostly me saying the shitty things and him putting up with me). After so many years together, we know that we can take the hits and get right back up the next day, apologize and keep loving each other.

He just got home from a business and pleasure trip to Georgia to see his father and Florida for business. I was happy that he was gone, but missed him at the same time. When he crawled into our bed last night, I felt safe again. My teammate, who gets on my last nerve, is home to have my back.

Kendal (also known as Red) turned 21 over the weekend.  I can't believe that I officially have a legal adult! He now has the right to go to nightclubs and if he so chooses, consume alcohol.  His father and I took him out for dinner for his birthday, right before Alan left for his trip.  I offered him a taste of my martini.  He declined.  A few days later, I tried to coerce him to some champagne. I thought, maybe if he has a drink, maybe just maybe, he will shut the f*#% up for a few minutes and go to sleep. No luck. He wasn't the least bit interested. I think it mostly has to do with his obsession with keeping his body lean and healthy and for now, that's probably the best decision.

Not only is Kendal 21, but soon Blue will be 18.  He will graduate high school in 2017.  I had to write 12th grade on a document this morning. I couldn't believe it. Me. A mother of 2 young adults. No more babies. Boy! I miss those sweet, innocent days.

A memory...

A few days ago I was walking through the pet store when a memory waved through me. Those Texas, hot, summer days when I would take them there to wander aimlessly down the air-conditioned aisles. We would watch the dogs play in daycare behind the plated glass, and pet the ones who were up for adoption. Blue would find the cat laser toy and spend an hour making the cats chase the little light.  Then we would move on to the birds, the gerbils, and the fish. It was a fun, inexpensive way to keep them occupied and cool in-between trips to the pool. That was when they could stand to be in the same room for more than 10 minutes without wanting to kill each other.

Since they are both young adults now, I am trying to do to less and less hovering and fixing the things that I want to look differently for them.  (It's actually a big part of my therapy, and part of the reason why I find myself so exhausted all the time.) I am learning that it's their job to move their lives forward. I'm here in the background to support them. Sometimes that means sitting on my hands and putting tape over my mouth. My therapist is helping me to stop being the fixer. I've been doing it so long, it's a hard habit to break. But, being the fixer stunts their growth and it keeps them unhealthily attached to me.

I don't sit in classrooms, or walk through a job site with them. They need practice in self-advocating, thinking on their feet, solving their own problems and making their own life decisions.

This was a good day.
The boys worked out together
at the gym where Red is employed.
As for the crazy, they may be young adults, but when it comes to getting along while they're sitting in the same room, it's like they are still children. They are still siblings whose habits and idiosyncrasies drive each other nuts. Which means, I still find myself juggling them around each other when Red comes to visit us on Sunday afternoons.

It's crazy, and it's sad to me that they still can't get along and we can't enjoy family time together. It's almost like I'm new here. I don't know why I'm still surprised, or disappointed by this.  I know that they love each other. There is the rare occasion that they will get together and actually enjoy each other's company. It's usually best if I am not with them. When I am present, it's like they show off and compete for my attention.

Lately, Blue has been under a lot of stress as he transitions into his senior year. Senior year is stressful for most kids.  He is in AP Physics and AP Calculus, which are demanding classes. He's also freaking out about exactly what life will look like after high school. He isn't sleeping well. He wakes up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. So his fuse is extremely short. He can only put up with Red for very short periods of time before it blows.

Red drives him crazy with his incessant talk about his body, his workouts and his diet. The more anxious Red becomes, he ramps up on his repetitive and relentless dialog on the subject. He asks us for our opinions, only to refute whatever we offer. If Blue tries changing the subject, it's like talking to a rock, you can't penetrate. It's like he doesn't even hear you.

Blue has his own agenda that he would like to discuss. He wants to save the world, including his brother, who he believes is clueless.  It's infuriating when he wants to have a "teaching" session with his older brother and he just isn't listening.

When Kendal is going on and on, Blue wants to interject and share his own diet and weight loss methods, which are totally different than his brother's. Blue is going the pescatarian route. Unlike his brother, he believes in carbs, vegetables and moderate exercise like walking and Kung Fu. Red isn't trying to hear anything that his brother is saying.

(Have I told you all that Red has lost 100 pounds and Blue has lost 75 over the past year? The boys who once wouldn't eat anything green now eat vegetables, and drink green smoothies!)

So most of the time when Red visiting us on Sundays, Blue leaves the house to go out to Starbucks, the library, or Panera Bread, to do homework.  He is avoiding his brother. I facilitate this to keep the peace. It's crazy.

This week, however, we all needed a few things from the grocery store. Out of convenience, we went together. I figured I would (juggle) send them off in separate directions to do their own shopping.  We wouldn't have to be together the whole time. But, at the end, when were standing in line, Kendal said something that triggered Blue. They both walked away, leaving me to pay for the groceries (of course). The fireworks started as soon as we all got back in the car. I couldn't separate the two of them fast enough.

Just when I start trying to let go of their crazy, my mother starts in with hers. I believe that Alzheimers and dementia are knocking at her door. She sees how stressed I am. In her her head, it becomes all about her. She starts to feel like she is another burden.

Out of nowhere, she will wake up in the morning and say things like "I just don't think this is working out. I need to live somewhere else. I just don't know where, but my being here is just too much for you."

More often, she is hearing conversations in the middle of the night that we are NOT having about her. She isn't sleeping well, which makes her thoughts go further into the dark side.

So here we go with a new challenge I have to deal with. What to do to keep my mother's crazy to a minimum. Apparently, that is my assignment in life ...figure out the puzzles dear Karen. Keep the crazy from completely taking over.

My husband loves my mother so much. He is gracious, always asking her if he can do anything for her.  For example,  he is going to the store. He offers to buy wine for her. When we go to the wine store, it looks like we are having a party over here. There are no parties. It's just our regular supply of liquid calm to help get through the days.

The following day after he bought the wine, he leaves the house. She actually says to me, "I know Alan bought wine for me yesterday, but am I allowed to drink it? I know he thinks I drink too much."

No mom. Don't drink the wine! He bought it just so that you can look at it.

I say to her, "Come on now. You see the amount of crazy that I am already dealing with. Please don't put your crazy on top of it."

I know that she really can't help it, no more than any of us can help our crazy.

For now, I just sip my wine and hope that the next day has a little less crazy in it. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Group Home Blues

Weekly Meal Prep
I confess, to this day, I still feel a little twinge in my heart when I drop Red off at the group home. Maybe I'm a snob, but I still don’t like the sound of those two words strung together (group home) and all of the subtext that they carry. It may not be logical, but in my head, those two words are synonymous with, “You failed.” He can not live with you because there must have been something as a mother that you did or did not do.

It was toxic when we lived under the same roof. He could not get along with anyone in our family. Even the dog would run and hide when he saw him coming. He was unhappy and he felt he had the right to constantly disrupt any semblance of peace. He was miserable and determined to  take us all down with him. There was constant turmoil and if there wasn't, I was sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next bomb to drop. Our home was not the haven. It was the storm. 

Intellectually, I know it’s not my fault that he lives in a group home and not in a dormitory or a cool little apartment somewhere.  It’s not anyone’s fault. It just is, what it is. This is his path.

We gave him every possible opportunity to choose another path. He wasn’t capable of doing that. He sees me as an extension of himself.  As long as I am within arm's reach, and eye's view, he would prefer that I do the work to help him grow up. The distance between us has given him no choice but to do the work for himself. 

He liked the group home at first. Then he hated it, and now, he is somewhere in-between. It's definitely is not the comfort zone of the cushy home he grew up in. However, his discomfort there is making him grow. Whereas the comfort here with his mama at his beck and call, was keeping him stagnate. 

Sometimes it almost like the universe has to take these drastic measures to make me do the hard thing for these boys. I am resistant to making the tough decisions. I want to coddle and comfort when what they need is a little discomfort so that they can grow. They need that gentle push out of the nest so that they can fly. 

It’s been almost a year now, and Red has grown. I've written in detail about his progress. He's not driving yet, but he is beginning to fly. 

He is still not quite where he needs to be in order to live totally independently, but he has maintained employment for almost 3 years now. However, he doesn’t have enough income to live on his own. He still requires assistance with budgeting, transportation, remembering to take meds, remembering to wash his clothes, change his sheets, and things of that nature in a timely manner. 

When he lived with me, I was never sure if he would remember to actually lock the front door every time he left the house. He can be so forgetful and absent-minded at times. (I have no idea where he gets that from. I'm not forgetful at.all.) There were and still are, a few things that make me wonder if he is ready to live outside of a supported environment. 

I opt out of the dozens of panicky phone calls that I can get from him on a daily basis. I know that his complaints are not anything new. He is only allowed a maximum of two phone calls to me per day. Every since the group home changed management, he has been complaining.  

One night, he made his last acceptable call to me at 6:30 p.m. instead of the usual 8:30.  I answered, "Last call for alcohol!" He laughed but sure enough, later he would call again. 

I don't take his superfluous call. When I don't answer, he calls his father. Eventually, he asks to speak to me again. The answer is still, no. We are done talking for the night. I knew that all he wanted was to complain about what they "might do" at the group home. The infamous, "What if's?" 

When he first moved, the home was operating in more of an independent style which suited him. He was used to a certain amount of autonomy at our house. We had been working on independent living skills over the past several years. He knew how to cook for himself (although he didn't like to). He was responsible for his own laundry, keeping his room and his bathroom clean. He would go out with friends to church, to the movies and things like that.

The agency that was initially running the house when he moved in, ended up acquiring additional group homes. Subsequently, over the past few months, they have transferred the management of the home where Red lives to another division of their agency. The new management has been making changes to the program. They are trying to get things in order to meet State guidelines. 

The proposed changes, like doing an in-house day hab, are putting Red into a panic. He is used to his schedule. He’s used to his routine and doesn’t want anyone coming in and messing with it. He’s goes to school, then to work at the gym. He does his workout afterwards.  He goes to church on Wednesday nights and Sundays, and occasionally he gets together with friends for the movies and other recreational activities. 

I am actually proud of the fact that he keeps his schedule pretty busy and takes initiative to get together with friends when he has free time. That is something he would not do when he lived here. He would just sit around complaining, waiting for his very few friends to make plans with him. 

He’s beginning to get angsty with the changes that are being put in place, even though most of them won’t really effect him because he already has such a busy schedule. He is functioning well and his goals are not the same as some of his roommates. This doesn't stop all the "What if" questions. 

“What if they say I can’t cook my own meals now?”
“What if they start making me eat their high fat, high-salt, unhealthy menu?"  
“What if they say I can't work out after work!”
“I’m not doing this!” 
“They are trying to take away my rights! I am adult! They can’t control me!” 
“I’m not some helpless kid they can push around!” 

Naturally, his anxiety sparks my anxiety. It doesn’t take much for me to start worrying. I’m really good at it. I start thinking, What are we going to do next? How much longer is this situation going to continue working for him? 

Of course, he takes anxiety to a whole new level. Then he becomes increasingly defensive, angry and defiant. 

I don’t think the new staff  are used to a consumer who is quite so independent, vocal and articulate about his wants and needs. He is not the one (just like his mama) who goes along with the program, especially if the program doesn’t make any sense to him. 

A few weeks ago, after a heated exchange between Red and a Case Manager he was told, “Maybe you shouldn’t be here if you’re so independent.” Yeah! She actually went there. 

A few days later, we ended up having a meeting with the Area Director of the agency. He assured us that the staff member needed some additional training and should never have used those words. He assured us that none of the things Red was worried about were going to happen. He said they would find a way to make things work. They would set his goals for independence in preparation for his moving forward into a more independent living situation within the coming year. 

The latest panic phone calls were about him using Lyft from the group home when no one there is willing to give him a ride to go to church or to go hang out with friends or his new girlfriend. (Yes. There is a new girlfriend. That’s a whole other blog.) He uses the money from his paycheck to pay for this additional transportation, since he doesn't drive yet. 

He says, his Case Manager told him that he can't use Lyft. They have to know who he is leaving with, do a background check. 

Now, let’s think about that for a second. If he were to get on a city bus, would they background check every driver? 

Currently, he goes from school to work and to work out. This is essentially an 8 hour day that he is managing on his own. If he gets off early he could walk or meet up with a friend to do whatever he wants and they would have no idea who he is with or what he is doing. So really? What is the problem here? 

We don't have many busses in this area. Using Lyft in my opinion, is a great independent living skill. He had been using an inexpensive Taxi service. When I found out that Lyft operated in our area, and was less expensive, I suggested he try it. Blue is only 17 and he uses it, when I'm not available. 

Over time I have found that when I don't accept one of his calls when he is upset,  often by the time he calls again he has either forgotten about the problem, or he has resolved it. 

This time, it turns out that he called the state 800 number for the State of Texas agency that supervises group homes, to advocate for his perceived rights violations. I don’t think this was the first call to them (which I'm sure is not thrilling to the managing agency). 

He told me that the state told him that he had every right to use Lyft. All of the other concerns he had, like they were not buying his protein and vegetables because he wasn't eating from their menu, was also resolved. The State would be contacting group home management about his rights to ensure they are not being violated.  

I would venture to say, he has this whole self-advocacy skill in check. 

p.s. -We are looking into other living options, but nothing happens fast enough for him. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

We Are Marriage

Open Air Cab in Paris
You are the clear blue pool 
to my white sandy beach 
You are decision
to my contemplation 
You are practical 
to my anxiety 
You are the long way
to my shortcut
You are the planner  
to my go with the flow
You are the organized
to my mess  
You are night 
to my morning   
You are science fiction
to my romantic comedy
You are engaging
to my humorous  
You are facts 
to my motivations 
and behaviors
You are the manly man
to my girly girl
You are the black and white 
to my living color 
You are the conspiracy theorist
to my hopeful optimism 
You are red wine 
to my white
You are the cookie 
to my cocktail
You are New York 
to my L.A.   
You are discipline 
to my indulgence 
You are provider 
to my nurturer 
You are strong 
where I am weak
You are my left hand
I am your right  
You are science 
to my language
We are marriage
We are parents  
We are explorers
We are music
We are dance  
We are art
We are  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Umbilical Cord

I'm the kind of mother
who feels your joy
who anticipates your pain
you get a shot
I flinch
I feel it
maybe more intensely than you do
you are anxious
I am shaking
you are happy
I am ecstatic
you are sad
it lays heavily in my heart
I want to wrap you up
in a bubble of protection
I can not
I want to protect from pain
yet, pain is growth
you are no longer children
yet, you will always be my children
the prettiest babies
in the history of the world
to have and to hold
four pounds, eight ounces
five pounds, thirteen ounces
now you pick me up
you hold me
I want to coddle and comfort
yet, discomfort makes progress
I do what I have to do
not what I want to do
I let you fly
I watch you fall
I see you get up
standing strong
from inside my body
to out in the world
my babies
my strong young men

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Where I've Been

If you are visiting this blog for the first time or the first time in a long time, you're probably wondering, where the hell is this girl? She hasn't written an update in almost a month. Is she still among the land of the living? Did the story end or what?

I am still alive. I spent the early part of July in a state of panic as I prepared for a vacation with my husband to France. Yes...the France! Little ole me, a girl who was raised in south central L.A., by a single-mom, planning a trip to the French Rivera and Paris! 

My best friend Trish and her family invited us to join them this year. They go to Europe every summer and have invited us before, but we haven't had the kind of life that you can pick up and go to another country.  The last time we did was in 2007 when we went to Italy. Alan had a great sales year, and he wanted to splurge. It was amazing. I've wanted to go back to the region every since. The boys were younger of course. I don't even think we had an accurate diagnosis for both of them at the time. They stayed with their grandparents, and it was still difficult for me to leave them.

I've only seen France in the movies and read about it in books. It looks so romantic, exciting, vibrant, full of history, beauty, art, exquisite food, and fashion.

Speaking of fashion let me tell you a quick, funny little Paris story...

We're in Paris, at Printemps, a very fancy-schmancy, hoity-toity, department store. We first arrived in Nice, where our friends were staying, but we were going to fly to Paris for three days. So we change over to the small suitcase in Nice.

When we get to Paris, I realized I forgot to pack underwear.  The next day, we walk into the lingerie department at Printemps.  My first thought was, 'Where are the panties for black girls? These little things won't do a damn thing for me.'

Hubby asks me,"Well what brand do you usually buy? Let's look for that?"
I reply, "Honey, I usually buy Hanes100% cotton, boy shorts from Target. I don't think they have those here."

The top floor of Printemps in Paris
We're having coffee when I notice this behind me!
We did end up finding a few pairs of panties that worked for me...barely. And by barely I mean, in the middle of our tour of the Louvre the next day, one of the pairs had to come off! Otherwise, I could not have taken another step, and there are many, many steps.

Back to planning our trip and my anxiety...

My husband seems to have no issues with spending money on travel, while our house is falling apart. I on the other hand, always think of the all of the what-ifs. What if we painted our house that hasn't been touched with paint in some places in the 16 years we've lived here instead of going on this trip? That would be more practical wouldn't it? What if we repaired some of the holes in the drywall that have been made during fits of anger.

Well, obviously we decided to ignore the chipping paint and countless house repairs that our home is begging for. We ignored it all and went on vacation. What is life if you're not creating lasting memories? Right. Well, it could be a more comfortable home that you're not embarrassed to entertain in, but you can't have it all! Besides, who are you kidding Karen? You don't have many local friends to  entertain, and you don't have the energy to entertain when you're done taking care of your mother and your sons. 

One of the reasons I think we have maintained this crazy married life for twenty-one years is because we try our best to nurture our relationship. We can be at each other's throats with all of the stress in this house.  I literally want to choke him sometimes, and I KNOW he wants to strangle me.

Sometimes, the only way I know we still have it, is because we still enjoy each other when it's just the two of us. Now, if it could only be just the two of us more often, it would be great. Either that or we would kill each other. Probably the latter. 

Nevertheless, with two of our boys out of the house, and the other being 17 and becoming more independent, we thought we could pull off the trip, and so we did. It would still require a shit ton of logistics and details for me to put into place, which was really nerve racking for an anxious kind of girl like me. But this time, Alan and my best friend Trish, would not let my anxiety convince me that it couldn't be done.

I put a team of supports to do all of my jobs. We bought an additional refrigerator for the garage so that I could fully stock the house with food.  My mother claims she can't find anything in our current refrigerator, so I wanted to be able to spread things out. I made lists of what food is stored where. I made lists of food choices for Blue for breakfast when he's in a hurry. I provided all of their necessities in my "what-if plan."  I renewed my passport, we booked our tickets and there was no turning back. 

That is until a week before we left when we heard the news about another terrorist attack, this time in Nice, one of the places that we would be visiting. Talk about a punch in the gut! As nervous as I already was, this put me over the top. On my long list of what-ifs, What if I die? was on the top. Part of me could not stop thinking, these boys still need me. I have a lot of work to do in the coming year to finish launching them into the world.

I confess, another part of me thought, I am tired. I have given them so much of myself. I have very little left to give.  If I stay here, there is no guarantee that everyone will live through this stressful summer. At least if I die, I know that I have given them one helluva foundation.  If it's my time to go, I will do it having the time of my life! 

How selfish of me, right? You should know by now; I  don't  care what people think. I live my life the best way I can with what I have. 

Seriously, sometimes I think, I am so tired.  If it's time for me to rest in peace, then so be it. 

As for the terrorists, making us afraid to go out and live our lives is precisely what they want. Screw that! If there is anything my dad's death taught me this year is that he lived fully, for as long as he could and damn what the rest of the world thought of it.
This is a shot I must get in every
body of water that I visit. 

That is what I want to teach my boys. Don't let your anxiety and fears stop you from living your life. Live fully and on purpose. Take chances. You may end up having the time of your life.

So in answer to, "What-if" I die, the only thing I could control in that situation was to make sure that our will is fully updated, with all provisions for the boys in place. They will actually be in better shape financially if we're both gone. Life Insurance is a wonderful thing. It won't replace me. Nothing could. But the way my village stepped up to the game while we were away, showed me that no matter what, they will be okay. I think. I hope. I pray.

Keeping Love Alive

By the way, my village took such wonderful care of everyone while I was away.  In fact, they did so well, I think that I should move to France, permanently.

My mom cooked for herself most days when she wasn't being spoiled by one of our friends or neighbors who took her out and went to the grocery store for her.

I did not speak to Red once in the entire ten days! He called once to say, "Blue is bothering me," but I didn't pick up the phone. His mentor network was in place to help talk him through whatever he needed to process.

Blue survived his first summer job with the help of his job coach. He also completed his first college level class. He was the man of the house, helping look after his grandmother. 

No one completely fell apart ...until we got home.

Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Antibes
I wanted to bring it home with me. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Just Call Me Dory

A year ago, if you told me that I would voluntarily take Red to a movie, just the two of us, I would have laughed in your face. I imagine it would be hard for most mothers to admit publicly that they do not enjoy the company of their own child. However, a year ago, I did In fact, I tried to avoid him whenever possible, which wasn’t often enough. At times it felt like he was purposefully trying to drive me crazy. He was borderline abusive to me (mentally). That was because he was going crazy and he wanted company. 

Cut to this Sunday afternoon, I texted him and asked him would he like to go see “Finding Dory” with me.  I was tentatively expecting a rejection. I knew he wanted to see me as he usually does on Sunday, but I thought the idea of an animated film which was my suggestion, would be met with his usual opposition. Surprisingly, he said, “Sure.” 

I picked him up from his house. We went to the mall to get a new phone case for his iPhone. We also looked at a few things for me, as he very loudly shared his philosophy about why he needs to get married young, while he "still looks this good because it’s important to look good in that suit when you get married.” And I guess when you take the suit off on the wedding night. Because that ladies and gentleman, is what love and finding the right wife is all about …how you look! There was a lady in the women’s department who laughed out loud every time we got near her. I do believe she was laughing at us, not with us, because he was so dead serious. 

When we finished at the mall, off to the theatre we went. Now, in the car he was his usual annoying self, talking about bodybuilding, diet and working out, non-stop. He repeated the same sentences and questions that I had already heard a hundred times this week over the phone. Once we reached the dine-in theatre I told him, all conversation is over. There would be no talking during the movie. He agreed. 

We watched the movie quietly together. We laughed out loud. I tried not to cry. He followed the storyline without asking any questions or narrating like he used to at home when we would watch a movie together. He wasn’t rigid about what he ordered to eat because of his healthy diet. He had a burger, with no fries, but opted for their delicious homestyle popcorn. He was totally socially appropriate. There was no complaining. It was refreshing. It felt so good to enjoy his company. 

When I got home, I reflected on our time together as I climbed into bed. I think one of the reasons that there was no conflict, is because it was just the two of us. He didn’t have to compete for my attention with his brothers or his father. Blue wasn’t there to give him a hard time about his repetitive dialog. His father wasn’t there to be all “fatherly.” We just had a good time. He enjoyed the fact that it was all about him. 

Now, in the past, the fact that it was just the two of us has not stopped him from going off the deep end. There is probably a combination of factors that came into play. The biggest one I think, is that he is finally growing up. 

By the way, I think my new nickname should be Dory. She has short-term memory loss, as do I (thanks to my kids and menopause) but in her own goofy way, she manages to get through the challenges in her life. There is no rhyme or reason to her methodology, she just keeps swimming and somehow, it just works. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Dear America

“Did you hear about those black men being shot? It could be one of us next!”
Before I opened my eyes this morning, this was a group text message that Red sent to our immediate family, including both of his brothers.
Blue's response? "Dude. Calm down." 

After sending the message,  there was an eight a.m. phone call. When I didn't answer, he called Blue. Blue comes into my room, "Will you please talk to him? He's freaking out!"
I attempt to wake myself up as I dial Red's number.
“I'm trying to figure this out, "he says. "Does this only happen in certain areas where people are poor or could this happen in our neighborhood to my brother, or me?” 

Can you hear the fear?

Can this happen to us,  just because we are black?

Here we are again America. I really just can't with you. Black men are being executed by police without a trial or charges. Two murders were captured on video, uncut, un-edited for public viewing on social media outlets over the past two days.  I have refused to watch either video.  I don’t know all of the gory details about the individual incidents.  I don't want the graphic images playing over again in my head, like Salt n Pepa's, "Shoop " was playing in the middle of the night, last night.

 "Straight up, wait up, hold up, Mr. Lover
Like Prince said you're a sexy mutha-
Well-a, I like 'em real wild, b-boy style by the mile
Smooth black skin with a smile
Bright as the sun, I wanna have some fun..." 
Yeah. That was fun over and over again. 

I don't know everything that happened. There will be much dispute over the coming days I'm sure.  I do know that black lives were taken. There are children who no longer have a father.  A wife no longer has a husband. A girlfriend watched her partner being shot four times, after a traffic stop, as her child watched from the backseat of the vehicle. And my law-abiding sons are scared! 

I have not watched the videos. However, I have not been able to avoid all of the outrage and commentaries on social media.  I can not completely hide from it.  I can not shield my sons from it. 

What is happening isn’t something new.  My husband and I have had the "what you do when you interact with police," conversation with our sons countless times before.

I wrote about this issue in a blog post after the Trayvon Martin murder.  I wrote about the compounded fear that I have because two out of three of my black sons also have a hidden disability -autism, which impairs their social-communication skills.

Yesterday, I met Red at the bank to straighten out an ordeal with his checking account. I won’t get into the details, let’s just say it involved him using his account to pay for something on PayPal and some subsequent unauthorized charges.  As we’re talking to the clerk at the bank and she is trying to help us. He repeatedly talks over the sound of her voice, not listening to what she is trying to say to help us. As she works the transaction on her computer, he begins talking to me loudly, about issues of a personal in nature that everyone in the bank doesn’t need to hear. I try to get him to quiet down. I ask him to stop talking until we are finished transacting our business. He clearly does not understand when he should be talking, when to be quiet, and when to listen to important instructions that will ultimately help him solve his problem. 

I thought of this interaction last night before I closed my eyes after I heard about the first shooting.
Would he understand an officer’s directions in a tense situation? 
Would he be too busy talking instead of listening?
Would his actions be seen as defiance before any questions were even asked, or before he could convey that he has autism and difficulty with communication?

Here in Texas, his driving permit has a notation that he may have some impairment in communication.

Will he have the opportunity to present his license before a nervous police officer would shoot because of his preconceived fear or even hatred of my son’s race? 

Red has had several interactions with law enforcement in our community. Thus far, the interactions have had a positive outcome. Yes …his anger has gotten out of control, in public. He has dealt with officers on the campus of his middle school and high school. He has even had interactions with them here in our home when his anger got the best of him.  Each officer appeared to be trained in de-escalation.

Red has always been savvy enough tell the officer that he is speaking with that he knows and is “friends with” a number of officers in our local police department.  He knows them all by name and drops those names in a hot minute!  (“Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer.”) He has several of the officer's business cards. One officer would even drop by our house periodically just to have a chat with him and see how he’s doing.   

So this morning when he asked me should he be afraid. "Are the officers in our area better trained than the ones who have been killing those black men?"  I told him yes.  I lied. I hoped. I made light of my fear so that I would not increase his anxiety.

I try to be optimistic. I try not to play into our fears too much. We have to face them. We can’t hide here at home. We have to go out into the world.  We can’t afford to overreact in our interactions with law enforcement.

So once again today, we talk about what to do,  if you are stopped and approached by law enforcement.  
  • Listen carefully. 
  • Follow the officers instructions. 
  • Say as little as possible.  
  • Be respectful. 
  • Do not argue.  Yeah right. The very definition of Aspergers is arguing. A girl has to pray on this one!
  • Keep your hands where they can be seen at all times. 
  • Do not reach for anything, including your identification until you have been instructed and given permission to do so. 
Now, will Red be able to follow these directions? I have no idea. Frankly, I would be surprised if he does. Intellectually, Blue seems to understand these concepts, but under extreme anxiety, what will be his reaction? Will his facial expressions be appropriate? I don't know for sure.

Where I have fear, I can only hope that the presence of an officer and a gun will help them remember our conversations.  I pray that they will remember the images of so many of us who have been taken away far too soon.