November 12, 2009

"I am NOT going home"

If anyone sees a 16 year old girl answering to the name of Alex at O’Hare airport, please put her on the next plane to Denver. She is very cute, slightly overweight, with brown hair and green eyes. She is easy to identify; she has down syndrome and can probably be found stalking food vendors.

I did not leave Alex in Chicago, but it certainly was tempting.

The last few days have given me the opportunity to reconnect with my children in a way I haven’t for a long time. In the cases of Courtney and Tom, we were able to share some deep feelings together. These types of interactions often get overlooked in our day to day life. We all loved grandpa deeply and we comforted each other and shared our loss. It was a bittersweet time with my family.

Alex expresses her emotion in a number of different ways. For her grandpa’s funeral she wore a dress, let me put on make-up and wore a necklace. She told me she wanted to be pretty for grandpa. Never, ever has anyone in our lives been granted this honor. I am sure her grandpa would be proud. She cried harder than most of us, particularly at the cemetery. She also laughed the loudest and smiled the most when we gathered with her cousins and cousins’ children.

However, there is a part of Alex that I have not seen for awhile. Silly me, I had thought we had outgrown this stage. Alex can be extremely stubborn. In the past, these streaks of stubbornness, which can turn into full blown temper tantrums have emerged during difficult transitions. For example, this happened the first time she rode a horse, or when she began skiing. But, this has not happened in a long time.

Yesterday at the airport, my very skinny, constantly growing, 14 year old son asked for something to eat. I quickly agreed and sent him off to get a sandwich. Alex asked for a sandwich too – and this is the part where I made my fatal mistake - I said no.

I told Alex she could have lunch at lunch time, not at 10:30 in the morning. This seemed perfectly logical to me. But I did not figure on the other variables – Alex is a bit fragile, we had been very busy and she was tired. I believe she misses her grandpa so deeply (and Lucy) that she will process the loss at a different pace and differently, than me and her siblings. I know this will be tough and I need to be prepared for the reactions – but I was not ready.

Alex had a huge meltdown in the middle of the airport.Well – may be it was not the middle of the airport – just felt like it. We have had these before and they always engender that “what’s wrong with her” look from the other guests in the airport. Not really that much fun.

As Alex screamed at me “I hate you, I am not going home”, I thought, here we go, prepare for battle. I quickly told the other kids to get on the plane. I do not think it is fair for them to have to deal with this meltdown. I had the feeling this could be a tough one, and it is better to spare the other kids, and save their ammunition for another time.

Sometimes reason will work with Alex, but logic was not working with this fit, and I certainly was not going to get her a sandwich. I have drawn a line in the sand on the food issue. I knew it was no time to be messing around - so I resorted to my guerilla warfare tactics.

I grabbed Alex's bags with lots of panache and drama, and stormed towards the plane. However, this meant I was carrying four bags and I am sure I got many of those "what's wrong with her" looks too. I told Alex I was going to leave her in Chicago, hoping she would not believe me. After all I had her movies, music and Nintendo DS - what would she do without these?

It took Alex awhile – but she eventually did follow me – although I was not certain she would. Perhaps grandpa was helping us. Ugly, painful and agonizing – but I know this is all part of the process, and I really do understand.

As we arrived home, Alex looked at me with her adorable face and charming smile and said “tough day, Mom”. All I could do was laugh and think I hope this is as tough as it gets. I am not sure this will be the case.


  1. This is Joyce. Hugs from me to you. These moments sure can be stressful.

  2. thanks Joyce - I read about Sarah today - she sounds like an awesome person - I am really enjoying this experience of sharing.

  3. Hi Gary. Thank you for sharing this story. We dealt with a meltdown over the weekend too. Not easy, but with patience we all get beyond it, right? Sorry for your loss. Love, M

  4. Thanks Michele - such a small world we live in...Scotty's Dad handled all the arrangements and his Mom was there every second for my mother-in-law (and us)- so thankful for them.


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