Friday, 1 April 2016

Blinded by the wait (write of passage number forty)

I have found out the hard way that expressing fear, frustration, or anger to younger daughter is not helpful. Such feelings ricochet off her autism and create more damage, so, if I can, I sit on my emotions until she's not here.

And she wasn't here.

That's why I was crying uncontrollably.

It was the middle of a nutty week. Elder daughter, after nearly two years of making it on to shortlists, had finally been offered something close to a dream job. However, that afternoon, she was flipping out over contract negotiations, over-thinking, and reappearing from around the corner with yet another worry. Younger daughter had informed me that morning that she'd be needing chocolate-chip-cookie therapy after a stressful evening trying to adjust to her new radio alarm clock - a series of unfortunate events that had spiralled into an impassioned late-night text about being sick of school. (A mixed blessing about texts -- we now have a much better idea of what younger daughter is thinking - she evidently finds them easier than struggling for words on the spot.)

Meanwhile, I was finishing my last-minute assignments for an online genealogy course while baking the aforementioned cookies.

Just before logging on to the course-end chat (7:15 pm Greenwich Mean Time; 3:15 pm Eastern Daylight Time), I texted younger daughter to inform her that elder daughter wanted to have dinner out at a local pub to celebrate the new job, knowing that younger daughter should, by that time, be on the first of the two long bus rides that bring her home from her school in Nepean.

I submitted my assigned question to the chat, and after half an hour, the topic had shifted to something of interest to only three of the participants. I made myself a quick snack, checked my phone and noticed that younger daughter had not responded - unusual for her. I texted again; by this time she should be waiting downtown to transfer.

Watching the online chat sporadically, I began to worry, but just a little. Four o'clock came and went. I phoned and the call went to voice mail. Five minutes later, I tried again and younger daughter's head teacher picked up, apologizing for answering a phone that wasn't hers. Younger daughter had left her phone at school. I thanked her, telling her that we were far happier knowing the phone was safe. I didn't tell her younger daughter was late, because she wasn't late enough.

She was late enough as the online chat wound down without me; I hastily signed off.

Younger daughter always waits for the #1 bus because it drops her off at our front door.  She didn't get off the next bus that rattled past our house.  I went outside to note the number of the bus stop, texting it to check the GPS of the next bus while elder daughter assured me that her sister often arrived at 4:30 -- not true, and when she has, it's been on days she's had a lift.

At 4:33, the next bus passed without stopping.  I checked and re-checked the GPS for arrivals at our stop.  I don't think I'll ever forget those four digits.  The next bus was due at 4:55 pm.  She's never been that late.

Up to this point, I'd been calm and prosaic.

And then I wasn't.

I was blind-sided by a storm of tears, hearing myself wailing, "Where-is-she-where-is-she-why-did-she-forget-her-phone-there's-nothing-I-can-do-why-isn't-home-she-can't-reach-us-I-want-her-to-come-home...."

Over and over.  Elder daughter put her arm around my shoulder.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" I wept heartbrokenly.  This was supposed to be a wonderful day, a time to celebrate elder daughter's emergence from months of applications, interviews and dashed hopes.

"Where is she?  Where is she?  What if she got on the 118?  She could be anywhere and I can't help her!  She can't tell us...."

Elder daughter asked for the number of OC Transpo.  I was too beside myself to help her look up the number.  Instead, I staggered to the door, thinking I could scan the street once more.  I halted.

"She's here!  She's here!"

She was wandering up our street, having evidently caught the #7.  I saw her gazing up the hill at something.

I couldn't let her see how upset I'd been; previous experiences have taught me this.  I asked elder daughter to check the damage to my make-up, knowing it would take younger daughter several minutes to retrieve her keys from her back-pack.  She doesn't like us to open the door for her.

"I'm glad to see you," I told her, my voice shaking only a little.  If she noticed, she gave no sign.  It turned out her first bus had been half an hour late.

"May I have a hug?" I asked, because she's on the spectrum and I can't just embrace her.

She let me hold her for a few seconds.

Her hair smelled of the coming spring.

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