Friday, December 2, 2016

Spaces


I draw a balloon, use watercolor. I dip the brush in  red. I hold my boy's hand. "Let's color, my love." He holds the brush, my hand over his.  And we paint, leaving spaces behind. I'm tempted to say, let's fill in the spaces. I stop myself from doing so. This is his way. Not mine. He leaves the table and plays with water.

I hold up two plastic teddy bears, red and yellow. "Garret, get yellow." He flicks a pencil. After two more proddings, he picks out the yellow plastic teddy. "This time, Garret, follow the pattern, Red, yellow, green, blue, white." It takes a while. He needs guidance to follow through. I stop myself from getting frustrated. This is his way. Not mine. He stands up and continues to flick the pencil. 

Morgan becomes impatient, wants his food right away. I talk to him gently. "It's okay to wait. It's okay to wait." He gets my hand and places it on top of his head, wants me to massage his head. I do. He calms down and waits.

Garret cries. I had to go to work one morning. He does not like changes in routine. He's used to having me in the morning, classes in the afternoon. That's the way it goes. I arrive home just before noon. He cries even harder. I tell him, "Mama's here, my darling." He looks at me, tears in his eyes, "Shaaaynge." Change. He wants me to change  my  clothes already. I do. He wipes his tears and smiles. 

There are days I know for sure why things are the way they are. There are days I am okay with it. And then there are days that I write. These days, words are scarce. Still, write I must.

Spaces. My boys, they have many spaces. Confusing, wonderful, mysterious, beautiful, grand spaces. And I fill those spaces. I hold those spaces for them. The best way I know how, color it with all that is in my heart.

Spaces. The irony. I myself am full of them. Perhaps I am the one that needs to be filled.

C. S. Lewis writes,
 "Courage, dear heart." 
                 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What if?

I've always wondered,
What if you were given words, my dear boy?
Would the world be kinder?
What if you were given words , my love?
Would your smiles mean more?
What if you were given words, my son?
Would your touch feel deeper?
What if you were given words, my king,
Would your laughter sound richer?
What if you were given words, my child,
Would life be more beautiful?
What if you were given words, my Morgan,
Would my heart grow bigger and
therefore break even wider
than how it already is breaking?

I wonder yet I know.
My heart
Oh this Mama's heart
is a fickle thing.
One day I am sure.
Another,  I am full of questions.
I know yet I wonder still.
For now with deep breaths,
I steer myself to what is,
To where we are
Where the ground beneath
Our feet
Moves beyond words
Where the air we breathe
Is love unnamed
Where what we do have is
More than any questions
Or the answers we seek
Where Grace finds us
When we need it the most
As I do now.

"I do not understand the mystery of grace -- only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us." -Anne Lamott

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Yuv Yoo

My boy, he pulls me towards the sofa, wants me to sit down beside him. He looks at me and says, "Yuv yoo."

My boy, I massage his legs, the toy he flicks falls down. I pick it up for him. He looks at me and says, "Yuv yoo."

My boy, he listens as I scold his brother. He covers his ears and looks at me and says, "Yuv yoo."

My boy, he cries as I scold him, After a while he holds my arm and says, "Yuv yoo."

My boy, in bed as we turn off the lights he nudges his forhead for me to kiss. He says, "Yuv yoo."

My boy, from our truck, I alight to go to work, his papa says, "Say bye to Mama," he says, "Yuv yoo."

My boy, I feared he would not know the meaning of love but he does. Oh how he does! Of all the things I have taught him he knows this word. He knows this deed. He knows only this--

Love.

I love you, I love you, I love you my boys, my dear dear boys.

Now more than ever. In a world I do not understand anymore, I love you, will continue to teach you love and love above all...

Teachers

"Where is Garret, Ma'am Bea?" a Grade 1 student asked me out of the blue. It was their recess time.

"He's having a class," I  replied.  Wondering how she knew Garret, I asked, "How do you know Garret?"

She said in a matter-of-fact tone, "Classmate man mi pag Kinder 1." (We were classmates in Kinder1). She was referring to the time when we let Garret attend mainstream class.

"Ma'am Bea, ang imong duha ka anak kay special?" (Are both of them special  children?)

"Yes, they both are special."

And then,

"Mag teacher sad sila ig kadako nila?"

I  paused. "I do not know yet," I finally answered.

She smiled and ran to play with her classmates.

Will they be teachers too? The little girl asked perhaps wondering if Garret and Morgan, like most children, would want to be what their parents are.

I don't know yet, I answered her. But what I really wanted to say was that my two boys have been my teachers for as long as I can remember.

But how to explain this to a 6-year-old?

Perhaps like this: That teachers are people who make you want to be a better person. Teachers are those who teach you love, kindness, compassion. Teachers are those who teach you to be brave. And they do this unknowingly. In the nameless, wordless acts of everyday.

Will they be teachers too? The little girl asked. Maybe tomorrow, when she asks again, I'll answer very simply,

They already are, sweetheart. They already are.

Monday, July 4, 2016

A Great Many Things

I lie beside Morgan. It is just before dinner. He feels a bit under the weather but is cheerful nonetheless. I hear myself saying the words, " I love you," over and over again. He grins and move closer to me.

There are many things, many stories I want to tell him. But where to start? And which one? Our dreams? Our plans? My heart is in knots. How to tell him in a way he can understand? In a way his mind will allow him to? I wonder what stories other parents tell their children. I wonder whether they have similar worries as I have. I wonder briefly. And then I breathe too deeply and look at my king. "I love you, I love you, I love you," I continue to tell him.

I remember a time. I am 28 years old, 5 months pregnant. I lie in bed. My hands cradle my belly. I talk to the life growing inside me. "You will be relentless, strong and fierce. You will conquer a great many things."

I am back to the present. My mind is on the many things, the many stories I want to tell him. The many worries for our future hover over me. Morgan looks at me, his gaze speaking the words I said to him back when he could still hear my heartbeat from the inside of my body. This time it is him saying to me, "You are relentless, strong and fierce, Mama. You can conquer everything."

Morgan is 8 years old. In so many ways he is still the fragile life I cradle delicately. Or perhaps my own 35 year-old heart is the one that is fragile. In tremendous ways, it is.

Maybe it does not matter whether the day will come when Morgan can understand the immensity of all the things and stories I want to tell him. Maybe in the end what truly matters is how much I do the repeated words of "I love you." And maybe what matters the most is how we live the story we tell ourselves, how we are relentless, strong and fierce and how we shall conquer a great many things.



Saturday, July 2, 2016

Scant Words

Morgan

Round cheeks
Small eyes
that grow large
once in a while
Hands gentle
hold mine

Garret

Face angled
to the sun, moon
and stars
singing
Fingers long
flick,
touch my face
softly like wind

Morgan

wordless yet
intent spills
this morning, he sits beside me
says,
"Mmm- mah,"
and then none
Small eyes
grow large
Hands gentle
touch my arm
hold my Heart

Garret

in the dark
head rests in the crook of my arm
scant words
says,
"Aaa-peee,"
I bring him close
my Heart
sings.




Friday, May 20, 2016

Our Door

Our door
Has a closer
So that it closes
By itself gently

My son
He likes
Closing doors
Any left open he runs to it
And shuts it hard it bangs
Loud!
My ears hurt
His don't

Our door
Has a closer
You have to push hard
Against the spring
My son
He barges in
Without a second glance
No matter who is behind
The spring inside
The closer does its job
Gently it shuts
My ears don't ring as much
anymore.

One day my son
turned the knob
Pushed the door open
and held it
Then glanced at me
It was as if I heard him say,
"Come, Mama, I'll wait for you. Come in."

Our door
Has a closer
So that it closes
By itself gently
One day my son
held it for me
My ears don't hurt anymore.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Living and Breathing Poetry

"Garret, do you want bread?"
"Wuh-er." (Water)

"What color would  you like  to use this time?"
"Yeyow." (Yellow)

"Bwed," (Bread) he asks of me.
"You ask Ate (Caregiver) to toast bread."
"Ah-teh, bwed."

Many years ago, he wouldn't even look at me in the eye for more than a second.  Verbal language was absent. But now. Now is different. Now is better. Now is so far from where we began. Now he speaks to me. He responds to me. He tells me what he wants albeit, singly.  One amazing-sounding word at a time.  

I think about how I love and write poetry. I wish someday my boys could understand it, could come to love the intricacy and magnificence of language both in its written and spoken form.

The irony of my life does not escape me. It in fact poses greater questions that I ask myself everyday:

As a mother, am I willing to let go of the kind of language I love so much and embrace another form of language, one that goes beyond any written or spoken form, one that is in its purest, most elemental form?  And how will I speak to my boys in a way that they will truly understand?

As a mentor, teacher and in other roles in my life, the questions stand. And the answer remains unchanged everyday even in the most trying ones--

Yes, with all my heart. I will let go, embrace and speak  the language devoid of any unnecessary abstraction, metaphors, and flowery words. I will nourish them with the language that is simple, clear and direct to the point.

Over the years I find gifts of insight-- Elegance  in simplicity. Poetry in clarity. Beauty in a place where the intended meaning of the speaker and the understanding of those who hear the message come together effortlessly.

In the years to come, if my heart is wide enough and willing to expand some more, more insights abound waiting to be discovered just like the words that my dear Garret slowly and wonderfully unearths. Just like the pieces of understanding my feisty Morgan unravels.  One amazing miracle at a time.  Perhaps the most precious treasure I will find is that I will realize,  if I haven't already, that my boys are living and breathing poetry all by themselves and that my wish has already been granted long before I expected it to come true.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Attraversiamo

This wall
This gap,
This space
A tremendous river
Between us and them
Between our world and
Their secret place

We try to pull them into ours
Make them stay
Within the lines
Color inside the shapes
Circle, heart, square

Trace
The dots from here
To there

And they try, they really do
Feet together
Sit up straight
Quiet hands
Then hold the pen like this
Tripod grip
So write they do
Color they do
On paper as they should
Even though they prefer
Tables, walls or floors

This space

Between us and them
Between our world and
Their exquisitely secret place

Where silence lives
Too much of it
For our world at least

What will it take for us to know
This void
is part of who they are?
Who we are, who are we?
We are too full of noise
We are too full of markings
And
We are too afraid of nothing
Of

Blanks, of spaces, of gaps

The very same
that make our words richer, fuller

The very same
that make our world richer, fuller, more diverse
Beautiful

If we just look over
There is a bridge between
Their world and ours
Let's cross over
And fill in the blanks
Write love, tremendous love
On paper, tables, walls or floors
Occupy the space, embrace
Who they are, who we are

Autism,

This wall
Let's climb it. Or knock it down.
They are us
We are them
Let's close the gap.






Tuesday, March 29, 2016

On Your Eleventh Year of Life

Eleven years old today
And still all I can say is,
I love you,
I love you,
I love you

Words ring from
a distant past,
"You could have been This or That,"

But it doesn't matter
Because what does is
Now.
Here.
You,
You are This--
Beauty come alive
Love made life
And you are That--
Formidable,
Unconquerable
Relentlessly beautiful

Our one of two magnificent truths

So, yes,
On your 11th year of life,
and countless years more,
Our dear Garret
My eternal Little Prince,

I. 
Love.
You. 


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesdays

Bird song
As I sit here
with my cup of lemon
and black
Sunrise
Just behind the corner
The morning air
on my back
I do not know what birds they are
As much as I do not know 
all the workings of
my child's mind
But
I hear their song
and  
I know my child's heart.  



Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Come Find Me

I bid you, 
Come find me
See what it's like to see the sky
In rainbow colors instead of only blue and white
Come find joy in flicking various things: brushes, crayons, cans of paint
Come find peace in humming
As I press piano keys and
Pluck guitar strings
Come find healing
Me cradling your tired heart
And you, mine.
I bid you
Come find me
And know only this singular truth:
Love. Love will in turn find you. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Small Things

There are days when I know what I am doing. And days when I question everything.

Life.
Autism.
The weather.
My stubborn sinusitis acting up again.
My mother's memory loss.
The state of my country.
Friends who have come and gone.
Friends who stayed. 
Life.
Autism. 

Days comprising a three-hour trip to a nearby island where all I have for company are Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things I have not finished reading since Typhoon Yolanda,  the rumblings of the February sea, the boat crew's hustling and bustling and myself questioning my failings as a mother.

Now more than ever, I am unsure of everything. As if I have blindfolds on and I am left groping, my arms reaching out for something to hold on to, my feet traversing uncertain ground. Where here I am waiting for a voice to tell me where to go. But there is none. The only sound I hear is my heart beating loud as drums, my unsteady footing.

Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Is this the right thing to do? Do they need more time? Do I need more time? Will we have enough time?

The details are too numerous to tell it overwhelms me.

How do I get by? How do we get by?

With The Small Things:

Garret setting and clearing the table before and after every meal.
Morgan eating at the table every time he eats and putting his plate in the kitchen sink afterwards.
Garret helping me make the bed. No complaints. A smile on his face.
Morgan bringing the grocery bags when asked. Fingers curled firmly around the bag handles, his grip no longer lofty.
Functional Independence, the therapists call it. Life skills, we prefer to name it. 

The Small Things that  have been borne out of huge things-- Patience, Firmness, Understanding, Love,  Relentless, Persistent, not your ordinary run-of-the-mill Love.

Still, uncertainty looms.  I  question everything.

Life.
Autism.
The weather.
My stubborn sinusitis acting up again.
My mom's memory loss.
The state of my country.
Friends who have come and gone.
Friends who stayed. 
Life.
Autism.

And then as I type this, a hand taps me gently and asks me softly, "Sulli..." It is Garret showing me his Sullivan toy. He wants me to play his favorite movie. He did not grab my hand. He asked gently, showing me his toy. Oh my Little Prince. Language in the clearest, simplest form.

The Small Things. Perhaps this is the voice I have been waiting for to help me find my way in the dark and it's telling me in a voice as loud as drums, "Mama, you can take those blindfolds off now."