Monday, October 31, 2011

Home is Where the Heart Is

     I live in New Jersey.  I should be suffering like my neighbors, without power, longing for a hot shower and a little mindless TV.  But I'm on a business trip, in a comfy hotel where the TV is off because I choose to leave it off.
     But my heart is back in NJ.   My neighbors tell me that I've lost a tree in the backyard and my front yard is full of large limbs, scattered like pickup sticks.  I can picture all this, but I want to really SEE it, to understand first-hand how much devastation there is.  I wonder how the inside of my refrigerator smells and if there's any sort of leak anywhere.  I want the comfort of knowing that whatever disaster I envision in my kitchen, it's really not so bad.  And on some level, I want my own war story to tell in years to come of how I survived Snotober.
     Kevin has been vacated from his group home to a hotel again, just as he was for Hurricane Irene.  I don't know his room number though, so I haven't been able to talk to him this afternoon.  There isn't a doubt in my mind that he's fine though.  Really, not one doubt.  Really.
     So sitting here in my hotel room, I am warm and showered and I want to go home.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Movie Night

     Kevin enjoys going to the movies, mostly for the popcorn I think.  We have gone to several movies - comedies, cartoons, action films.  Sometimes he pays attention, sometimes he falls asleep.  The sheer pleasure of accompanying others to an normal activity, being with his Sissa, having a treat of popcorn and soda - these are the simple pleasures that my brother enjoys.
     A few months ago, we went to see a movie at our local Indy movie theater.  They show some artsy stuff, but this was a comedy, so I was pretty sure Kevin would enjoy it.  We settled into our seats, a large popcorn on my lap to share with Kevin, a small diet Pepsi in his cup holder.
     The movie started and the actors began speaking.  I almost laughed out loud, but not at any comedy in the movie.  I realized that I had taken Kevin to a foreign film, German, with subtitles.  Kevin, who cannot read and certainly doesn't understand German, was staring at a screen with no idea of what was happening.  The evening was not a total waste; he got in a good nap.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Being a Parent

     I wonder many times why I never had children.  If I delve deep enough, I produce five or six potential reasons.  Being single isn't an excuse these days.  Now that the fertility bus has left the station, it seems like a moot point.
     But there are times like this past weekend that show me I could have been a parent.  I possess the number one attribute required for any parent - worry.
     Kevin is my pseudo-child.  I feel responsible for his well-being and happiness.  I call him everyday, because no day seems complete without saying "I love you, O'Connor-Boy."  But I also want to gauge his contentment (i.e. - how well I'm doing my job), by the only barometer I have - the timbre of his voice.  High-pitched and elongated words are good.  Quiet, low-pitched and staccato are red flags.
     When Kevin's group home called me last week to report his misbehaving/aggression, I asked to speak to him.  A barely audible "hi" greeted me.  I did my best to reinforce that good behavior yields rewards.  Once I used the magic phrase "going out to dinner," he perked up to his usual self.
     But I worry.  Kevin never has issues during the week at his group home, only on the weekends.  It is a combination of frequent staff turnover and a low activity level compared to weekdays.  If I spent all day watching TV, I think I'd go a little nuts too.  So I need to step in, be the guardian, be the parent.  I suggest ways to coax Kevin to good behavior and activities that he can do on the weekends.  He likes to hear that he's a gentleman.  He responds to rewards.  Scolding has never worked.  It's hard to get a 160 pound man into a timeout if he doesn't want to go.  I've tried. 
     And still I worry.  Am I doing enough?  What if his behavior continues, escalates?  When will the next phone call come?  What if they kick him out of the house?  I try to keep myself grounded in reality, to trust that I'm doing everything I can, but I want Kevin to happy 100% of the time.
     So I really am a parent after all.