Friday, November 25, 2011


That's how Kevin says Thanksgiving.  He knows it is the day when we eat turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  He knows we go to "people's houses."  He doesn't know about pilgrims or Indians.  But he does know how to spread gratitude.

This year, Kevin, Vinny and I are spending the weekend on Long Island and it's the longest I've spent with Kevin in a while.  I was a little nervous initially about the three of us being together for four days.  Kevin has not been himself on our last few visits, shaking is fist and grabbing my shirt if he is not getting his way.  He has also looked at us several time as though he doesn't understand what we are saying.

But  things are different this weekend.  He's bubbling over with excitement for each activity that we do.  He has told me a dozen or so times a day that he loves me.  He and Vinny are joking with each other, usually at my expense.  It is a great relief to see him back to normal.

And it appears that the answer to his behavior issues may have been something very simple.  He had a lot of wax in his ears.  It must have been uncomfortable for him and the doctor said he could barely hear out of his right ear.  Something so simple that created such a difference in him.  As with most of his physical symptoms, he couldn't verbalize what he was feeling, but it had to come out in some way.

So this Sanksgimmin, I am grateful that Kevin is rubbing his hands together and giggling, a sign that he is ecstatic about what's about to happen. I am grateful for the vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce at dinner tonight - Kevin's favorite treat. I am grateful that Vinny loves and accepts Kevin as readily as I do.  I am blessed.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I traveled to Gaithersburg MD today – a trip that includes Amtrak to Washington, DC and then driving from Union Station to Gaithersburg.  The train was coming into Philadelphia when I realized I had left my GPS back in my car in Newark.  Anxiety set in.  I have not been able to find my own way from Union Station to Gaithersburg in the three previous times I’ve traveled there.  No problem, I thought.  I’ll just grab a Garmin from National Car Rental.  But no, when I arrived at the counter in Washngton, they were out of GPS units. 
Out of desperation, I asked for a map.  A map. A piece of paper with writing too small to read and creases impossible to refold.  As I exited the parking lot, I reached my first point of indecision.  Left or right?  Not even Mother Nature was cooperating, as a foggy rain prohibited my usual backup – the direction of the sun.  I knew I needed to go west then north.  I took a guess – a 50/50 shot.   I drove in a direction that felt like west.  My map showed some wonderful landmarks, but neglected to include important information like H Street. Then,  I saw a road sign for I-395, which was also on my map.  I was feeling more confident.
As I drove away from office buildings and landmarks into a more residential area, I became a little concerned, but I was also on a conference call simultaneously, so I kept driving, knowing eventually I’d hit the Beltway.
Which I did.  The southeastern part of the Beltway.  Almost directly opposite of where I was supposed to  be.  So much for my female intuition.
I knew based on the big loop of the Beltway on my map that I was going to be late for my meeting.   After calling to make my apologies, I drove through the rain, around Washington, making sure not to take the exit for 95 heading to Baltimore.  I arrived thirty minutes late.  After the meeting, I Google Mapped my way back to Union Station. With my shorthand directions, I arrived at the National Return lot in 45 minutes with only one wrong turn.  It was kind of a Garmin-lite approach.
I am digitized.  I can no longer effectively read a map.  My GPS has become as valuable to me as my wallet or my cell phone.   We often say, “What did we ever do without GPS’s?”  I remember the arguments my parents had when my mother’s errant directions landed us in Connecticut when we were supposed to be in Upstate New York.  She used a map that we got free from the Mobil station.  That’s what we did before the GPS – we got lost and argued.
I don’t mind being dependent upon electronics to guide me through life.  I just hate having to remember to take them everywhere.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


     There's no place like home.  When I'm on a business trip, I can't click my heels three times to get back to New Jersey.  Every northern NJ resident knows you don't fly out of Newark on a Monday or back on a Friday.  Wind over 15 mph closes one of the runways.  Every return trip home is an adventure.
     So when my 5PM flight home today was cancelled and I was moved onto the next one (8PM), I was prepping for a long lonely night in the Norfolk airport.  Then, a miracle happened.  The 2PM flight was delayed until 3:30PM.  I was put on standby and actually got on board.  I arrived home earlier than originally scheduled and was on the couch by 6PM.
     It's great to be home, but it's even better to be home early.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

No winners

     I was speaking with a friend who is a teacher at Penn State.  Hearing the fatigue in her voice, the pain of the situation that has impacted so many in her classes and her life, it reminds me that in the realm of childhood sexual abuse, there are no winners.  And in addition to the pain of the victims, there is much collateral damage in a situation as public as this.
     Many have compared the situation at Penn State to that of the Catholic Church.  My friend reminded me of the key difference in the two scenarios.  While the institutions share the scourge of pedophelia, heads rolled at Penn State.  Consequences were meted out to those in authority who covered up the alleged abuse.  We Catholics are still waiting.
     I pray that we never have to hear about another sexual crime perpetrated on a child, but I know that's unrealistic.  So the best we can hope for is cover-ups to be uncovered, injustices to be made just and those who are abused to find healing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Low Maintenance

     Kevin requires help.  He needs someone to buckle his belt because he can't find the hole to put the little metal thing through (what is that little metal thing called anyway?)  He can pour milk unless the carton is too full, in which case a river of dairy results.  He cannot tie his shoes, so I buy shoes with velcro straps.  If he walks across uneven ground, he loses his balance easily and panics. Someone needs to hold his hand.  He doesn't know how to count and can't read, so a staff person in his group home must mete out his pills for him.
     Yet compared to me and most people, Kevin is low maintenance.  He requires three things to make him happy - conversation, reassurance and hugs.  Four things if you count cheeseburgers.  I look at so many normal adults who are miserable and spend thousands of dollars to try to get happy.  It is a shame that we can't ask for what we want as readily as Kevin does.
     Kevin has acted out lately at his group home.  We think it is because of changes in personnel there, but I can never know for sure.  Asking Kevin what is wrong is futile - "nut-in" is his response.  I do know that some improvements over the last week seem to be connected to one staff member in particular.
     After I took Kevin out to breakfast on Saturday, I brought him back to his house.  Theresa was there to greet him.  He gave Theresa a hug and she shouted, "Hello O'Connor-boy," Kevin's favorite nickname.  She asked about our outing, told him she loved him and accepted another hug.  My brother voice was squeaking he was so happy.
     So as much as he may seem to require a lot of work at times, Kevin's needs are pretty simple.  It is another life lesson from him to me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


     Vinny and I celebrated our anniversary this past weekend.  In other years, I would have pictured an exotic meal, perhaps a weekend away, certainly flowers.  But this year we marked our years together in a simpler way.  We went out to dinner, but brought along a good friend who has been a large part of our lives over the last few years.  On Sunday, we went to church, where we were lectors.  I felt the presence of God in my life and in our relationship.  In the afternoon, we ventured to western NJ to a wolf preserve that Vinny had read about in the paper last week.  It was a symbol of some of the things that enable us to balance out each other.  I don't have a lot of time to read the paper and Vinny keeps me apprised of what's going on in the world and local events to attend.  At the wolf preserve, the combination of the loose gravel and rocks and the angle of the path were difficult for Vinny to manage with his bad ankle, so he leaned on my shoulder.  It was a simple day in our complicated lives and it was perfect.