It’s been a long, hard day.
Probably tangling with a case manager last night set things off. I still think I was/am right. But that is neither here nor there. She has power. And what is best for Cecilia and Nettie is that I get along with my team. (Even when a case manager forgets that she is to be their advocate no matter what. Even when a case manager is being ridiculous. Honestly! Aren’t the “rules” in place so that our individuals get the best care possible?) Anyhow. It wasn’t pretty.
In the middle of things when I found myself near tears, I decided to try to settle things down a little and give her a chance to (maybe) back off a bit.
“I think I am especially irritable today,” I said. “Cecilia and Nettie have both been sick, and then I was so sick over the weekend. Things look extra big to me right now. But I feel that this is so unreasonable.”
(Some of you out there are wondering what could get me so wrought up — and it’s a very long story –but when Cecilia, who is autistic, blind and non-verbal gets a bill in the mail that the state won’t pay, the case manager wanted me to agree that I would go and get the cash from Ceclia’s bank account and take that specific cash to the place of business or go out and get a money order and mail the money order instead of paying it with my personal check, and documenting that I had taken the funds out of the personal spending money. “We would never expect you to make a special trip,” she said, so condescendingly, “Just do it sometime when you are already out.” If I refused to do that, then she wanted me to agree that I would fill out a special form and explain to Cecilia what I was doing (!) and then have Cecilia sign (!) that she agreed for it to be done my way. “Document the steps you took to do it that way,” she insisted. “That way when someone is auditing it, they will understand what you have done.” I could not believe her audacity. I sent a copy of the bill and the check and a receipt along with the itemization. That really sounds like documentation to me! I felt like I was part of some weird spoof on government policies. The thing is, SHE is usually the only one who audits the record.
This discussion was going nowhere fast when. all of the sudden, in her sweet saccharin voice, she came towards me with her arms all wide outstretched. “Oh, Mary Ann. Give me a hug. I can see. You are a WORRIER. You are just so worried that something is going to go wrong and–” the rest of her sentence was lost on me.
I acknowledge that I CAN worry. I know how to do it. I come from a long line of accomplished worriers. But worry isn’t my besetting sin as a rule, I don’t think. It especially wasn’t at that moment. I was angry. I was livid, in fact. And, cotton pickin’ it, now I was crying. This combination only results in blubbering. So I tried to stop crying, tried to think straight, tried to organize my head, tried to be the one who was rational. And I decided that I would not back down. I gave her the perfunctory hug, went back to the fray, and felt like I was finally heard. I picked my words, decided what I could live with, and we parted with a fairly decent understanding.
But I was prickly inside all day. Although there were some special blessings today that truly helped me through, I still found myself on the verge of tears all afternoon. Daniel took me this afternoon to pick up our van that had been in the shop, and on the way home, on impulse, I decided to stop in at the local coffee shop to see if there was any JamaicanMeCrazy coffee beans that they are famous for. I came into the homey atmosphere and waited while Chuck took care of the customer ahead of me. The smells and the warmth swirled around me and suddenly I felt tireder than I had in a long time. Chuck finished up and then greeted me with his usual friendliness.
“Hi, Mary Ann. How ARE you today?” I could feel his kind eyes trying to look into mine. I studied the menu over the counter intently.
“Oh. I’m – – Fine, I guess.” What was going on here? Why was I feeling prickles behind my eyelids?
“That doesn’t sound convincing,” he said quietly. “The kids okay? Rachel doing alright? Everyone doing fine?
That distracted me a bit, and I told him that everyone was fine, I had just talked to Rachel, Deborah was in Israel, and the kids were coming home for Easter. Did he have any JMC Coffee?
He said they didn’t– they would get it in next week, and trying mightily to be cheerful, I ordered a bag for next week and got a caramel steamer to go, paid my bill, dropped in a tip and stepped back to the back counter to fix it just the way I like it. Chuck went on to the next customer, and I stood at the tall counter, stirring my steamer and wondering what in the world was wrong with me. That’s when the tears started in earnest. I kept my back to Chuck and the rest of the shop, gathered up my steamer and quietly exited. Tears were dropping fast, on the front of my shirt, and I was having trouble seeing. I found my car and started home.
“Oh, Lord, you’re beautiful,” I began in the quiet car. “Your face is all I see. For when your eyes are on this child, your grace abounds to me.” I sang while the tears streamed down, and gradually the peace began to settle in. A sacrifice of praise helps me every time. If only I wouldn’t forget so soon.
I got home, and it wasn’t long until Nettie came in from center and then Cecilia I got Cecilia settled into her chair and then my sweet Mama called. She asked about my day and I told her how I had been irritable and weepy all day. When I told her that I suspected that it had something to do with the exchange I had with my case manager the night before, I realized that she hadn’t heard the story. So I proceeded to tell her.
That was a bad idea, probably. Not because she couldn’t know it, but I love to tell a story, and the truth is, I get really caught up in what happened, who said what, she said, I said, etc. and it doesn’t take too much for the emotions to come right back with rather alarming intensity. So, yes, I was kinda’ mad all over again.
When Cecilia comes home from center, she likes a certain routine. You take off her coat, she sits in her chair, you take off her shoes, you put her feet up and tilt the recliner back and put some music on her Bose system. I had done all this except the music part. Somehow I forgot to do that. And another thing we know is that Cecilia hates conflict. And she has acute hearing. So I was going on and on to Mama about my conversation with the case manager, and Cecilia began to be a little agitated. Soon there were some irritating noises from her corner, but my attention was on cleaning up my kitchen while I talked to Mama.
Suddenly, there was this huge noise from Cecilia’s corner, loud, harsh and drawn out. The noise she makes when she is really, really upset about something and is trying to throw up. Something inside of me snapped. Without missing a beat in my conversation with Mama, I turned towards her corner and said, “CECILIA!!! YOU STOP THAT!!! RIGHT NOW!!!”
I said it loud and I said it mean. Cecilia was immediately quiet. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was sorry. I honestly can say that I don’t think I have ever spoken quite that way to her before. I was so ashamed of myself (and I should have been). I knew I was going to have to apologize to her. She really didn’t deserve to be spoken to in such a manner.
I finished the call, talked a little bit to Nettie, then decided to get it over with. I walked over to her chair and got my face down on level with her face. “Cecilia –“
She immediately held up her hand. She has a bad habit of doing that and then wrenching the hand given to her, sometimes gouging it with her fingernails, and has been known to draw blood. I wondered what I was in for, but I gave her my hand.
My heart gave a lurch. She caressed my hand, gently, held it in her own as quietly as I would a baby’s and lifted her sightless face towards me.
“Cecilia– I’m so sorry for yelling at you so unkindly. That was very wrong of me. I’m so sorry. Can you forgive me?”
She shifted uncomfortably in her chair then but allowed me to put my arm around her shoulders for a little hug before she shrugged me off.
But that quiet hand! I am still in a state of disbelief. And when I put her to bed tonight with her customary song and bedtime rituals, I whispered once again in her ear how sorry I was, and she pushed her face up against my words and opened those sightless eyes without a trace of frown or displeasure.
I’ve been forgiven, and His Grace abounds to me.