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Posts Tagged ‘Marty’

Will is on the couch fidgeting in his peripheral vision with a piece of frayed green yarn, artfully and very deliberately coated in masking tape by my hands under Will’s nonverbal instructions. Julia is watching Madagascar 3 for the thousandth time, and Marty, my soon-to-be-ex-husband and the kids’ loving dad, is in the kitchen blessedly making coffee. And me? I am at my desk, thinking about the article that ran about my little family in this morning’s Independent Florida Alligator.

Will was around 3 in this picture, but it’s one of my all-time favorites.

The reporter, Colleen Wright, a UF sophomore, showed up last week at my garage sale, having heard that my goal was to raise money so I can move to California where, while I don’t expect to arrive into some kind of Oz filled with free speech therapy centers on every corner, there are most definitely a lot more options and available, affordable, accessible services for a child like my son, Will, who, at 7 and a half, is nonverbal (we always say “preverbal,” because we remain hopeful) and has autism, OCD, sensory integration dysfunction, and a host of chronic health challenges. Wright questioned me for an hour that morning, respectful and inquisitive, but clearly with no background in autism.  (more…)

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I remember the first time I “came out” to a stranger. I was at Target (as usual), and a woman said “hello” to Will and waited for him to respond. I said “hello” back for him, smiling and telling her, “Will isn’t being rude to you, ma’am. He has autism, so he doesn’t speak.” That night, I told my husband Marty about the exchange. I was incredibly proud of having publicly stated, to someone who didn’t need to know, that Will had autism. Doing so was a big step for me.

See, the thing about autism is that Will looks like everyone else (although, and I could be a teensy bit biased here, I do think he’s maybe a little cuter than the average kid). He “passes” for “normal” the way some of my gay friends used to “pass” for straight before coming out. People cannot look at Will and tell that he’s any different. And so I think it comes as even more of a surprise to people when I tell them he has autism.

At first, I didn’t want to tell people Will had autism because it was too painful. I would cry just thinking about autism, so I tried not to talk about it in front of Will. And I knew I didn’t have to tell people, given how Will blended in. So, in those first few months A.D. (that’s “After Diagnosis” in our house), I stuck to telling family and close friends. I even asked them to keep the news to themselves, not out of shame, but out of fear. I was petrified that a girlfriend would mention Will’s autism to another mom, and that I’d then run into that mom, say, at the park. I knew if I had a random acquaintance come up and give me her condolences (because that’s how it felt in the beginning; no one knew what to say except how sorry they were), I would completely break down on the spot.

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As a little girl, I kept a diary. I entrusted my deepest secrets to this silent confidante, my safe haven. My diary was a mute therapist, a free space where I could speak my mind without shame or fear or reprisal. My diary was a little hidden piece of me, tucked away in the dark recess beneath my headboard.

My childhood passed into adolescence, and the stack of flowery little diaries gave way to a neat pile of black-and-white Composition Books straight out of a 1950s high school movie. My diaries had become journals. My journals had become a project. And along the way, I had become a writer.

Today my old diaries and journals are stored away, rarely opened but always held onto, tied in bundles with red satin ribbons, living in perpetual safekeeping like so many baby photos and pressed flowers. I doubt I’ll ever let them go. They are little, written portraits of me. And, when, on rare occasions, I look back at them, I notice one overwhelming trend that holds true from my 4th-grade, Holly Hobby, lock-and-key, 40-page mini-diary to my leather-bound traveler’s journal from my senior year of college: They’re all incomplete. Every single volume has at least one big, huge time gap.
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By Tara Cohen

He hit me again last night. This time it was so hard I heard my nose crack and I fell to the floor. While I sobbed in pain, he continued screaming, seemingly incensed all the more by my cries. I slunk from the room and fumbled through the freezer for an ice pack, all the while listening to his continued raging in the next room. Tears flowing down my face, I wondered how my life had come to this.

Long ago, I promised myself I would never marry a man who would even consider raising his hand to me or our children. I would never accept a partner who would intentionally hurt me because my adult life would be what I wanted it to be: happy, peaceful, free of yelling or violence or the threat of either. My children would never fear me or my spouse. They would know unconditional love and security at home. And yet, last night, I lay on the couch, icing my face, contemplating how much yelling, hitting, and eggshell-walking goes on in my home, no matter how much I struggle against it. How had I gotten to this place? How did I become  the type of woman who is grateful when her bruises aren’t easily visible? How did I come to have this secret and to carry this guilty weight of unabating abuse? Why was I so ashamed to tell my friends or family?
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by Tara Cohen

My friend told me she does not like Facebook, and I started hyperventilating. Ok, maybe not truly hyperventilating, more like moderately over-ventilating, but still, I was worked up. I mean, how can anyone not like Facebook? Admittedly, I spend far too much time on Facebook. I realize I’m a Facebook junkie. A Facebook addict. A Facebook fiend. It’s seriously become a problem. The quietest guy I knew in all of my grade-school days Instant Messaged me asking if I worked for Facebook because I was on so much. So now I use the “offline” setting so people can’t see how often I’m there. Like I said: it’s a problem.

I’m on Facebook so much that I made it my browser’s home page. I cannot sit down at my computer without spending at least five minutes responding to wall posts and status updates, application suggestions and group invitations, game nudges and friend requests. I live on Planet Facebook.

So when my friend “Miranda” (who all but made me swear on my iMac not to use her real name) said she just isn’t crazy about Facebook, I had this flash of deja vu and found myself thinking of my mother-in-law.

I’ve been on my mother-in-law for ages to learn to use a computer. A few years ago, she went so far as to accept a hand-me-down from my niece, but all it did was sit in the corner and make her nervous. My husband Marty thought she was afraid if she hit the wrong key she might accidentally bomb China, and honestly, I don’t think he was far off. She called me for advice, and the conversation went something like this:

MiL: Tara, I just don’t know about this thing.
Me: Mom, we’re coming down in a week, and I’ll teach you how to use it.
MiL: Well, bring a new whatchamacallit for the AOL with you because the one I have is the wrong size.
Me: What?
MiL: It’s the wrong size. It’s not going to fit the computer.
Me: What??
MiL: The thing. The whoosie. The…the disc. It’s the AOL ninety nine, and the computer is an oh-two. It’s the wrong size.
Me: Wait…what???

We visited, and, what do you know, the disc was just the right size for the drive. I set up an AOL account, shut down the computer, and started from square one: Turn on the machine. As the desktop flickered into life, my mother-in-law looked skeptically at the various icons and said, “Ok. Now, which one is for the airplane reservations?” And so we started again:

Me: Mom, plane reservations are on websites, not actually on your computer.
MiL: What?
Me: Well, we start by accessing the internet using something called a browser.
MiL: What??
Me: If the computer is your house, then the browser is your car, and you drive the browser to the internet, which is the mall. That has websites, which are like stores.
MiL: Wait…what???

In fairness, my desire to have my mother-in-law use a computer is a little selfish. I’m comfortable with computers. I grew up with them, starting with my dad’s first home IBM, a monster of a machine, complete with the ability to turn the “green screen” to “amber” with just the flip of one glowing switch! (Hey, when your folks won’t buy you an Atari, you make do.) The upshot is that, after a lifetime of computer use, my internet connection goes down for an hour and I’m having heart palpitations. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, was born during the Hoover administration, uses a corded phone, and does not, to my knowledge, own a single CD. I realize we speak two different languages, but I still just can’t get past wanting to get her online.

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