April 20, 2011
I have a love/hate relationship with spring in Texas.
I love it for the storms that roll in during the late afternoons, setting off a flurry of emailed warnings and text messages and little tornado icons in the corner of every local television broadcast. Giant walls of clouds shamble in from the west, flashing lightning and setting off car alarms with great grumbles of thunder. The tornado sirens wail in the distance, cranking up a few seconds apart as they're triggered in town after town, running from Frisco and Allen to the north, down through Plano and Richardson, slightly out of sync so that they sound like a choir of tormented ghosts. After a while, the wailing stops, and for a brief moment I am disappointed that the danger is over.
But no, the siren has stopped so that the monstrous voice can intone, clearly and with divine authority, "Seek shelter immediately! Seek shelter immediately!" And suddenly I am thrilled again, feeling that tingle that suggests that the world might still be an exciting place, and it might carry danger and death, or it might just be full of lightning and thunder and waves of horizontal rain from time to time. I ignore the mathematics of tornados, because if I think about the incredibly remote chances of actually experiencing one, even in Texas, then I'll be aware that it really is just rain, and thunder and lightning, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
I love the storms, as only a renter can.
I kind of hate spring, too.
Spring is the season of IEP meetings, where we stretch Schuyler's monster out on a table and examine it, looking for signs of weakness that might be exploited, places where its hide might be pierced, even though every year we find that it is as inpenetrable as ever. Every spring, I find the enthusiasm and the "Why not?" of Schuyler's school has diminished just a little more, and the pragmatism and the downturned eyes and the "Here's why not..." has grown a little stronger in the passing year.
No one's talking about graduation anymore.
Spring is the season of the TAKS test, the Texas manifestation of No Child Left Alive, which for special needs kids invariably means "the test that you spend weeks preparing for even though you are probably going to fail it and no one believes you can pass it anyway, but Jesus Howard Christ, we are going to be ready for this motherfucker anyway, and sorry all your typical friends passed it but you didn't, but then again, you're DIFFERENT, and this is one more solid illustration of exactly how much that ISN'T a good thing, because you're not in Holland, you're in a place where you are measured against neurotypical kids, and it's not fair but it's the law, so let's take this shitty test, shall we?"
Schuyler did not pass the reading or math portions of the TAKS, we learned today. She didn't even come close.
I didn't tell her. I'm not sure if I ever will.
Well, I'm not so much worried about what comes next. Julie called the school principal (because we are Those Parents) a few minutes after I got the call from Schuyler's home room teacher telling me the bad TAKS news, in tones suggesting that the very best moment she could imagine in her future might be the one in which this phone call was over. The principal was supportive and reassuring, as she has always been.
I don't believe the school would try to hold Schuyler back from moving on to the next grade level, especially since I believe that their goals for her have shifted subtly from "she's going to graduate one day" to something more like "we're going to do the very best we can to teach her by exposing her as much information as we can, and maybe, just maybe, she'll absorb enough that her future will be, well, we don't know exactly, but maybe something good". They've become realists, in ways that we as Schuyler's Official Designated Overbelievers cannot.
I hate the test because it re-enforces something that Schuyler already knows. It tells her not to overbelieve. It tells her, and her teachers, and us, and I hope she refuses to listen but I wonder.
Spring is the season when we talk about all these things, and so in a very real sense, it's the season in which I despair.
This spring has been harder than most, with the added factor of possible seizures, the ones I've written about so much that I just don't want to anymore, and which will hopefully get THEIR spring portrait taken soon by Schuyler's neurologist. It's been hard for Schuyler because she's scared and frustrated and confused, she doesn't understand what is (maybe) happening to her body and her brain, which she thinks is mad at her. But her anxiety passes, and she finds joy in the world around her. She is anxiety-free ninety percent of the time, which I find comforting, even though last year it was probably ninety-five percent. I try not to project what next spring's percentage might be.
Of my own percentages, I dare not stop and take measure. Over the past six months or so, I have found that if I keep moving, if I just focus on Schuyler and try to toss the occasional bone to the dogs in my head so they don't bark so much, I'm okay. And that's enough for now.
One thing I love about spring is how it promises summer. Schuyler becomes impatient with school in a way that is extremely typical, I suspect. She begins asking about the pool, which inexplicably won't open for another few weeks, and when we walk through Target, she gravitates toward the swim suits, begging for a new one even though she simply cannot choose just one that she likes. Her skin already starts tanning, although this year she is left with strange little pale rings on her arms from the wristbands that she wears to discreetly address her drooling. She sees commercials on television for the newest roller coaster at Six Flags and says "Oh yeah!" before breathlessly begging to go, soon, tomorrow, now.
Schuyler's feelings about spring are pretty simple. She experiences spring and she thinks of the future. Unlike me, it doesn't scare the hell out of her. In that respect, I envy her, deeply.