I never dreamt of the knight in shining armor nor the prince. I was pretty much content with guys that just made me laugh. That was all that was needed to get me hooked. Lately, I have come to realize that Kosta is showing signs of why I fell in love with him. He says little jokes when he comes home from work. Even jokes about himself. A little secret: after just a few months of dating Kosta I became pregnant and at the news of my pregnancy he was ecstatic, not freaked out one bit. So we got to know each other through the pregnancy months and then Panayioti as a baby and now to the present with a rambunctious baby girl and a little boy who is autistic. I’ve been really hard on him the past two years and complaining to anyone who’ll listen and on this blog that he doesn’t do enough. I’ve been complaining about his parenting skills. I’ve asked for a divorce. I’ve wanted to murder him. Seriously. And then today I remember the day he locked himself in the bathroom and cried the day we got back from the public school my little boy was attending because his teachers basically told us that he is beyond help. Boy were they wrong. Panayioti hated it there but that’s another topic altogether. Kosta is the one who takes him to school every day and from what he tells me puts classical music on so that Panayioti will go there relaxed. On Sundays he takes our little boy to Therapeutic Horsebackriding and last Sunday he even took the baby too so I could sleep in and relax a bit. Last night he called me from a toy store and asked what he should buy the kids, what would Panayioti like? Every time he throws a ball at Panayioti I can sense his disappointment when Panayioti doesn’t throw the ball back but every now and then he will and then Kosta’s face totally lights up. He grabs him and pretend-wrestles with him which Panayioti loves and kisses him like crazy because he loves his son to death. I know he’s scared. I know he’s worried. He’s just not as vocal about his fears as I am. But I know he’ll stick around and I know he’s a rock when you need him. I got off the phone a little while ago with a mom from Panayioti’s school. We arranged for a theater date for the kids since they both enjoy the theater and she casually informed me that she and her husband have split up. I felt really sad. I felt bad for the little boy. Even though I complain that my husband doesn’t do enough around the house and when it comes to Panayioti and his approach a lot of times towards Panayioti, I would never want to go on this alone. So, thanks hubby. Thanks for paying the bills, the rent, the super market, the pizza delivery and not to mention my gym membership . . .
On Monday I went to work. My first day working for a news site, covering stories, uploading stories,researching stories, transcribing interviews, the works! I did all that all in an 8-hour shift and towards the end of my first day at work I found out a few things: #1 – I would not be paid the first month (actually, this is the only thing I did know) #2 – my salary after the first month will be exactly 500 euros and WITHOUT insurance coverage(yikes!) and lastly, I have to bring my own laptop to work. What can I say? I did not go back on Tuesday and I honestly feel as though I did the right thing. It wouldn’t have worked out. This is one experience I don’t need at this point in my life. I’ve learned to pay attention to the internal warning sirens when they go off and there were definitely bells going off right from the start. Oh well. But feeling as if I have to do something to find a job, even if that means to beg, because at some point our funds will run out eventually and we won’t have money to pay for Panayioti’s therapies and I am not about to cut anything, I made a few phone calls. First phone call to my old witch of a boss. Now when I say witch, I mean the wickedest witch there is. A woman who loves to put people down, who relinquishes seeing other people squirm, who gets some sort of satisfaction from the pain of others. I sound melodramatic, don’t I? Um, just ask anyone who works for her. She’s a major publisher of ELT books, by the way. This woman is the most horrible boss ever. For starters, she makes up stuff about her employees. Actually spreads rumors about the people who work for her. Who does that? Oh, and did I mention that this woman wears fishnet stockings to work? Seeing a 70 year old woman in black fishnet stockings in the daytime is some sight. Seeing a 70 year old woman in black fishnet stockings, sky-high hair, and arms full of gold bracelets yelling at some poor employee in the daytime, what a sight!! Anyway, I called her. As soon as she heard my voice the iciness in her tone practically froze the phone on my ear. I said, in all honesty, that I’ve mustered all the courage that I have to call her personally and ask if I could have my job back (which by the way the editor-in-chief said was mine if I ever decided to come back when I quit). She replied that there are no vacancies. I thanked her and hung up as quickly as I could because for some strange reason I just balled. I couldn’t control the tears, they were flowing like crazy!! And poor Beba was just watching me all puzzled ’cause she’s never seen me cry, at least not like this. I cried and I cried and tried to talk myself out of crying but I couldn’t stop. Eventually I did, the hugs from Beba calmed me down. And then I felt silly. I mean when I left from that hell-hole I felt sooo happy. Why would I ever want to go back there? Because of the money. She paid well. And on time. A rarity in Greece at the moment. The next two phone calls to people that I know about jobs were of the same outcome, but at least I didn’t cry this time. There are no vacancies, anywhere. Something noteworthy and kind of bizarre:every time I get down about not finding a job Kosta, my aloof, somewhat indifferent husband, becomes really caring and affectionate. He actually hugged me when he came home and told me all will go well. Yeah, I guess so.
I’ve been wanting and thinking about making these for the longest time. Along with the cream filled cupcakes and my all-time favorite twinkies these are the treats that defined my childhood. Since we don’t have them in Greece I decided to make them myself. I found an awesome recipe online and omg! they are sooooo good!!
I hate to admit it but we live in a country where oddness and differentiality is, well, shut out. You don’t see blind people walking down streets, nor people in wheelchairs and you certainly don’t talk about the things that may be bugging you to complete strangers. Yet lately everywhere I turn people look to their neighbor, a complete stranger, and talk about any single thing that may be on their minds and sometimes it’s quite troubling. This is especially true when it comes to little children. I have a son on the spectrum so I have pretty much what I like to call au-radar. I can totally pick up quirks in kids that are on the spectrum when I see them out and about. You can see the worry on the faces of the parents but also the quickness to which they ‘hide’ or simply shield their kids from unwanted stares. Today for example was the perfect day for such an observation. After I picked up my little man from school I decided to stay in the neighborhood since we would be having our very first Music therapy lesson in an hour. So I took him up to these awesome swings that I’ve put my sights on surrounded my tall trees and just enough pigeons to chase. My little guy had a field day!! He was ecstatic. I said look Panayioti, swings, run! And off he went, you don’t need to twist his arm when it comes to swings, grass, and pebbles. That combination is just win-win!! There were only three other children there being that it was siesta time. A three year old, a 15 month old and an 18 month old. The grandmothers of the first two were your typical Greek grandmothers sitting on a bench and calling out threats every so often when the kids seemed to be doing something which they shouldn’t like licking their fingers and hands. Yup, the three year old little boy was pretending to be a doggy. Odd? Yes. Weird? Yes. Spectrum? Don’t know. The grandmother felt the need to point the obvious out to me and I just shrugged my shoulders and said that maybe he wants to taste the dirt. She wasn’t satisfied with my answer and of course did not comment. The 15 month old little girl reminded me of my soon to be 15 month old cause she was one rebel with a cause. She wanted to climb up the slide backwards and kept getting taken down by her granny. Man, just leave her be. She’s just headstrong. Then came the mommy of the 18 month old. The three of them knew one another being that they live in the same neighborhood. Her complaint was that her son says “tete” all the time. Nothing else. It’s okay the grandmothers said. That was it. It’s okay? When will the topic of developmental stages and milestones stop being such a taboo topic? Why don’t people that are truly worried just take their children to a specialist and have all their questions answered? Because they’re scared. I know I was scared the moment I walked into the office of one of Athens’ most acclaimed developmental specialists. But you know what? Looking back I also felt relief. We knew what it was now and we could work on it. I just hope and pray that all children on the spectrum get the attention and therapy that they need and deserve. I even heard of a case of a little girl recently who is very clearly autistic but whose parents are doing absolutely nothing and that broke my heart. It’s not fair. The end.
On Sunday, following Saturday’s fierce quarrel, Kosta and I decided to take the kids down to the center of Athens and ride the Happy Train and go out to eat and just forget about our problems for one day. It was nice. The kids enjoyed it. Beba would not sit still at all during lunch ’cause she was too busy meeting and greeting people and my little man ate all his lunch and then we let him run like the wind at the National Garden. That’s all the boy wants at times. Kosta was being fussy about him running but I was like just let him be!! He wants to run on the grass and then sit down and pick the dirt and grass with his hands and smell it. What’s so wrong with that, honestly? Yeah it’s a sensory thing and it does look kinda weird, but it’s also funny when you think about it. My kids. So different. Beba has been trying her hand at speaking audible words for some time now. When I offer her something and she doesn’t want it she’ll shake her head no and sometimes will even wiggle her little index finger at me. Lately she’s also been saying yes when she wants something and of course when she pretends to be speaking on the phone. She’s at about 10 words which is brilliant for her age. But she’s got some headstrong genes in her alright. No way this girl will ever be pushed around. She’s a fighter, not as carefree as Panayioti was at her age. Even before he regressed, he never cared about his toys and if some kid came and grabbed something out of his hands he was like ‘oh well’. I figured he’s a lover, not a fighter. And if we told him not to do something he backed away. Lately though, he’s been ‘fighting’ for stuff with his sister. If she has the tv control in her hands and he wants it he’ll make a play for it. As soon as she screams though he backs away. Again, sensory. He can’t stand the sound of babies/kids crying. I’m seeing progress in him though. Little itty bitty signs of progress. Enough to keep me sane and at peace with the world. Enough to make me smile.
To say that my husband and I have grown apart ever since the ASD diagnosis would be an understatement. We have gotten over the blaming game and are now just throwing little snippets, like I’m always taking him to the playground, why don’t you spend more time with him and stuff like that. I’m usually the one with the little snippets because I can see how detached he’s become from our son. My husband is an outdoorsy, ball-playing man. He doesn’t do well with anything else. So for him, having a son on the spectrum who doesn’t really ‘play’ ball doesn’t sit well. Plus, he gets very upset when Panayioti does his siren sounds and that then makes me very upset. It’s a vicious cycle. Today instead of just throwing snippets I actually threw a plate. At my husband. It broke into a thousand little pieces. The kids saw everything. It was ugly. To say that our marriage feels like it’s hanging from a thread at times would also be an understatement. Even before the ASD diagnosis Kosta was always aloof. He is an aloof guy. Maybe a bit autistic himself, he’s even admitted that. But today I realized and have come to terms with the fact, dare I call it that, that we may just be together because of the kids. And instead of feeling sad at this realization I felt relieved. So where do we go from here? What happens when parents of an autistic child divorce?
But even as I type these words I know that I won’t get a divorce. Not now anyway. I’m in this for the long, ugly haul. I know the stress of autism has broken up countless families. I mean, I know couples who have broken up or talked about breaking up for far less reasons. Autism is tough. You have to be strong to put up with ‘it’. You have to have super-human powers at times. There is a lot of sh*t that you have to deal with, literally. I took my little man out to lunch with my sister yesterday and he peed and pooped in his pants, twice!! We had to leave the restaurant and find a nearby clothing store to change him because in fear or anticipation of such an event I always have one extra outfit with me handy. But just one, not two. Today the whole plate braking incident happened because Beba put a toy in her mouth and almost choked on it. Kosta blamed me even though I was in the kitchen washing dishes ’cause she shouldn’t have access he says and I’m the mom so I’m responsible. When he slammed his hands on the table to make his point, I cried and when I cried he mocked me. He actually stood there and made fun of me. Felt no remorse or compassion whatsoever. That’s actually a big reason he may be a bit autistic himself, his lack of compassion. That’s when I threw the plate at him. Well, not at him but in his direction. But the real underlying reason he was so upset isn’t the toy chocking incident but the fact that our heat/maintenance bill came to 300 euros. 1,500 euros a month on autism therapies and then add all the rest, it’s enough to drive any family apart.
I decided to take just Beba and go out for a koulouri this morning around 8 am. She had woken up around 6, had her milk and was pretty playful, as always. Panayioti had just woken up and his dad was still sleeping. I told Panayioti that I wouldn’t take long and that I was going out to get him a koulouri, his favorite. Instead of going to the bakery that’s just down the street from my house I opted for the bigger bakery all the way to Pendelis Avenue that also makes coffee. I also just wanted a good morning walk and with Beba in her stroller chatting away I felt happy. I also felt a pang of nervousness leaving Panayioti alone with his dad who was sleeping. Nothing wakes my husband up, nothing. This statement coudn’t be more right. Coming back almost 35 minutes later I could hear Panayioti’s sirens and they were too near. I thought he must be out on the balcony. I turn into our apartment building’s entrance and there was my little man, in his Thomas the train pyjamas, standing in front of the entrance, playing with his fingers nervously like he does and making his little siren sounds. As soon as he sees me, jaw dropped, he tries to make a run for it from the front entrance. But I tell him that I’ve brought him his koulouri so he comes back. I’m in shock to say the least!!! Where’s his dad? How did he make it down from the second floor? Did he take the elevator or the stairs? Did ANYONE see him?? This poor kid was standing outside for who knows how long and not a single person took notice, not even his dad. We come up and I see our door wide open and walking inside I realize Kosta is still sound asleep. I see the tub of butter on the floor of our hallway and realize he had tried to make himself breakfast. Maybe he took the butter to his dad but seeing his dad sleeping he tried to bring it back to the fridge and just gave up halfway there. He loves bread with butter and jam in the morning. I of course woke my husband up and told him what had happened. He was eerily calm and almost like he didn’t give a damn. I felt as if he didn’t care that Panayioti left the house without him taking notice and he blamed the whole thing on me saying I should’ve locked up. And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s right. I know my son has flight issues so I should’ve locked up. I should’ve. And I know Kosta is a deep sleeper. I never should’ve left in the first place without him and I never should’ve gone so far to get a koulouri.
To be completely honest, after my initial shock and sadness at the sight of my little man outside our house in his pjs, I felt numb. I have seen Panayioti run towards cars and have chased him 9 months pregnant so he doesn’t get hit, I have seen him jump on our table out on the balcony all too near the ledge and I have seen him fall from beds and drawers and lamps. I think I’m immune to falls. This is somewhat different because he couldn’ve left and then what? How do you find a child who is non-verbal? I guess this is not my worst fear after all. My worst fear would be Panayioti getting lost. As in we don’t know where he is lost and he is out of our sight lost. Lost as in we can’t even trace him with his siren sound like the time we went shopping. And that is one fear I don’t want to ever be realized.