The South Pole, Does She or Doesn’t She?

My husband wants to go to the South Pole. With me. And no, not just because Anthony Bourdain went there and ate God knows what. He’s been bugging me about a trip like this for years. The first thing I thought of when he mentioned it to me was Love and Death, one of DH Lawrence’s principal themes in Women in Love. The snow was “deathlike” and it represented mortality. I must say the image of numbing white expanse spooks me. Funny, because I have no reservations, (literally or otherwise) about making a trip to the deepest nether regions of the ocean to experience the Titanic. What a bittersweet wonder. In fact, the mere thought of bobbing around the rusticles in an aquatic ladybug gives me the good kind of shivers. Not the kind you get by panting through primordial slush.
That kind kept me off of Mount Kilimanjaro two years ago when I had the opportunity to take another Trip of a Lifetime with my husband and daughter. Yes, I turned it down. Not that either of them thought I was up to it, so to speak. The anxiety I felt over the number of shots I would need to get before the trip, the number of hours I would spend in the air, and the eternity it would take me to train for it, was overwhelming. But what unsealed the deal for me was leaving my special needs son behind. The adventure seemed risky and rather self-indulgent to me at the time. At the time.
I’ve been thinking about the number of years I have left on the earth, though. Experiences. When you get older it’s natural for your values to change. Love for family remains steadfast, but accumulation loses its glow. The desire to “buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like” wanes, if it existed at all. I have a museum-quality collection of artifacts, oddities, and antique toys, etc., that I’ve been amassing since I was twelve. I’m done now. No need for anything else. No, really. I mean, what with am I supposed to do with my 18th century enema pump and my Victorian shock boxes at this point except dust them? I just want to share my collectibles with others. And one day, if anyone has the patience to show me how to post photos, (yes, I’m ashamed of myself) I will post them on this blog, and create a virtual museum, and hopefully stimulate conversation with like-minded people. But for now, at my age, it’s time to obsess over my thriving bucket list. Experiences over stuff.
Yet, I didn’t go to Africa, and I’m about to not go to the South Pole. I have below zero interest in that frigid, God-forsaken place. It never has and never will earn a spot on my bucket list. But is it right to dismiss another Trip of a Lifetime simply because it’s not a “Hell Yeah?” One tiny part of me would like to know why the people who research there find it irresistible. (Okay, I guess that counts as above zero interest.) I’m just a little curious about why scientists, nerds, adventurers, and other audacious individuals choose that lifestyle. Why do they prefer to expend their time and intellect inside of a titanic igloo? The whole thing reminds me of TED on ice.
I’ll always regret that I never made it to Egypt to explore the pyramids. But I’m grateful I got to explore a few tunnels in Jerusalem and some Roman/Greco playgrounds. I might not make it to the South Pole but I did live in Terre Haute, IN for six years. I did get to experience bitter cold in spectacular Midwestern fashion. There’s some equivalency, you know. Terre Haute. The South Pole. Both are at the ends of the earth.
I just need to overcome that gnawing anxiety about leaving my son. Maybe I could bring him along. And his dog. Why blow another opportunity? Why miss another Trip of a Lifetime? If I could score a swing for my child all would be well. Does she, or doesn’t she? I don’t know. I’m not getting any younger though, that’s for damn sure. Sometimes I just wish my husband’s big ideas could be less taxing and more relaxing. This one gives me goosebumps.

‘Tis the Season

I haven’t written a ‘Tis the Season blog in over four years because I was dazed by my autistic son’s puberty, seizures, and behaviors. But our situation with Josh has greatly improved. (Oh, how I hope I’m not tempting fate.) So I would especially like to thank my blessings this year and give praise to the phrase, “This Too Shall Pass.” I’m happy to say I’m grateful that:

1) Josh and I didn’t fall apart when his twin sister went off to college. (Okay, that’s a lie. I fell apart.) Josh is low-functioning and non-verbal but he has a very high EQ. He senses that his connection with “Sissy” is permanent and unconditional. I wanted her to go to school on another coast so she wouldn’t worry about him so excessively. Her fears wouldn’t be as immediate. But she didn’t fly away, she chose a college close by because after all it was her decision and not mine, etc. I’m secretly thrilled, (okay, not secretly) about her choice.

2) He’ not as aggressive. It could have been his meds, it could have been puberty, but whatever it was he’s not unkind to us anymore. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde days are over. (For the most part.) Josh’s sweet, playful personality is back and we can take him out in the community again for extended periods. Especially to restaurants. I’d love to blame my weight gain on him but I’m pretty sure it’s all the cookies and candy I hide in my closet.

3) He still likes me. And not just because I’m Mom and he needs me. He recognized in some intuitive way that I couldn’t handle any extra trauma last year. He had most of his seizures safely at home rather than on the pavement at school. And I wasn’t as stressed when we just sat in his man cave/therapy room together and watched his favorite Teen Nick shows. Over and over and over again. I’ve memorized every single episode of Drake and Josh, Victorious, Zoey101, and iCarly that has ever been produced. I’m going to contact the network and tell them we deserve a frequent viewing card.

4) We have renewed hope about his epilepsy. He might not be a candidate for another brain surgery, but after two seizure labs and guidance from some exceptional neurologists we are exploring new avenues. We might even consider getting Josh a service dog. If our Alpha cat will allow it. Though I’m pretty sure I’ll be the designated dog walker when it’s 5 degrees outside.

5) I had Thanksgiving at my house again. Like other ASD parents I’ve experienced some painful holiday dinners. Two years ago I just leaned over at the table and broke down in front of my guests. All it took was a well-meaning comment from my mother. She had observed Josh going nuts for about two hours. “Shelley, if anyone can handle it honey, you can.” Um, no, not really. It had been an evening of Mr. Hyde. Josh circled the table shrieking, he knocked glasses over, and he chased after me with teeth bared. He took his therapy room apart and couldn’t self-calm. There wasn’t a single minute when everyone was together at the table at the same time. We had to take turns driving him around just so we could eat. At least it wasn’t like the year before when he set off my mother’s burglar alarm between bites of lime jello and green bean casserole. The police officer lectured him on her front lawn. “Son, we don’t set off alarms unless we have to.” (I didn’t tell him Josh had set off two fire alarms the week before.) “Do you understand me?” Um, no, not really. My kid couldn’t stop grinning and I was mortified. (God, how I wish aides worked on holidays.) But it’s okay. I finally learned about wine, and I am truly grateful. Good luck to all of you this holiday season, and may our new year be merry and bright!