It was 2007 and Where the hell was I? It was somewhere unfamiliar, somewhere I never expected to be. Some kind of moral wasteland without social services! In this place, there was no public care plan, no funding for expensive private services, in fact there was little available support of ANY kind – no affordable programs, no special needs after-school care, no regular and reliable respite, no long term care for intellectually vulnerable individuals. An uncertain future sat hidden in the mist that obscured what lay before me. Government of Ontario website? Found some kind of political verbiage that would make sense to the vast majority of voters: “ on the grounds of compassion we have closed all the institutions and returned the residents to their families…. “ Provincial social policy was cleverly disguised as “integration”, which also allowed for the downloading of responsibility to the community. It was clear that this was done without much thought given as to how to make integration successful. The lack of vision combined with inadequate funding had left communities vulnerable and families isolated and scrambling to survive. Here was a world with no social safety net, something I had always believed existed here in Canada, something that I thought made our country special, humanitarian, and quietly wonderful. I was shocked to find out that it was non existant.
I was at a personal crossroad, so where was the proverbial “road less travelled” that I had been told to consider exploring. More importantly, where was “easy street” – that ubiquitous main road that most of us end up turning to, when the road less travelled reveals to us exactly why it is less travelled. Clearly I had missed those roads, somewhere along the way, and there was no point in turning around to look for them, when there was no way back.
This fork in the road presented two less than exciting options: (1) no road, or (2) the road abandoned. They were both in pretty bad shape as roads go, and not too many markings on either. Neither road offered much for me personally, certainly not a career, nor material success. I was going to have to embrace 24/7 caregiving. I was going to have to give up caring about furniture, home improvements, décor. Even the thing I wanted most of all wasn’t going to be there on either road – I wanted to belong, be part of something. I was going to have to not care about that. I was going to have to deal with judgement. I would have to find some other completely different definitions of success for myself. Not only that, I would have to find some completely different ways to enjoy life.
What happened to me? Why? I had been stopped dead in my tracks by my son’s autism! There, in that cold stillness of wondering what to do next, I asked nobody – “where do I go”. The answer was not unexpected: a deafening silence.
Maybe God could help? If Jesus could pick up that cross and carry it……could I? Problem is, I am no saint – I am rather flawed. But maybe if I could understand this thing that Jesus did. Maybe that would help me?
I found myself standing in front of our parish Church one Sunday. I went inside, because God and I, we needed to talk! While the priest delivered his homily, I drifted into thought or prayer. It went something like this:
OK god, you have my attention! I am here, talking to you, and I need your help! I need to understand, please, WHY? Why have you placed this burden upon me alone? Have I done something wrong? Is there something you want from me? Why have you sacrificed me?
As I was praying, something strange happened. I heard a voice and it said – I am with you. I looked around to see if anybody else heard it, but everybody seemed to be listening to the homily. Then a second wierd thing happened: my hand got hot. My right hand was so hot that it was red and very warm to the touch. I was frightened, OMG I am losing my mind. I wanted to run out of there, but I was sitting in the middle of the pew, and too self conscious to follow my own instincts. I sat through the remainder of the service, touching my hand to confirm that it really was too hot.
At least I could believe that God was there on the road abandoned. So there I went.