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The Rise and Fall

The Last Day

April 14th, 2015 began like any other day. It was a school day. I was up at 5 am, had my coffee, started all my routines to get ready for work. Went in to Luke’s room at 6:30 and gently shook his leg and told him it was time to rise and shine. There was no rumble of thunder or a voice from above saying – “Remember this…. this is the last time you are ever going to touch your son.” Sigh. If only….

Leaving the house that day is not in my memory. The first days of grief will do that. Luke and I probably go out the door at the same time because we usually did. You will have to forgive me when I say I don’t know how Logan got to school that day. Did I drop him off? Bus? Luke? Probably Luke. No, probably me. John was still fast asleep upstairs in bed. Turns out he will have seen our son for the last time the night before. He hates that his final words to him were nagging him to move his car, but hey, it was a normal father/son kind of interaction. As I said, there are no indicators that this would be it. #WeHaveRegrets

We know Luke had a flurry of activity on his cell phone that morning. We could see from the records who he was texting and what time, but not the actual text content. The kids all say it was the usual kind of stuff. Sometime midmorning, Luke was sitting in class when he was pulled out by an administrator and read the riot act about something. Maybe he was tardy that morning? Wait, maybe he had a run in with the teacher first? I don’t remember anymore and honestly, it really doesn’t matter at this point, does it? But there are witnesses to this exchange and that is how we know it transpired. Luke returns to class pissed off and I am surmising here that the black tunnel that is suicide has started to swirl like dark clouds before the tornado. He asks to use the bathroom and actually heads there because one of the kids we know has a conversation with him. And then he walks himself right out of the high school. The King has left the building.

I think this is when Luke decided he was literally and figuratively done with life. To the best of our knowledge, he drove home and wrote a note. His penmanship was shakey and it’s usual level of difficult to decipher. There were three lines. He said he was sorry to us, his family, but that he was tired of being a burden. He mentioned three of his friends by name – a lasting tribute to his boys. He mentioned how he had hated himself for a long time. That was it. No long, drawn out final essay on the meaning of life. No rage about his perceived injustices. No ” I love you”. He left the note and the pen he used to write it on the island. He carefully tucked his wallet and his favorite red ear buds on my side counter. We are guessing he went downstairs, probably to the garage, and smoked. The autopsy report said there was marijuana in his system so we assume it was from that day, but maybe it was the night before. Again, it doesn’t matter.

What does matter is that he climbed into his Altima, sent another text or two, and if I was a betting person, put on a song. Not just any song, but something that was going to get him through this next step. Probably Kid Cudi. Whatever it was, he turned it up loud and took himself down Glenwood, up Main Street, and turned left onto Millbrook. This stretch of road was a favorite of his, Logan told us, because it was windy and he liked to drive it fast. I often wonder if he had planned out this spot in his mind before hand. I often wonder if he drove that first quarter mile, stopped at the top of the hill, and looked out over Rutland one last time. I often wonder if he cried.

It is another quarter mile down the hill, and at the bottom where it curves, just before the stream, there is a grove of trees. The first one is formidable and probably a few hundred years old. Luke accelerated that car as fast as it would go and hit it at top speed. The impact wrapped the Altima around the tree, where it then flipped over and landed between two other trees. Luke was ejected and died instantly. Whether it was the impact of the crash, or hitting a tree himself we will never know. The first witness on the scene said he looked like an angel asleep with his arms over his head. He was gone.

So here’s what I need you to know: Everything one might read about the hereafter tells us that God, the Universe, Source, whatever you believe, pulls your soul out of your body just before the end so you don’t feel any pain. John and I take comfort in knowing that Luke didn’t suffer in the accident. The harsh reality, however, is that he did suffer when he was alive. That is what death by suicide is all about – it’s not someone being selfish; it’s not someone trying to give a big *screw you* to their family. It is an individual suffering SO much emotional pain every single day that the idea of ending their lives looks like a relief. John and I take comfort in that, too. That our sweet boy has finally found some peace. We love you, Lukester. From this world to the next. Xxx

Need help? – Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8355

The Rise and Fall

The Last Weekend

On Friday, April 10th, Luke took himself off the Addy and proceeded to have the most spectacular weekend. He smiled and laughed his way through the next few days, including what is now deemed a legendary party at Thad’s. It turned out that everyone Luke loved somehow was there, but hey, the Universe is tricky that way. My thoughts are… if you’re going to go out… isn’t this the way to do it? What does that quote say? Something to the effect of you want to slide into heaven, totally exhausted yelling, “Holy Sh*t – What a ride!” ? Mission accomplished. It does a momma good to think that Luke’s last weekend was with his friends doing all the things he loved.

When I decided I was going to write about the big party and those four days, I knew it wasn’t for me to tell the story – that it had to come from the lovelies. So I reached out – asking if they had anything suitable for the blog that they wouldn’t mind sharing. And only if they felt like it. I know what it is for me to revisit memories and I would never ask the kids to go there if they didn’t want to.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when all I received was the sound of crickets, lol. Since middle school, Luke and the lads had a motto that you never EVER tell your parents what is really going on in your world, and so it goes. πŸ™‚ I think you will agree with me that this is the way it should be. This larger than life long weekend, this beyond epic gathering, burned into their memories, but shared only between them.

So instead, today I leave you with a song. No, it is not a song to represent Luke and the boys because I can’t speak to that. It is a song that represents those unforgettable nights. You know the ones….because we have all had them. Where the vibe is just so incredible and you are looking around and thinking how amazing the night is and how happy you are and how people that aren’t there are going to wish they were there. The nights you talk about for the the rest of your life when you get together with your friends or your buddies. I don’t think any of the kids could have possibly known that this was going to be their last with Luke… and one of those nights. Xxx

The Rise and Fall

No Light at the End of the Tunnel

We are almost at the end, friends, of what I call the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood. If you’ve been following along then you know our main character is in a desperate place. It is March 2015 and there is not much right going on in his world. He is failing high school. He is being tormented with d-halls up the wazoo. Luke is not gaming at his usual level after being let go in January. He dislikes his job. He really dislikes his nagging parents – especially his mother because, well, she’s the one nagging all the time. His friends are all eagerly making plans for what happens after graduation and he is not. And thanks to the Addy and his anxiety, he is not sleeping and barely eating.

So, what is getting him up every day? What is motivating him to move forward? Turns out – nothing. He is hanging on by the proverbial thread because he has lost hope. He has nothing left to get excited about. All the dreaming and planning – just big idea bullsh*t that may never happen – is coming to a close because the crew is about to split up – each one headed in a different direction. But not him.

I am not quite sure how, but both John and I believe that Luke believed he was going to cross that stage with his friends in June for graduation. I don’t know if it was denial or plain misunderstanding of the dire straights he was in, but in March that news hit Luke like a brick. “I’m not graduating and everyone is going to know it.” I can hear that piece of information swirling around in his brain. Luke hated to look *less than* in anyone’s eyes and the whole world was about to find out. The King. Not graduating. He must have been scared sh*tless.

After Luke passed away and the police returned the laptops they had confiscated for review, John went through everything on them as best he could. One of the remarkable things he found was a single Google search at the end of March. It was called – How to Die like a Man. It outlined all the manly ways one might take one’s life: Gun shot, hanging, crashing your car. How to die like a man. My poor, sweet boy.

So here’s what I need you to know: Life is hard. Freaking hard. And we all know one of the things that gets us through is love. Giving our love to a few special people in our lives and receiving love and feeling like we matter to someone. But what also gets us through is hope.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

– Merriam – Webster

Luke had lost hope. There wasn’t one thing he was feeling good about and I can only imagine his anxiety and his Adderall were one big negative committee in his mind. And we missed it. We all missed it. Now, our Luke was one helluva good actor, but still. We knew everything was going wrong in his life at this moment, but our own life experiences had shown us that it would get better for Luke. He just had to wait a few years for things to change. Your twenties are a whole new world. He just had to hold on. The problem was….we knew that. He didn’t.

So what’s the moral of the story, you ask? Build the hope… for yourself and for your children. Maybe find the things that make your heart happy and spend time doing that – walking in nature, reading in a chair, woodworking, birdwatching, photography, whatever it is. Tell your children how important it is to pursue your passions and model that for them.

And friends, I am going to get a bit preachy here, but we need to change the narrative for our children around what’s important to hope for. What is the hope or the positive outcome you are showing preference to for your children? Popularity? College? What is society and social media pushing on our children as preferred outcomes? Might I suggest that it shouldn’t be their GPA? Or the number of likes on an Insta pic? Or the number of times you get invited to a party or whether you carry a Gucci handbag? Or whether you are a star athlete in your little hometown? Perhaps we should be setting our kiddos up to hope to be a good human being? What if that is how we defined success? I feel like Luke lost hope because all of the things he thought were important were not coming through for him -some he had put up on the pedestal to achieve; some, like graduating, we did. At the end of the day, he was a good kid with a big heart and that should have been enough. Sigh. Whether we know it or not, parents plant the seeds of what a child deems important; of the future they should hope for. Be careful what you show them. #NotOneMore

The Rise and Fall

Johnny and Frank

In documenting what I fondly refer to as the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood, there have been a post or two that have been difficult to write. Emotional. I knew this post would be that. I knew I couldn’t write about Luke in his last years without writing about his relationship with Eric. In truth, I don’t even know if I know HOW to write the story of Eric and Luke. And yet here I am. Forgive me, Eric, for minimizing what I consider to be one of the great love stories to exist between friends. Sigh.

Actually, the reality is, Luke and Eric were so secretive (Bro Code -you don’t tell parents ANYTHING), we didn’t really know the ins and outs of their relationship while Luke still walked the planet. I’m not sure I do now. The words I am about to share are MY perspective of Luke and Eric. What truly transpired between them is for them and them alone. And I’m okay with that. Xxx

How many faces do you recognize? πŸ™‚

Luke and Eric were in Kindergarten class together. I love this pic of the group! Eric looks so stinking cute in that holiday sweater! He wouldn’t be caught wearing that now, I can tell you. lol. I post this to show their history; how far back they share memories and experiences. Luke and Eric were not besties at this age. Truthfully, Eric did not grace my door step until high school. Luke and Camden and Thad had been besties, but it wasn’t until Wachusett that Eric and Luke gravitated to one another.

It was girlfriends that got in the way of Luke’s relationships with Thad and Camden. As much as Luke never minded being a third wheel, lol, I am certain his friends did. πŸ™‚ And so while his besties forged relationships with those of the female persuasion, Luke did not. And along came Reidy. Eric was single and the perfect foil to Luke – he was also (secretively) sensitive, loved to be philosophical, loved all things sarcastic, could court the dark side, and most importantly…. loved Luke. HA!

I can’t even begin to guess how many stories these two share. They did a lot of driving (remember Eric’s face from my Driving post a few weeks back? lol), went to a lot of parties, and spent many a night in our basement talking into the wee hours of the morning. Unlike the rest of our family, Luke was a social creature and didn’t like to be alone. Eric was the same, so the two of them fed this need for one another – to be included, to be heard. I think this post from Luke’s Twitter feed, showing how much he was in contact with Eric, shares the truth of it: for a while there, it was all Eric, all the time.

I think what I loved most about the two of them was their ability to dream big. They talked about getting rich and buying an island together so they could be Kings. They adopted larger than life personas – Eric was Frank Sinatra, Luke was Johnny Cash – to define themselves by. Eric – suave and citified; Luke – the Man in Black – just a little bit naughty and not giving a damn what people think. Who knew how true both those tags would be.

Black Friday Shopping with Eric

One of my favorite Luke and Eric stories actually transpired the Easter before Luke passed away. As in two weeks before. Eric and Luke were out driving. Well, technically, Luke was driving and Eric was yelling out his window at the kids playing outside asking them if “they wanted any candy”. Cue the head shake, lol, but you see now why these two were so perfect for each other? IDIOTS lol. Back at the house we’re entertaining family when all of the sudden the phone rings and it’s a family friend who is also a POLICE OFFICER. Someone has reported these two jack-in-the-boxes!! Thankfully, the officer has vouched for the boys and assured the family who called it would be handled. I immediately stomp outside to where the boys are sunning on the deck and rip them a new one. They both are giggling and amused with themselves and when I look at Eric and say, “There’s a lesson to be learned here, you dorks.” He replies, ” I did. I learned it’s good to have friends with friends in high places.” AARGHHHH!!! I have to admit I smiled as I made my way back inside and I had to concede, he wasn’t wrong. πŸ™‚

I started this post by saying this might be one of the great love stories of all time, you know, in this momma’s mind. I feel I know how important Eric was to Luke because I saw it – I saw how he wasn’t as happy when he was alone and Eric saved him from that. I know how important Eric was to Luke because he practically lived at my house for almost three years. I miss his damn paper towels strewn about the basement because he is allergic to everything – including our cats. I miss hearing the two of them talk non-stop for hours and hours and hours. I miss Eric’s Arnold Horshack laugh floating up the stairs. I also miss their silence. ‘Cause they got each other and could do that, too. I miss Eric coming up the stairs and barely acknowledging that the Inwoods existed. lol Because he really wasn’t there for anyone but Luke. I think the truest testament of their relationship is that there are hardly any pictures of the two of them together. One, because they both thought selfies were bullshit, lol, but mostly because they were living. Just being teenagers, you know? And that Eric gave that to my boy… all those memories? That Luke sits on the other side of the stars… fueled by tales of late nights and road trips to God knows where with Eric, well…. I have no words. Only a heart full of love. Lastly, I know how important Eric was to Luke because, well, he was on his note goodbye… He really loved you, Eric. Don’t forget it. Xxx

I keep telling Eric that writing about Luke could be the Next Great American Novel. Maybe for his birthday I will buy him an old fashioned typewriter and a pack of cigs and wait to see what happens….

The Rise and Fall

The Working Man

Luke is a June birthday and as soon as he turned 16 he wanted to find a job. Under #No Coincidences, he happened to mention this in the presence of one of his Bonus Moms, Jodi Wlodarczek, and she quickly went about getting him a job at Oriol Healthcare in the kitchen. Here he was, at the beginning of the summer, a working man! Luke was one of the first of his friends to get a part-time job and he was pretty damn pleased with himself. There was only one problem… Luke didn’t really like to work. HA!

Luke was doing food prep in the kitchen. I think mostly he washed dishes ’cause that’s what he complained about constantly, lol. He hated the smell of the kitchen and how it would get into the clothes he had to wear as part of his uniform – white shirt , black pants, black shoes. Under *we will never really know* lol, I remember someone telling me Luke used to hang out in the storage closet when things were slow and use his phone. If it’s true….sigh… Classic Lukester.

On the upside of employment, Luke loved getting a paycheck and feeling like he was taking care of himself. A couple hundred bucks every month means the world when you want to be able just go out and buy yourself something, or pay for gas in your car. The other thing Luke would talk about when he would come home from work was the old folks. Oriol is a rehab facility and Luke would talk about all the characters that would be eating in the dining hall. He loved those oldies, but goodies, and this is another one of those complexities to Luke’s personality that made him who he was. He always saw the value in every human being and wanted to hear their story. Maybe, just maybe Luke was getting more out of his job than he realized.

So here’s what I need you to know: We don’t push kids to get part-time jobs the way we used to when I was growing up. Part of it is, jobs are harder to come by. Part of it is, we, as parents, decide that our kids other extracurricular activities are more important than working. Part of it is, we just want things to be easier for our kids than it was for us, and don’t they have a lifetime of work ahead of them anyway? We all know the answer to that one, lol. What I do know is how important it is for a young person to define themselves in different ways: as a student, an athlete, a dancer, a friend. What I also know is how important it is for a young person to define themselves outside of their parents. *This is me, figuring out me, WITHOUT YOU.* Like driving, holding down a job happens away from the concerned eyes of parents and it is all them, no matter what happens – good, bad, or indifferent. So, if my child doesn’t work, is it the end of the world? ‘Course not. But it is a rite of passage that holds a lot of value whether you cut grass, babysit, deliver pizza, or wash dishes. Don’t our young folks deserve those same “when I was kid” stories that we love to share with them? I love to talk about my first job at the Toronto Zoo scooping camel poop and training baby ostriches. True story! lol It’s just something to consider. Maybe we DO tell our kids – Get A Job! lol It just might be maximum worth for minimum wage.

The Rise and Fall

New Driver Alert

I reached out to my boy, Eric, as I was contemplating writing about Luke and driving. “Was he really as bad a driver as I remember?” I asked him. “Most definitely,” was the response. “The worst.” lol It was true. Some people, like Eric and my good friend, Sue, were born to be behind the wheel. Doesn’t matter the weather or the traffic or the vehicle, good drivers confidently navigate the roads with ease and love every minute. Luke was not that guy.

Luke was looking forward to the freedom that comes from having your license. I don’t think he was prepared for the steps and practice that needed to be completed to achieve this goal. First up was the permit. I told Luke to study, made sure he had a hard copy and a digital version to review, and he must have looked at it at least a time or two because he passed. Barely. lol. Like by just one point passed. I remember him walking out, practically in a cold sweat because he was worried he wasn’t going to get his permit. Oh, Lukester.

Luke went through driving school at CMSC in West Boylston. He hated having to go in every day and attempt to pay attention, but he managed to make it through. The driving lessons were a bit more complicated. I don’t know how it works where you live, but the teens were expected to put in so many hours as the driver, as well as so many hours observing others drive. Sigh. Apparently Luke slept through a good portion of that time, and twice he told the instructor he had appointments so he needed to be dropped back at the high school early. Crafty bugger! πŸ™‚ I was Luke’s co-pilot most of the time and managed to keep him between the lines. lol But in classic Luke fashion, he took from each driving session only what he thought he needed and when the time came to take his test, he was incredibly anxious. Luke was surprised to learn passing on the inside was frowned upon during a driving exam and the resulting *Fail* totally pissed him off. Take two got him his license, but I wish you could have seen his face when, at the start of his test, he climbed in the driver’s side, buckled up, and hit the gas without putting the car in drive. lol We all heard the roar of the engine and when he looked my way, “For fuck’s sake!!” was written all over his face.

But he was off! Driving to Dunkins, driving to work, driving to school. I am certain he and the Altima had some adventures together, lol, but some things a momma just doesn’t need to know. I do know the snow gave him a hard time, as well as highway driving, and he tweeted about almost biting the dust coming back from Solomon Pond Mall once. Of course, it was the lady driver’s fault. lol Sassawanna Road in Rutland is where Luke and a tree had a run-in. I only found out because he tweeted about the incident, and I was *stalking* his Twitter, as the kids like to say. Of course, I was a naΓ―ve mom and asked him about it. Sigh. Classic parenting gaff. Never ask about something you read on social media when you are not supposed to be on there!!!. So he told me his version of what had happened. Sort of. And promptly blocked me on Twitter. HA! I earned that one.

So here’s what I need you to know: I worried every time Luke went out in the car. Heaven forbid a siren go off when he was out driving. I immediately would go into panic mode and text him. But the truth is, kids need to get their license. It is an important step up in responsibility and one of the first things kids can do on their own, separate from mom and dad. I think that is what is so scary. We aren’t with them, can’t be with them, and have to trust and have faith that they will be okay. It is a BIG deal and excruciatingly difficult to watch as they get in their car and head out into the world. It’s not exactly the same as pushing them out of the nest and hoping they will fly, but it’s close. Prayers to all you parents of future drivers. You’re going to need them. πŸ™‚

I need you to know, The Rise and Fall

… And Sometimes You Don’t

It’s amazing how forgiving the human brain can be. Take childbirth. Arguably one of the most painful things a body can endure, but give it ten years and one is hard pressed to conjure up the feelings of agony. You know it hurt, but the brain has softened the experience and all you have is a general complaint. Grief is another example of the brain stepping in to preserve the heart. The feelings of loss can be devastating, but a mere four years later and all I remember of that first year is a blur. It is no different with childrearing. Remember the horrors of being sleep deprived those first four months? Just sort of? lol Me, too! I know it was rough, but sleeping through the night and potty training seem a little less traumatic with a few years between us.

And so it is with John and I and some of the events we experienced with Luke. I think some things that happened were so traumatic that our brains stepped in and will only allow us to recall in general terms. Hence, this next story has no origin. I can only put you in the middle of the action because parts of the night I have somehow blacked out. Thank you, brain.

John was out on this given evening playing basketball in his Old Man League. I don’t remember what preceded Luke storming out of the house, but the gist of it was, if he didn’t like living here maybe he should live somewhere else. And FINE…he was gone. I don’t know if he grabbed anything or if he simply took his coat and took off. It was winter and definitely a New England weather kind of winter’s eve. No sooner was he out the door than I started to panic. Where was he going to go? It was dark and it was cold. Was he going to come back? I mean REALLY?!!! Was he going to come back??? Every minute he was out there was another minute I was more convinced that I had f$cked things up and I was never going to see him again.

I called John first and we decided to give him some time to clear his head before we took more serious action. But the seconds were agony. AGONY. Every parent knows how quickly your thoughts go sideways when something is up with your child. Every booboo is a lifethreatening injury, every slight from another child a life of loneliness for your baby. We go to extreme scenarios in record time. I pictured Luke continuing my Dean family trend of sons leaving home at 16, our relationship forever changed. I saw him living on the streets trying to charm his way into breakfast or shelter. And I saw worse. And once those thoughts started, there wasn’t anything, ANYTHING, I wouldn’t do to undo the nights events and get Luke home safe and sound.

Something felt different about this one. Something felt ominous. I remember calling my Dad in hysterics. Remember that Dean history I referred to? My dad left home at 16. Yep, hated his father so much he went to live with his married sister. My own brother was kicked out at 16 and went to live in another town with his best friend’s family. It took years to get over that one. Now here I was with my own 15 year old son threatening to leave us all in his dust. My dad, as always, was able to bring me back to the love. He didn’t want what had happened with him and his father, and with him and Scott to happen to Luke and I. Forgive, forgive, forgive. Love, love, love. It was good advice.

So, in the moments between when Luke left and when he walked back through the door, probably three hours later, I had a mind shift. I did not want to lose my child. I wanted a relationship, whatever that relationship might look like. I decided IN THAT MOMENT that life was going to be its own hard knock school for a kid like Luke. He didn’t need that at home. He was going to screw up. He was going to fall. But in this house, IN THIS HOUSE he would feel nothing but love. Luke came home, I found a moment to hug him, and we made it so.

So here’s what I need you to know: I thank God that Luke took off that night and scared the bejeezus out of me because from that point forward our house became a home again. A family again. We became focused on Luke, our son, not Luke, the student and screw-up. We made memories and we laughed. It wasn’t a perfect couple of years, but it was better. So in that other moment, when we found out Luke had left this world, our relationship was not in a bad place. We hadn’t spent the last time we were with him screaming about graduating high school or doing his homework. We were sitting on the couch, eating nachos knee to knee, lol watching golf on TV with John. He was having the best weekend in a long time per social media. And that is all this grieving momma needs to rest just a little bit easier. Xxx

The Rise and Fall

Sometimes You Draw A Line In The Sand…

It was this same time of year and just about as cold. We had not been up to Canada for Christmas in a while and I really wanted to go up and see my family. The challenges around Luke were taking a toll and I was busy with getting my Masters and I was tired dangitall and I needed to see my mummy lol. I needed to be taken care of. There is also more than a little guilt when you live far away and you don’t get home very often – especially for the holidays. So the decision had been made to go up. Problem was… we didn’t consult Luke.

As soon as he found out we were going to Canada for the holiday he started complaining. LOUDLY. And OFTEN. Every minute of every day he was hollering about how he wasn’t going to go and that we couldn’t make him go and how much he hated us. I would walk through the door at the end of the work day and he would start as soon as he saw me.

“I’m not f#$%ing going. You can’t make me get in the car.” And he would throw this fowl look in my direction like he despised me for putting him in this position. I cried a lot. I didn’t know what to do. He was right. We couldn’t force him into the car. And we could stay, but I really wanted to do this for me and for my mum. I was incredibly torn. I felt like this was one of those lines I needed to draw. I felt like I was in the right. I was the adult and he was the child and he needed to do this. He could survive three freaking days away from Rutland, Massachusetts. For me. For his mother.

To say the tension in the house was beyond awful is an understatement. John felt horrible for me. Every time I thought about how relentless Luke was and how he wouldn’t do this ONE THING after everything I had done for him, I cried. I washed the dishes and I cried. I folded laundry and I cried. But Luke would not give up. I think he thought if he kept at me long enough I would cave in and say FINE. He wasn’t wrong.

I called my Dad hoping to gauge the feeling if, in fact, we decided not to go up for Christmas. He didn’t have much to say over the phone, but the next day he sent me the best email message. He basically told me to protect our relationship with Luke and to make the best decision for us as a family. “You as a parent can get over what you say and move on but to a teenager what your Dad or Mom say cuts deep and hard.” It was good advice.

However… sometimes as a parent you just decide enough is enough and you play the parent card. You know the one – I am the adult here and I am telling you what to do and when you are an adult and you live in your own house, well, then YOU can make the rules. It usually has to do with pets or parties, am I right? In this case, John Inwood had witnessed enough. The night before we were to leave John came home from work to find Luke in the basement. And he just told him. He was calm and he was firm. And the next day we all climbed in the car and we went.

So here’s what I need you to know: Christmas was fine. Just… fine. It is hard to find the joy when you know one of your children is miserable so I never quite got in the spirit. Sigh. The most striking development for me through all this was the realization that Luke really didn’t give a sh*t about his family. This may come off as harsh. You may think his reaction was a developmental thing. Maybe it was an ODD/mental health thing. Or maybe it was simply a Luke could be mean thing. I will tell you, you don’t soon forget when your child hurts your feelings like Luke had mine. It’s even harder to forgive. But I did. After all, I am his mother. There isn’t anything that would change the love I had for him, even when he was being, as I told my dad, a little knucklehead. lol. Even now. I STILL LOVE YOU, LUKE INWOOD!!! From here to the other side of the stars. Xxx

The Rise and Fall

Wait, YOU’RE This Kid’s Mother?

The day I went in for Luke’s IEP meeting, I was nervous. If you didn’t read last time, John and I were at our wit’s end with regard to Luke and his difficulties with school, and we were really depending on his team of educators to help us come up with a plan to get Luke through the next two years. We knew he wasn’t going to Harvard. Heck, we knew he was barely going to pass his classes. We just wanted to get him through.

So I show up at the Guidance office at 7:35 am and they escort me to a conference room across the hall. Everyone is already there and each face turns toward me as I come in. As a teacher, I love to meet the parents behind each student. I think I am always surprised by exterior characteristics – that parents aren’t just larger versions of their kiddos, lol, but the interior characteristics are almost always a match. That student who struggles to say much during class discussions quite often has a parent who sits quietly during conferences. That kiddo that comes in every day with a sunny, positive attitude? Probably a caregiver who radiates, as well. I don’t want to generalize, but a correlation can usually be made. So, in I walk, and I wonder what those teachers were expecting? Someone angry? Defensive? It most definitely wasn’t Miss Mary Poppins here. πŸ™‚

The meeting was an eye-opener. Remember, I had only heard Luke’s side of the story about what was happening at high school. According to him, every teacher was a shrew and out to get him and make his life difficult. What I heard that day were teachers using best practices to help my boy, and concern about what wasn’t working, and ideas around how to get him help. These were invested educators who were also stymied over how to best move Luke forward. I was pleasant through the whole process. I was grateful when the team decided Luke qualified for an IEP which in turn meant he would have an ASR block in his schedule. I thought he was SAVED.

When I got up to leave, one of the teacher’s stood up and shook my hand.

“It was nice to meet you,” she said. “You are not at all what I was expecting.” I remembering chuckling or smiling in response and going on my way, but that comment stayed with me. Exactly who did they think was raising Luke Inwood?

So here’s what I need you to know: Hard kiddos happen to good people. We are a society that likes to pass judgement and no more so than on other parents. Surely, if that kid is a f – up, his or her parents are doing something wrong. Is he running wild? Don’t they have expectations? Consequences? And my personal favorite – “If that child lived under my roof, I would never allow any of that behavior. That kid would be fixed.” Oh, to be so righteous! You know what I know about my fellow parents raising hard kids? They are TIRED and they are TRYING and they are SCARED. Scared that any one of the horrible outcomes they worry about night after night might actually happen, and they are struggling like hell to try and ward off the evils. It is EXHAUSTING. Let me say it again – Hard kiddos happen to good people, friends. These parents already judge themselves enough. Let’s instead extend our patience and understanding and support. You know what the Good Book says, “But for the Grace of God go I.” Xxx

The Rise and Fall

I’d Like an IEP With a Side Order of ASR, Please

When we last left off, our main character, Luke Inwood, had just been diagnosed with ADHD. He was working this like nobody’s business and had suddenly developed a *bouncing leg* because… you know… he had ADHD and couldn’t stop himself. πŸ™‚ This both amused me and irritated me and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like labels. Give a person a label and he or she is sure to live up to it.

What WAS true was that Luke was still not doing well at school. It was the middle of Grade 10 and it was obvious that this year was going to go down in flames if steps weren’t taken to help Luke out. What that might look like I had no idea, but Luke’s therapist, prior to leaving the practice, had suggested something called ASR or Academic Support. This was a class where students were pulled out to work on organizational skills, homework completion, and any other intervention activities that might need one-on-one or small group support. I thought this sounded like a game changer for Luke because all the zeros he was accumulating around homework were impacting his grades in a way that he could never recover from.

So I inquired about the ASR and found out you have to have an IEP to qualify for this accommodation. So THEN I started asking about getting Luke on an IEP. An IEP is an Individualized Education Program. They can be put in place for any number of reasons – learning disabilities or physical disabilities, for example – and the goal is to provide the needed support to allow students to access the curriculum in a way they would not be able to without the accommodations. Logan had an IEP in elementary school for speech therapy so I was not new to the process. But Logan on an IEP for speech and Luke on an IEP for whatever the heck we want to call what was happening at High School were not the same thing. At Logan’s IEP meetings we would sit around the table and talk about how sweet and wonderful and hard working he was. It was more of a formality or update on his progress. This was not the case for Luke.

By the time the required testing and reports had been completed it was March when we got together for Luke’s initial meeting. I remember gathering my thoughts prior to going in and all I really wanted them to know was Luke was not making adequate progress and we, as his parents, had no idea how to fix it. Luke was on a 504 for his diagnosis of ADHD, but those accommodations like preferential seating, for example, were clearly not doing the trick. It was just not enough and as I sat at the long conference table that day, I desperately hoped that one of them, someone, could help my child. What I needed was a gosh darn miracle.

So here’s what I need you to know: It is not easy to be the parent of a child struggling in school. We just want our kids to be happy, to be like all the other kids coming to school every day and having a great experience, and yet they are not. So when we show up at those IEP meetings, we are looking to you, as the educators, as the team of professionals, to give us a little hope. We, more than anyone else, know what the *challenges* are with our kiddos; we are looking to you and that IEP to help make things just a little more *right*. Turns out an IEP is not a miracle cure, but more on that next time. Sending love to all my fellow IEP families. Xxx

I need you to know, The Rise and Fall