Always the Parent

No matter how old you are nor the age of your adult offspring, you will always be a parent.  I’ve laughed about this with lots of friends and shared the story of my mother, when I was 42, reminding me to thank my Uncle John for a gift.

I have a 41 year old son who lives independently in Akron. Greg has autism and obsessive compulsive disorders. He has never worked and relies on financial support from SSI. He has a caseworker who oversees some of the day to day challenges of rent, food stamps, and managing his money. He has a psychiatrist who manages his meds and emotional health.

In order to see him for lunch or have him drive to Cleveland for a meal or a visit to the art museum, we plan weeks in advance. When the event nears there will be anxious phone calls to rehearse the route he will drive, where he will park, and when he will arrive. Spontaneous meetings are unheard of.  Change is difficult and flexibility almost impossible. Even with his two medications, the symptoms of his issues are very pronounced and more so as he gets older.

Greg swinging in the hall outside our loft

Greg swinging in the hall outside our loft

He lives a quiet, solitary life of listening to music, looking at his books, seeing his caseworker and doctors, and visiting friends and family. He has no friends his age and certainly no friends in the way you and I would define a friend.  This seems sad and lonely by our definition. Yet, he has adjusted to this life and copes day to day with the support and help of all these people.

One remarkable thing about Greg is that he got up the courage a long time ago to travel alone by car to the Chicago Auto Show in February. His love of luxury cars compelled him to make this seemingly impossible journey.  Even more remarkable, he made friends with the head of the Chicago Automobile Association who comps him a hotel room during his stay!

I tell you this for several reasons: while Greg was tested as low/average IQ in school, this son of mine has a lot of innate and emotional intelligence that allows him to overcome his OCD symptoms when he is highly motivated. Also, this trip shows that, on his own, he can make and foster relationships with people who care about him that lasts many years.

With this background in mind, Greg was off to Chicago in February to go to the Auto Show. Unbeknownst to his father and me, he took off at about 3am. While on the Ohio Turnpike on a snow covered road, he was pulled over by a state trooper because he was weaving across lanes. After questioning, the officer determined that Greg was on medication and delivered him to his father, Jeff Goodwin, in Bath, at 4am. The officer explained that he was going to recommend that Greg get retested to be able to continue to drive.

After weeks of processing paperwork, the documents came through to Jeff that the retesting should be completed by May 24.  Letters, emails, and phone calls by Jeff revealed that there was an appeal process that involved his doctors. There is a long story here that involved Greg’s psychiatrist and finally his family doctor.

Fortunately, the process also involved Jeff developing a relationship with someone in the BMV office in Columbus.  Because Jeff persisted and because of the help he got, we finally got Greg excused from the retesting by his family doctor.

It was a trying experience for all of us who love Greg. We knew that he would take this hard. For goodness sake, WE were taking it hard! We started arranging our schedules to be there for the driving classes and to schedule the practice driving and maneuverability sessions.

In the meantime, we had to show Greg our confidence and certainty that he would succeed. He did it before when he was 19 and he would do it again, by god! He’s driven 24 years without incident so he is far more experienced than the teenagers who are going into this.  There were tears and worries. We all were anxious.

Now that it all is more or less resolved, I am left to ponder, once again, what happens to people who don’t have families? Would there be a caseworker or ombudsman who really could take the time and be that motivated to resolve this issue to the same end? Can government really take the place of family? I think we know the answer. Without our help, Greg would have taken the test without benefit of lessons and practice and he probably would have failed in his nervousness and anxiety. He would have had his driver’s license taken away and, with it, his independence.  He would have been in a very bad mental, emotional, and physical state.

I don’t have the answers to these problems. I only know that I am grateful to the village that helped us and I’m especially grateful to his dad, Jeff Goodwin.  This incident proves, once again, that no matter what,  they will always be your children no matter what their age.