respite for a celebration

Respite: providing or being temporary care in relief of a primary caregiver

I’ve had a “save the date” on the side of the refrigerator (we have a weirdly unmagnetic surface in front so nothing stays attached there) for months. While we’ve been looking forward to my nephew’s wedding, a big burden was finding a place for V to go because there’s no way he’d do well between the four plus hour drive to NH and back and the weekend activities let alone the wedding ceremony itself. Fortunately he was able to stay at the same respite group home where he stayed in August.

The wedding was wonderful as was the whole weekend. From a pizza dinner on Friday to most of the day and evening on Saturday at the camp on a lake where the ceremony took place, every activity and event was carefully lovingly planned, with a combination of fun and heartfelt meaning. The newlyweds did an amazing job of planning it all, and my new niece seems as well organized and efficient as the Chabadniks of Friendship Circle, which is saying a lot. 

It was so wonderful to have all that time with the wedding party. I got to see some of my sister’s friends and my brother-in-law’s family and a couple of cousins all of whom I hadn’t seen in ages, and I could focus on it all because V wasn’t there. I don’t mean that in any harsh way but simply in the most practical terms it all worked out because V was in a home with someone else caring for him. And as long as the trip was each way from NJ to New Hampshire, T and B split the driving so it wasn’t too bad. It was really fun being just the three of us or part of the time the two of us (B and I, T and I, and some time with B & T when I was by myself).

I did worry about how V was doing, especially as the weather forecast back home was not great and I knew he’d be spending most of the weekend inside. What would they do all day? And yet, what could I do about it? Nothing, just hope that he was okay and be reassured by the answer to T’s daily call: He’s fine. And hearing that was enough for me to put myself at peace, for the most part. Don’t worry about the details. Be present, which was being in New Hampshire on a brisk early fall weekend where we could let things unravel at their own pace, like getting up extra early to have time to myself and later going to a diner for breakfast after a 20 minute wait. When was the last time I’ve waited for anything? We can’t do that with V, everything revolves around a lack of lines or hectic environments or anything that would make things difficult, that might set off his anxiety, and in turn mine.

But here in this long day to ourselves we could start it with a wait, hanging out with other friendly people as the time went by and then we got into a cozy booth -it was a real old school diner, something I have always appreciated – and the coffee was piping hot poured into nice solid mugs with Lenny’s Diner written on them, a warm welcome from the cold morning.  From there we went back to the hotel for a while, and gathered our outfits for the evening: I was so focused on packing for V and having the right amount of outerwear for wide ranging temperatures I’d need that I spent next to no time on my own outfit, which resulted in a light summer dress with a black jacket and heavy tights that didn’t match with the dress at all, but as I was all too aware, no one really noticed or cared. And I’d soon join the other celebrants in gazing at a bride so beautiful there would be no attention on a poorly dressed salt and pepper aunt.  (The gifts of growing old : ) It didn’t matter…

Every single person I met all weekend was friendly and the younger generation was especially fun-loving, with many fellow nature and music lovers, followers of some of the same bands. At the camp there was an afternoon full of activities: a music jam, a beer swap and crafts for those so inclined (I will forever more appreciate friendship bracelets now that I see how much effort goes into making one. ) Then the ceremony was so perfect – each read something they had written and each was so honest and funny and adoring, it was a real joy to participate. There were a lot of personal touches I appreciated: the newlyweds asked that all devices be turned off so that everyone could be fully present for the ceremony; they stood under a gorgeous chuppah handmade by the bride’s dad (not Jewish, just very generous) out of birch branches and the groom’s dad’s (my brother-in-law) tallit [prayer shawl] was draped over the top – and when they stood there facing each other as corny as it sounds their love and excitment was palpable.

(I walked down before the ceremony and snapped the photo above.)

The party in the dining hall was really great – lots of delicious healthy food, and desserts all homemade by the multitasker par excellence bride.  There was a terrific live band that played a good mix of tunes, and they included a version of Hava Nagila  – a traditional song and dance at festive Jewish events – as the bride and groom were raised overhead on chairs and everyone danced around them. And this event was certainly festive!  By 9ish however I was utterly exhausted – that old person stuff kicking in again – and T & I bid adieux to the hundred plus guests still partying into the night.

We got an early start on Sunday and so arrived home a few hours before we were expected for V’s pick up, but T wanted to get him and be done with driving for the day and come home and unwind. So we called the house and told them to expect us in a half hour, and off we went to get V after having several days on our own. And just as we left him, he seemed fine. Not in any way I could sense unhappy or uncomfortable. Rather he seemed at ease. There were nice people around him in a nice roomy house, but still I wondered and worried about what in fact he did all that time that he was away. Do they try to engage him when he is in his own world; like us do they instinctively know when he needs to be alone and when he can tolerate or even welcome others into his world?  What were his days like?  What might his days look like in a new home without us? I’m ready for the next stage yet there are so many questions I still have, so many concerns that go with having a child who will need so many supports.

These respites provide us with much needed breaks and also prepare us for the future, when V’s time away will be permanent, when he will live in a group home without us, hopefully happily ever after. For now, I’m grateful to have had the joyful weekend and to look to the time ahead with a bit more peace of mind.

6 thoughts on “respite for a celebration

  1. Thanks for posting a picture of the chuppah! It was lovely and so special! I’m glad we got to chat. Thanks for coming over! It’s so nice to get away from our day to day lives. Glad you enjoyed the weekend, and that V fared well.


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