By Pat Coskran, Santa Clarita Contributor
“So, what are we going to tell Sean?” I ask my wife, Linda.
Walking to our car in the parking lot at Kaiser Panorama City, she supports her right arm, as if cradling a broken bone. Capped tubing is visible through a net of gauze on her right arm, just above the elbow.
“I don’t know at this point,” she responds, her brown eyes looking dazed, on the edge of tears.
Sean is our thirty one year old son. He has matured beyond our expectations, but his autism still colors how we view and treat him. How will he react when we tell him that his Mom has breast cancer?
I haven’t come to grips with this myself, how will Sean to process this new, scary reality?
“I guess we pray and do the best we can, as usual,” I offer, trying to be reassuring.
We continue walking. Linda lets go of her arm and catches my hand with a firm grip. Stopping suddenly, she turns with open arms. As we hug, I try to be the strong comforter, realizing that my need to be comforted needs to take a back seat at this moment.
“We’ll muddle through this together, right?” She asks, holding me tighter and showing no sign of releasing.
“Professional Muddlers will be the title on our new business cards.” I stretch for some comic relief. It seems to work. She releases me and forces a little smile, then grabs my hand again as we begin to walk.
“I know we’ll get through this, but I’m scared,” her voice trembles as she speaks.
“So am I, but we can take turns being scared, okay?” I say.
“Okay, if you say so.” She says.
We continue walking to our car in silence, still holding hands. My palm is coated in sweat, but Linda manages to hold tight anyway.
I don’t know what is in store for us on this new journey, but for now we can put off telling Sean until we are more prepared ourselves.
Thud! My Subaru jolts to an abrupt stop. I’m jolted back to the present by the concrete bumper in the lot at Carousel Ranch. I dropped Linda at home on my way to pick up Sean from his job.
I’m continuing to mentally rehearse possible discussions with Sean. Each version conjures up such anxiety that I force my attention elsewhere. I temporarily retreat to procrastination—maybe tomorrow, or better yet denial, that’s still my go to defense mechanism when life is coming at me too fast.
I scan the scene looking for Sean. Even at 6’1” and 200 pounds, he manages to blend into this picture. Horses stir in their stalls. Carousel staff busily attends to their end of day tasks of feeding, scooping the never ending piles of poop, and checking that water buckets are filled to the brim.
I spot Sean maneuvering a wheelbarrow next to the steel railing of a stall. His biceps bulge as he strains to keep his over-full cargo of manure from tipping.
My eyes are drawn to an unusual color around his neck. It’s pink, not a color that I’ve seen him pick from the bin of staff scarves before.
“Hey, Pat. How’s it goin’?” comes a female voice, through the open window of my car. It’s Becky, the Program Director at Carousel, and Sean’s boss.
“Hi Becky.” I respond turning in her direction. “What’s Sean wearing today?” I gesture toward my neck to specify what I’m talking about.
“He picked it out himself when he got here today,” Becky continues, “I started to rib him about his choice, but I stopped myself” and asked him, “Hey Sean. Why a pink scarf today?”
Becky’s face lights up with a smile as she goes on. “He looked me right in the eye and said in a matter of fact tone, ‘It’s for my Mom. It’s for breast cancer.’ I didn’t know that you had told him about Linda.”
“We haven’t,” I reply, wondering how he knew.
“Well obviously he knows, and he seems to be handling it just fine,” Becky adds as she walks away to resume her duties.
I look back to locate Sean. He’s swinging a heaping rake-full of manure into the dumpster. His bright pink scarf flitters in the afternoon breeze.
Sean has taken another step without me holding his hand. I don’t know what the next step will be, but for now I will let go of my need to be in control, and let my boy show me the way.
A note from the author: This story will be included in my work in progress, “Growing Up with Sean”. firstname.lastname@example.org