All Graduated And Ready For Adulthood, Phase 1: A soggy but sentimental and satisfying Riverview graduation weekend is over. Our little graduate, Grow class of 2011, was awarded the Blossom award for …blossoming this year, into a pretty powerful, ever curious and learning young adult female. A conglomerate of 19 family members, from both sides of the aisle, surrounded her all weekend with their awesome mix of humor, adoration and steadfastness. The sun never shone but our daughter did, and wins the best smile award, planted on her face by the genetic miracle of inheriting it from her dad. It is over and possibly 20 pounds of laundry later, or rather, spinning, and a new reality bites.
Tomorrow: Will the sun come out tomorrow? It could if we get the apartment we want. Or the unpacking and washing of 10 months worth of dorm goo is completed. Our daughter has a lunch date with her future apartment mate and two team members of Ability Beyond Disability to accomplish several tasks including familiarizing staff with the ladies and vice versa, and brainstorming some social planning ideas. Separately, I will be touching base with the individualized day service provider.
Loss And Disappointment: Riverview School’s graduation of both the High School Class of 2011 and The Grow Program, 2011, is so galvanizing that whole families listen intently to descriptions by Head of School, Maureen Brenner, of each student’s trajectory of accomplishments. Ms. Brenner has an incredible grasp of her students. Each one is called up to the podium, where they lean in, graduation caps tipping toward her, tassels and all, while she rattles off in the musical chords of her Irish heritage, words of challenge, courage, humor and accomplishment. Complete strangers are grafted to their seats. And this is the place we have to leave, the educators, dorm parents, and specialists with whom our family has spent the last five years. It is loss and some disappointment. My hope was to take a portion of that world with us, either by forming a residential group of students from Riverview here in Connecticut. Or finding a way for our daughter to stay on the Cape in one of the many group homes or independent living programs that former Riverview staff have established in the area. Quite a number of graduates stay on the Cape to attend these programs. Alas, our daughter is a resident of the State of Connecticut and it is here in her home state where she will receive the best services.
Adios: So long Riverview. Our daughter has blossomed because of your labors. The alumni reunion is next week (too soon) and then in two years. Two years! We will be there. In two years time, our daughter will have established a full life back in her home state. With the help of this incredible institution, and the resilient fiber of their staff, rich in a blend of fortitude, big-heartedness, and talent that you find in the special needs world, our daughter can fly. It won’t be easy. We are about to invent another “wheel” so to speak. Not exactly as I had pictured some years ago but our daughter appears quite satisfied with her future plans. Whatever sadness she has struggled with for the last several months has waned, for now at least. We will see what happens when the seasons change without a return to Cape Cod and Riverview. But my guess is, the mother more than the daughter, will be in mourning. For five years we belonged to a “family” that got us. And it was a dream come true. Just ask anyone. A dream. Wake Up Call.
©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011