My neighbor started out by complaining about what my boyfriend had dumped in the compost. But it turned out that was only the tip of the iceberg. It turned out my neighbor had a long list of problems with me.
I was okay with her list until she got to my son. My severely autistic son. I had already lived through two years of hell because my ex-husband blamed me for everything that he saw as wrong with our children. Like all sociopaths he was a gifted liar. The stories he told got all kinds of people to call protective services on his behalf. I must have had five visits already. Two of the visits had been thorough to the point of leaving me feeling violated. I submitted to a psychiatric evaluation, I opened all the cupboards to show I had nothing to hide. No charges were ever filed but always the threat loomed.
The real reason I knew was because I believed homeschooling was the only ethical option for a parent whose children can’t speak for themselves and when the teachers available were either not trained in working with autistic children or not able to use their training due to the schools administrative policies (as I had learned was the case in at least one classroom I had visited.) I had been trained in an intensive therapy I believed in 100%. Son-rise is its name and it recommended that parents not only take an active role in the therapy of the child, but also direct the child’s therapy at home according to the needs of the individual.
Unfortunately the homeschool laws of my state and the fact that I had two autistic sons made for an even greater challenge. Still the improvement of my younger son was tremendous, he had been totally transformed by the therapy, his violent outbursts became rare and short lived. My older son improved more slowly, he was more severely afflicted from the start, but he also had improved. My older son was vocalizing more, he spoke his first and last sentence that summer. “Maaaom neee eeeeat,” he looked right at me when he said it and I knew he wanted something to eat but was too busy playing in the sand to get up and show me as he normally would have done.
The thought that now my next door neighbor would now harass me too was unbearable. As I pulled my sons into the house I couldn’t help saying to her. “Of all times to do this, the Fourth of July is next week.”
“Yeah!” She replied, “You should be cleaning up your yard for guests.”
I stood there stunned. Not sure whether to be more shocked by the ignorance that she didn’t realize that never throwing parties in my own home were part of the price I paid in order to give my autistic sons as secure and stable environment as possible to do their therapy or the lack of her ability to see Independence Day as anything more than another reason to party, I shook my head and pulled my sons inside.
As I lay crying on the bathroom floor that weekend, I counted off the closed doors, social workers, teachers and doctors had all been crossed off when my case worker had explained that they had no choice but to call protective services even though none of them actually thought my children were in danger, because they had to protect themselves. In my state, any professional could be sued and loose their ability to continue their career if a child came to harm and they didn’t call protective services. I certainly didn’t want to ask anyone to risk their career to help me, so “Slam.” That door was shut. Friends, that door had shut years ago, I had none. Family, they were too busy with their own lives, not that they understood autism anyways. My ex-husband and his new wife called me up to tell me that they think this is all my fault.
“Autism isn’t genetic,” she insisted, “You must have done this.” So no help from the father.
Hardest was my own boyfriend on hearing my ex-husband’s threats. “Your going to have to do what he wants, this fall,” my boyfriend warned me. And now my neighbor, she called protective services, I know it was her. Who else would complain about our cats having a cat-door as if that was a health violation?
I lay there and asked God, “is there anywhere I belong? Is there anywhere that a mother like me would be respected for sacrificing so much for her children instead of being made the villain?”
“No where you can go now.” I knew the answer already and I already knew I was going to give up. But my fury required an action. Something to show the world, the whole world, God willing, the fury of a mother denied the right to protect her children from hate and harm. Alone though I seemed, I knew I was right and they were wrong and if only I’d had one person to stand beside me. I would never have surrendered.
It was just before the Fourth of July, I took some red paint and painted the windows of my front porch with the Patrick Henry quote, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” As I began to paint the last word, I heard the voice clearly, “Stop or death shall come to remind all the price of liberty.” And in that moment I knew that if I finished those words as I had written them that a terrorist attack would occur against the United States that autumn, before snow fell and the attack would shake the nation.
For a moment I paused. I did not want to cause death. But then I shook if off, I needed an outlet for my fury. Terrorist attacks were happening all the time. What reason could there be for my red letters to matter? I finished the letters. I hoped someone would read them and understand the most dangerous enemy is the lone, meek and cornered, for they are most likely to feel they have nothing to lose.
I had forgotten the graveyard dream. I had no idea that I could possess the power of more souls than just my own, no idea that the action of writing those red letters could awaken a demon of titanic stature.
(This is part two of a series I wrote last fall called “My 9/11 story.” Part one I posted last week as Graveyard Dream.)