Every day, more and more yellow appears on the trees lining 8th Avenue near our home. Autumn is in the air. The sun rises a little later each morning, the breeze is cooler as it sweeps in the open window, kids are back in school. Halloween candy already lines the shelves at the grocery stores. And as the season changes, Mikelle and I also find ourselves in transition.
Not all transitions are difficult or unwanted. August finally brought Kasey, Mikelle’s brother, home to live after sixteen years. He returned to Denver with his wife, Allison, and their son, Jack, after living in New York City and then the opposite side of the country, Long Beach, California. The young man fresh from high school graduation on an adventure is now the family man, setting up their home 20 minutes across town. Family gatherings used to include me, Mikelle and Grandma. Last Saturday, there were ten of us at the brunch table.
For people with disabilities, transition is much more than from school-to-work or from job-to-job. It is a change in their way of life, which, as young adults, they are often unprepared for. Everyone experiences change; why is it so different when you have a disability?
Let me enlighten you a bit. Many people have come and gone during Mikelle’s life. From teachers to paraprofessionals, therapists, care providers and case managers, there have been dozens of people that have been intimately involved with her life — and then they weren’t. No plan, no individual educational plan (IEP), transition plan (ITP) or whatever plan they call it accounts for the fact that we tell our story over and over again openings our home and our hearts to a variety of people, (some of whom we can choose and others who are selected for us).
Unlike nature, some of these changes are not signaled to us by displaying a hint of color. Some change is quick and unexpected. Last week, Mikelle’s case manager of eight months announced at her annual meeting that she would be leaving at the end of the month, giving us less than a week’s notice. We liked her. In fact, we waited three months without a case manager until we could work with her. We have no idea when or who will replace her. Turnover is tough.
Even when changes are planned, they can evoke a certain wistfulness when they arrive. Our roommate, Taylor gave us plenty of notice when she announced she would move out in October. One would think that six months’ notice would be ample time to get used to the idea and plan ahead. The truth is, though, that we have become accustomed to her singing in the shower, to her trying on five outfits before she finds just the right one to wear. We love her laugh, her saucy replies to Mikelle’s sassy finger pointing, and of course, her often spontaneous changes in her hairstyles.
When she arrived, Taylor’s hair was sensibly stylish. Framing her flawless complexion was an attractive bob cut in a soft, warm brown. It wasn’t long, however, until her hair was cut short, then shorter, then shaved. The color went from brown to blue, to fuchsia, to pink, to platinum, to teal, back to pink, then a Mohawk cut thrown in, and now, it is short and back to brown. Her hair styles have come full circle, much like Kasey and Allison’s locations.
Eighteen wonderful months have passed since Taylor became a part of our lives. And with the exception of my children, she has been the most enjoyable person I have lived with — including my two ex-husbands. I have learned much from this twenty-two-year-old, free-spirited woman.
I learned how to let go and trust someone else to care for Mikelle again. My trust had been bruised and battered by some previous roommates who have not been mentioned in our blog before now. Mikelle and I love to talk about the good people who have become great friends, and choose not to focus on the times when a roommate situation went terribly wrong. Along the way, we learned some valuable lessons, though — stick to your standards and listen to your gut.
The time that Taylor has lived with us has been peaceful and pleasant, in part because of her fun loving sense of adventure. We celebrate her new adventures, even though we are uncertain who will take her place, and knowing that no one will “replace” her. A new season brings new experiences. If we remember the lessons learned and play our cards right, we will find a new roommate who will bring their gifts, talents and abilities to our home — and we will add one more friend to the Shining Beautiful community.