Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tears and Laughter

This past week was a busy one - a roller coaster ride full of emotions. Late Sunday night we found out that Will's grandmother, Virginia Randle, had passed away. She was an amazing woman who had the BEST sense of humor. Her health had been deteriorating for a long time, and we knew that the end was coming quickly, but things like this always come as a complete shock and surprise. Dave and I made arrangements to travel to Chattanooga for the viewing and funeral - the easy part - and began prepping Hayley - the not so easy part.

None of my children have ever been to a viewing or funeral, but Cameron and Emma understood immediately those subtle social nuances that Hayley has to be taught. The first lesson was that you DON'T bring balloons to a funeral. The kids and I ran to Kroger on Monday night to pick up some things for the trip, and to get sympathy cards. I stood there and looked through a couple until I found just the right ones, and as I placed them in the cart Hayley asked if we should pick up a balloon, too. Well, Cameron just came unglued - "No! You don't bring balloons! Blah, blah, blah, blah...."

(Editor's Note - Cameron is not on the spectrum, but that doesn't mean he doesn't show his autism from time to time! My son has a tendency to spout verbal diarrhea, embellished with his large vocabulary, at his sisters, friends, other family members.... Nine times out of ten, everything he says to them goes right over their heads. Articulate, yes. Age-appropriate, no. I remember well the day that he had just spewed something off to his friends (they were around 11 at the time) and one of them told him that kids just don't talk like that. But I digress...)

I quickly placed my hand over his mouth and told him to relax. I then explained to Hayley that people don't bring balloons to funerals. Good enough answer for her - she went on her merry way. I pulled Cameron back a bit and explained to him that this was all new territory for Hayley, and to be patient. (He tends to forget that she is on the autism spectrum. I SWEAR, we have to have a talk about every four months or so to remind him that his sisters are autistic. Just reinforces the fact that he should be right there on the spectrum with them.)

We get down to the viewing on Tuesday night with little to no drama - and right before we go into the funeral parlor, I pull Hayley aside and go over the "How to's" of talking and acting at a viewing/funeral. Then we headed in.

Viewings and funerals are emotionally rough as it is, but I had added tension because I never quite know what one of my girls is going to say or do. I am sure that parents with "normal" children go through some of that too - some things are universal - however, my kiddos tend to push the envelope.

Everything was going smoothly. (Well, as smoothly as things can at a viewing...) I started to relax a bit. Hayley was saying the right things, acting the right way, so my guard started coming down. After we had been there for a bit, Hayley came over to where Dave and I were talking to Will. She looked at Will and said, "Mr. Will, I am so sorry that your grandmother died," and she hugged him.

Okay - Inside I am doing the victory dance. I did it! Hayley did it! I am getting better at this autism thing. Then she stopped hugging him...

As she pulled away, her face lights up, and she says, "And the good news is, YOU GET TO RIDE IN A LIMO TOMORROW!" Those were just the words, let me add the hand motions - both arms straight out, with her index fingers pointing at Will, until she gets to the word limo - then she did spirit fingers up in the air.

I deflated... Will laughed. Inwardly, I am groaning. Heck, outwardly I am groaning. EPIC FAIL - to quote my son.

Yes - it was funny. Actually, it gets funnier every day. But at that moment... UGGGHHHHH! Embarrassment doesn't even begin to describe it! Will shared it with his whole family, and they thought it was hysterical. I have shared it with my friends, because, honestly, it IS hysterical. When one of these moments occur I tend to forget that when Hayley says things like this, it is not done to be funny or inappropriate, she is being utterly truthful.

Riding in a limo is something Hayley REALLY wants to do. She asked - more like pleaded - to ride with the Miller family to the cemetery. She was excited for them because riding in a limo is something to be excited about. Call it making lemonade out of lemons, or looking for the silver lining, Hayley has a way of finding the positive when she is surrounded by negative. And she has the ability to make people laugh when they need it the most. So, Hayley has changed my perspective. Again.

When the time comes for my funeral, I want balloons. Lots of them.

And I want everyone to ride in a limo.


  1. I love it! It is the 2nd time I have heard this story and I still cracked up! I can't wait to read more great stories! This was a great idea to start blogging. Love you Joy!

  2. I am already in love with your blog! I hope I can be half as patient a parent as you guys- with the fantastic sense of humor mixed in, too! -Rachael

  3. As always, you are a hoot, as is the family! By the way, people DO send/bring balloons to the funeral. I should know, I've attended enough.

  4. Great story, Hayley is truly an amazing young woman. It's remarkable how she can find the positive in any situation. Beautifully written story, I'm so happy that your sharing them! Love you.