By Alethea Mshar of Ben’s Writing, Running Mom
After 15 years of living in the same home, my husband accepted a promotion package that came with a relocation. We are uprooting and moving our family 200 miles away. One would think it would be hard to bid farewell to the neighbors we have known for so many years, but that is simply not the case.
Just a few months after we moved here, we had our second child, Alex. Alex was born with Down syndrome. Our neighbors welcomed our precious bundle, and we moved forward in a pretty typical fashion…
Until we adopted a second child with Down syndrome. Ben came with a bonus package. He was born hearing impaired and with Hirschsprung’s Disease, and as time progressed, the diagnoses added up and included autism, leukemia, Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, and “mood disorder,” which the psychiatrist believes will either wind up diagnosed as bipolar disorder or schizoaffective disorder.
After moving in we met the vast majority of our 30-some-odd neighbor families and had a few that we befriended. One of them was a coworker of my husband and his wife and kids, who were similar ages to ours. We took turns exchanging invitations and spending time together. We noticed that somewhere in Ben’s early childhood they stopped reciprocating our invitations, but no matter, with everything going on, it was often easier for us to host people in our own home, which is “Ben-proofed” and safe and where we don’t have to micromanage every move to avoid having our child damage the belongings of our friends. We kept inviting, they usually accepted. All was well.
Then they stopped bringing their son, who was about a year older than Ben. He would be playing with other neighbor friends, and they didn’t want to interrupt his fun to drag him to our house.
From my kitchen window I watch the dozens of children in our neighborhood as they play, riding scooters, shooting hoops, bicycling and horsing around. Only one of those children has ever thought to include our boys, and though when they were little we spent time with many of our neighbors while moms shared coffee and kids shared toys, slowly those interactions dropped off as our boys got bigger.
Perhaps it’s because in our rural community, our home district pools special education funds with a larger, neighboring district in order to provide optimal services for special ed students, which means that our boys don’t attend school with any of the neighborhood children. They ride different buses to different buildings, completely separate from anyone else in our cul-de-sac, but I’m reluctant to let everyone off the hook that easily.
When I take my boys out for walks or bike rides, the neighborhood children either give a big warm “HI!” as they keep walking or avert their eyes when my boys greet them. Maybe I dropped the ball, but as we went from early childhood playdates into the years where my boys might have had friends over, we were dealing with surgeries and low blood counts that prevented us from welcoming all the neighbor children into our home or yard for the afternoon. And nobody else noticed that we were becoming more and more isolated as their kids formed lifelong friendships.
Now, as we prepare to move, our house has sold and we go through the hoops, ever closer to closing the door on this community in which we are outsiders, our neighbors exclaim over how much they will miss us. One in particular. Remember the one family who we started out spending loads of time with? When we see the wife/mom, she cries, telling us how sad she is that we’re leaving, how much she will miss us all. Yeah, the one who stopped inviting us over and eventually let her son off the hook from having to spend time with my boys. I started missing her years ago; where has she been?
I’m crying, too. Not because I will miss a single soul here, but because we have already been gone for years and nobody thought to miss us until we sold our house.
About the Author
Alethea is a runner, a gardener, a special needs mom, and a writer. She has been happily married for time immemorial, and thinks way too much. If you want to read more from her, give her a gander at benswritingrunningmom.me