October in Pictures

We went camping up north the first weekend of October.  The weather was  pleasant enough on our first day, but it turned ugly that night.  Rain on and off, the temperature kept dropping, and the wind picked up as the weekend wore on.  We still had fun and (most) of us (the Roc and I) were prepared with cold weather gear….ahem GC is wearing shorts in this pic, though you obviously cannot tell…

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I was glad I bought the dog a fleece sweatshirt, even though I felt ridiculous buying it.  He appreciated it.

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The Roc was happy to get out of school for two days and go to some of his favorite places.  Waterfalls!

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The windchill was definitely well below freezing on our second to last morning and the Roc looked like this

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in his sleeping bag while GC and I were getting breakfast together so we decided to head home a day early.  It was COLD.  We stopped by some waterfalls on the way home, which made the Roc happy.

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Coming home a day early meant we were back in time for the Roc to skate in the Special Hockey open skate down at the University of Minnesota.

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He thought everything Goldy the Gopher did was funny, but he still didn’t want to talk to him.

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***

The location of the Roc’s hippotherapy changed when the therapist got a new job at a gorgeous camp.  The indoor ring is awesome with lots of seating so I can watch him ride, there is a little black kitten who always comes and sleeps on my lap,

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and the trails are beautiful.  The Roc loves the trail ride portion of his lesson (which will be ending now that winter is almost here.)

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***

My mom had a birthday and the Roc LOVES to celebrate birthdays so he picked out a cake at the grocery store and insisted we bring it to Grandma.  I need more pictures of the Roc and my mom, they have a special connection.  Both my parents are wonderful to the Roc.

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***

My parents and I took the Roc hiking one day.  The fall colors were gorgeous.

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The Roc likes to geocache with his Grandpa.  When I asked him if he wanted me to buy a gps so we could go geocaching he said, “But we do that with Grandpa.”  Yup, we do.

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We went a little farther off the trail than we should have on this afternoon and didn’t end up finding the “treasure” as the Roc calls it because my dad and I were a little worried we might fall of the earth.

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Even though we didn’t find what we were looking for, and the Roc complained bitterly, the scenery made up for it.

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A whole forest of yellow maples in the late afternoon sun.  I couldn’t get over the golden color.

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***

Towards the end of October I met up with my best friend Christa for our annual get-a-way!  We spent the first two days walking around colonial Williamsburg, taking house tours and learning a lot about the revolutionary period.

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IMG_2390We also walked around Jamestown which was fascinating.

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IMG_2479We had a really great time chatting, eating, laughing, catching up, and learning all about colonial times.

Before dropping me off at the airport we stopped by a plantation and took the tour.

IMG_2484After all our touring, listening, and reading museum placards on our trip I suggested that next year we spend a few days laying on a beach somewhere reading trashy novels.  No learning allowed.  We’ll see what happens next fall…

***

Something I didn’t take many pictures, and I really should have, was all the decorating the Roc did for Halloween.  As soon as it was October 1st he was allowed to talk about the October holiday (not that he refrained from talking about it since his birthday was over in early August, but I had good reason to tell him that I wouldn’t talk about it until October 1st-my sanity)  The Roc loves Halloween and proclaims it to be his favorite holiday.  He wanted to decorate with the few decorations we have, buy more decorations, and then when I wouldn’t buy as many as he wanted, we made one,

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and then over the month he made many, many more.  He also really wanted a Halloween pinata, I think so he could get more candy.

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Like most parents we ended the month of October with pumpkins,

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trick-or-treating,

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and lots of candy.

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My wish for me

The word balance was something I pondered all year long in 2013.  It was my word.  I kept reading it, seeing it, hearing it, thinking it, practicing it.  I thought about it in regards to most aspects of my life.  My time, how I spent it, what I focused on, what I gave priority to.  Time for me, the Roc, and GC.  Time for friends.  I paused many times this year to try to find the balance in my relationships, as well as my own emotions regarding those relationships.  My anger, my sadness, my grief, my frustration.  I let myself feel them all this year, and I tried hard not to get stuck in the rabbit hole for too long.  I thought about balance in terms of money, how I managed our family budget and also the Roc’s budget and services.   I thought about balance everyday with the Roc.  Being the mom and being the therapist.  Being a caretaker and being Kim.  How much to push, how much to play, how much to teach.  How much therapy is too much?  I thought about balancing my diet and how much I exercise, and how running keeps my mind more balanced.  I did a bit of yoga and found myself thinking a lot about balance as I literally balanced on one leg.

The word revealed itself to me over and over again, and I found myself whispering it over and over again throughout the year.

Balance is something I am going to keep being mindful of in 2014 because there are things in my life that are still unbalanced.

We are a work in progress.

When I think ahead to 2014 the words peace and let go keep showing themselves.  Keeping the peace, finding time to be still and content, finding some peace within myself for mistakes I’ve made, and especially being at peace with things I cannot change.  The last one is huge for me.  There is so much I cannot change.  Maybe it’s the holidays, the images I see online of my friends and how happy they all seem to be, and how our Christmas day was not picture perfect.  Maybe it’s the weather, being stuck inside that clogs my brain, stirs up the longings of my soul.  But lately I feel the differences of my little family are amplified in my mind.  Our differences have affected every aspect of my life, whether I work and contribute financially to this family, how I parent, who I know, how we spend our time and celebrate holidays, my friendships, and my relationships with family.  So much good has come from our differences.  I feel a strength and a depth I had never known, and I am richly blessed by the people in my life.

But I still need to let go.

Accept.

Find peace with the situations that are not as I had hoped or dreamed.  It is my biggest personal challenge right now.  The lesson I am working through.

So as I continue to balance, both arms stretched out, my hands in two worlds, I am going to work to find peace for myself in 2014.

And let go.

The last resort

September saw the start of school and the continuation of all of the Roc’s after school stuff: swimming lessons, music therapy, OT, skills training.

First day of 3rd grade.

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Holy cow.  Only one more year after this one and then he will be on to middle school.  That fact boggles my mind and makes me want to dig in my heels and slow the earth down.  I’m not ready.

The adjustment into 3rd grade has resulted in more pull outs for academics, a few notes about “tricky” and “hard” mornings and/or afternoons, and once I got email letting me know that the day was “up and down all day.”  These notes and emails make me worry and think that he’s having multiple long and loud outbursts.  I spend a lot of time worrying and trying to ask the Roc details about his day, of which I get few.

While talking to a good friend who has a son with ADHD, who isn’t on anything, I realize that we are at a certain point when she says,

“I have to feel like we’ve done everything.  EVERYTHING else, and drugs would be a last resort.”

The Roc is understanding that things are harder for him than other children, that his volcano (his term for his big feelings) is bigger than most, and he has said things in the last few months that break my heart.  So when she says her last resort comment my mind flashes through all that we have done and lands on the image of the Roc grabbing his head recently and shouting,

“Why am I this way?  Why does my brain do this? I don’t want to be this way!”

and

“I don’t like the way I AM!!  What is WRONG with me?!!”

I realize we may be at that point, that last resort.  Because it’s more than academics, his self worth is at stake.

So in mid-September the Roc and I take a ride downtown to visit the developmental ped to talk about what big pharma can do to help him.  A road we haven’t taken.  A place we have been avoiding.  I spent a good chunk of time researching what I think the good doctor may recommend before our appointment and end up leaving without a prescription, but an offer to call it in if we want it.  I do more research and spend time talking to the Roc about how he feels about his volcano and medicine to help control it.  I call in the prescription and then go away for a weekend without picking it up.

I come back from my weekend away to GC telling me how well his weekend with the Roc was.  How they went bowling one morning and the Roc sat himself down and took a few deep breaths when he got upset about not knocking down enough pins.  How he said, “I’m thinking cool thoughts, like J taught me.”  (J is his skills trainer, and they have been working on the Roc’s explosions for months.)

GC and I attend the Roc’s IEP at the end of September and I walk into the building with a familiar sense of dread.  I’m not looking forward to hearing all the ways the Roc is behind and details about his outbursts.

When did I become a pessimist?

I am taken aback when the team tells me that although the Roc is still exploding, sometimes multiple times a day, the outbursts are shorter and he is calming himself down quicker.  GC and I make eye contact.  I didn’t expect to hear this.  I tell the team I am surprised, I had thought he was being more disruptive than he was the year before?

Maybe all that we are doing is working?  Maybe we do not need to fill the prescription?  After the meeting is over GC and I talk about all the little things that have slowly been changing with the Roc and also all the outbursts that still wreck havoc on our day to day lives.  GC tells me I cannot see the forest through the trees.  That I am holding onto what is hard and not seeing the things that are changing.  I wonder if he is right?  Did I become a pessimist?

I pick up the prescription, just in case.

We go back and forth.  Should we try the RX?  Should we wait?  What about the side effects?  Oh man, the side effects…

While riding in the car to OT one afternoon I start to ask the Roc questions about his volcano.  He tells me that he has a hard time controlling it.  I ask if he wants to try the medicine we talked to the doctor about.  He pauses and says, “Maybe I will be able to control it myself?…and if I can’t then I can try it?”

I swallow hard and blink back my tears.  I watch him in the rear view mirror as he watches the farm fields slip by.

***

The RX bottle sits unopened on my dresser.

On the hard days I wonder what we are waiting for, and on the smooth(er–because there is always something to scream about in this house,) I think he (and we) can do this.

I guess we haven’t made it to the last resort yet.

Yoga + an email

I’m just about to leave for yoga class.  I wanted to let you know that I’m going to work on healing and oxygenating my cells. 

Also, How would you feel if you walked downstairs and saw a lion running on a treadmill?

And, How would you feel if I gave you a present and a lion jumped out of it?

And, How would you feel if a bear got into the car as you were driving down the road?

Confused?  Surprised? 

That’s not the right answer.  Even though it’s a question about your feelings the right answer is SCARED.

We can try again later and you can say the right answer.  Okay?

love you,

Love,

K

I giggled to myself and hit send on an email to my best friend.  I knew she would get it.  An inside joke about yoga and about the questions we have been fielding from our sons.  We had been on the phone recently while I negotiated with the Roc to go to bed and then answered a few of his theoretical questions (see email above) and she was laughing at both the similarities in our boys and in our lives.  So I giggled again imagining her reading it while I grabbed my mat and keys.  Then I jumped into the van, ratcheted up the volume and drove into town to go to a beginning yoga class.  A class I would always look at in the community ed booklet and then never sign up for.  Until now.

Something just for me.  A slice of time where I leave the house, alone, and focus on myself.  Focus on my body, my breath, my muscles and tendons, my strength, my insides…myself.  A time to be quiet and not think the thoughts that are always swirling.  As I drove I felt the weight behind my ribs, sitting low, taking up space and making it hard to breathe.  The weight that I thought would go away when school started the day before, but had in fact grown larger.

School.  The big transition from summer into school always has me on edge.  There are so many factors and so many things are out of my control.  I feel so strongly for the Roc.  I wish things were easier for him.  He has started to notice that he is different, that he struggles in ways that other children do not, and he has started to express that he has noticed.  His awareness is wonderful because of the potential and the progress it shows, but also heartbreaking.  For so many reasons school is very, very hard for my guy.  Sometimes it feels like the cards are stacked against him.

I sent him off on the first day feeling happy to be getting back to routine and structure…but also scared and worried about the year to come.  Will he find success in his relationships with his peers?  Will he feel good about himself?  Will he feel confident in his own body or always uncomfortable?  Will he act out as much as last year?  Will reading and math always be so hard?  Will he feel good about learning?  Is he in the right sped placement?  Will the regular ed teacher be a good fit for him?   Are his teachers pleased to have him?

And on and on.  I carry these thoughts and they announce themselves in the anxiety that flutters behind my ribs.  The anxiety that catches me off guard sometimes and causes my hands to shake, my heart to race, and my lungs to constrict.  There is so much to teach this child.  I am so often overwhelmed at the width of it all.

As I drove down the road, windows open, my off key voice trailing behind I noticed the weight, this balloon of anxiety.  I carried it as I entered the room, scanned the array of people on their mats until I saw a space on the edge of the group, and claimed it with my mat.  I sat still, my legs stretched out in front of me as I listened to a group of young moms come into the room, giggling and chatting.  I felt the worries and fears stretching and shifting as I went through the opening exercises.  I was conscious of the volume they were taking up, right there behind my ribs, rubbing elbows with my heart.  Too much space.  I filled my lungs, and imagined I was breathing out all that weight I carry, as I pushed the air from my nostrils.  I fought that weight through the whole hour long class.

Let go.  Let go.  Let go.

At the end, as I laid in corpse pose, I found myself still fighting.  My thoughts moved quickly behind my closed eyes when I knew they should be quiet.

Let go.  Let go.  Let go.

I focused on my toes, then my foot, my ankle, my knee, my hip, my stomach, my chest, my shoulder, and so on, all the way up to the top of my head.

Relax and release.

Let go. Let go.  Let go.

I didn’t realize the rest of the class had sat back up when I cracked open my eyes.

I sat up and filled my lungs, bowed my head, and slowly let all the air out of my chest.

Let go. Let go. Let go.

I realized that I felt lighter, some of the weight had evaporated.

I stepped out into the sunset, slid into the van, and turned my phone back on.  It pinged with a reply from my friend….

 

BWAA HA HA HA HA!  I can’t breathe.

And I found that I was finally breathing.

A tale of two birthdays

The Roc turned nine while we were in South Carolina and he was lucky enough to have two celebrations.  First we celebrated at my in-laws house on the Roc’s actual birthday.  My MIL, the Roc, and I went out that morning to get some decorations and some cake.  We got to decorating when we got back to the house.  Uncle Chelch and Guinness slept on the couch.  Both had good reason, Chelch because he flew overnight from CO and Guinness…because he’s a dog.

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My cousin, who moved to Charleston last summer, was able to come up and help us celebrate.  It was so fun to see him.

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IMG_0425We had a very nice meal and then the Roc was able to have some cake, which was what he was waiting for all afternoon.

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It was a nice little celebration.

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***

The real party came a few days later when we went down to my SIL’s house.  The Roc wanted an angry birds/pool party so we took all the kids over to the pool,

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IMG_0609before coming back for a meal and some pinata bashing.  We let the Roc go first,

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but it was his cousin Aiden who busted the tiki head open!

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The kids were all very gracious and let the Roc go in and get some candy because he was really worried about all the kids rushing in.  Uncle G helped the Roc pick out some candy.

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When he had picked up a few of each kind, he took a step back and the rest of the kids ran to fill up their bags.

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Then Uncle G had some fun with the tiki head.

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The Roc was so excited to come back inside for cupcakes,

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and presents!

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He was very happy to get angry birds toys and he and his cousin Bella got to playing right away.

IMG_0832 It all proved too much for Uncle G and he just laid down on the floor and went to sleep…

IMG_0826At this point the poor man had been awake for over 30 hours!  Unlike Uncle G, it was hard getting the Roc to go to sleep that night.  He was so wired up and overstimulated from the day, but he had such a great birthday party and lots of fun with his cousins (and his cousin’s cousins who were visiting!)

***

And this has nothing to do with the Roc’s birthday celebration(s) but I stopped and stared at something I saw in my SIL’s neighborhood:  See that dark shape below the bench in the next photo?  You know, a bench you are supposed to sit on and relax?
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Yup, you’re right!  That’s an ALLIGATOR!  o.m.g

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There is no sign like this one in my neighborhood in Minnesota!

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Ahh!

 

Tales from SC: waves conquered!

I wrote this about the time we were in South Carolina in 2010.  The Roc had such a hard time with his fear of the waves on that trip.  There was one day when he did go in a tidal pool and then the tide came in and he had a blast in the incoming waves.  When his cousins arrived a couple hours later he had more motivation to stay in the water and play.  It was towards the end of the trip, and he didn’t want to go in the ocean again, but I took it as progress in conquering his fear of the waves.  If he did it once, he would be able to do it again, even if it took a few years, or longer.

Well, moving across the country meant that it took a few years to get back to the beach.

The Roc kept telling me that he was going to go in the ocean when we got to the beach this year.  Over and over we read the book, “Ladybug Girl At The Beach” in the months leading up to our trip.  It was a book we had read only sporadically before, but repetitively in May and June.  I was hopeful for him, but I wasn’t going to push him and I promised myself I wouldn’t be disappointed if the waves proved too much for him again this year.  Based off his repeated declarations about playing in the waves, I thought that this just might be the year he would go in.

The first day at the beach we walked down to a tidal pool, which I knew the Roc would love because he could still play in the water and build sand castles, which he started right away.

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Then he laid down in the tidal pool.

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Then he laid down in waves!

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Then he RAN into the water!

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And he ran back and forth, into the water and out, flopping onto his belly and swimming, popping up before a wave crashed over his head, all the while with a grin on his face.

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In fact, it seemed that he didn’t stop smiling every day we went to the beach!

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Well…it’s not always true that he was smiling.  He did get annoyed with my constant photography.

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But he got over it quickly.  Usually.IMG_0238

One of the days just him and I were at the beach he worked on building a wall around the tidal pool (I helped some and sat on a beach chair and watched some, a perfect balance.  I was glad we practiced at the lake.)

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He got a lot of compliments on his creation.

I was so happy to see him let go at the beach.  He wasn’t anxious about the waves at all.  He ran and splashed in them!  He alternated between building sand castles and playing in the ocean.  He had fun.  He was carefree.

It was what I wanted for him three years ago when we were there.

I didn’t know I just had to wait.

This child is forever teaching me patience.

Piggy Back

I promised him an after dinner walk, and so we bundled up, even though a warm bath sounded better to me than stepping out into the 34 degree evening.  But I promised.

“Can I hold your hand?” he asked me as we stepped onto the road.  How much longer will he ask me that question?

“I’ve got mittens on, I hope you don’t mind,” I told him.

“That’s okay.”

We held hands, mine mittened, his gloved, and we walked, our breath puffing out before us.  The air was damp and still, and we were the only souls outside.  Immediately I was glad I kept my promise.  He needs this time, undivided attention.  No phone, no computer, no TV, no animals, no people, no errands, no laundry, no “just a second,” nothing to split my focus.  Just us.

We walked and talked.  He asked me questions.  I answered.  I recognized that he was thinking about the art of conversation.  Practicing asking questions, practicing what his skills trainer had talked about on Thursday.  How awesome.

“This is so nice.  I can feel that spring is coming.  What do you hear?” I asked him.

“Cars!” he exclaimed.

“Yup, I hear cars too.  I also hear the birds.  Birds singing means spring is coming.”

We kept walking.  He hoped to see some animal tracks.

*

The sky melted into the ground.  White and gray, streaked with dirt.  We followed the path down and around the bend.  A field stretched out before us, ending in trees, their bleak branches reaching into the dismal sky.  I wished for a beautiful blue sky, a stark contrast to the gritty snow covered ground.  Then I noticed the sun, a pale yellow circle visible behind the haze and bare branches.  I watched it as we walked, thinking about how rare it is to be able to look directly into the sun.

There is beauty, even now, when winter will not let go.

*

“Do you see those bare patches under the pine tree?” I asked him, wondering if he was picturing a brown bear hunkered down beneath the tree.

“There is no snow under there.”

“You’re right.  Why isn’t there any snow under the tree?”

“Because it blocked it.”

“What did?”

“The tree.”

“You are so smart Roc and you are right!  The pine branches blocked the snow leaving it bare underneath.  Now what do you think about these tree branches?” I asked, pointing to the nearest tree.

“They didn’t block the snow.”

“Why not?”

“They don’t have leaves.”

“What do you call that?”

“…Bare!”

“Right again!”

Not long ago I explained bear vs. bare.  I wondered if it stuck.  It did.

There is beauty in these small steps.

*

Water covered the sidewalk, mud covered the edges, and snow mounds rose up on both sides.  Ahead was our destination.  The little community garden, hidden under the snow, only the posts marking each 15 x 15 plot popping out through winter.  I promised I would show it to him.  Show him where we might have a garden this summer, if we are awarded one of the plots I applied for.

“Can I have a piggy back ride?”

“hmmm….we could go back.  Or go back a ways and then walk on the road,” I suggested, thinking that he is much taller and heavier than he used to be.

“No!  A piggy back!  Please!!”

“Okay, climb on,” I relented, squatting down.  Immediately I realize that I am stronger than I remember and so is he.  Instead of hanging on me like a sack of potatoes, he holds on.  I walk through the water.  We take a peak at the garden area.  Talk about what we could plant this summer.  Then it’s time to walk back through the water.  I lower myself and he climbs on.  I walk in silence, thinking about how easy this day has been, how nice this walk has been, just the two of us.  I think about the weight of my only son on my back as I carry him.

“I love you Roc,” I tell him.

“Thank you.”

I smile and after a few beats he whispers,

“I love you too.”

*

I have found so much beauty on this silent, gritty, gray evening.

I am so lucky.