It was a huge selling point from a real estate standpoint. We fell in love with the lake when we saw it. My husband pictured running around the lake, and I pictured family walks in the evening watching the sunset together. It was right across from a playground, both within two blocks from our house. No more winters with snow. No more packing up two kids into car seats to enjoy where we lived. We were moving from NY to Florida, and the lake was one of the most beautiful things we were looking forward to about our new neighborhood. We had put an offer on the house almost immediately after seeing it. After a counter offer, we accepted. Deal sealed, barring a few hiccups along the way. But, our beautiful new home that we had fallen in love with, and the lake, were going to be ours. And from the first moment we saw the lake, it entered into my heart and dreams as a symbol representing our great life ahead. Change was coming, but we knew this lake was going to be a landmark in our daily scenery, and the background of us raising our boys in our new life in Florida.
Before we could enjoy it however, back in NY, before we moved, panic began to settle in my thoughts. Panic. What if the baby (Lucas was 1 year old then) runs away to the lake? What if gator chases or tries to get one of my kids? Anyone who knows me won’t be shocked by my plan to address this. I educated Omar about alligator safety and had him practice reciting an escape plan and running in zig zags, which was what we had heard you do if a gator chases you. And, I signed up Omar for a Safety-Swim class to become completely competent at swimming before our move. I still felt the panic thinking ‘it’s too close to the playground. Lucas might wander off to it somewhere while we think he is safely in the playground.’
Eventually, these feelings settled, and I knew I just had to trust these things would work themselves out. But, just to be sure, I signed up Lucas for Survival Swim lessons. They were set to begin immediately upon our arrival to our new home in Florida! Feeling at peace again, that I had done my part in keeping my kids safe, we again felt the excitement of owning our own home in Florida.
When we arrived in our new home, reality set in. Florida is beautiful, but hot, rainy, and buggy. Slight hamper on our lake dreams, but, we still got to enjoy it greatly. There were the breathtaking colorful skies. Each evening, a different array of shades of pink, blue, purple, orange, yellow filled the sky. The sounds of the wildlife and birds that the lake attracted were a symphony we hadn’t known, having both been raised in the city.
But shortly after we moved to Florida, we went through a very hard season in our lives. Lucas began having seizures, and needed brain surgery. I stopped working outside of the home, to be with him, while he recovered from surgery. It would take time until we could figure everything out about how to move forward. The lake was still the background to this season in our lives. I’d bring Lucas around the lake. He’d sit in his stroller with a hoodie on his head and a pacifier in his mouth. We needed to cover his head to keep the scar protected from the sun. I had to do a fantastic job of convincing him to leave it on. He was two by now, and I felt guilty about the fact that he still used the pacifier. But he’d been through so much, and it made him happy.
The lake was my sanctuary outside of the house, where I had felt trapped. Aside from the lake, I stayed home, while the world went on just as it had before my world had changed. The escape from the house to sit on a bench while Lucas napped, or quietly looked around was my time. I had a moment of not being needed, while I sat at the bench once he fell asleep. There I read inspiring books about going deeper into my faith and relationship with God. We’d stay there, until older brother would come home from the bus stop.
My older son’s bus stop was across from the lake. I’d see the lake and birds in the background as he walked up to his bus from my car every morning. It was behind him as he ran down its steps and straight to my car excitedly. The lake was our scenery for nearly every school day for two years. We enjoyed the spring time especially, when all the baby cranes, ducks, and gators made their entrance into the world. Eventually, Omar had to start walking by himself, as things got harder with Lucas. But, I cherish that part of the season with Omar.
Then, there was the vulture season at the lake. For many months, the lake had dried up quite low and vultures feasted daily on dried fish and exposed eggs. The family walks were usually in the evening, and so were frequently accompanied by the sound of my alarm alerting me that my son’s seizure medication was due. Did we bring it with us? How fast can we make it back to give it to him on time? Did we remember bug spray? The dried up lake seemed to mirror the challenges we were facing.
Slowly, the lake and our family traditions came back to a more revitalized state. Omar and Lucas traveled together in their green motorized car that Santa had brought them, speeding happily around the curves, half on grass, half on sidewalk path. Other times, Omar would ride a scooter up ahead while Lucas stayed with me in the stroller. He’d always U-turn back on the scooter to reunite with us. Many nights I made a point to walk with Omar alone. He’d bring along a little sound machine to alert us of what kind of bird or duck we saw. We’d stop periodically at lakeside benches to look up random facts on google. Our alone time was such a highlight for me in the midst of difficult times. Thinking of it now, it’s been a while since Omar and I have had that.
The stories go on. Around the lake, Omar learned to ride his bike for longer and longer distances without help. He was persistent and he finally got it. Independent. Too far away from earshot to have conversations around the lake anymore. I still walked with with Lucas in the stroller. It was hard for me. Lonely. Lucas would be in his own world with the iPad. He’d have just gotten over screaming and fighting to go to the playground instead of the lake. One time he had even thrown his body out of the speeding little motorized car, while his brother was driving past the playground towards the lake. If I’m honest, it became miserable, and I was bitter. The lake became a symbol of something else I wanted that I couldn’t have. I wanted a simple family walk without major behaviors causing disunion and robbing me of my joy.
Time went by, and my husband suggested we give it another try. I resented him for suggesting it. It would be too hard. Not worth it. To be a good sport, I tried anyway. Mostly, it was as disappointing as I expected. Lucas ran away often, threw himself on the ground often, wanted nothing to do with my husband. But my husband tried to soothe him. Still, Lucas yelled, cried, made us stop and wait and bargain for him to get up off the floor and walk. Success seemed dependent on me giving more than I felt I had to offer. I just wanted things to be easier. The playground and the lake we loved were just too close together. Lucas would choose the playground over the lake every time. That made the lake seem impossible to enjoy.
But, last night.
Last night, we made it. Last night, we went for it. We were brave. We gave it another try. Omar rode his bike. Lucas walked with me, holding his leapfrog game and Catboy from PJ Mask. We had fun. We had joy. We had family time. However, I do miss Omar. Omar, as our relationship was before Lucas had autism. I often miss Omar while we are all together, because Lucas consumes so much of me to keep him safe. Omar went off on his bike, which he now knows how to ride alone pretty easily. I remember when Omar would cry and cry when I’d tell him to keep his foot on the pedal instead of immediately stepping to the ground when starting to lose his balance. Yet, there he was, accomplished in what he set out to learn, zooming clear around the lake on his own. And here was Lucas, giving our new dynamic a fair try. We finally did it. We made it all the way around the lake. No stroller. No Lucas on the floor. No unreasonable kicking and screaming. No out of control, anxious momma. And there was I, finally able to truly enjoy our lake, and family, again. It came from persistence and patience.
This lake has been a prominent figure and symbol through years of my life now. I am so glad we bought his house. I love this lake being the scenery to the seasons of our lives.