When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

September 20, 2010

September 19, 2010

Storm King (Sept. 18, 2010)

September 19, 2010. Pat’s mom spent the night for the first time in weeks and we were chatting about recipes when the largest spider I’ve ever seen tiptoed across the kitchen floor.  Without the slightest interruption in conversation, she stands up, walks toward the meaty beast, and smushes it with her slipper.  Eighty-five years old and physically not much bigger than Peter, my mother-in-law is one impressive lady.  After she leaves, I spend the rest of the morning baking quiches and making fruit salad for our brunch guests, who have been unfailing supporters of our efforts to help Peter.  Sitting in the back of the room, through endless hours of testimony during the Due Process Hearing, I can still see my friend’s features fluctuate between outrage, incredulity, even bemusement, as the facts of our case unfolded.  As tempting, however, as it can be to rehash history, today is about friendship and family, and so we steer clear of the elephant in the living room and simply enjoy each other’s company.  Later, when the storytelling winds down and there’s nothing but syrupy goo left in the peach pie dish, I sit at the kitchen table and enjoy the late afternoon sun pouring lazily across my lap.  I love this time of year.  The leaves have begun to change, the nights are now inevitably cool no matter how warm the day, and the light of late afternoon transforms the landscape into a golden hue of mellow, dappled beauty that never fails to astonish me.  Our brunch guests have left and I find myself listening to the dishwasher churn away all evidence of our earlier soirée as Peter and his best buddy play Wii.  I feel calm in this moment but at the same time terribly depressed and tired.  I rarely admit this to anybody, not even myself, but its true.  I can’t sleep – I haven’t anyway, in weeks, maybe months, and I’m well beyond mere simple fatigue.  I’m terrified of what will become of our family.  Peter’s not in school and the decision from the Hearing Officer isn’t expected before September 30th.  I fully expect to lose but that’s not really the point, nor is it what keeps me awake at night.  Our only real chance, in terms of the legal system, awaits us in federal court.  The Due Process Hearing, and the appeal to the State Department of Education that follows, are preliminary steps we must take before knocking on the door of justice.  What I can’t stomach is the idea that in the meantime, we either have to send Peter to a school that both destroys his brain and our home life as surely and predictably as the most heinously-conceived computer virus, or I home school him so that he and our family can remain protected and intact.  Home schooling wouldn’t be such an unpalatable option if Peter still didn’t struggle with significant attachment issues, if he didn’t have a plethora of special education needs, and if I didn’t mind, once and for all, closing the door on the opportunity to resume my legal and teaching career.  It’s clear our local school understands this, as they hold all the cards, and they are counting on us to wave the white flag in surrender.  But what I don’t understand, when I peel away all the layers of acrimony, is why they would choose to force us down this road when there are better options for our son, options that don’t cost the taxpayer a dime but that afford Peter the chance to improve his cognitive functioning and work on life skills, such as toileting.  Why are they continuing to withhold that opportunity?  Don’t these people want us out of their lives as much as we want out of theirs?  I realize they hate us now, particularly me, but they consistently defend their fondness for our son and their commitment to his well-being and growth.  Forget for a moment the debate over academic stagnation and cognitive regression.  What I can’t reconcile is the fact that they would rather try to force us to send him back to their school, knowing we feel we’ve been lied to, accused of child abuse, and been the victim of poorly disguised entrapment attempts, than set him free of their hold.  Why has one child, one fight, become all-consuming to individuals charged with the public trust, including our tax dollars and our children’s futures?  Peter doesn’t understand why he’s not in school and we haven’t done a stellar job explaining it to him, mostly because we don’t understand ourselves.  The Red Hook Central School District will survive this blip in its history, of that I have no doubt.  I wish I could say the same for our family, and our son.  I hear him laughing with his friend, happy for the moment and content.  Pat and I moved mountains to gain the privilege of hearing the song of Peter’s childhood and I have no intention of letting anyone, ever again, turn off the music that is our son’s heart and soul.  Outside the light wanes and the trees rustle in the wind.  If I listen carefully, I can almost hear the first crackles of the leaves, another symphony of sight and sound that in a few weeks will reach its apex, all in preparation for winter.  The certainty of the seasons loosens the leaves from their branches so the breeze can implore them away, once and for all, but always with the promise of new glory come spring.  As autumn creeps toward the Hudson Valley, I hope and pray that the school has the wisdom to loosen its grip on our family.  If they could only let us go, they would realize that new, more productive challenges await them.



  1. Mary, what beautiful images you’ve given us here of good friends and glorious Autumn–as well as a powerful summary of where you are all at right now. I so hope and pray these people will do the right thing and let you go. There is something of the “old-school American” in me that is horrified by the idea a school system would have such power over parents and children, particularly when they have failed both so miserably. I am no fan of our modern education system for, “There be monsters.” I can only hope the court system will see through their arrogant tactics and offer you blessed release.

    Comment by Kathleen — September 20, 2010 @ 10:33 am | Reply

  2. mary so much so much i want to share. please get medication for regular sleep for yourself, even if it is tylenol pm or melatonin for you. then see your GP and get a mild antidepressant and/or sleep medication as a regimen to recover your own health – like how the mother places her own O2 mask on in an airplane emergency. have a regular following for U of U by a doc U like. do what they recommend and get back on track for U for sleep. it is a key to physical health, sanity, reserves and resilience. SO she can be conscious to care for her child. i will be blunt here. i did the stress burnout, moved home to mom’s with my son, kept him out of re-foster and myself out of hospital and am here to tell the tale but it was not a pretty picture. and yes i wanted cadillac care from the schools. they said it was a “ford” or nothing. now as for homeschooling there is a marvelous theory inn that field called UNSCHOOLING. or even part day homeschool. unschooling is using the world and the day to let unfold what needs learned and what presents itself. as for your own career goals – with all this folldeeroll in the public schools, your career would be on hold anyhow. find other home schools U can join up with for certain subjects. offer them that U can teach to their kids, and they may trade topics for peter. not in defense of schools at all – but for now they are unwilling and unable to care for peter. he is not safe there. they are not schooled or capable in meeting his special needs. i know U have put a lot of ‘fight’ into this situation but even if the LORD himself now ordered them to do thus and so!!!!! they will do it with a stinkpot attitude and peter will feel that in all his sensitivity. jesse sure did. anyway i can help U other than tell our tale of woe [long past] i would. i actually “fear” U R way brighter, insightful, eager and legal-minded than most of us but there needs to be an acceptable solution now. if the HO decides peter CAN go to a proper program at this school at this time – it does not mean that would be the wisest. half his bio age and take his dev age to heart and know he will be little only so long, might as well keep him under your wing and have fun, grow more patience that U were ever handed and enjoy him as YOU shape him as YOU see fit. homeschooling is a cornerstone right in usa. the first schools were the home schools and the public schools will stand ready to accept all special needs at any time in theory. however, too many incidences of falsity, insincerity, risktaking, false reporting and just plain fudging are IN THIS SCHOOL. unbidden my advice is to leave them alone for a couple of years. tell him the truth. they are not able to meet his special needs at this time but maybe later. for now you will unfold your home school day mon thru thursday, no friday called for. that could give you a three day weekend. even the # of hours need not be as long as school…..subtracting for all the waiting and lines and other kids learning and other kids troubles and moving thru halls. no pre-set curric needs purchased in a box. record each day in a big three ring binder and just date that as u go. what does he want to study? what are his talents, interests? hobbies? collections? skills? these are the topix along with ADLs and basic reading writing and probably single digit functional math. no superintendant can demand access to him or your home. no scrutiny of rate of change except one set of tests every three years by YOUR consultant. taking from MN anyhooo. contact me directly mary if i can support U one2one.

    Comment by lindalee soderstrom — September 20, 2010 @ 11:26 am | Reply

  3. Mary,
    I’m sending this out to more and more people, and I know somewhere out there there is a temporary resolution while awaiting justice. Have you by any chance checked into a couple of churches who have the “home school” umbrella? That’s how I home-schooled my guy for 2.5 years, and though he wasn’t a special needs kid in the same way, I’m certain there is an umbrella out there that will be a safety net while waiting….
    Many prayers for your strength, endurance, joy and confidence

    Comment by Kimberly — September 20, 2010 @ 11:30 am | Reply

    • Thank you Kimberly – I am checking those options out in our area. Our son’s special needs makes the whole thing that much more tricky,
      but there are organizations – maybe not local – but online, that can assist us with homeschooling. We’ll get this straightened out one way
      or the other. Thank you again for your advice, support and encouragement!

      Comment by whenrainhurts — September 22, 2010 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

  4. Mary,

    When my kiddo was working with her most recent ‘shrink’, it was suggested to me to apply for supplemental social security for my daughter’s disabilities. Of course, she was denied. In Texas, the law basically only recognizes kids in wheelchairs, even if the legislation is more expansive…lol Yep, typical fools ‘down south’ here. Anyway, one thing that is occurring to me that just might substantiate the school district and/or department of education determining Peter must have a special school are the seizures and toileting issues. I know – I’m getting close to that simplistic wheelchair idea of Texans, but hey… Anyway, it’s kind of hard to fight the federal government if they should classify Peter as disabled for supplemental social security benefits. The state department of education wouldn’t have a strong argument against the Fed’s. So, just thoughts. Just trying to help as always.

    I am concerned about Peter out of school. In Texas, out of school 17 days has the kid truant, and held back a grade. Possible homeschooling for even 30 days? If I was nearby, I’d help you. I’ve often thought my child would do better homeschool. I’m not talking religion here. I’m talking a nurturing enviroment where my child feels fully supported, unlike the public school system…

    Take care and my thoughts are will all of you as always,

    Comment by Lori — September 20, 2010 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

    • Yup – that’s where we’re heading. Peter is out on doctor’s orders but that can’t last forever, nor should it. He is not going
      back to that school though. If I have to homeschool him for a while, then so be it. He has been such a joy to have at home,
      just the two of us – calm, content and happy. It only confirms what we already knew – the stress of a noisy, loud, big school
      is more than his fragile system can handle. Despite what the yahoos at the school think, we do know our son best . . .

      As for SSI, he already qualifies as he has been determined to have permanent disability for medicaid purposes, but he can’t get it until
      he’s 18 (or is it 21).

      Comment by whenrainhurts — September 22, 2010 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

  5. All my thoughts and prayers are with you…for a speedy resolution, for a fair shot for Peter, for peace for your family.

    God bless,

    Comment by Tamara Grant — September 20, 2010 @ 2:23 pm | Reply

  6. Wishing for a hopeful resolution for your family and so Peter’s song is not silenced by heartless bureaucracy.

    Comment by Claire — September 20, 2010 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

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