October 14, 2010. Pat’s 85-year-old mother watched the kids last night so we could go to dinner, solo, for our anniversary. How divine! Never mind we had to eat at 5:30 in an empty French bistro (though it was bustling by the time we left) in order to ensure the kids were in bed by the appointed hour. For our anniversary, Pat gave me a pendant of the scales of justice. The perfect gift, he suggested I wear it any time I enter the school – after all, Sophie still attends, or have to meet with any of our former accusers. We laughed and talked, shared our meals, drank a little red wine, something we rarely do, and enjoyed delicious, seasonal tarts. When we picked the kids up from his mother’s house a few hours later, she showed us a letter she received from AIG, the insurance company from whom she purchased an annuity. Basically, the letter was written to ascertain whether she was still alive – no kidding. It stated that if she didn’t provide proof of her “still living” status within 20 days – and such proof necessitates procuring notarized documents, AIG had the right to terminate her annuity. My mother-in-law being the sport she is, the three of us laughed so hard I swear I spritzed a little in my panties. But really, the entire concept is about the most preposterous thing I’ve ever encountered. And that’s saying something, given the fact that I’m still reeling from the recent school battle. Death certificates are public records and a company like AIG would have little difficulty obtaining them to weed out the occasional surviving relative fraud. This letter was nothing more than an ill–conceived attempt to steal from the infirm and aged who are no longer capable of handling their own affairs. Having become adept at the art of nasti-gram, I offered to draw up a written response. With chin held high and eyes gleaming like a hawk’s, she replied in a soft, ominous tone, “I’ll be writing that letter myself, thank you.” There’s little doubt she’ll get the job done, and then some. On the drive home, I ask Peter again about his second day in his new TEACCH class (dubbed PEACCE in New York), which has 1 teacher, 2 teacher assistants and 6 kids, including Peter. “It’s stupid,” he says. “I have homework and not too much recess and my teachers, all they does is make me do work.” It’s music to my ears. Peter will grow and learn in this program, even if he’s not yet feeling the joy. He’s had an extended summer vacation of sorts and it would be tough for anyone to be thrown back into the fray, especially a highly structured one with new faces, new routines, and new expectations. Hopefully his grumpiness, and the backsliding of behavior, will be short-lived. Pat and I are praying the school has decided to loosen its grip on our family, allowing Peter, several years late, to begin learning in a way that will build his potential by addressing his deficits, the legacies he inherited and forever will carry as a result of his Russian birthmother’s drinking habits. Honestly, I don’t understand what’s happened to us as a society, as communities and neighbors, when little old ladies get letters saying they have to prove they’re alive in order to keep receiving their monthly incomes or where little boys with brain damage can’t get the interventions they need because the systems in place protect the process, and sometimes the careers, the pensions and the stock options, but not the individuals whom they’re entrusted to serve. Luckily, my mood was high yesterday and I smiled broadly as I watched Sophie race from the car into the house to greet our newest family member, Lulu. Even when bureaucrats and corporations corrupt, cajole, and exploit, there are individuals – friends, relatives, some times even strangers – who buoy our spirits and brighten our souls. Pat and I need a new puppy in the house about as much as we need bats in the attic, but the offer was so generous, and came at such a precipitous moment, that we felt fate actually may have been nudging. I really can’t say, but I do know the puppy is gorgeous, sweet as a peach, and full of mischief and demand. We haven’t slept since Thursday night, when the kids and I picked her up, and I don’t envision sleeping again any time soon. But that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey. I thought our old Jack Russell would have been gone by now, our plan was to say goodbye to her last weekend, but bringing the puppy home has caused her to rally. Like all things in this world, she’ll let us know when the time is right.