The house is suffused with silence. J’s gone to school. No Tom Jones ringing in my ears (not that my ears aren’t ringing from the silence…) J was happy when he left; he offered his cheek for my “have a good day!” kiss with a great deal of enthusiasm and a big smile on his handsome face. He skipped towards the car…while giggling giddily.
Tomorrow is a big day. This will be his first appointment with a psychiatrist since we relocated. We get to go to this new place (hesitate at the door of the building, of course) only to go in and tell the same story all over again. The story grows with J every year, but I am not sure if -in telling it- the kid that populates it so prominently comes through as clearly as I’d like.
It always starts with his name. Every record I’ve read says the same thing: J is a Hispanic male…and then the details flow: age, diagnosis, family history. J’s file is the thickest of all the ones I keep; from one folder it has spawned into categories: J medical, J psych, J school, J certificates and so forth. J never gets to say his version of the story; we are left to interpret for him. He knows he is being talked about, and trusts us to say what he needs known. That’s a hefty responsibility…
A lot of our time is invested in figuring out how to make J real to other people. The boxing gloves, the Slinky and the quirks are easier to notice than the rest of him. In Will Ferrell’s movie Elf there’s a clip of film that spoofs supposed footage of Bigfoot walking through the wilderness; we laugh because we can picture people who’ve seen J going home and try ing to describe him; those listening probably think it’s a made-up story. In this world of cell phone cameras: has anyone taken a picture of J and made a snarky comment about him? What does that say about the person? What does it say about J?
So tomorrow we will go to spill our guts in front of a psychiatrist who doesn’t know the person he’ll be prescribing medication for, and all this person has to go on is the file from the previous psychiatrist (sweetest guy you ever saw…so…young!) who worked from watching J sitting on a couch while we talked. The story’s embroidery grows tomorrow with the exodus to this new location.
Over the weekend I took stock of what Christmas presents I’ve accumulated and what I have to pick up from layaway. Aside from one trip to finish paying the layaway, we are DONE for the year. The relief I feel is now competing with the anxiety that comes with waiting to see how close or far from the mark I’ve fallen this time around.
Maybe I am the only person who wonders about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not: should I shop for J’s mental age? Should I shop for his chronological age? Is it ridiculous to give him Winnie the Pooh on the first day of Christmas and a Green Day t-shirt on the second? How do I go about finding things that he will like, that will make him happy and that will not be condescending? The question often arises “if I get him this, am I saying I don’t believe he’s capable of more?”
What it boils down to is that I am shopping for J in much the same way I shop for my husband and my oldest son. I want to see the smile or hear the laugh; perhaps I’m just going to see a little grin and his eyes will squint as he motions for me to fully unpack his present, to give him full access to the actual thing without zip ties, tags or anything that says “it’s not yet yours because it still has the trappings of merchandise on it.” Many years ago, on a trip to the bookstore, J fell in love with two plush toys that we named Pinky and Red…identical, of course, except for their color. The first thing he did when we got home was dump Red in the toilet and, while we were dealing with that particular disaster, he pulled the tags off of Pinky with enough force to tear a hole on the side. At that moment Pinky and Red stopped being “store” things and became J things; that’s what I aim for: things that he will want to make his own and that, like those two friends, will still be sitting next to his bed 12 years later.
So…where do I go to find presents for the young man who has everything? Here’s a short list with a little comment to help you along:
www.thinkgeek.com The name tells you the gist of it: this site caters to geeks, and to the geek in all of us. You will find items with a sense of humor, with panache and you will have a laugh in the process.
www.hearthsong.com Toys that appeal to everyone; I have found things here that allow us to play with J for long periods of time, and they don’t require batteries! I’ve also found toys that keep my husband busy…
www.difflearn.com Different Roads to Learning is a website where you will find educational materials and items that will make your life a little easier.
www.pinocchiosbooksandtoys.com This is the little shop we took J to this weekend; you will find a good variety of toys here and you’d be shopping from a lovely, little small business.
Well…I have papers to gather for tomorrow…