Seventeen years ago today, at 7:30 a.m. AST, J was born. His due date was in mid-February, but the doctor scheduled a C-section two weeks early for reasons not clearly explained to me. The Great Gonzo had been due in mid-April, but decided to hunker down in my uterus for as long as he could do so without interruption. In early May, a Black Ops team decided to go in and extricate him…he came out -a swarthy, lusty-voiced, big baby- with his arms crossed and a frown on his handsome face. He might have been holding a cigar in his hand. In contrast, J came out in a Zen-like state of bliss; he was the happiest, most placid, fair-skinned, almost red-haired seven-pound baby I’d ever seen. Life as I knew it had stopped and re-started in a new pattern.
This morning, The Great Gonzo was still at work when I walked into J’s room and greeted him in the usual way. The response came from under blankets and pillows, and not without a tinge of irritation: “goo norming. Laht! BYE!” I took a step closer to the bed and, bending my knees and forcing my alto closer to soprano, said: “Happy birthday!”
As if spring-loaded, all 200-plus pounds of J sat up and said: “Habbeeh dirthbeh?” Yes, I said, TODAY is your birthday. We’ve been discussing it all week, but TODAY is IT! I have to admit I expected some sort of fond embrace to mark the occasion and the (not insignificant, judging by the size of the scar) part that I played in it. Instead, J sprang out of bed and dashed to his closet, giggling as if I’d just told him that Selena Gomez and Katy Perry were waiting to give him a sponge bath.
While J got dressed, giggles bounced off the walls all over the upstairs level. Dada, dressing for work, said “ah…he knows now, doesn’t he?” Teeth brushed, bed made, dressed for school (in a thermal striped shirt with a M*A*S*H 4077th t-shirt, cargo pants and his snazzy plaid deck shoes,) J bounced into our room and made every picture dangle on the walls ever so slightly skewed. Happy birthday, said Dada…the youngest face in the room split side to side with the brightest smile and the loudest giggle we’ve heard in a while. Giddiness, it seems, was the order of the day.
We bantered with him as he helped with our bed. We do that, we have conversations that we think would’ve taken place had J not been autistic. “Can I take the car? Suzie wants a ride home from cheerleading practice! Why NOT? How come The Great Gonzo gets to take the car all the time? Not fair! I didn’t ask to be younger!!!!” J laughed at the deep voice we affect to imitate his, then down the stairs he bounced to get his jacket, giggling all the way.
Yesterday J received a birthday card from his paternal grandparents. It was a musical card. “The Chicken Dance Song,” I think. He opened it, jumped back a bit as he closed it, but then felt a surge of valor that made him open it again: there were $45 inside. The swiftness of movement, the finely-tuned agility with which he retrieved the money and immediately shut the card was impressive. I wish I could show it to you in slow-motion. Out came his wallet and in went the money; this morning I told him he has to leave it at home because I wouldn’t want him to lose it at school and he gave me a look that clearly stated “as if ANYONE would go near my wallet, woman!” I agree…I wouldn’t want to go for his wallet either; that is why he still has three dollars and two balloons in there. Yes, balloons…it gives me hope that, if ever the opportunity arises, he will not be against carrying condoms in there.
The last “baby” in the household is seventeen today. Six-thousand two-hundred and nine days of my life have been marked by his presence. Roughly 4,700 of those days have been marked by the awareness that J is autistic. Obla-di, obla-da, right? There are things that are meant to happen and we have to go along with them if we want to maintain our sanity…
No. 2 pencil marks on matte-finish walls can be easily removed with baby wipes.
Forest Green, Pine Green, Midnight Blue, Maroon, Brick Red, Black crayon markings can be removed with either kneaded rubber or vinyl erasers.
There is a special spot in Purgatory saved for people who make lumpy pancakes…it’s called “the place where the hurl bucket and the mop are kept,” and J will not hesitate to send you there.
The ability of sliced cheese to stick to a wall is commensurate with its cheapness…the cheaper the sliced cheese, the more easily it will attach itself to the wall.
Toasting bread can be a form of entertainment if a child is left to his own devices without firm instructions to NOT TOAST A WHOLE BAG OF SLICED BREAD!
In any argument, J will take The Great Gonzo’s side…even if HE is the one arguing with The Great Gonzo.
Always hang your wind chimes inside…they are an alarm system, and J will quickly figure out how to open anything, remove any safety devices installed and hang his ass out a window…always hang your wind chimes INSIDE!
A 200-plus pound male can be as stealthy as he was when he only weighed 30 lbs., and he will enter your room in the morning and sit on your leg to ask if he can have cereal…regardless of the time.
Children are work. Some more than others. You will want to scream some days. You will wonder “don’t I get a chance to go back to being me? Isn’t everyone supposed to eventually send them off to live their own lives?” You will realize that, no, this doesn’t happen to everyone, and you’re one of the ones it doesn’t happen to…
I am now heading upstairs. I have a cake to bake. I have balloons to fill up (lung-powered, of course…I can’t find the darned thing one uses to make it easier. It won’t turn up until tomorrow or the day after.) I have a slideshow to put together for the kid to watch in his room after we unveil it in the living room…
I feel old today. I feel seasoned and experienced in ways I never thought possible. I know things I didn’t know before and which I never suspected would be part of my mental database. It’s not a bad feeling at all, except for the creaking in my joints and the sense of doom that tells me my time on this Earth is not as lengthy as it used to seem. I don’t mind the feeling, though…if you look at the fruits of my “labors”…they were both C-sections…
I leave you now…and I go humming to myself from that great old Van Heusen/Burke standard Swinging On a Star:
And all the monkeys aren’t in the zoo
Every day you meet quite a few
So you see it’s all up to you
You can be better than you are
You could be swingin’ on a star
With all their craziness, boxing gloves, medication, PECS, Rasta hats, humidifiers, athlete’s foot, cartoons, tantrums, crying, frustration, extra weight…the past six-thousand two-hundred and nine days of our family life have been pretty awesome thanks to the J-ness of them. Not too shabby…not too shabby at all. 😀