A moment of panic…clarity…recognition…

J dozed off on the couch last night.  It was that brief kind of dozing that no one expects, the nodding back and forth of the head, and the heaviness of the eyes that you don’t quite notice is happening.  One moment you’re awake, and the next someone is nudging you…

I noticed J leaning back on the couch with his legs extended in front of him.  Because this is a very unusual position for him, I got up from my chair and looked at him closely.  Just then he opened his eyes and looked slightly startled, like one who didn’t realize he’d leaned back and relaxed.

Every night we put a timer on for J.  It indicates the time remaining until 10:45 when he’s supposed to come upstairs and get ready for bed.  Since he was asleep on the couch, I suggested going upstairs when there were still 30-something minutes on the timer.  J, slightly disoriented, got up and started helping me gather his things for the migration upstairs.  Dada had been working in the dining room (yes, again) and was surprised to see us upstairs so early, but moved to help us…

And then J, looking a little bewildered, started saying DADA quite loudly.  We gently pointed out that Dada was standing right there, and reminded him (because he looked a little confused) of who we were.  This wasn’t enough for J.  He opened went to the foyer, looked at where we put the keys, lunch bags and other things we jettison when we get home.  He looked around, still with the look of one who is spelunking for a thread of thought that has escaped him.  DADA, he said loudly, insistently.  He didn’t quite look awake, but he was moving around with as much determination as when he’s looking for Slinky in the middle of the night…

Dada took him gently by the arm and said “I’m here.”  J’s DADA turned into more of a “yeah, yeah…I know” sound, and he guided us to the front door, asking for it to be opened.  As I was about to follow them, the phone rang.  TGG usually calls when he’s done with class to let us know he’s on the way home, and this time he added “I’m stopping for gas.”  Ok, I said, a little distractedly because I was focusing on J’s confusion and how to solve it.

J returned to the dining room, still bewildered, still repeating DADA like he was fishing for something else.  When he started flapping his hands and moving to hit his forehead, I grabbed the iPad and said “talk to me, kid.  I want to help you.”  We clicked on FEELINGS in the Proloquo, and J said I LOVE YOU.  We said we love him too, and we all hugged.  He looked from Dada to me, and from me to Dada.  Then he went back to the Main Menu and found his MY FAMILY folder.  Again: I LOVE YOU.  Yes, darling, we know you love us; we love you, too.  I NEED A HUG.  Yes, my sweet, here’s another hug.  And then…

It was like a revelation to him.  He wasn’t looking for Dada or for me, though he was obviously glad we were there…  J was looking for TGG.  He pressed the buttons repeatedly; first the one that speaks THIS IS MY BROTHER, TGG, and then the one that speaks TGG’s name.  BROTHER, he said.  The first time we’ve heard him say BROTHER outside of a sentence someone was modeling for him.  I told him TGG had just called to say he had to stop for gas and then he’d be home.  TGG.  TGG.  TGG.  TGG.  Yes, my love.  TGG is on the way.  TGG.  TGG.  TGG.  BROTHER.  BROTHER.  Yes, my darling, your brother TGG is on the way home from class.  Remember?  He goes to work during the day, comes home, has dinner and then goes to his class.  BROTHER.  TGG.  Once more he tapped on the buttons that identified his brother for him.  Yes, sweetie.  We’ll sit here on the step and wait for him to get home so you can see him.  Dada is there (J signed DADA while looking at my husband,) and I am here (and he signed his sign for my name,) and we are waiting for TGG to get home from class.

BROTHER.  BROTHER.  He moved his hands around, digging for the sign for this word he suddenly had developed an interest in, and I modeled the sign for him while saying BROTHER.  Our sign for TGG’s name is a combination of his first initial (which also happens to be J, in case you were not around when I mentioned this a long while back,) and the actual sign for BROTHER.  J observed closely and repeated the sign for BROTHER and then signed TGG, making the connection.  Yes, pumpkin; TGG is your big brother.  He was a baby in my belly before you were a baby in my belly.  And you are brothers.  You both came from the same place, and that is what BROTHER means.

The front door’s lock clicked, announcing the arrival of TGG, and J sprang to his feet.  “You wanted TGG, and there he is,” Dada said, smiling at J in an encouraging way.

I’m sure you’ve seen those videos on You Tube about the lion that, after many years, sees its humans who cared for it as a cub.  TGG walked in to get mauled with love.  He was, at first, worried about the looks on everyone’s faces, and then J came up to him (iPad in hand) and hugged him like he’s never hugged him before.  “Um…what’s wrong?,” TGG asked, speaking out of the side of his mouth and smiling awkwardly.  Nothing, we said.  Your brother was asking for you.

J let go long enough to pull back and press I LOVE YOU I NEED A HUG I LOVE YOU on his iPad, and then he enveloped his brother in another tight embrace.  Dada and I sat, like Marlin Perkins, observing the scene from a distance.  The sight of TGG being engulfed by J in a bear hug was quite touching, and we could tell that TGG was deeply affected by it, too.  We saw his arms tighten in response to J’s arms tightening, and his eyes got shiny with tears that, because he knows it affects J’s mood, he controlled quite nicely.

It was a short while later when, after being tucked into bed and releasing a stream of GOOD NIGHT, I LOVE YOU, GOOD NIGHT, LIGHT, I LOVE YOU, we crawled into our bed and TGG came into our room, still wearing the scrubs he wears to class.

“What happened?,” he asked, a little subdued, a little worried.  Dada and I looked at each other, and we shrugged because -quite honestly- we’re not sure.  “Remember when you were little and you had sleepovers and you came back and J would lay on top of you and not let you move???,” I asked.  TGG smiled.  Yes, of course, how could one forget having to call the parents to remove the sleeping younger brother who is parked on top of one’s body?  On several occasions we had to pick J up and hold him while poor TGG ran to the bathroom to pee because he hadn’t wanted to wake his brother up so he’d held it “as long as he could.”

“But all we did this weekend was hang out for a while; watch Ed, Edd and Eddy, take out the trash…we do that all the time!,” he said, still not understanding why to J this is such a monumental deal.  Well, Dada said, your brother woke up from a very brief nap, realized you weren’t home and didn’t want to go to bed without you being here.  This doesn’t bode well for when you’re out on a date…or traveling… or working nights, but it means he loves you, and you’re important to him.

Early this morning, while J was preparing his snack box, TGG came downstairs, dressed for work.  He kissed me on the forehead and then walked up to J (who now towers over him) and kissed his nose and both cheeks.  J smiled.  TGG, he said.  J, his brother replied.  I LOVE YOU.  I love you, too, Brother Kong.

And all is right with the world…

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