Oh, NO…you didn’t!!!

I will blame it on the fact that he was not feeling well, and possibly was running a low-grade temp.  I will even allow that he was in a bad mood because of these things, and count is as a separate factor.  Let’s throw in the fact that he is an adolescent male and, from time to time, feels compelled to thump his chest and say “me Tarzan, you miserable fly that must be crushed.”  It still wasn’t cool, and I still wasn’t going to just let it go…(no, I haven’t seen Frozen, and no, I don’t know the song…seriously…)

We made it to our psych appointment just in the nick of time, and we were swiftly called in for vitals.  J was fine with being weighed (good, consistent weight loss…everyone is impressed,) and then sort of hemmed and hawed when the nurse took his blood pressure.

And then she tried to take his pulse…

If there is one thing you don’t want to see happen at the psychiatrist’s office it’s someone going totally ape-sh*t.  As often can happen in a Special Ed classroom, one person being set off can cause everyone else to be set off.  Like that school hallway scene in Mean Girls, it can quickly become an out-of-control free-for-all, and I confess I’d be totally crushed if it was MY kid who started such a chain reaction.

Imagine, then, my horror when out of NOWHERE, J decided that he was going to turn into a screeching, running, howling, screaming, insufferable brat.  Really.  I’m not kidding you.  He had the same reaction as when he sees a large, bouncy, over-enthusiastic dog looming ahead in his path.  He turned red, started backing out of the room quickly, and screeching in a way that, I’m quite sure, dogs in the distance could hear.  (His doctor, of course, heard him through about 50 feet of walls, spaces and so forth. Not an auspicious beginning for a psychiatric appointment, right?)

I had a very brief moment of shock, and then I put my foot down.  Dada had had to follow J, in reverse, to prevent him from bolting, and I could tell that he, too, was having that “I’m mortified, and I’m totally surprised by this” reaction, but he remained outwardly calm and alert. I looked at J and said NO, you come back in here NOW and let your pulse be checked!

Mind you, this is a facility where all sorts of mental health patients are treated, and the nurse is prepared for any eventuality, but I could tell that, after all this time of J being nice about being assessed, she was a little thrown.  She said “I can do this later!  Don’t worry!”  My response?  “No, he’s doing it now; if I let him get away with this, I will be relinquishing control for an indeterminate amount of time, and I’ll be damned if I do that.”

I looked at J, grabbed his hand and said “you are having your pulse checked…she wants to listen to your heart, not that it’s going to be FINE right now…it’s probably going like a rabbit in heat in the middle of a female bunny convention, but you’re having it checked.  Sit down!”  I wasn’t mean, but I was firm.  I made him take deep breaths, and focus on my face…he was still anxious, but he let the nurse do her thing, and he said “I’m sorry, nurse.”

Once she was done, I told him that he cannot be rude; I will not allow it, and no one should allow rudeness.  He knows better.  He took a few more deep breaths, and he was then calm enough to leave the room without seeming like he would bolt.

The nurse thanked me for actually wanting to be in control of the situation.  She said that, usually, they get parents who make an excuse for the patient, and who are defeated by circumstances.  I told her that  I was sorry if I came across as being unnecessarily stubborn when I answered to her suggestion, but that I didn’t want a precedent set.  On the way out, we ran into her, and I asked if she was fine, and she said “oh, yes, don’t worry.”  The doctor, I told her, wanted to check on her.

Yeah…the doctor heard him.  Harking back to the first few times we sat with him, he recognized J’s high-pitched dolphin squeals and screeching.  In light of this, he wasn’t expecting us to say that J was doing great, but he understood that, yes, J looked miserable because of his cold and that might have been affecting him.  We explained about summer’s woes, and how we’ve been facing health crises with our fathers, but trying to maintain a certain balance with the stress levels.  We agreed to wait until after Christmas to adjust J’s medication.

All in all, J proved us right…he did well.  Why he got upset when it was time to take his pulse is a mystery.  Perhaps it was a sudden memory of sitting on a similar chair to have blood drawn, or perhaps he just sensed a certain stress in the nurse that made him uncomfortable.   Maybe the stress was coming from us, traffic, the rushed pace that took us to the doctor’s office.  Whatever caused it, however, there was no excuse for screeching.

After the appointment, we drove to the library to return a movie, and then to the grocery store to buy more yogurt, and medicine for J’s cold.   No sooner had we stepped into the store that the same screeching, screaming, about-to-bolt kid of an hour earlier was smiling from ear to ear.  Maybe the screeching and screaming were the result of NOT wanting to be at the doctor’s office.

So…how do we learn to deal with the unpleasantness of life?  My aunts, bless ’em, used to say “there are things we have to do before we get to do the things we want to do.”  They also said “Dignity.  Always dignity…”  Mind you, this is the same thing that Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) says is his life motto in Singin’ In The Rain, all while showing that his approach to life has been less than dignified.  J is still working on the part where he remains outwardly calm while inside he’s churning and bouncing off the walls; yesterday, obviously, was a near-failure in this department.  I say “near-failure” because he, grudgingly, allowed me to reel him back in…

Today we are home again.  The nasal congestion is abating; his temp has lowered to normal, and he feels better, but knows he’s not yet well.  I know this because when I said “you’re not going to school tomorrow,” J simply shrugged, said NOSE, and accepted what I was telling him.

I’ll know he’s feeling better when he starts asking for his bus song…insistently, repeatedly…

We’ll see…

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Time, tide and the common cold wait for no man…

There is, quite early in the year, a chill in the air.  We are definitely in season-changing mode.  On Saturday we dropped from 82 to 63 degrees in a matter of two hours, and this morning we were engulfed in fog and our handy-dandy we-keep-it-by-the-door thermometer indicated it was 54 degrees out there…

And J is home with a cold.

At the first hint of sniffling, my heart froze.  You know I’m not a coward, but a sniffle means a possible alteration of the beloved, calming, peace-maintaining routine, and -having had a holiday LAST Monday, and having a visit to the psychiatrist scheduled TODAY- keeping J at home is not something I was looking forward to at all.

When I informed him, after checking his temperature, listening to his congestion, and looking at the hang-dog expression that accompanies any shred of illness J might experience, that he’d be staying home today, J complained quite vocally, slapped his hands several times, assumed the “woe is me” position on the couch, and requested (in his best Richard Dreyfuss imitation) that I clean his nose.

After his Sunday-night reading of Ferdinand the Bull, he curled up in bed and turned off his lights.  No sooner had we done the same that he was standing on our doorway announcing COFFEE!!!!  I told him to turn on his heels and go to sleep.  No sooner had I turned over and found a semi-comfortable position for my neck that, once more, he came rapping on our chamber door.  Donning my robe and dragging myself, I returned him to his room, deposited him in his bed, tucked him in, and told him we didn’t want to see him until morning.

And then, of course, the same individual who requires a massive dose of persuading, cajoling, insisting, nagging and clapping of the hands to remove his fanny from bed on a school day, was up and at ’em at four a.m.  I could hear the distant rumbling of J trying to figure out when was a good time to wake us up.  He had the decency to wait until 4:30, and 4:45, and 5:00, and at 5:14 I cut him at the pass, announced he should go downstairs, and noticed his bed was neatly made, and his movies and iPad were ready to go in the red basket he uses to transfer his belongings from his night-room to his day-room, and viceversa.

The day, of course, was in full-swing once J hit the common areas of the house, and any attempts made to -surreptitiously, of course- return to bed for a brief respite were foiled by our very own version of Julie the Cruise Director from The Love Boat.  As my feet touched the carpet beside my bed (for the tenth time in a thirty-minute period) I was ready to deliver a Tony-winning performance of Miss Hannigan’s Little Girls from Annie.  Alas, when J is up and about on a day when he SHOULD be in school but will NOT be, it is impossible to break into song except under the most auspicious of circumstances, and the revitalizing qualities of coffee (the root of the whole “we’re up too early” debacle) are needed pronto…

At nearly eleven a.m. we are settled and content.  J has acknowledged that he has a cold, and that his nose is bothering him, and that he’s tired.  I haven’t yet told him that we are going to the psychiatrist this afternoon, but I’m sure once he sees WHO he’s going to meet with he’ll be fine.  This is the doctor’s office where there are no needles, no tweezers, nothing that pinches…  If his congestion doesn’t improve, well, then we’ll go to the unpleasant place where they’ll take a swab and determine if he needs stronger meds, but for the time being I am not expecting much resistance.

The change in weather, as you might expect if you’ve been previously acquainted with J’s super-power, has been predicted by the gradual appearance of Christmas music, Christmas movies, and snow-themed pictures that randomly pop up on J’s coffee table.  The other day, as we walked home from school in the blistering heat, I said “wow, J!  It’s HOT!,” and my son laughed.  I thought it had been the way I’d delivered this line, or the fact that I was sweating profusely thanks to the combination of mourning colors and the hot sun, but it seems like he was laughing because he KNEW it wouldn’t last.

Ah, mourning clothes…I forgot to mention that.  Yeah, you read right…I -like the aunts who raised me- dress in mourning according to the pre-established rules they (and I) were raised with; in a nutshell, I look like Wednesday Addams but with shorter, grayer hair.  OK, it’s not THAT severe, but it’s mourning, and no one (aside from my husband and children) notices that I’ve been dressing in black for a few weeks.  I am sweating quite a bit out there, and I can hear my aunts saying “do you now understand why we’d say please, God, let so-and-so last until the weather cools?  If it’s Your will?”  Yeah, I understand, and I also understand -because they raised me right- that comfort, fashion and recognition have very little to do with this process.  Mourning, while expressed outwardly in clothing, takes place deep within…I don’t know how well I’d deal with wearing colorful clothing at this time.

The house is not weighed-down by sadness, but there’s a ribbon of it threading through our days.  We acknowledge it, and we move forward with it because sadness and loss are a part of life that our children (not quite children anymore, right) need to learn to accept.  How well J acknowledges, accepts, understands and identifies this feeling of loss is questionable, but he has learned to adjust to the more muted aspects that have suddenly entered our everyday existence as a family.  We do our best to make it easy for him, not because he isn’t deserving of the full-blown effect of emotion, but because we know he doesn’t process grief like a neuro-typical person does.  The database in his mind has a picture of Dada’s father, but it is among many others, and we can’t expect him to react as we are reacting, but we know he’s good for a hug, a quiet sitting side-by-side…  Of all the situations we’ve tried to prepare for, in terms of “how to handle this with J,” the death of a parent hadn’t really, exactly, precisely crossed our minds…

The absence of overwhelming tantrums is very helpful…indeed.  And, at least, the kid knows how to make coffee.

The altered texture and flavor of life…

The school year is going well.  J is happy to be back to his routine, and had a minor incident of discontent when he realized that yesterday (Labor Day, a day looked forward to by millions of people who don’t have to go to work and enjoy a long weekend) was a no-school day.  Oh, he railed against the powers that be, and wanted me (as if I had any say in those things) to put the BUS and BACKPACK on his PECS board…  “I can put them there,” I said “but the fact remains that we’re all at home on Monday.”  Woe was he.  It lasted all of five minutes.  He soon noticed that I had lined up not one, not two, but THREE cube units that he could put together at his leisure to pass the time.  And then he noticed that I had put the MOVIE THEATER card on the schedule board for Sunday.  All of a sudden his misery was not quite as miserable as he had made it out to be…

On Sunday we all went to see Ghostbusters.  Thirty years ago, my cousins and I stood in line for well over an hour, fretting constantly about whether we’d get into the theater, to see this movie. This time around the audience was much smaller, but the movie was just as enjoyable.  It was nice sitting there in the dark with our kids…you know: those creatures who weren’t even a glimmer in our eyes when we first watched this film.

The weather has not been summer-like at all.  While, yes, it has been hot from time to time, it is quite clear that autumn is approaching quickly.  The green of the leaves is more muted, and we have seen a discreet weaving of fall colors making its way into the landscape.  If you walk outside you will feel a slap of heat and humidity, but a sudden breeze will find its way to you, and it will not have the quality of summer to it; a definite change is in the air.

As this happens, we begin to adjust to life without a parent.  Dada has his travel arrangements for the funeral later this month.  Getting up at 2 a.m. to make a 5:50 a.m. flight, and carrying luggage (that he hopes will arrive with him) this time around is one of the discomforts of this trip.  The endless of stream of hands to shake, hugs to accept, inevitable sadness lingering in the proceedings make this a trip he would rather skip but cannot.  What was going to be a private affair has grown into a much larger to-do because -even in the face of personal sorrow- we are social creatures and we leave a footprint wherever we go.  I have spent a significant amount of time organizing, scanning and distributing photos to be used for the memorial service.  I do this because I would otherwise be useless to everyone; a rough draft of an obituary that will be heavily edited by other hands is a small investment of time on my part, but there’s not much else I can do, is there?

While my dear, lovely, kind father in-law is no more, my father seems to be improving day by day.  He now speaks…cantankerously.  He now participates in physical therapy…grudgingly.  He now has the chance to spend a few more years in the land of the living, and it’s unclear how he feels about this.  The word “miracle” is one he would scoff at, but that is the word that doctors most often utter in the face of his recovery.  Is it, I wonder, because he is not as lovely and kind as my father in-law was?  We have a saying back home: yerba mala nunca muere.  This basically means that weeds don’t die, and it’s usually applied to people who -in spite of everything- thrive when they’re not expected to.  I still get to call my stepmom and ask how my dad is doing, and I still get glowing reports of how he’s flirting with nurses, ignoring doctors he doesn’t like, reacting gruffly when he’s not pleased with someone…  I get to hear him in the background, grunting and complaining.  I also don’t get to remind Dada “hey, you said you’d call your dad at 4!”

Little things creep up on us.  Looking for a contact on the phone directory, there are Pops’ name and number.  Looking for a cornbread recipe, there is Pops’ lovely handwriting explaining, step-by-step, how to make his famous decadent chocolate cake with chocolate ganache.  The wall of photos that was dedicated to Dada’s mom is now a wall-to-wall gallery of family, with Pops and Mom smiling at us, at each other, at the kids…

Dada’s birthdays (don’t make me tell the story again…) are on Thursday and Friday, and we’re keeping it low-key because that’s what he’s feeling like these days.  I totally understand him.  I can tell that he is happy to be with us, but that his father’s passing starts to sink in a little more when he least expects it.  That’s the way it is for everyone,  I think.  You’re fine and you know in your bones that someone is gone, and then you realize it all over again.  It hits you…it keeps hitting you for a long, long time.  On Thursday/Friday it will be 52 years since Dada’s mom said (in the middle of the night) “oh, dear…the baby is coming,” and then Dada’s dad kicked into physician mode and delivered his fourth son using a pair of kitchen shears to cut the umbilical cord.  How can Dada not want a low-key birthday celebration in light of recent events?

J knows there’s something different that we’re all getting used to, and he’s observing quietly and calmly.  Aside from the disruption to his routine caused by the holiday, J has been happy and relaxed.  He misses his brother when TGG goes out, but he enjoys the attention he gets when TGG can give it.  He loves his new sofa, and he is comfortable in his TV room.  He doesn’t obsess about laundry, but watches my closet like a hawk.  He loves that he has a hat for being at home (he doesn’t really wear it, but he likes the idea of it,) and another for school.  He loves that we are back to letting him walk from the bus to where I stand waiting.

On the surface it all looks the same, but we can tell one of the seasonings is “off,” and the stew was too thin and we overdid the thickening.  Like Dada said the other night: it’s like Hostess Fruit Pie…it used to taste oh, so different when we were younger, and we see the packaging and think “yes!  Hostess Fruit Pie!”  Then, one bite into it, you realize the memory of it was better than the actual thing…

We will find the new level, I’m sure…we always sort of do.