A 22 year-old named J

He is up early, and -very independently- decided to forgo stopping at our bedroom to let his presence, and alertness, be known.  He grabbed his stuff and headed to the kitchen.  I realized this and went to see how he was.  My enthusiastic “good morning…HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” was met with the “oh, that’s TODAY?” of a much more jaded human being.  He totally pretended to not care, to be annoyed, and irritated by his poor middle-aged mother’s attention…

And then I made him eggs with ham served over warm home-made tortillas and a light sprinkling of cheese melting on top.  He went from “what is this birthday enthusiasm you’re displaying so openly, woman?” to “for me???????  Oh, (blushing) you didn’t have to!  You’re so SWEET!!!”

Putty in mother’s hands he is.  And, also, he’s not very good at keeping up the James Dean cool act…he goes all aw-gorsh Cowardly Lion rather quickly.  After breakfast he picked up the kitchen, helped with making beds, gathered laundry and headed to the TV room with a big smile on his face.

The same kid who was (apparently) totally over his own birthday earlier this morning has now repeated it’s his birthday no less than a dozen times, always with a big smile on his face.  I reminded him of his birthday dinner treat at Five Guys, and his cake.

Yesterday afternoon we moved his bed, bedside table and area rug in his bedroom.  He was very happy.  J is an aficionado of furniture rearrangement.  When he receives his new quilt and shams on Friday, and we switch to brighter curtains to match he will think he’s hit the jackpot.  Oh, he’s getting other stuff…no worries.  Tomorrow we go to the doctor, and from there we’ll walk to Target to get Pinocchio on blu-ray, and there’s an iTunes card in the pipeline for later.  (I swear, if I had let Dada buy him a new iPad with more memory it would have been a done deal, but I put the kibosh on that one rather quickly.)

Do we overcompensate?  Maybe it seems that way.  We are pretty good about not going overboard so it doesn’t become a keeping-up-with-ourselves thing.  The truth is that J leads a rather simple life, and we try to focus on the practical on an everyday basis.  Yes, we will try to do very nice things for him, but we don’t spoil him as much as people think.  We are the only ones he has, but we don’t let that go to our heads too much.

J doesn’t know it’s going to be his birthday until we tell him it’s coming up.  The concept of birthday was a bigger deal when he was in school.  We made sure there was cake, and teachers -as usual- made sure to make a deal out of it.  But that’s the whole thing right there…J’s never had a birthday party outside of that environment.  Not with real friends anyway.  We once invited a former co-worker to come sing happy birthday to him with her kids.  Most awkward thing ever.

People, for the most part, don’t know how to react to J.  Some people speak slowly and/or loud.  Some people use words like “buddy” or touch his arm.  Some people try to force eye contact.  Some people start talking and then trail off when they realize the smile, the bright face are not in reaction to them…he’s just somewhere else, probably very deep inside, using something in his database to calm himself, to refocus in the middle of an awkward interaction.  We know this is inevitable.  To us this all old hat, but others feel like they are entering a social situation that is pretty thankless.

We talk to J all the time.  It’s not in any particular tone, and it’s not necessarily significant.  We know it sinks in, though.  I narrate to him the things we’re going to do and why, and -little by little- he has absorbed all this vocabulary that he cannot use in return, but that allows him to understand us.  We don’t talk about him in the third person, and sometimes people look at us funny when we turn to him and say “remember that?  Yeah…it was funny/weird/annoying/scary/dull.”  Yesterday we were running with the Wii while using that DVD of beaches in the Caribbean.  I was “jogging” next to J while telling him “these were the kinds of beaches we used to go to when you were little.  I don’t know if you remember, but it’s not like the beaches in California…they don’t have palm trees near the waterline, or big rocks that you can walk to when the tide is low…well, they do…but not like these…see that?  If you wait for low tide, you can probably climb there and look for little crabs…”  And he looks at me intently as I tell him these things, and he smiles…and I make sounds like the waves ebbing and flowing and he giggles.  I don’t say “water pretty,” “big trees,” “sun bright.”  I give him full sentences and I know it’s getting in there somehow.

J understands.  The abstract stuff is difficult, of course, but if you tell him concrete things that he can attach to an image, a sound, a smell, a texture, J understands.  I can’t tell him “your birthday is in January…it’s six months from now” because his attention span for the calendar is not THAT good.  I can put timers, mark days that he can count down to, and I can remind him with pictures and symbols.  SO he KNOWS today is his birthday and he’s excited, and he’s (albeit playing it cooly to start with) basking in the glow and the possibilities.

Maybe there’ll be a card from his grandparents in the mail?  Maybe his father will remember?  Maybe someone will call?  Who knows?  It mostly goes unnoticed.  That’s why we make a big deal.  That’s why we show him pictures of himself for every year he’s been alive: “you were a baby!,” “you were one!,” and so one and so forth until today…when we take a picture with his cake and candles and tell him “look, it’s your birthday!  You are twenty-two!!!!!”

That’s not going overboard.  The iPad with more memory would have been…but the cake, the furniture we move, the hot dog from Five Guys, the iTunes card (for MORE music…which will eventually require the bigger iPad,) are not going overboard.  We are it.  We are what there is.  We are where it’s at.

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A healthy dose of good, and a little bit of bad…

J improves a little more every day, but he does have his natural temper still in play.  This part we don’t mind one bit except when it gets on our nerves, but that’s normal.  I’m sure (more than sure…absolutely certain) that we get on J’s nerves, too.  These traits are in play when things like the pizza we ordered is late, or he can’t get Netflix to load after half an hour of trying.  (Explaining service disruptions to this kid can be a very creative process.)

There is still some lingering anxiety, and when it’s on deck we have to work very hard at helping J work his way through it.  We respect his process until he hits himself…well, we still respect the process, but we are vigilant of how far he will take it.  I am pleased to say he has gone back to deep breaths and soft taps on his head.  The band-aids are out in full force, but not getting changed as often as at the peak of his most recent critical period so that’s good.

His labs, however, are starting to take a turn for the “oh, we need to address this.”  I am not a doctor of anything, but I can tell when his levels are pointing to higher blood sugar and slower thyroid activity.  We are, with two days to go to his pre-admission check up with his primary care physician, on alert and loaded with questions.  That he seems to be having digestive issues, and hemorrhoids isn’t helping matters for anyone.  He has made peace with the treatment for those, but it’s not something anyone here approaches with minimal trepidation.

Of course, this is to be expected with a return to the med.  Winter and the return of cold, wet weather isn’t helpful either.    Our workout is limited to what we can do in the garage, and even with the heater on in that space it rarely goes above 60 degrees.  Our body heat helps it get there…the heater takes too long to get it to where we can run and be comfortable for a prolonged period of time.

Running with the Wii is something that J has learned to enjoy.  Some days he wants to run a longer time and distance than others, and it’s mainly because of the cold, and because watching the Mii go all over whatever the Island is called can be a bit boring.  Even I have to admit that I can run while taking stock of the part of the pantry we keep in the garage.  I have actually rearranged shelves because it’s more interesting than watching the TV screen and the same things going by in pretty much the same order.   We’ve given name to some of the random Mii that pop up; there’s suspicious guy with the beanie, prissy lady with the bowl haircut, home-brewer with a secret penchant for origami, candidate to city council who drinks while watching episodes of Sex In the City, maternal type that wishes she had enough kids to fill a van…  Because this started to be sort of creepy (ok…very creepy) I ordered two DVDs with “runs” through beaches, towns, hills…  They arrived on Saturday so we will be using them for today’s run.  Between that and the music with play with J’s old iPod we should be entertained and motivated.  I think Hungry Like the Wolf by Duran Duran would be a good choice for the beachside jungle run, don’t you agree?  I don’t think I’ll go with Vangelis’ music to Chariots of Fire…I’m always tempted to slo-mo my way through that one…

If I seem to be making light of the glitches in J’s labs, please, don’t think it’s because I don’t consider them important.  Quite the contrary.  I have been working on how to work on those.  The whole process can be frustrating because J eats a very healthy diet (well…I’ll be honest: a lot healthier than the average 21 year-old,) and there seem to be side effects that hinder him regardless of what adjustments we make here.  I always say that if he drank beer, smoked, partied, ate pizza 24/7 and played video games while downing Red Bulls he’d probably weigh 70 pounds less than he does.  As it is, my yogurt-eating, vegetable-loving, one-soda-a-day, only-ten-jellybeans-a-day, controlled-portion son is far from slender.  He works out.  He sleeps well.  He doesn’t overeat, he has a vegetable or fruit represented in each meal, limited amounts of cheese and bread and butter…and he is gaining weight.

I know the Risperdal plays a role in all this.  I understand.  I am smart enough to know that, and to accept that, no, Risperdal doesn’t make him accumulate fat, but it does fuck up his metabolism in ways that only a person with a doctorate in Chemistry might be able to explain.  I am at peace with that, but I still proactively think of what I can do to help J.  His health is important to us.  We love him.  We respect him.  We want him to live as full a life as possible.

So there you are…things are mostly good, but naggingly bad in a minuscule way.  We work on it.  We always do.  We hope it will have positive results, but we are realistic.

Tomorrow J turns 22.  We will have for him a small cake (yeah, I KNOW…should he be eating cake????  Yes, he should…it’s his birthday, and he’s not planting  his face in it and making a pig of himself, thank you,) and he’s going to get his hot dog at Five Guys. That’s his birthday treat.  Birthday presents can be difficult, but we are thinking he’s ready for a refresh of his bedroom decor.  You have no idea how much he enjoys seeing his curtains, bedding, furniture refreshed, renewed, changed around.  He likes bold patterns, and light, and color.  He is very comfortable with the fact that he likes masculine stuff with touches of botanical prints, and butterflies covering his fairy lights, and semi-naked women decorating his walls.  He loves his stuffed toys, and he takes pride in making his room a sanctuary that appeals to his taste and idea of comfort.

J is going to be 22; he is closer to knowing, for the most part, what I didn’t know at that age: who he is, what he likes, whether he cares or not about what others think of him.  We think that’s important, and we are pretty proud of how far he’s come in terms of self-knowledge…even if it is riddled with anxiety from time to time, and he still needs us a lot. That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?  For him?  Yeah…I think so, too.

No holes in the walls…

J went back for a follow-up visit with the psych on Friday.  This was the new psych.  His previous doctor (who had been treating him for nearly six years) has shifted his practice to serve an underserved population in a remote part of the state, and we were reassigned to a psych who has a specialized practice more geared towards J’s needs.

We were hesitant.  Change is never worry-free.  J asked for his regular doctor several times, and I did my best to help him understand that we were seeing a new doctor in the same office.  It wasn’t the most stress-free ride in a taxi we’ve ever taken.

In the end we were fine.  J was mildly confused at first, and then it dawned on him that we were seeing someone new.  By the end of the appointment, he was leaning back contentedly on his chair, sighing happily and smiling from ear to ear.

We explained to the doctor that J’s obsessions are still there, only less so; we said that we think the med is working, but we have our son rather than some medicated puppet in our hands.  We told her we are glad that we can now negotiate, talk, soothe, reason better than we were able to do way back in early November.

We know she read his file.  She had to so that she would understand the needs of this young man she was meeting for the second time (the first having been a cursory introduction during our last visit to his previous doctor,) and that she knows where we’re coming from.  These visits are as much for J as they are for us.  We often find ourselves a little lost at sea, and we need to know how best to navigate.

The band-aids were discussed: we’re back to after-bath and before-bed bandaids.  The fact that J is sometimes totally into hanging out with us, and sometimes not was discussed also.  The fact that we get tired and frustrated figured into our discussion.  The fact that we can get scared and want to help J as much as we can was also mentioned.  We explained that there are certain limitations as to what is out there, on offer, for him.  We explained that we try to fill the gaps as best we can.

She asked about the SIB, and we were honest.  It’s there.  It’s not entirely gone.  It’s much, much, MUCH more controlled than it was.  We have come to understand and accept that there is a compulsion for it, but that J is doing his best to be kind to himself.  We only see an escalation in proportion to the level of frustration he is feeling.  He accepts that we have to make sure he’s OK, and that he has not hurt himself.  He accepts that we are working to help and not just to hinder.

“Do you have any holes in the walls?”  No.  “Is hitting his head all he does?”  Yes.  She explained that we are very fortunate; J is under control, and he trusts us.  She told us that she has seen, in all her years of practice, people whose physiognomy is changed by the damage they cause through SIB.  She said that we are doing great.  She said that the effort we put in and the work we do shows.

The med, of course, will stay as is for the time being, but we expected that.  We know that J was a certain way, then he progressed, then he had a setback, and now he’s back to making progress.  That doesn’t mean we’re going to have the same J we had before we started slipping back.  This is not the same person…he is, but he isn’t.  Something changes every time we have to readjust.  Experience changes us without nullifying our basic self.

We will move J forward.  We are starting to see more and more of the positive effects of the med, and only the pesky gain weight on the bad side.  But it’s something we can deal with, and work through.  We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again.

A little over a week to J’s 22nd birthday.  Another milestone.  Another bend in the road.  Another opportunity for growth, maturity…a little madness.

We have no holes in the walls.  J hits his head, but no longer to cause himself pain, and no longer to the point of agony.  He has a pattern.  It is not as fraught with violence as it was.  There is not an undercurrent of anger and frustration that he cannot explain.  He gently taps his head, sometimes it’s actually a caress, and then feels satisfied that he has completed a cycle that, for some reason that eludes us, soothes him.

We stay vigilant.  We stay proactive.  We want to help.  We want to provide him with all the love and support that he needs or wants.

We are doing well.  Sometimes it’s important to hear it from someone else, and we all heard it on Friday.  When you usually get daily feedback from each other, it’s hard to believe that it’s not just encouragement of the “please, don’t give up, or I’ll feel like I have to give up, too!!!” sort.  Sometimes it’s easy to say “we are drowning here!  What are we doing?  Doesn’t it seem like we’re getting nowhere????” because, as parents of an individual with ASD, it’s easy to feel we are isolated, that there is very little understanding of what’s at stake.

We were driving back from the Friday post-appointment outing and our Hamilton CD was playing.  As Leslie Odom, Jr. sang The Room Where It Happens Dada said “you realize that no one wants to be in the room where it happens, right?” as he cast a glance over his shoulder at a broadly smiling J.  Mmmmhmmm, I replied.  It is a testament to our sense of humor that we then immediately launched into a vigorous sing-along to the song.  We often wonder if Lin-Manuel Miranda knows we are singing this about our inextricable position in our son’s life.  People know this is our life, but they really don’t know what that entails.

No one else was in
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
The room where it happened
No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens

By the time that we got to the end, we were buoyed, energized, ready for anything…

It’s good to hear that we’re not drowning…we’re actually swimming.  Exhausting it is, but it is still swimming.  J is getting better…that’s all that matters…  Or, as the song ends, CLICK-BOOM!

 

Carpe whatever strikes your fancy!

Yesterday we took J to the movie theater to watch one of his favorite movies on the big screen for the first (and quite possibly only) time.  I don’t know if you are familiar with Turner Classic Movies’ screenings of movie classics through Fathom Events, but if you are not you should check it out.  Granted, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you might find something to interest you.

We have, so far, watched The Maltese Falcon and The King and I, and J got to experience Singin’ In the Rain in all its full-color, big-screen glory yesterday.  We timed our arrival quite well, and were pleased to see that there were quite a few people there.  Carousel had been removed from the list because, I suppose, not a lot of people pre-bought tickets or showed interest.  I was bummed because I wanted to take J to that one, too.

It is always fun to watch J having fun.  The moment he saw the opening sequence he smiled, but by the time Make ‘Em Laugh rolled around he was bouncing  in his seat and grinning from ear to ear.  His most favorite number (Good Morning) made him positively giddy.

Today he is sitting in his TV room and re-watching the movie with a smile that reminds me of Rex saying in Toy Story 2 “I LIVED IT!!!!”

Friday night was rough.  It was more about J wanting to impose his will than anything else.  My hot flashes didn’t help.  Dada’s work-related stress doesn’t help either.  We all know that it’s not good to “cross the streams” (to quote another big-screen experience J loved: Ghostbusters) but it’s inevitable some times.

Upheaval has come to us without us inviting it in, and we have to deal…there’s no other option.  How gracefully we’ll manage it is up in the air.  With TGG’s baby about to be born any day now things get a little testier still.  Any time the phone rings we wonder if that’s what the call is about.  More often than not it’s someone asking if we want to give money to charity (some of very suspect provenance,) and other times it’s “service calls for our Windows operating system.”  I recently replied to “this is about your Windows,” with “they’re ok as-is…no use giving them a good cleaning until spring.”  The caller was baffled.  Also baffled was the one who called to tell me “I am with senior services,” and got an earful in return.  (For the record: not technically a senior yet, but I still don’t like being rudely awakened by the phone when I’ve dozed off on the couch during a peaceful moment when J doesn’t demand my attention.  That is “Autism-mom random miraculous snoozing” not a “senior” nap.)

The med is doing what is expected of it (cleaning out the cobwebs that were blocking our path to helping J,) and we are trying to do what is expected of us (helping J work through the things that hinder him.)  On the plus side: SIB is at its lowest rate since autumn; on the minus side: that belly is getting bigger in spite of our best intentions and efforts.  No, the pill doesn’t make him fat, but it increases his appetite and sort of slows down his metabolism.  He has gained weight, but we are still working on keeping this particular strain at a minimum.  He exercises regularly, eats his veggies, controls his portions…it’s going to take a great deal of effort and determination, but until such a time as we can take the med away again, we will have this on our plate…

I am happy to report that yesterday morning I managed to get him to keep his bandaids and brace off for over an hour.  He helped make breakfast, and then waited until I called him to come have them redone.  It is becoming an easier thing to do, parting him from those comfort objects, but we still have a long, long way to go to get back to where we were before.

But we’re going with the whole carpe whatever thing.  We cannot just wait until the next good opportunity for anything rolls around.  We need to jump on the bandwagon of whatever degree of progress, calm, fun, happiness is passing by at the moment…

Yes, yes, La La Land is a hit, and it sounds like fun, but Singin’ In the Rain was showing on the big screen where we were and none of us had seen it before.  La La Land was showing, and the theaters were full…but it will be there next Sunday, and -quite possibly- the Sunday after that one, and the one after that…  It was time to carpe…and the smile on J’s face said that carpe was the verb to go with then and there…  In sixty-five years maybe La La Land will be to some kid what Singin’ In the Rain is to J now…and I hope his parents carpe like we carpe-ed yesterday.  Because that moment of happiness has made for a relaxed J today, and that lifts fog and it makes it easier to help him help himself.

So carpe away, my friends…if it helps that is just awesome!

 

 

The problem with “telling it like it is,” or how I lose friends and influence people to think I’m an idiot…

People in general don’t like it when you tell them they’re being assholes.  They don’t like it when you call them sycophants either.  First, it’s quite possible you’re forcing them to reacquaint themselves with a dictionary, and, second, they don’t want to admit that they are, indeed, what you just called them.

Raise your hand if you’ve never agreed with someone because it seemed convenient at the time.  (Don’t you dare raise your hand.  I didn’t raise mine and, trust me, I very seldom do what is “convenient.”)  We all have, in a larger or smaller scale, shrugged off someone else’s arguments in favor of “keeping the peace,” “smoothing the waters,” or “bringing things to a more balanced state.”  It’s what we do.  We are human.  Most of us, for the most part, are rather fond of non-confrontation.

The problem isn’t that we don’t want confrontation.  The problem is that we start confusing non-confrontation with being right.  I have a tendency to know when I am wrong, and still barreling through regardless of the fact that I know I am wrong.  Very often I cannot help myself, and I make the mistake of regretting my stubbornness very little.

Today is one of those days.

I posted something on Facebook that was very far from being passive-aggressive, and will probably make the population of Friends in my Facebook page be significantly reduced.  I already have seen passive-aggressive status updates that have nothing (seemingly) to do with my posting, but that I know are.

My posting had to do with Meryl Streep’s comments last night at the Golden Globes, and Mr. Trump’s response to them.  Now, I know that this has been revisited many times over, and I understand that political-correctness is a huge bone of contention in our society.  My posting had more to do with how people forget that excusing certain things normalizes them, and how we shouldn’t allow Mr. Trump’s mockery (yes, mockery…that wasn’t a representation of “groveling”) of Serge F. Kovaleski has the same effect as Bill Clinton’s assertion that he “never had sexual relations” with Monica Lewinsky.  My argument is that young people no longer think that anything other than vaginal penetration counts as “sexual relations” because the most powerful man in America at one point claimed that oral sex didn’t qualify as sexual relations.  The same can be said for mocking a disability.  When a person in a position of power is allowed to normalize this type of thing, it WILL have an impact.

I’m not saying hate Trump.  I’m not saying run him out of town with pitchforks.  The situation is what it is, and we will have to let things happen as they happen.  That is the way this works whether we want it to, or not.  I am willing to accept this and wait four years to see what can be done to alter the status quo.

What I don’t like is that people, because they like the man or agree with his policies, are willing to support and excuse what is, in essence, mean behavior on his part.  This is not a child who doesn’t know better.  This is the new leader of the Free World.

For the record: the four African-American teenagers who tortured, abused and attacked a disabled young man, who happened to be White, are horrible human beings, and they deserve to be punished.  I would say the same thing if we inserted Arabic, Hispanic, Asian, violin-players, tennis aces, LGBTQ, pet-owners, mountain-climbers or anything else as descriptors for attackers and attacked.  That sort of vile, disgusting, inhuman treatment of others is something I condemn and abhor.

Like I said in my posting: it is not political correctness, but rather a desire to see more kindness and respect.  It is easy to say “oh, you’re so PC” when you don’t walk around being a second-hand recipient of that type of attitude.  I say second-hand because I am the mostly-unseen witness of what is said about my son.  People assume WE don’t hear the giggling and comments, or that we don’t SEE the looks and mockery.  In a sense, we are considered to be as clueless as he is, and if we react in any way, we are called oversensitive.

That is my objection.  That is where my posting was headed to, but I am sure that there will be those who will take it as “oversensitivity,” “melodrama,” “political-correctness,” “attention-seeking.”  It’s not any of that.  Empathy is an endangered species in the great big scheme of things; people assume that they are being empathetic because they give to charity, “share” a post on Facebook, “like” a tweet, or change their profile picture to display whatever color, flag, symbol they are compelled to use by their friends.

Empathy is mentally wearing the shoes and walking the miles even when the shoes don’t fit and the miles are long and difficult.  I don’t expect anyone to understand our life as if it is the one they live; I try to visualize, internalize what it means to be someone else.  I really do.  I know that, in many ways, we are exceedingly lucky and blessed, and there are days when I say “I don’t know why I am complaining…this could all be so much worse,” and I remind myself that everyone’s life is fucked up to one or another degree.

If a child does something wrong, inappropriate, bad, cruel, unfair, mean…don’t we try to teach them why it is wrong, inappropriate, bad, cruel, unfair or mean?  We have to stop saying “oh, it’s ok…you’re too sensitive” just because we “like” the person who has done what we would, under any other circumstances, object to.

We all have the right to an opinion, and the right to speak our minds, yes, but sometimes these should be tempered by the kindness exercised towards others.  It’s not what you say, but rather how you say it.

As I said in my posting this morning: there’s no getting around the fact that J is moderately mentally retarded, and has Autism.  We know it.  We have the paperwork.  It’s right there in black and white.  We are not trying to cover the heavens with a single hand…but it would be nice if the tone was set for things to improve in how we talk to each other, wouldn’t it?

 

This cacophonous world we live in…

 

Welcome to 2017.  Not much has changed since 2016.  Of course, today is Tuesday and that was way back on Saturday.  We cannot expect miracles, especially when people are still recovering from the holidays and stores are already displaying swimsuits and beach towels.  We have barely begun this year, and we’re being dragged all the way to May.  Valentine’s Day displays are bad enough when we are still rejoicing in the fact that the sun is still out at 4:30 PM, an unthinkable thing mere days ago.

I remember like it was yesterday how we all wanted 2016 (a year, to take a cue from Queen Elizabeth II in 1992, which seems to have deserved the moniker of annus horribilis) to be over.  Retailers seem to feel the same way about 2017 if one is to take their rush to sell us summer so early in the year.

I haven’t even weighed myself, and I’m supposed to be motivated to buy swimwear when the temperatures still linger in the 20s more than they do in the 40s.  On Tuesday (second day of the year) we walked into Target, pushed in by gusts of wind that slipped in the most infinitesimal of openings in our garments, and encountered all sorts of striped, floral, solid, metallic, pastel-hued bikinis.  J stopped and stared.  Granted, he might have considered that the lingerie and underwear department had been moved to its deserved prime spot near the door, but he looked more like someone who wonders why he is wearing a heavy down coat, a scarf, a hat, gloves, boots, and lined pants if it’s bathing suit time.  The hearts-and-teddy bears trail that led us through the store was more coherent to him, but still…….

I went outside earlier.  Yes, the sun is out later, and comes up earlier, but it’s still heavy jacket weather in this neck of the woods.  As I type this, a cold wind hums outside, and the cats are vying for the warmest spot they can commandeer on the couch.  I see a tail coming out from under a pillow, another tail is less noticeable under a fuzzy blanket…except when it swings back and forth to announce its presence.  I have salted the driveway, taken something out of the freezer to make soup this evening, and have made sure that the shovels are handy, and there are enough blankets in every room.  The electric kettles have been informed that they will be called to action later; they seem satisfied with this announcement.

J is happy.  He doesn’t mind the weather as long as we don’t have to go out.  He didn’t really enjoy the slippery walks back from the school bus, and he knows that the upside to being at home is he no longer has to do that.  In the mornings we look out the window as he makes his bed, and he can tell at a glance what the weather will be like…he plans accordingly.  On Tuesday he requested a haircut (along with a shave, a trim of his goatee, mustache and nails,) and he wanted it very short.  He is happy with the result, but his head gets cold and we walk into the room to find him sitting like a sheik in his tent…blanket thrown over his head, smiling from ear to ear like one who has all he wants or needs.

The wound in his hand has healed nicely.  The first day was iffy because it’s never easy to get him to understand what I’m trying to do.  Once I get through the part where he doesn’t understand my invasion of his space, and my unwillingness to bend to his desire to be left alone with his bleeding hand, we get somewhere.  It helps that I explain what each item is for, and then he learns where they are stored in the upstairs closet.  By the time his bath rolls around, J is the one to take out all that is needed.  Every transition from one part of the healing process to the next requires another explanation, and so we have moments of resistance followed by moments of “I get this…let’s do it.”

We have started the year on a good note.  We hope to keep working on that.  J’s 22nd birthday is at the end of the month.  We have taken a few steps back, and a few forward, and then we’ve twirled a few times and we’re not sure which way we’re pointing a lot of the time, but we do what we can to improve things.  It is early in the year.  We still have 360 days after this one to determine where we’re going, what we’re doing, and how we’ll set it all in motion.

It’s too soon to think of swimsuits and Valentine’s Day in more than a cursory way.  Yes, time happens rather quickly, and suddenly it’s time for this thing, that thing, the other thing…in the meantime we’re focusing on now.  Now with the snow.  Now with the extreme cold temperatures.  Now with the soup and the blankets.

In the wise words of John Lennon: Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans…   We plan ahead, but we savor now.  J’s a NOW kind of guy.  LATER can be too abstract for him.  He needs timers.  He needs cues.  We have learned to live that way, and we can tell that the willy-nilly cues of retail don’t cut the mustard for him.  There isn’t a timer long enough to soothe the anxiety these things he sees and cannot yet relate to NOW.  So we are his timer.  We are his NOW.  We let life happen as it comes while still anticipating (because our minds are wired and conditioned that way) the future.  This  makes sense to J, and it makes to us.

The swimsuits can wait until the snow melts and the world, once more, tilts in that direction.

 

Well, 2017…don’t dazzle me TOO much…please?

We made it past midnight, and woke up after nine a.m. to eat quiche and mallorcas (sweet bread sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.)  We have done four loads of laundry, taken down the Xmas lights that remained outside the house, and consumed the bottle of cava wine we didn’t feel compelled to drink last night.

We have made plans for the year.  We have commiserated about the worse aspects of 2016. We have shredded papers we no longer need, and eaten chocolate truffles that someone gave us and proved to us we’re ready for a health kick.

We have decided that January is Western Movie Fridays month.  We have decided to watch Worricker on Wednesdays, and then we’ll probably shoot George Gently and John Bacchus in the cathedral on the last Wednesday of the month.

We are ready for the year.  As ready as anyone can be, of course.

J is happy.  J’s hand is healing.  J’s adjusting to the new band-aid arrangement and asking for his “nanny” to come over (she will…tomorrow.)

So, 2017, we are ready.  We are open to the experience of you.  We have 364 days of closeness ahead of us…impress us.  Don’t blind us, or shock us.  Just impress us.

That’s all we can possibly ask for…