Here I am.
Well, here WE are. Our family unit is intact, and -in fact- there are more grandkids than there were when I last poked my head out of the cozy cavern that is our family life.
J is doing well. J is very far now from being a teenager. He is a full-fledged adult having hit his mid-twenties (officially) a mere week ago. Where has the time gone? (Hint: it’s settled in my joints and bones and wrinkles and the roots of my now-decidedly-gray hair.)
I would like to tell you that we’ve found balance, but the thing about balance is that it involves hard work. A small shift and whoops! There it goes! So on days when we’re all working at it, we’re balanced. We do, however, tilt occasionally. This is acceptable. This is fine. This is the way it’s supposed to be.
Anyone who says they feel centered and balanced 100% of the time is full of shit. My dad, who was a wise and exasperating man, used to say that absolute happiness is boring; you need to know what unhappiness feels like to fully appreciate when you are happy.
In general, though, all is going well. We found ourselves at J’s psych appointment being tremendously positive about things like Twelve Days (which were awesome because they were low-key and as stress-free as any holiday can be) and J’s penchant for treating us like annoying room-mates (which we are…what twenty-something human absolutely enjoys the company of his/her parental units? I certainly didn’t…that’s why I got married and skedaddled as quickly as I could).
After two years of living in this house (which we all love madly) and getting settled into our routines and roles as we all age and find our niche in life as it is now, J is so very comfortable in his rooms and home that he has become a bit of a recluse.
Allow me now to expound what this means (much in the same way I did for J’s psych who looked mildly alarmed but was very open to my explanation):
J is happy. J is content. J is in no way sad, bored, depressed, anxious. J LOVES his rooms. J moves around his rooms with the ease of one who is surveying his kingdom. J is like a cat who has found that, yes, any container will hold its body in comfort.
When J wants something, he asks for it. When J needs something, he asks for it. When J is in the mood to spend time with anyone, he does. When J is compelled to protest, he does so. When J doesn’t want something, he declines it. He is not hesitant and he is not rude; J is simply firm and direct. He is also patient with our insistence on wanting to check on him because we are concerned he might be lonely. The only thing missing is J patting us on the head and saying “you poor, silly people…if it makes you happy to check on me, OK, but you’re annoying…” We have installed a Ring Indoor Camera in his TV room, and he is very happy to be called through there rather than having us walk in and interrupt whatever it is he does.
We have seen him lounging (quite literally) on his futon with his arms behind his head, his shoulders absolutely relaxed, his legs extended and a smirk of absolute “ah, this is the life!” on his face. We have seen him roll his eyes when we call him only to smile broadly when he realizes we’re offering him something to eat.
It had been building up for a while, this desire to not go out. We had noticed a certain degree of anxiety and ill-humor when we had to go to J’s usual haunts. Little by little, we started asking him where he wanted to go, and he started making sure we knew he would rather be home.
Don’t imagine, please, that J sits in a dark basement sulking. Quite the contrary. J’s TV room is light and airy, and his view of the street and the green area is quite lovely. He sees the deer when they come out (sometimes a dozen of them at a time!), the cars as they go by, the people who go for walks. A multitude of birds fly by and the neighborhood cats promenade in front of our house much to the chagrin of our dog. J can see when his pizza is being delivered from his favorite pizza place once a week; he bounces down the stairs happily and greets the delivery person…they all know him by now. So do the grocery delivery people: they know his likes and dislikes, and they even remember his birthday.
When he wants to go out, he asks to go and, once he has done what he wants to do, he is ready to come home. There is no fear, there is very little anxiety. Perhaps it is that the world is loud and that people are…self-absorbed? People looking at their phones, in a hurry, talking loudly into little rectangular boxes they carry around. He used to be more comfortable around strangers than he is now. Now he’s more comfortable with people he knows, and people who are familiar with his quirks.
J doesn’t mind going to his medical appointments. He does beautifully. He doesn’t mind going shopping as long as he’s not going to have to spend the whole day out and about. He likes going out for a purpose. J is like my great-grandfather, my great-aunts, my father and me…going out is nowhere near as much fun as being at home and doing the things he loves to do.
There are days when he’s “in a mood”, and there are days when he’s relaxed. The same can be said of anyone. In spite of what can be interpreted at self-imposed isolation, J’s vocabulary and skills are…growing!
The young man who needed help for absolutely everything now needs less and less help for things I wasn’t sure he’d ever master doing. Anyone who walks past the bathroom as he’s laying out all the things he needs at bathtime will think “ah, there’s a dude!” If they walk past again when he’s getting ready for his shave they’ll go “ah! There’s a dude who is in full command of shaving gel!” The first day he did that it was a disaster: we sometimes take for granted applying things to our face as we look in the mirror, but we don’t know how that looks to a person with Autism. He got the hang of it two shaves later…now he’s totally in command of the process. He’s even starting (with supervision and help) to shave.
J is even starting to commune with the dog. Discreetly. Hesitantly. Gingerly. But he’s starting to commune with the dog.
For his 25th birthday, and taking into consideration that he’s been happier hanging out in his lair than out of it, we kept things appropriately celebratory and yet low-key: he wanted Chinese food and a cake. He got both…in his loungewear. Balloons. Streamers. Sufficient brouhaha to declare that 25 was the number…and then he sat back on his futon with his favorite blanket, his iPad, and his arms behind his head and a smile on his face.
That’s where we’re at…it’s not a bad place to be.