After a long break, and some ups and downs…

It is now June.  We’ve done a lot, and have had a lot done to us, in the past few weeks…

The children visited in early May and J was enchanted by his little niece.  She is a little over a year old, and she is a charmer.  She also happens to think that her Unc is Shrek so that is both cool and almost completely accurate (because J is very handsome and not green).

In late May we had a medical emergency (mine) that involved a rushed trip to the doctor and a quicker conveyance to the actual hospital.  I’ve obviously recovered, but there are things that need to be addressed still.

Dada has a permanent job (and health benefits!!!!) and this is a cause for great rejoicing. He is closer to home (although traffic can still get pretty sticky), and -as was the case on the day of the medical emergency) he can be here with less stress and strain.

J’s med had to be shifted again.  The Risperdal is gone, baby, GONE!  The Prozac has inched-up ever so slightly.  For someone his size, he is still taking very little Prozac, and the effect is positive, but we are still in the tweaking stage.  We’ve had our ups and downs (which seem to be alleviated when we talk to the psych…WHY is it that things sound less daunting when one says them out loud in the psych’s office?), but we seem to be ticking along quite nicely.

J has lost weight.  He’s lost about fifteen of the extra pounds he was carrying on him, and it shows.  I have to go into his closet and take out the oversized pants that now fall off as he walks…  He still enjoys his treadmill time, but he chooses “break days” when he’d rather not do it, and I don’t force him.  The humidity here helps him sweat a lot more so whatever time he spends walking around outside is only a fraction of how much he sweats when he’s on the treadmill in the garage.

In other developments, a few days ago I was miffed with J because he was in “pilot fish” mode and wouldn’t stop following me around…all too closely.  So I told him he had to bathe himself and I’d stay in the hallway.  He was initially hesitant, but now -I’m very happy to report- J is basically taking his bath with me spotting him rather than me bathing him.  This is a huge thing for both of us.  He still needs help shaving, but we’re working on that, too, and clipping his nails, but giving himself a bath is something with which he is comfortable and at which he is adept.

The situation with the dog is slowly improving.  J has yet to fully warm up to her, but he is more trusting of the control we have over her.  The dog is still a puppy (not yet six months old) and is full of energy and enthusiasm that often cloud her ability to be totally cool when she sees J.  That’s the thing: she LOVES J, and she wants to -above everyone else- play with this human being who is the last bastion of resistance to her overwhelmingly cute puppy charm.

Like any living creature who thrives on affection and attention, the pup wants it most from he who doesn’t yet give her any.  Now that she’s bigger she seems sturdier to him, but she still has all those teeth (and that desire to chew-lick on people) and that 0-to-100 MPH tendency that makes J think “oh, no…here she comes!!!!”  In spite of this, and we REALLY are working on it, we are making progress…the dog is learning to sit when J walks into the room, and her efforts to control the desire to steamroll over him with her love are admirable even if the sound of her tail smacking the floor repeatedly at high speed is quite loud…

We tick along nicely…or as nicely as two middle-aged people, a 23-year-old adult with a developmental disability and an enthusiastic and still-awkward puppy can tick.  We are learning each others’ rhythms, and we are figuring out each others’ quirks.  The dog sleeps all night.  J sleeps all night.  Dada sleeps all night.  I know this because I don’t sleep all night.  There’s always one more detail, one more hurdle, one more snag, but we figure it out.  We think that once the puppy is spayed she will chill a bit…or maybe not.  We think once J realizes that he is (as with his nieces and nephews) significantly taller and more imposing than the puppy, he will understand he has more control than she does.  We work on these things…we worry and we work.

The medical emergency (a thing we have long feared and dreaded) taught us something amazing: we have lovely neighbors who actually care about us.  (Yes, we antisocial people have lovely neighbors and the feeling of affection and familiarity is mutual…go figure!). We also learned that J will react coolly in the face of seeing his mother in the hospital on a gurney with IVs and such stuck to her body.  We learned that FaceTime is awesome because it will give J a sense of normalcy while one of us (namely ME) is not there for the very first time EVER at bedtime…

We also learned that we need to be even more prepared for the possibility of catastrophe striking.  The medical emergency was a medical emergency because it was, as emergencies tend to be, unexpected.  We were unprepared and still managed to be graceful about it…nothing like walking into the ER and being asked “are you alone?” only to answer “yes” and see a look of contempt from the intake person until you add “…and no…I am alone right now because my husband is trying to make sure our disabled adult son is ready to deal with coming to be with me.”  From thinking “here’s this woman about to faint and she has no one” to thinking “well, this is more complex than I imagined and I should be a little more helpful emotionally” it was one short, quick step.  By the time, hours later, that J and Dada came to see me, everyone who was taking care of me was a lot more prepared to help my family too.

So that’s it…that’s where we are.  I hope you are all well, and that I haven’t missed too much.  If I have, I apologize.  It’s been Life around here…you know…like in your homes…

Off I go…to tick along nicely…

 

Self-inflicted crises and other maladies…

First and foremost: we are well.  A little harried and tired, but fine.  Everyone’s health, thank goodness, is pretty good.  I won’t say it’s awesome…we are, after all, entirely human and aging; this makes us prone to aches, pains, and petty ailments that cannot be considered “illness”, but that still trip us up in our day-to-day life.

J is doing well.  Last week, and this is part of the reason I’ve been meaning to write but haven’t got around to it, they called to tell us they had a cancellation and would we like to take him in for his dental procedure on Thursday.  You don’t spit in the eye of these opportunities; you seize them.  And we did.

Before the dental procedure, of course, came the first minor crisis we had to resolve.

A week and a half ago J’s beloved iPad started freezing and turning off of its own accord. Off we went to get a replacement.  We now have three iPads; two are back-ups (of course) and there’s the new one (with lots and lots of memory) that is for everyday use.  Picking up the iPad required a trip to a mall we’d never been to, and J was fascinated with the place: Disney Store!  Lego Store!  ThinkGeek Store!  Money flying out of mom’s wallet!  But we found a Lego he’d been looking for, and J found some cute t-shirts and pajamas for the kids.

The iPad crisis of 2018 sent us on a dash to solve it.  That it happened BEFORE we found ourselves in the ACC with a faulty iPad that would cause J anxiety we are very grateful for indeed.  The unexpected call about pushing his dental procedure to NOW rather than May put us on our toes…

Of course, this made a week that had one appointment already on the schedule even busier.  On Wednesday it was the psychiatrist, and on Thursday (in the wee hours of a very dark, very rainy morning) we started our trek to the ambulatory care center.  I will say more in a moment, but let me get to self-inflicted crises in my roundabout sort of way.

As you all know, J is deathly scared of dogs.  In spite of this, he has been consistently asking for a dog since sometime in early winter.  We did our trial runs of going to the pet store with no push-back or hysteria from J, and we told him (repeatedly and clearly) that if he wants a dog he can have one.  His insistence didn’t wane if anything it waxed.

We discussed this with J’s psychiatrist, and we threw in (for the sake of being honest) that WE want a dog, and we don’t think that J should unequivocally and unilaterally rule everything about our lives simply because of his Autism, and his fear of dogs.  We believe, we explained, that J can overcome his fear if the dog is trained properly, and the psychiatrist, much to our surprise, agreed and encouraged us to do something for ourselves for once.

One result of the visit was that J is up on the Prozac and down on the Risperdal.  That is: he takes more Prozac now, and he’s down to one-quarter milligram of the Risperdal.  We move closer to the intended goal.

And so Wednesday, immediately after the psychiatrist’s visit, we drove out to the pet shop.  J was absolutely chill about the whole experience.  And, believe me, there were LOTS of dogs there…some loud, some mellow, some hyperactive, some big, some small.  We had seen that they had just received a female Golden Retriever puppy, and we asked to see her.  J didn’t balk, squeal, squeak, jump, cower; he was all smiles.

We returned later in the afternoon.  J didn’t want to interact with the puppy, but he smiled at her and kept asking for her.

Thursday morning we traveled to the ACC, and J was in the OR for four hours.  He behaved beautifully during pre-op and he had a bit of a rough time coming out of the anesthesia.  We explained to new anesthetist that he had trouble waking up and being functional the last time around, and -thanks to modern technology- she accessed his medical records and concluded that he had been over-medicated.  They had given him enough to keep him pliant and then some for a good long time.  She didn’t agree with this course of action and asked if we were ok with the less is more approach.  Considering that J had been in the recovery room for a long time, and seemed groggy for quite a while after we took him home, we told her to proceed in what she thought was best for him.

They had to remove three molars (he is blessed with strong roots and crappy teeth, it seems) so he now has had to learn to eat with the molars on the right side of his mouth.  It’s not his favorite thing, but he has rallied.  He had a bit of nausea and was wobbly for a while, but the anesthetist explained that he would bounce back much more quickly this time around.  She didn’t lie.  Once we headed home and he realized that he could relax when he got here, J was happy and mellow.

He spent a good part of the day relaxing in his bedroom watching Lady and the Tramp, eating vanilla pudding, and not complaining of pain or discomfort.  The only time he had to take Tylenol was on the second day, and that wasn’t related to his teeth; he had a bit of a headache which is normal after anesthesia.  Prudent eating, resting and learning to navigate his new dental arrangement helped J recover and he was his usual self by early Saturday morning.

We took him to breakfast and then we went to the pet store.  And now, my friends, we have a dog.

J is still prudent and mildly guarded around her, but we’ve established sufficient boundaries to satisfy him for the time being.  She has a pen where she hangs out while we eat, a comfortable cage where she sleeps (through the night until about 4 a.m. when she needs to go out), and J is inching closer to her every day.  It will take training (for the dog, J and for us) but we will coexist rather happily in due course.

Of course, that is what I mean by a self-inflicted crisis.  We have, in only a few short days, gone from a household that was neat and organized to a house with dog treats, dog toys, puppy pads, leashes, clickers, bowls and a wagging tail.  We keep strange hours now, and we have baby gates that we didn’t expect to have until the grandchildren came for a visit in April.  J has a baby gate on his TV room doorway with a sign that reads NO DOGS, PLEASE.  There is another baby gate to keep the puppy out of J’s bedroom when she comes upstairs (which she only does at night).

J makes sure there’s always music playing when she’s alone downstairs (because I do have things to do elsewhere in the house), and that she is acknowledged when he walks in or out of the area where she is (between the sitting room and the dine-in kitchen, where the bulk of our time is spent throughout the day).  When it’s time for her to go out, he watches through the window with enough interest to make me feel he will soon want to come out with us.

It’s a process.  A self-inflicted one.  A minor crisis to disrupt our previously somewhat calm life, but we’re all working on this new thing.  We’ve explained to J that the puppy is a baby, and we will teach her how to behave.  I am the boss, I tell him.  I am responsible for her, and I am the one who will teach her (and J) how to occupy the same space peacefully, but it’s not an overnight thing.

I hope I’m right.  I know this dog has a sweet nature (even though she is a puppy and, by definition, rambunctious and disorganized in her thoughts and actions still), and she will make J a good companion.

Those are the latest developments.  I will keep you apprised of our progress with the new addition to the family, and the existing members.  We are up to our ankles in puppy things, and consulting the Dog Whisperer frequently…let’s see how that goes.

 

 

 

 

Our power to control the weather…

It seems like we have a way of tweaking what is about to happen -weather-wise- in our area.  We move somewhere and the first winter we spend there will experience The Worst Winter Scenario in every model.  This winter we have had record-breaking lows, heavy snowfall, and so on and so forth.  We have promised (repeatedly, vehemently, sincerely) that we are NEVER moving again; we won’t move AWAY from here, or WITHIN here…we won’t move…period.  I think the neighbors are circulating a petition to make us swear on our mothers’ graves that this is true.

If you add to this “talent” the ability to tinker with J’s meds when the weather turns nasty, you get a double whammy.  Either tinkering with J’s meds affects the weather, or we sense it’s time to tinker with J’s meds because the weather is about to change.  Not quite the wind-direction effect has on Mary Poppins’s arrival and departure, but a sign of change nonetheless.

Tuesday evening we got all sorts of warnings about the weather.  Wednesday dawned fair and bright, but Dada’s employer – according to the emergency plans in place – told him to stay home.  And so it wasn’t until today at 10 a.m. that Dada left the house to go to work.  Between Tuesday and this morning, the three of us had a lot of togetherness.  A LOT!

J, of course, was having none of it at first, and Dada was instructed to put all his thespian abilities to work on faking the sniffles.  Let’s put it this way: good thing the man has other abilities because acting isn’t his forte.  J was unconvinced and annoyed until it started to snow…profusely.  Of course, the snow went from profuse to abundant rather quickly, and by Thursday morning (another moment of irritation for our son), the blanket of snow was significant.  J accepted his fate and decided to try to enjoy our company as best he could.  He even let us, oh miracle of miracles, watch a movie with him in his TV room.  He even -egads!- enjoyed it…  So we didn’t get to Paddington 2 on Monday (as planned and hoped by J), but we managed to watch the five-dollar DVD of Paddington on Wednesday.   Dada had found the movie when he went to pick up J’s new prescription and he figured (since we had to subject ourselves to a sequel) we might as well watch the first part.

But on to the part of this entry that everyone is wondering about: how goes it with the Prozac?

It goes well, I think.  J complains that he is SICK, but he doesn’t really mean it; we can tell it’s more of a “hey, my stomach is upset” than a “hey, I feel sick.”  After reading all the possible side effects (a hobby of mine that, paired with my overactive imagination, can present a significant problem) an upset stomach seems like the lesser of many evils.

Considering that J is non-verbal and that his ability to communicate is limited to basic  ASL and his Proloquo2Go, how can I be expected to extrapolate whether he is having depressive or suicidal thoughts?  My son is already a walking, living, breathing conundrum as is, and I’m supposed to somehow recognize that he is about to cause severe harm to himself under the influence of this medication?  As you can imagine, my muscles have been in knots for days now.

We often chase shadows, don’t we?  As parents of individuals with a developmental disability, we often look for things that we cannot even recognize.  If the parents of a neuro-typical kid fail at recognizing depression and anxiety, our odds are not good, are they?  I look for signs of a gathering storm, of clouds forming on the horizon, of a veil being drawn in front of J’s eyes.  I listen, my ears as hypersensitive to the cues as his are to every sound, for music that tells me something is changing for the worse.  I sniff the air as if I can somehow sense sadness by the scents it carries.  I observe his choice of clothes, of music, of movies, of snacks.  I listen to the most infinitesimal change in his tone of voice, in his laughter, in the way he shifts on his couch.

Abstract concepts related to feelings, emotions escape J.  He feels everything.  I’ve seen every feeling play across his face, his eyes.  I know my son feels, but I also know that he finds it difficult to process things that require a little more grasp of the abstract.  People die.  J doesn’t understand that; J just sees it as an absence.  The database in his mind retains an image of everyone he’s ever met, but if you tell him someone has died, the image isn’t erased.  Is it ever revisited?  Possibly.  I’ve seen J pensive as he listens to Music we’ve always connected with my father, but 12 years since the last time he saw my father is a long time, and two years since my father died isn’t going to alter J’s mental image of him.  He had not seen my mother in nine years, and her passing away will not change whatever memories he has of her.  The living are another matter entirely; J will see someone after many years, and he will take a moment to connect the current appearance of that person with the one he remembers, and then -we’re pretty sure- he will absorb this and multiply the file in his mind.  J retains the emotions people elicited in his previous experience of them, and he holds on to fears, concerns, antipathies, affections, tenderness.  It is as if, quite simply, he does an age progression on an existing file, and picks up where he left off the previous time.

But how do you read emotional distress of a more complex nature in a person like J?  How do you figure out if sadness means “I don’t want to live?”  How do you determine if a moment of anxiety means “I want this to be over?”  It is hard to react to things we cannot understand fully, and so we spend a great deal of time trying to decipher our son’s silences, giggles, sighs, repetitions, and hand-flapping.

I read lists of side-effects like other people read celebrity gossip.  I ask myself “is this really possible?”  I tell myself “I would be able to recognize this…right?”  I wonder how I could come up with a test that will determine if I am seeing what I think I’m seeing, or if I’m just imagining some horrible scenario.  I question my own judgment when reading my son’s cues.  I read the lists and then I try to figure out what it all means in a world where smoke, mirrors, and alternate ways of communicating are the norm rather than the exception.

So all I can tell you right now is that J seems a little less anxious, a little less repetitive.  I can tell you that J seems to be complaining of a side-effect related upset stomach and that he seeks the reassurance that I recognize his “SICK” and meet it with a legitimate concern and desire to help him.  I can tell you that I sleep with my ears peeled for every sound, and I count the seconds he spends in the bathroom…then I go to make sure that he is OK.  I can tell you that we make every effort to be with him and offer him our company and support throughout the day.  I can tell you that we tell him we love him, and just how much.  I can tell you that we say “it’s ok if you don’t want us around, but know we are here.”

That’s all we can do.  Listen.  Hope.  Pay attention.  Be present.  Hope.  Look out the window at snow and icicles.  Find things to do together.  Know when to step back and give space.

Did I mention hope?

Well, yeah, we hope this works.  And we look at the side-effects list and then at each other and say “not too bad so far, huh?”  And that is the whole truth: not too bad…so far.

We dip our toes into the sea of uncertainty…

It has been an interesting start to 2018.  Not only is J having his usual spikes in anxiety, his mother is having the usual spikes in being a middle-aged woman.  It can get testy around here.  As I have mentioned countless times in the past to anyone who will listen: Autism and Menopause are not the most fun of combinations.

We’ve been, so far this year, to the dentist (not good news, I fear…we need to address a few cavities and, of course, this has to be done through the School of Dentistry because the average dental practice isn’t quite equipped to deal with the likes of J), and to the psychiatrist.

This second visit yielded possibilities, and this morning -with the trepidation that is usually attached to such developments- J had his first 5 mg dose of Prozac.  The word trepidation has been carefully selected; we are anxious about this, and observant, vigilant, concerned.  We don’t know, after reading everything we could possibly lay our hands and eyeballs on, if this will work for J, but the doctor is hopeful that it will.  Since 8 a.m. I have been watching my son like a hawk while trying to not increase his anxiety through my own.

The most J has done so far is sneeze.  He went to bed happy.  He woke up happy.  He had his meds and breakfast happy.  He wasn’t particularly thrilled about my presence in his room, rifling through a box of odds and ends of Legos looking for Lego people.  He observed me patiently, and then he sent me (and my overabundance of Lego males, and not-enough Lego females) out of the room.

We have done the usual: made beds, cleaned kitchen, taken recyclables to the garage, brushed our teeth, gathered laundry, brushed our hair, washed our face.  All this has been done in the way it’s usually done.  J patiently allows me to ask him for help, patiently completes the tasks, patiently gives me a look that says “can I go now???”

I don’t know much about Prozac other than what I’ve been reading that has raised my hackles, given me pause, and prepared me for the worst.  If it is meant to help him with anxiety and depression, it is certainly having the opposite effect on me.  The doctor says that, hopefully, the Prozac will eventually replace the Risperdal completely, and we will see more weight loss (so far I have him at ten pounds lost over the past few months) and a happier J.

We want a happier J; we also want a more functional J, a less anxious J, a J that feels better equipped to let us help him.  The doctor thinks this is the way to go, and we are willing to give it a go, and we are hoping for the best.

I don’t know if it is that we are getting older, but I feel more like a failure than a success these days.  Not in general (though Lord knows that I’ve never really fully realized any potential for productivity I ever had) but definitely in the “how can I help J?” department.  I feel like I fall short day after day, and I wake up wanting to do more and do better.  It doesn’t always pan out.  In J’s world I’m most assuredly Wile E. Coyote with all his ACME accoutrements…on paper they work, and when I go to use them it’s either fizz or a very loud BOOM.    One thing I can say about myself: I don’t give up easily, and I’m pretty used to the sheen of egg on my face.

I do spend a lot of time reminding myself (and Dada) that we are dealing with an adult who, regardless of his limited intellectual capacity to process that he is an adult in just a situation, is living with his middle-aged parents, and that -as we did at that age- he probably feels like there isn’t much he can do to take control of his life.  When I was a freshly-minted twenty-three year-old I married J’s father so I could get away from my parents.  Much as I hate to admit it, J probably views us with the same critical, impatient eye I viewed my parents at the time.  We like to think we are cooler, hipper, more understanding, more open, more accessible parents, but we are parents nonetheless…and J is our son, and he is almost 23 to our mid-fifties.  That, my friends, must chafe massively.

So that’s where we are today, fifteen days from J’s 23rd birthday.  We are embarking on a cruise of indeterminate duration in the good ship Prozac, and hoping to jettison Risperdal in the not-too-distant future.  The map might as well have “here be dragons” written somewhere, but onward and upward with a few sideways and steps back is all we can do at this time.

We will see how it goes.  I will update you.  I go back to my reading, observing…channeling my dear Jane Goodall and crossing my fingers while toiling way in favor of our son…

Egg on face is a possibility I am willing to risk…

Every morning, at around 9:30, I ask J to help with the books.  The project is simple but tedious, and J seems to be enjoying both things.

As I have mentioned before, we have a lot of books.  Those books are catalogued in a spreadsheet, and they are assigned a cube in our library.  We have them listed by title, and by author; we have a list of which book is where.  That’s as far as it goes; I have not succumbed to my inner frustrated librarian and gone Dewey Decimal on the whole thing.

When someone (namely Dada) takes a book out and doesn’t put it where it belongs, I end up with a pile of books on a table in the Diogenes Club (don’t ask), or with books that have been shelved in the wrong cube…a mistake that usually goes undiscovered until I am looking for the same book and cannot find it anywhere.

J’s job is to stamp each book with the cube number it’s assigned to, and to tamp it with a letter G to indicate it is ours.  Ex Libris stamps are lovely, but we couldn’t make up our mind as to what we wanted on it so we went with just a regular old G.

Depending on the type of book that populates each cube, J can do anywhere from 6 to 11 cubes in half an hour.  He loves it.  He sets up his rubber stamps and ink pads on the dining room table, and he helps me move whatever batch he’s working on next.  When he’s done, we carry the books back, and grab another batch.

In the afternoon, after his bath but before his snack, he does another half hour of book-stamping.  His smile broadens and gets brighter as he progresses with this job he’s been given.

I’m pretty sure that he feels included in something that seemed very much outside the realm of his participation before.  He has always liked books, and he enjoys being read to, but the books in the general library didn’t seem to interest him much.  That we have great independent and used-book stores here helps matters.  J has more than B&N to choose from, and he really likes the opportunity to explore these places freely.

Dada says that once J is done with the books we already have, he can take care of doing the same for whatever books come into the house.  I am sure that he will not run out of things to be involved in with the library anytime soon.  Books are to us what shoes were to Imelda Marcos: we can never have enough.

Of course, there are always more books that belong to J, and that he keeps in his TV room upstairs.  He can stamp those, too, but with a J.  This is something he recognizes so keenly that we have to remind him he’s not the only J in the world.  Perhaps I will have a custom stamp made with his handwriting so he will be even happier with the project.

On Tuesday we went to J’s psych appointment, and he did very well.  It was the first time we rode a cab here, and he was relaxed in spite of the more complex traffic patterns in this town.  Because the appointment was later in the day, we met with some hectic driving (including our driver’s), and it was already getting dark by the time we got home.  I made the next appointment for early in the day as I think it will make it easier for J.

The transition to cooler-weather clothing has been easier than expected; the fact that he now will gladly wear a polo shirt voluntarily has been a happy surprise.

We are hoping that we will soon find a group activity for him outside of home.  We think he’s ready to meet some peers and interact with them, even if it’s once every couple of weeks.  J is a person who loves his routine, and he feels comfortable when he’s allowed to ease into new things.  Since school ended he hasn’t had a group of friends, but we know that he like it when he finally finds one.  Because this takes adjusting and learning other people’s rhythms, we know he will come home the first few times wanting to cocoon and relax.  This is the pattern…

J’s life, like ours, is about adjusting to what is new, what is new again, what crops up unexpectedly, and what slowly unfolds announcing itself.  We are all working on being the best current version of ourselves, and we feel we are succeeding.  We expect a lot from ourselves, and from each other, but we’re taking our time in building the life we want.

A year ago we were falling apart.  A year ago we didn’t understand a lot of things.  Now we are in a better spot, looking at things from a better angle.

Little things give J a better grasp of what permanence is.  Rubber-stamping books, drilling holes in walls to install shelves, painting rooms, standing outside discussing next spring’s plantings, and talking about how to make the garage better…  All this tells him we’re here to stay, and it gives him peace.

We work on it everyday…and it seems to be working…

The old normal is the new normal…again…

Dada started working yesterday.  J was surprised by this development, but he took it in stride…at first he was mildly confused (“what?  We’re not in a perpetual state of vacation????  I wasn’t consulted about this!!!”), then he moved into guarded acceptance (“Ok, go to work, I guess.  We’ll be here…waiting!  We can do stuff together…right?  Am I right, lady who is usually around and has looked less frazzled than I’m accustomed to in the past few months?”), and into being over it by six o’clock last evening (“Where is he?  Why isn’t he here?  He has to go BACK?  Tomorrow?  What madness is this????????”).

Interestingly enough, Dada reports that this is pretty much the way things went for him, too.  He likes what he’s doing (even though he’s new to it).  He wouldn’t mind getting the position (or a similar one in the same place) on a full-time basis.  That being said: going back to work (wearing a tie and slacks) after months of walking around (in jeans covered in paint, t-shirts with holes in them, and socks) at a more leisurely pace, and with the benefit of choosing his activities for the day can’t possibly be easy.

My life, with Dada working or at home, doesn’t change much.  I’m still the one who figures out what goes where, when and how things get done, and I am always with an eye peeled and an ear cocked for the next development.  Laundry always has to get done; meals have to be cooked; someone has to figure out what thingamajig is required to make life more, well, efficient.  That’s me…whether I have Dada at home (which makes it possible to delegate a task here and there), or he is at work (making it possible to not be distracted by one more person who requires my attention).

And so our life goes back to the rhythm that it was accustomed to before we shook it up, tossed it in the air, and grabbed it with a whoop and a holler.  We can hardly believe we’ve been in this house for exactly three months, and that we were in an entirely different city or state before then.  Dada looked surprised when he realized he’d not worked for five months, and then he looked thankful that he could (with extreme economies and limited resources) afford to do that.

The truth is he needed it.  His old job was going to kill him either very slowly (with the gradual onset of high blood pressure), or quickly (a stroke or heart attack).  Our marriage was suffering, and so was our family life.  It hasn’t been a bed of rose petals (the idea of a bed of roses implies thorns, doesn’t it?), but we are all a lot calmer, happier, relaxed, and our focus has shifted to a more positive place.  The focus is on us…we are the thing that matters, and we are giving ourselves our due.

J has learned quite a bit in the past few months.  He has learned, for one, that this is home, and that he doesn’t like the idea of it not being home.  Packing of any sort (even if it’s just for storage) requires clarification: we’re not going anywhere, but we don’t need this right now.  His vocabulary has expanded to include the names of places he wants to go to, and we think this is a reflection of what variety he has available now.  J has, thankfully, broken out of some ruts, and -regrettably- has tried to plant himself firmly in others.  We have made a point of not becoming too attached to his structures, and we’ve discovered that -if we wait to make a suggestion while driving around- J is more amenable to breaking away from what he has firmly set his mind to (as in wanting to go to Farmers’ Market on a day when it was, inexplicably, closed).

Another thing we have noticed is that J’s enunciation has improved massively.  Those K, T, SH, CH sounds are coming out much more clearly.  He will never speak with the crispness of a Shakespearean actor, but he now makes sounds that used to be challenging.  On Sunday evening, for example, he went to his board, rummaged through his tray, and announced -quite clearly- that he wanted to go to Costco.  What used to sound like “cocoa” now sounded precisely like what J meant: he wanted to go to Costco.  This from the kid who used to say he wanted to go to “Sham’s” not that long ago; he is, we’ve noticed, a Costco convert…there wasn’t a Costco in Morgantown, but there is one here, and J has his own card…he is smiling on the photo…broadly.

Of course, the one downside of Dada going back to work is that J’s internal clock is entirely off-kilter.  This morning, it being Wednesday and pizza and Lego, he was up by 5 a.m., and has been trying to make the day go faster since then.  Thank goodness it is also paper-shredding day, and this has kept him occupied from time to time; that I was outside at six a.m. (it was forty-something degrees and I was in my nightgown and robe) feeding the fish in the pond because The Supervisor decided it was time to start micro-managing my task list is entirely beside the point.  Things are, in spite of these small quirks, a lot better now that we’re all more relaxed.

I think, quite honestly, that it’s the windows.  J can look outside from just about any room in the house (his bathroom, the half-bath downstairs and the laundry room being the exceptions), and he can step out on the patio if he is so inclined.  The only glitch there is the frantic bird activity (so many cardinals and chickadees!), and the fact that there is a cat (we don’t think she’s a stray because she has a collar) who spends the livelong day under a bush, and the nights under the grill’s vinyl cover.  We don’t feed her in spite of her friendliness because we are not looking for a cat (since the demise of one of ours, and the disappearance of the other…we assume some animal took her, or someone offered her fresh fish and a lifetime of not brushing her luscious mane), and because it doesn’t look to be hungry.  We are pretty sure she just wants to be friends, gain access to our home, and scratch all the furniture that survived our previous pets.  She is rather insistent, and we refer to her -tongues firmly planted in cheeks- as Elizabeth Warren.

J is not into this whole cat situation.  He’s having none of it.  When he finally saw her, happily running up to Dada as he fed the fish, he screamed as if he’d just seen an angry gollywoggle.  It took all my charm and patience to keep him from locking the cat (and Dada!) out on the patio.

But all is well in spite of these little things.  And we will catch up on our new routine and vary it as needed, and add more places J wants to go and use them for vocabulary (would you believe he knows how to say Cost Plus?  Doesn’t call it World Market…but he tells you he wants to go there…cookies…they have good cookies, and he likes their tableware…)  He is also happy because this is a recycling-friendly town, and people take their own bags to the store.  J will not allow us to leave the house without those reusable bags…

See?  Old normal is new again…familiar but interesting.  Comfortable but exciting…

Ye-ay us!

There’s paperwork involved…

Life goes on, and we either follow the stream or the stream drags us.  We are, once more, filing a petition for guardianship of J, and spent the morning signing our names, answering questions, going through metal detectors.  Not in that order, of course…

J was game for the whole outing.  Today being Wednesday, it is PIZZA DAY…and that is enough motivation for him.  Not much fuss is made by the guards once we explain he is wearing a wrist brace, and J has no issue relinquishing Slinky to the x-ray machine.  He will even stand there, a modified version of the Vitruvian Man, letting the detector wand sweep around him in search of something that will “whoop!” and require more thorough searching.

People in North Carolina are helpful, and kind.  We’ve also noticed they are more cheerful and welcoming than in other places.  We suspect it’s partly the Southern Charm thing, but we think they are just generally happy.  The very few not-quite beaming faces are easily forgotten in the face of all the kindness and understanding that J has encountered here.  At this particular point we are wondering why we ever considered moving anywhere else…fate pointed us to Raleigh, and in Raleigh we are.

Of course, we are vigilant of the copperheads we’ve been told can be found in the backyard.  We have always been leery of black widow spiders, and brown recluses.  We are familiar with the mosquitoes (not through any desire to be closely acquainted with them…but they DO love Dada, and it seems they’ve discovered ME, too), and with the weather alerts that might send us scrambling to the closet under the stairs.  Every place has a not-so-bright side, and we are pleased to report that the not-so-bright side here is vigorously outshone by the good stuff…

J, our resident weatherman, likes his new digs.  He likes the grocery stores, the farmers’ market.  He loves his new psych.  He is absolutely enamored with the idea that he can freely walk to the mailbox without encountering dogs, and he has grown accustomed to the many birds that visit our backyard.

J is happy.  J is home.

All this makes us happy.  All this gives us peace.

And then we watch the news reports from back home and we wonder how people are going to make it to tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.  Aid is flowing in…but in a very measured way.  Things are not improving as much as some would have us believe.  We hear many reports of people standing in hours-long lines to get gas for their cars.  We hear of store shelves completely stripped of anything that people could eat.  We hear of the difficulties involved in navigating life without power, water, or any degree of comfort.  I’ve been there with J, but it was so long ago (and there wasn’t the pervasive presence of the cell phone, Instagram, Facebook to remind us of the misery) that it has actually made me feel like it was all a dream.

Back on the island there is a crisis.  I know that many mothers with kids who face the same challenges J faces are struggling right now.  I think of the elderly and their challenges.  I think of those who have chronic illnesses and cannot get the regular medical attention they require.  I argued with an idiot online who kept rationalizing why the debt PR has matters more than the current situation.  I decided to just drop it…it’s not worth it…

But the people back home ARE worth it.  And the mail is running in very limited areas, but that will -hopefully- spread to the rest of the island little by little.  It has to get better…

In the meantime, our happiness and peace feel a little uncomfortable, and so we fill boxes, make lists, and get ready to go to the P.O.  It’s all we can do…for now.