My memories of reading the Bible all hark back to the days when I attended Catholic school. Of all the Bible verses that stuck in my head, the one I most revisit is 1 Corinthians 13:11: When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. My aunts were not, of course, very strict in their adherence to this tenet. No one could possibly expect women who could laugh so freely and tease each other so relentlessly to have any affection or inviolable respect for putting “away childish things.”
Although I was, by far, the youngest person in the household, I was spoken to with the implicit understanding that I was capable of grasping all that was said to me. Whatever difficulties of vocabulary or complex abstract ideas more easily understood by an adult were approached with a dictionary, and my aunts formed a multitudinous committee of experts who kindly conveyed even the most unpleasant aspects of being a human. They each had their forte; one was kind and wise, another was firm and straightforward, and the third was anxious and funny. Between the three of them, they helped me navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.
The world and the dynamics of families are such now that we’ve had to be J’s multitudinous committee. The finer points of adulthood, translated for a person who is playing with non-verbal Autism in his kit, are a little trickier to handle than we would like, but there isn’t much we can do about that.
Sometime around Day 115, we started wondering if there was anything, aside from tiling a bathroom, painting cabinets, organizing closets, that we could address to make J’s life more, for lack of a better term, “age-appropriate.” The discussion was not prompted by any discontent on J’s part; he’s been quite cheerful and relaxed during these strange times we are living. We simply looked around and started thinking: “well, he’s TWENTY-FIVE!”
How do you “upgrade” and “update” the living area occupied by a twenty-five-year-old who loves Disney Princesses, jazz, classical music, lava lamps, and his extensive animated movie collection? This is what we are wondering, dear reader. Out of a too-big-for-us-old-people house, J occupies two big rooms and his own bathroom. That’s what he wants: two rooms and a bathroom. The largest room is intended for daytime use, and the other is purely and exclusively for sleeping. He is happy with those, and he is appreciative of the two ladies who come to help me with the housecleaning (because it has become harder for me to keep up, I admit) because they respect his areas and leave them pristine.
What to do, then, to make these rooms more like a twenty-five-year-old man’s, and less like a kid who lives with his parents? The first thing we pinpointed as “needs to go” is the Lego Village. Over the years, it has grown into a sizable chunk of floor space; J doesn’t really pay as much attention to it as he used to in the past. With distinct “zones” in it, the Lego Village is fun, but it also occupies a large corner that would work for other things. Perhaps we can find someone who will be happy with boxes and boxes (and boxes and boxes) of Lego pieces and all the assembly instruction booklets for all the sets. Perhaps someone will be glad to have all the train tracks and additional pieces of “vegetation” that have become a part of this project over time. A home for it will be found, I’m sure.
The second layer of the issue is, we think, the carpeting in the rooms J uses. In the whole house, these are the only two rooms that are still carpeted, and I’m already budgeting for a new floor that will better suit J’s status as an adult with his own “pad” as it were. The rest will be paint, artwork, better lighting, and a more suitable layout for his dining and sitting areas. When presented with the question of J’s style, we concluded that our youngest son, contrary to his older brother’s morose approach to life, is a cross between Harry Styles and Jack Black. Where our oldest son would have chosen all-black clothing, a slouch, and a growl, J is drawn to bright and attractive colors and shapes, and a sunnier disposition than one usually expects when faced with a diagnosis of Autism and Anxiety.
Like many others that I undertake in moments of romantic enthusiasm, this endeavor will involve a lot of sorting and giving away of things. J and I, together, will face the boxes, bins, shelves, and cubes to determine what still appeals and what is just there because, at one point, he felt affection for it. I am sure we will hesitate from time to time between letting go of something and keeping it “just in case,” but we will figure it out as we go along. There are, of course, items that are so bordering on “sacred” that they will remain as part of his decor. I don’t think that, 20 years later, J would want to get rid of Pinky and Red, the two little bean bag dogs he bought at a Borders in Orange County, CA and which, upon arriving at home, were subjected to one (Pinky) witnessing the dunking of the other (Red) in the toilet.
A few weeks ago, J’s older brother (remember Gonzo? He’s now a father of six!), during one of his rare phone calls to check in with us, asked what we’d been up to. I told him we’d been streamlining, downsizing, organizing, paring down. He got angry when I answered his query regarding the reasons for this by saying that we won’t live forever and don’t want to leave a mess behind. “Well, it’s true!” I said. This led to an even briefer call than usual. The truth, I suppose, hurts?
When my children were children, I spake to them as children; they understood as children; they thought as children: but as they’ve become men, I -their mother- put away their childish things and tried to approach them as one should other adults. One has made his own life and seems to chafe at the realization that ours is closer to its natural conclusion. J, our lifelong commitment, is being shepherded into the stage where his surroundings are age-appropriate without forgetting childhood is another part of who we become as we age. How much of this J can fully grasp we are not entirely sure of, but we do know that he sincerely appreciates and enjoys the life we’ve built together with him.