“Grandma is open for business!” Andy tells our son in the fake-bright voice of exasperation.
He is telling Jonah that yes, we can go see grandma now. Jonah understands that when something is open for business, he can have it. When it’s closed, he can’t.
Anything can be open for business or closed – including people (like Grandma), cookies, his scooter, cranberry soda, the TV, the Rensselaerville Falls, or even something that really is either open or closed, like an actual store.
Jonah loves his grandma almost as much as she believes the sun rises and sets on her only grandchild. Only two things stand a chance at trumping her on Jonah’s request list: go-see-train and swimming, and even among those prized temptations, grandma usually wins out.
Jonah is eight and a half. He has autism, and for him, and our family, that means he speaks only in small phrases yet can somehow sing entire songs (usually by Guster) verbatim.
It means children are largely obstacles to Jonah, things to move past or get around, and adults are providers of hot dogs, car rides, games of chase, and “mem-a-made” (lemonade).
It means he will pee pee on the potty when bribed, and will (only very recently) squat and squirt out a tiny poopy on the potty when promised a coveted “black soda” (any kind of cola). At all other times he wears pull-ups, requiring frequent and oft-stinky changes.
It means he drives us to distraction with his repetitive requests (“Outside? Outside? Outside? Wanna-go-see-train? Grandma? Outside?”), but he endears himself just as repeatedly every time he nestles in for a big huge “huck.” (hug).
It means that until he was eighteen months old or so, we had very little idea what the hell was wrong with our kid but we knew that something strange was definitely afoot at the Circle K …yet we kind of dismissed autism as a possibility because “those kids just sit in the corner and bang their heads against the wall” — and, well, our son was so bright, loving, and engaged. Couldn’t be autism.
It means sometimes there are Saturdays when by 10am I am already “all done” with the weekend and wishing I could go back to work instead of pulling my son away from a crowded playground because he won’t stop shouting “penis!” and all the parents are glaring.
It means I have been drawn inexplicably and unwillingly into a world where surreal is the norm and life is sometimes simply pushing through one minute at a time – sometimes excruciatingly, sometimes hilariously. Sometimes both.
It means all of this and more, and for this writer, it is high time to write about it. I was supposed to maybe have a blog on our local daily newspaper’s website, and the editor over there seemed initially interested in my proposal to do so, but now after weeks have gone by, he has yet to answer either (A) my follow-up voice mail or (B) my follow-up-e-mail-regarding-the-follow-up-voice-mail, and I don’t feel like begging the dude. Plus they’d probably censor me, and fuck that.
This blog, then, about and in honor of Jonah Russell, is “Open for Business!”