Archive for the ‘sense of direction’ Category

Saturday, 8:07pm

Today feels like two or three days smashed together – one of those days when by 8pm, the morning feels like it was yesterday or the day before that.  Time is strange.  I slept in til 8:30am or so, a beautiful thing.  I ate a delicious breakfast M made for us.  I went to a hair salon and got my hair cut, highlighted, and colored auburn.  The I met D at the house at 3pm to visit with Jonah, help her watch him, and give Andy a break.

Now I’m home again; it’s 8pm.  And that breakfast seems like three days ago.

I can’t imagine what life is like for Andy.  I’m sure it could be worse, but at times it feels like Jonah is thoroughly and utterly of the highest maintenance there is.  Andy left when D & I got there, and while this is not exactly the order in which our four-hour chunk of time unfolded, it’s pretty close:

We start off with a car ride, and I tell you if it wasn’t so un-green and crazy-expensive to do it,  I swear I’d drive that kid around forever, because strapped in and listening to his favorite Guster album, the one he calls Cranberry Guster, he is mostly just fine.  While it is true he’ll hit the window, kick the console, and throw anything in the backseat at you, he mostly is calm, sucking his thumb, occasionally singing or humming, and generally pretty happy.  Once it is more spring-summery we can take him to the Rensselaerville Falls or wherever else he wants.  The trick, though, is to never be too far from the house so he can change his mind on a dime, request grandma or home, and be within a reasonable distance of said request – preferably on a familiar path so he can direct us this way or that way as well.

I understand it might seem like we spoil Jonah, but at this point we’re just trying to survive.  When the Tasmanian Devil is in your care, you’ve got to mitigate his crazed behavior any which way you can.

After our car ride we go into the house because it is icky outside, windy with cold drizzle.

Brownie meal? he requests.  Okay, boo, mama will make a brownie meal.  Funny thing is he rarely eats the damn brownie.  D follows him around the house while I microwave the meal.

But before I’ve even presented him with the meal, he’s requesting something else: Green leafy?  So we put a plate of salad greens and blue cheese next to his brownie meal and he requests white soda and D pours some because he’s peed on the potty but he’s not sitting down to eat – he’s running from one room to the next, alternately requesting daddy and downstairs and brown car (my car) and bath.

Of course there are small minutes, tiny pockets of time when we engage him with black camwa or a bouncy ball, but mostly it’s near-constant ever-changing activity with a side of trouble brewing.

There are two baths during our stay and very little eaten of his dinner.  There is plenty of agitation and swatting.  D needed to hold him in his room because he lost it and tried to attack both of us.  She’s trained in the holds because she teaches and works with kids like Jonah, thank God, and she’s smart and sharp and unafraid.  Both D and I are constantly on guard, and if Jonah approaches we almost always wince and/or tighten, backing away, expecting him to aggress.

I’m no help while she’s calming him so I go in the kitchen and do what I usually do when something like this happens:  I clean.  I can hear Jonah kicking the floor and I ask D if she’s okay and she answers yes almost cheerfully so I wet-swiffer the kitchen with the force and efficiency of Rosie the Robot.   I go into “let’s clean something” mode because (a) Jonah has usually tipped over chairs, tables, food, and whatever else he can reach to throw, and (b) it makes me feel like I can do something useful and gives me a sense of control in a situation that is completely out of control.

But Jonah’s new weapon comes with its own ammunition:  shit.  At one point when I am putting away the swiffer and D has him on time in his room, he grunts hard until he is purple and then bolts from the room, his hands brown with poop.  He runs down into the far corner of the basement, making brown prints on various parts of the wall on the way, and then bangs on the wall with both palms before running back upstairs to tip over a kitchen chair, break an end table, and return to his room to try and attack us again.

We put him back in the tub; D gets him his green soap while I go through the house cleaning the walls and upending the table and chair.  After calming down and having some more quiet time in his room, he runs back out, requesting brown car and wanna–go-see-train and daddy.

And so on.

The kicker is D tells me Jonah’s much better this weekend than last, when I was at the convention all weekend.

Meanwhile, and I know I invite this because I blog publicly, I’m hearing suggestions from everyone who e-mails me.  Try this.  Take him here.  You have to (fill in the blank).  Sometimes the comments and suggestions are diametrically opposed.  I appreciate this little supportive community following my crazy-ass life more than you know, and I listen and hear you all.  Trust me, we’re looking into everything and doing all we can within the realms of possibility.  We are going to make mistakes and we are going to fuck things up sometimes.  But we are trying hard to make things better for our son and I’m just here to tell the story.

I have to again conclude by telling you that Andy is bearing the lion’s share of all of this with remarkable aplomb.   I am grateful for his fathering and nurturing our boy…for keeping him safe and well fed and as happy as possible…for taking him on endless rides in his little red wagon and in the red car and to grandma’s…for getting him ready for school and on the bus every morning and off it every day…for enduring scratches, bites, kicks, head-butts, sleepless nights, and loneliness.  I tell you I could not do it.  I know this with a certainty that feels like shame.

I love my son with all my heart but I could not do it.

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Doctor: Ray, do you want to stay and live with your brother Charlie?

Raymond: Yeah.

Doctor: Or do you want to go back to Walbrook?

Raymond: Yeah.

Doctor: Which is it? Go back to Walbrook or stay with Charlie Babbitt?

Raymond: Go back to Walbrook, stay with Charlie Babbitt.  Stay with Charlie Babbitt, go back to Walbrook.

~ Rainman, 1988

– – –

“Jonah, do you want a donut?”  I ask him this morning on the way to the train.

“Donut?”  he repeats.  “Okay, boo, mama’ll get you a donut,” I tell him.

I come out of Stewart’s with a donut and hand it to him.  Before he’s even taken the first bite, he’s on to the next request.  “Grandma?”

“Grandma’s closed,” I answer.  I know my mom’s working today so that means she won’t be open for business until at least 3:30 this afternoon.  We continue on to the train tracks just as a train is going by, so it’s an instant-gratification experience for Jonah.

“Eddie?”  comes the next request.  Eddie is our office cat where I work, and sometimes I’ll take Jonah over on rainy days to feed Eddie a treat or throw a jingle-ball down the stairs to him a few dozen times.  The last place I want to be on a lovely weekend morning, however, is my workplace, so I shoot down this request as well.  “Eddie’s closed,” I say in what I hope passes for a mournful tone.  “Let’s go for a little car ride.”

“Window?”  he asks.  I give him the go-ahead and he rolls his window down all the way.  It’s kind of cold, being a mid-September morning — maybe 55 degrees.  But Jonah is impervious to cold in a way I neither share nor understand, so I turn on my heated seat and crank up the blower heat too.

My best friend Gina loved rolling her window all the way down, in any weather, and I find myself thinking of her…remembering our road trips, all the car’s vents directed toward me, blowing hot as she enjoyed the chilly wind.  She died 8 years ago but I can almost hear her laughing at me, riding around Voorheesville early Sunday morning to watch a train go by, for God’s sake…blasting heat and begrudgingly allowing Jonah to roll his window down.  I like the wind too, I imagine her whispering in his ear.

Then:  “This way?!”  Jonah half-requests and half-insists.  He has not pointed in any direction so I don’t know which way he wants to go.  I glance backward and ask him again.  “Straight?”  I guess.  Straight will take us along our normal loop up through Altamont and back to the train tracks in Voorheesville. “Straight,” he repeats (while pointing to the left).  But I’m not looking at him, so I drive forward, operating under the foolish assumption that Jonah knows what straight means.  “This way!”  he shouts, agitated now.  “This way!”

I pull the car over so I can see where he’s pointing, and then turn the car around to pass back over near the train tracks.

“Train?”  he asks.  “That way?!”

“You want to stay here and wait for another train?”  I ask.  I am very nearly ready to endure whatever tantrum is brewing rather than attempt to further unravel his fickle directional desires.  “Stay he-ah?”  Jonah echoes.  So we stay.

I lean back in my seat.

I close my eyes.

After a minute or two, from the backseat:  “That way?!”

I can’t help but laugh.  “Jonah,” I ask him, quoting Rainman, “do you want to stay with your brother Charlie or go back to Walbrook?”

“Stay he-ah,” he answers definitively.   Not five minutes later another train comes by, and Jonah is delighted.

Sometimes I think he’s got it all figured out and just likes to mess with my head.

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Jonah has an amazing sense of where he is in the world.

I don’t mean metaphorically, like knowing his place in society or within a clique of children.  I mean he literally almost always knows where he is, geographically.  From the backseat of the car, he could instruct me to get from our home in Albany all the way to Andy’s parents’ house in Valatie, 30 miles or so away, by pointing and calling out that way and this way at intersections until we’re there.  Unfortunately, Jonah doesn’t know his right from his left (but then hell, neither do I, most of the time), so I’ve got to watch which direction he’s pointing.

I’m not even sure he’s got “straight” figured out.  Sometimes I’ll ask him “which way, bunny, straight?” and he’ll agree happily: Straight!

But then I’ll go straight through the intersection and he’ll flip out, yelling  That way!  That way! A glance in the rear view mirror and I see the problem; though he said straight, he’s frantically pointing right.  He wants his favorite park and knows it’s to the right – the one he calls Number One Park, the one where he shouted penis! over and over that infamous day until I dragged him away like some hapless Gong Show loser.

Incidentally, Number One Park was the scene of another embarrassing incident just a few weeks ago.  Number One Park is at a local elementary school.  It’s one of those huge wooden structures with slides & swings & rings & ropes & tunnels all interconnected.  My favorite times are when no people come and we have the play area to ourselves, but on this day the place had its fair share of assorted kids and parents.  I sat on a bench while Jonah ran around and played.   After disappearing from view for a second, he appeared at the topmost tower.

Without warning or provocation, he suddenly cupped both hands around his face and shouted: Daddy’s gonna take you home tonight!

Then, after a second’s pause, really screaming now, he emphasized:  TONIGHT!

The park went silent for a good minute.   Nobody seemed to know how to react; some people chuckled a little.  I’m not sure why Jonah felt it necessary to announce, at top volume, that my husband would arrive that evening to bring me back to our residence, but it made me laugh till I cried.

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