Was love between us, a scent of danger, of linger, of orange and lemon, of salt and sand, of time dare not, of leave not please, of please come back, of one minute more, of one minute more, then gone.
Today, on a hike, I decide to make my bed only on major holidays. Awesomeness. I then give myself a virtual star, pat on my back, for a job well-done, being solution minded, proactive, and out exercising with my six-year-old son as he runs ahead of me yelling at the mountain, the day, the path.
Today I am ahead, even thinking ahead, all points for me.
In wonder mode, I wonder how I could have forgotten my son’s meds yesterday, chastise myself about something I cannot afford — forgetting. How forgetting sets off a sequence of awfulness.
Awfulizing anquishifications. AaaaAAAAAAgghghgh!!!
I employ the only tool I have, try the “U” turn one. The begin again one. The one I learned from my son, his summer “camp” last summer.
“Try again. Do over,” the teacher said at some behavior aberration.
Yesterday, as a result of his no medication midday, when I picked him up from school, he hit me flat palmed across my face while we sat in my car making plans. I reached for consciousness, for that lovely responsive mother I want to be. I found the glovebox empty.
A difficult moment, these, managing him in upsets, helping him transitioning from school to the next thing. Me too. Changing course, beginning anew, U-turn ones. Even to remember I have tools, much less the finding of them, the ‘finding my breath,’ the counting up or down ones, practicing to get it in his practice, his toolbox, concepts he learns in therapy, I put in mine. Some all but lost to me at crystal moments.
While he exploded, we sat in the car, my son screeching behind me. I sat pointing at his car seat behind me, for him to return to it. A sculpture holding the steering wheel with my other hand as my son twisted in his flailing lash-outs. A regular front lawn Remington Mom fixed for time, something the world needs more of, bronze mothers, chilling.
Later, in a sensory seeking moment, his meds running low, he ran down the house hall crashing his right hand through a bedroom door window. Needing something to pound, might as well be the glass.
How lucky he was not to have gotten hurt. More, how lucky I was.
“Go get the broom,” I said.
Drama sucks. And how it must suck to be caught in his dragon fire skin. This, how I imagine my son must feel. It sucks breath on my side too.
How, at his age, his can only mind himself in small degrees. His caregivers — mother, father, brother, teacher, therapists — “outside brain.” How he so wants to be in control, I do too. Or, else the fears set in. His and mine. He just tips into survival mode. Speeding to high, tipping to panic, almost unreachable for soothing.
Days I wonder how many meds, behaviorists, diet, exercise reiterations, new BFF-music-action-hero-mindful kite therapies must I throw at our tiny boy?
His autism lays me low. Lays him lower. Exhausted, I cannot unplug forever in a spa. Today as good as any day to discover the almighty U-turn, begin again minute, the next minute one.
A day in a minute, I come to believe life, the work of God and His arsenal of earth workers, saint-sinner, angel-sentient beings, goodwill ambassadors, universe teachers, earth or heaven-bound, good triers, all supporting us.
A madness not to be in control of one’s self.
Today I feel his pain, hold tight on the wheel. Form a triangle with my hands. Grip thumbs on my wheel. I do not say a thing, tell myself, to hang in one minute longer, re-frame life, fold up my hope tent, give-it-over, give-it-up to angels.
Soon enough some kind of grace comes, a low interest loan helping me keep my head as a special needs parent. There will be many assumptions to untie by nightfall.
Some days the old adages seem best. Tie, un-tie, re-tie, rather, than cut something out of the garden. Do nothing, sit out the storm, sayings.
Times maybe I shouldn’t negotiate with Mr. Takeover but still I do, like today, when I said, “Let’s go for a hike.”
This pleased him to no end, “Okay!”
Play’s, the thing. A language that does not come easy to my son or myself. A hierarchy of play missed kids like mine.
Last summer we played according to plan. Therapist-directed play that started with him as a lone player with his preferred toy, trains. He played as if the two were one. The goal, to progress up a play scale as neurotypical kids do. Toy as agent-object, outside of the child, toward empathy. Players playing, with other players, giving, taking, adding, sharing ideas folding, expanding, accepting.
A whole UN in a sandbox. Peace has a taste somewhere between butter and fruit.
Our days of playing trains on the tracks started simple, we added buildings, airports, pirate ships, bridges, dinosaurs.
Moving up the play scale when we coupled our play with dolls — jumping in and out of the ‘doll as agent’ box — with our engineers, passengers, conductors, construction workers. Change-ups my son allowed, affecting his senses — boundaries — easing somewhat with peers,’ let downs improving with his flexible thinking. His asking me to borrow a toy, a huge leap. Rebounding, through failure key to games, sports, team, classwork, life.
What a strange country each day. His ‘visa’ not allowing us access to each other’s borders, language, ideas, much less moving along with other travelers, affecting his learning of social mores, ABCs, and numbers.
The warmth of the sun is over for the day. The kiddie pool is now in the shade. No sun and shadow places on the cement, just dark spots of water where kids once stood. Marks of hesitation here, an in-out action over there, returns to the pool where some kid remembered where he or she left his or her new goggles.
A boy jumps into the pool. His buzzed hair stands on end. He calls out one word.
“Bees!” Then the boy drops to his knees, his head underwater, under the floating bee he swims away.
S., my son, 4, waits until the boy comes up, asks him, “What’s your name?”
Then S. calls back to me, “Mom! Michael’s not being nice.”
A comment I take with a grain of salt, as I did not see what transpired between the boys.
Tyler, the lifeguard calls over to Michael, “Let’s try to save the bee. Bring it over here.”
S. joins the boy in the work of pushing the insect. They make a ‘V’ with the edge of a rubber fish and kickboard in the water. At the far side of the pool Tyler the lifeguard kneels waiting for them. His hands, a scoop, Tyler catches the bug in his cupped palms, sets the bee down on the cement in front of him.
I hear snippets of conversation between Tyler and the boys who look on.
“Let’s see if the bee dries out.” Tyler says to them, “Maybe there are other bees in the pool we can save.”
This is a new idea from the usual smash games my son plays with bugs.
The temperature is dropping I put my jacket on over my shirt. Tyler stands, walks over to the pool steps. The boys watch the lifeguard enter the pool to look for more bees fallen from the sky. A breeze lifts the page in my book. Tyler takes his time, his long board shorts wick up pool water. Cherry red turns blood crimson from the lifeguard’s knees halfway to his waist. His hands trawl in front of him. S. and Michael watch. The work is slow, deliberate, studied, important, almost solemn, borders on intimate. A strange comfort for me, one I cannot explain. I watch my son witness the harvest of bees.
I fight a reminiscence there might be men who are not afraid to be gentle in public. Gentle in front of other men, no weirdness, just goodness. Gentle in front of men who are boys. A church feeling, I feel I should light a candle for, warms me, for our great good luck at having Tyler as our lifeguard, the St. Francis of the Bees.
Mom and Dad believe in big. God, family, houses. In that order. In big conversations Mom has with God. By morning God takes his leave. Before He does He leaves lists. Chores, tests. Lists God tucks into our house’s eaves, garage, shed, basement, backyard. Crypt places where we prove our potential for heaven. The reason we’re on God’s planet, not born in Africa, not Biafra babies, not yet called ‘Home.’
“Work separates the wheat from the chafe,” Mom tells us.
I wonder if the others in our house will be sorry come Judgment Day. I, for one, am taking no chances. I am determined to be 100% wheat.
All I know by thirteen is not to utter two unholy words.“I’m bored.” Words of the fallen. Those, God has extra business with. He will keep them busy for years and God and Mom will talk some more.
“Not in my backyard,” Mom says hearing the phrase. Mom doesn’t care who said it. She says, “May 1st, go get your brothers. Go and clean the pool.”
“Not the pool,” I groan.
My brothers Pat, 16 and Andrew 12, myself, 13, the stricken elect, suffer most because we are slow, easy to catch.
“Anything but the pool,” we beg.
Mom weighs the now against the later, flicks no-see-ums in the air. Then she points, we scatter. Mom heads upstairs with her New American Bible. The good book with hip slant between denim covers. An un unchartered republic we know as Mom, like the one God opens on Sundays on my lap. Always a page to turn, re-psalm, for our one true Boss, Him.
Outside, we sigh at the winter wreck that is our pool. The up close smell of baked twigs, leaves, sludge and sediment warming under death glow blueness, the tarp. Pat lips the hose, a siphon starts. He flings the hose over the fence, drags it down the drive as far as it will go. Past three hundred years of European copper beech, over our yellow rutted lawn to where our brother Matthew, 8 drops pebbles into the gutter for a dam.
“Forget this mess,” someone on the deck yells, “Let’s come back tomorrow.”
Always a better day to begin a project.
Next day, Saturday, it is chilly and overcast. Someone drops the ladder over the side. Pat orders us to get in. Ten minutes in, the job ahead is too much miracle. Around white pole legs, Comet tides surge mosquito larvae. Pat pulls the ladder away.
“Make it like new swabbies,” he sneers through clenched teeth.
We call for Mom to come but our pitch must not be emergency enough.
“Wait until we get out of here. You are going to die.” we call to him fumbling to climb over the pool walls.
We do not know yet we have seen into the future. Put a curse on our brother. That an irrevocable horror waits. For twenty-one summers we treat him like one of us, an ignorant comrade, a fool kid, then Pat goes out like a light. Another slime strikes him dead. AIDS. One, bleach cannot reach. Through tears we console each other he was a good worker. He’s the right hand man. Not today. Today is not that day.
To stay with the pool job, Andrew and I walk around the oval, Pat jumps in, we speed to a chop chase, and a whirlpool begins. We spin, slide, and throw foulness at each other. First water. Then words. Forever curses of winter puke lay on our skin.
“Heads up,” Andrew calls. He hurls a bucket of slime. Pat ducks. Drenched I am pulled into the abyss. All I can think of are the ads from the back of Marvel Comic Books. Books in the attic under the boys’ beds. Ads for ‘Live Sea Monsters’ and my body swimming in a feces petri. All I want to do is die.
“Get him not me,” I scream.
Pail by pail, we empty the bilge, until we get to the bottom. There, we scoop with our bare hands.
Mom out, we go inside for long breaks, get lunches we cannot bring to school. Lunches that smell bad look like bruised skin, lunches we love. Liverwurst on rye, cream cheese, jelly on white. The one good tomato we eat.
Andrew knows something Pat and I do not. In life you must choose. You cannot have it both ways, pick mustard or mayo. Fire or water. Andrew is a mayonnaise man.
Not me. Not Pat. We’ll never learn, we like fire and oil in our taste. We pick the mustard mix it with mayo.
We then go back to hell.