His natural element (#53)


4 dips in the ocean, new beach house to adjust to, the kingfish comes home.
I dream of getting a beach house for charlie. He was either swimming in a wall of water today, or leaving his handprints.
I’ve been posting from my cell phone over the weekend; Jim and I will be taking turns at an internet cafe where I can write more at length. It was Charlie and the boogie boards and foamy waves portending long rides this morning–out and out he went with Jim pulling him on his red board. Charlie hangs onto the sides, Jim flips him so he faces the beach, and in he comes. A big one comes and there’s Charlie head framed in the white wave curls and sometimes there he isn’t when he wipes out. We sight the red board and then, black hair plastered, is our boy. Last year, one dunk and he’d be calling “hot shower”; this year he wants more, stays in, Jim pulls him out again.

I watched some of this from a beach chair, bought last summer with wistful thoughts that I could sit for a few minutes while Charlie frolicked in the sand. Ha! Last summer and all the previous ones beach time was chase Charlie time; it was time to make sure Charlie is not flattening some kid’s sand castle and to grab Charlie from sipping someone’s diet Coke. Charlie has discovered the sand and the dunes and been walking and roaming, and coming back when we call.

I almost feel I could do some “summer reading”: I’ve read 4 pages of a so-called chick lit novel, Little Earthquakes, by Jennifer Weiner. One character has lost a (very young) baby before the novel starts.

My description for this blog says that finding out your child has autism is like the end of a love affair. I had thought of saying it was like losing a child–but, after the autism diagnosis, you drive home from the child development clinic with your child in his carseat beside you, your silent husband, some tears, and an ardent worry about what’s for dinner and what are we going to do for another evening with a child who won’t play with a single toy his grandparents have filled our house with? That’s why I think of autism as the start of a new, long, really beautiful relationship with a wonderful guy different from me and in ways altogether unexpected, sometimes awful, sometimes with a terrible beauty, and sometimes so sadly beautiful.

I got up from my beach chair and splashed back in to join Jim and Charlie. There was a sandbar right on the shore and it got deep fast. The waves were getting bigger and before I knew it, I was in over my head and had to swim. It’s thanks to all the laps I’ve clocked in chasing and sporting with Charlie in our town pools (outside and indoor) that I, who as a child could not swim after eight years of swimming lessons, can swim in the swirling ocean, with its wild and rough beauty. It was thanks to Charlie, who has brought his mother out of her element and into his own.

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