The Charlie Is In (#163)

Belén campanas de Belén
que los ángeles tocan
que nueva nos traen.

The student playing the guitar was named Milton and he was leading a brief ceremony to celebrate the Christmas season, a posada party. We sang about bells and Bethlehem and the tidings angels bring to us.
“You know Spanish?” asked a friend who is Italian.

“I don’t,” I said.

“But you were singing so well–you have the accent right—”

Be-lén cam-pan-as de Be-lén. Charlie has taught me to take it one syllable at a time. Also, that a good part of verbal communication is musical–the rising tone of a question, the hammering strain of anger, happiness’ warble. And Charlie was testing out some new words in that special music of his voice tonight.

After a good Day 3 at The New School–thank you, friends, for your warm wishes to Charlie!–Charlie did speech with his long-time therapist, the irreplaceable Danielle, and then hopped into the black car to attend a clinic meeting with his home therapy team. We stopped at the McDonalds drive-through and listened to a summer favorite–Chuck Berry–on the ride up. Charlie zoomed into our consultant’s office, grabbed a tiny red plastic chair and plunked it before her desk, and sat–green gloves still on–all attention. I thought of Charlie Brown going to see Lucy “The Doctor Is In,” only this was (in a slight reversal), “The Charlie Is In.”

“I want frennss fwiez.”

The meeting was all laughter and Charlie doing his reading programs, Charlie espying the Clementine oranges a therapist had in a bag and grabbing one (“I want oranjess”), Charlie tapping a therapist-in-training on the knee: “I want fries!”, Charlie sitting stiff and brown eyes wide open as we tried out a new program in which he had to perform different actions with an object.

“Drop block,” said the therapist.

“Dwopp,” said Charlie carefully. Then a big pause. More big pause, and Charlie looking straight and crestfallen and “what do I do!” at our consultant. “Masstch!” He offered. I could see his lip curling into worry: Gotta do it right!, perhaps he was thinking. Charlie gave the block to the therapist while our consultant started to laugh so infectiously that the other therapist and I could not help but to join in. (The trainee sat, sort of smiled, and watched.) As I drove home, Charlie munched the rest of his fries, sipped a soda, and took in “Roll over Beethoven.”

Posada is Spanish for “shelter” or “lodging,” for the inn where a certain soon-to-be-father and mother sought a place to spend the night a millennium of Decembers ago. After a lot of wandering in too much wilderness, have we found the right shelter for Charlie?

I’m taking it one syllable at a time.


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