Not Lost and Already Found (#436)

A small rectangle of paper, laminated, white edged with red.

That was what I looking for all day, ever since I went to check that this shiney piece of paper (it is a certain important automobile document) was in my bag as I was leaving for work.
It wasn’t.

And how could it not be? Jim had handed me this certain important automobile document last night as I was sitting in a chair across from Charlie (who, as a result of a 45-minute nap at 11am, could not go to sleep at all, and it was 11pm). My memory said to me, certain important automobile document is in the zipper compartment in my bag……….but it was not.

Out went files, textbooks, laptop, cell phone, power cord, pens, datebook, a granola bar, keys. I crawled on the carpet, opened up books and shook them out, shook out pillows, found Charlie blinking his eyes and then, with a “Daddy wie down,” squirming under the covers of our bed. He was smiling and I told myself, stop making a show of worrying, don’t pass it on to Charlie, how important is it.

I left for work, half an hour late.

At my office, I again searched my bag, I found a stiff piece of paper… was red and white….. a tag I have been using as a bookmark. It was red and white, so it had to be what I was looking for, but it most certainly was not. Red and white, red and white—I would find what I was looking for by its colors and shapes.

Late this evening—-after laundry and giving Charlie his “hot showah”—I decided to look once last time through my bag. I pulled out a white bit of paper, a little stiff, folded in half: It was a certain important automobile document, stowed in my bag where I had thought it was, all the time.

“I told you,” laughed Jim, “it’s not red and white.”

But in my mind I had decided it was red, white, and rectangular, and that was what I needed to find, and that was what I was looking for—-and that was why I had not been able to find what was already there.

Then I realized that I was thinking like Charlie who seems to look first at two criteria—-at the shape and color of something—-when he is trying to figure out what some object (a car, a dog) is, or even to remember a person by. That is why we don’t call our car “the stationwagon”; it is the “black car.” “Daddy’s b’ue blanket” is abbreviated to “b’ue bankett” on occasion, but never “Daddy blanket.” Charlie showed his liking for one of his ABA therapists by taking his green coat. (And Charlie’s liking for one of his first ABA therapists came from the fact that (1) she has black hair and is Asian and (2) she had a red SUV that Charlie loved simply to look at.) (We took photos.) So, when the therapist comes without the green coat, Charlie runs out to his car to look for it. Charlie used to be driven in a red minivan to his old private autism school and—-even though we had told him repeatedly that he would take a “yellow school bus” to his new one—-when he saw a red minivan on his first day at his new school back in June, he immediately walked towards it.

The disparity between the fixed idea of how things should be in Charlie’s head and what they actually are in the changing fluidity of the world can cause a short circuit, a snag, in his cognitive wiring. So, today, after a fine morning visitng a sculpture park with my parents and a lunch of burgers and fries, Charlie took a box of frozen peas and carrots from the freezer and started to eat. It was insisted that he eat from a bowl and the box was put back in the freezer. Charlie swiped the bowl off the table and banged his head. Sparks and tears flew for ten minutes, as if to say, I knew I shouldn’t have I know I should not, I knew that already before my hand knocked away the bowl….

I thought about how some vision of order was dancing in Charlie’s head, just as that image of that red and white rectangle had been in mine, and I distracted myself by looking for the wrong thing, even though Jim had told me “it’s not red and white.”

Just as we tell Charlie, there’s more than one way to eat those peas and carrots. (And Charlie showed he knows this even if he does not always act that way—after the ten minutes he was rocking in his rocker chair, playing catch with my dad.)

You can took too hard for what you want to be there, and not see that what you’ve already got (like a certain lovely boy) is just the right thing.

9 Responses to “Not Lost and Already Found (#436)”
  1. tara says:

    We all tend to “overlook” things, especially where being a busy mom is concerned!
    Yesterday my lesson was to slow down, and patiently wait, even though it was taking Littleman a very long time to compose his thoughts and get them out. I so wanted to cue him or prompt him or guide him back on course. I resisted and he had many amazing things to say!

  2. Christine says:

    Oh Kristina, this was just lovely.

    “The disparity between the fixed idea of how things should be in Charlie’s head and what they actually are in the changing fluidity of the world can cause a short circuit. …”

    Indeed, he isn’t the only one! I often think to myself that half my problems in life are because I can’t manage to negotiate properly between my ideal and my real!!

  3. Rebecca says:

    I treasure those times when I gain a new insights from Chris that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise…even though sometimes getting to those insights can be frustrating or painful.

    Have a wonderful weekend, Kristina.

  4. Wow, another beautiful post!!! Thanks for sharing. As to the “yellow bus to red van”, Sam too converts from a yellow bus to a white van. I am hoping the transition will go well. Loved your post!

  5. I was also thinking of mentioning how Charlie used to rummage through my drawers for one of two pink (“gink”) shirts that he insisted I wear because I must have worn those shirts at some memorable time before. Right now in my office, the reality is that the water has been (unexplainably) turned off which is certainly not ideal….

  6. Lisa/Jedi says:

    What I really dread is discovering a black hole in my memory where the information about where I put something important was supposed to be… This happened a couple days ago when I was searching for the address & insurance info for B’s new psychiatrist. I’d written the note more than 6 weeks ago & was depending on it being where I usually put important things… but it wasn’t. I finally gave up, then made another attempt yesterday during breakfast, reduced to looking in all the “likely places”, & finally found it. I have found that organisation is essential to life with B, not only so that I don’t lose important things in my regular state of distraction, but to role-model for him, since his ability to cope in chaos is minimal, as his ability to organise himself for the most part. What really seems to be helping him to learn organisation are the pokemon cards- hooray for pokemon! 🙂

  7. I write things down and sometimes forget I did so……. great about the Pokemon cards!

    I have been able not to lose track of all the places Charlie’s squishy balls end up.

  8. jenny says:

    I just love your blog – it makes me smile with empathy & joy at the same time. My son is 7 and very similar in many ways to Charlie.

    I also love those moments of insight when I really understand how my son’s brain works. Like a big A-ha moment. I feel kind of stupid that because it took me so long to “get it” and then think about how my son must feel when most people can’t understand him.

    Thanks so very much.

  9. Thank _you_ more than much. Those A-ha moments are the best! I definitely feel overwhelmed with my ignorance in the face of my boy who is my best teacher.

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