Never Without My Genius (#439)

Once upon a time, I never went anywhere without a book to read in a random spare moment. During Charlie’s babyhood I schlepped around the inevitable accessory of new motherhood in modern times, the diaper bag zealously overstuffed with wipes, diapers, extra clothes, rattles, kleenex, my wallet, a small stuffed toy, changing pad, baby hat, baby sweater, ziploc of something, pastel-colored plastic toy, my keys. It was too much for a mere mall visit but did come in handy the night Charlie and I missed a connecting flight from California to St. Louis and shiveringly waited for a shuttle bus in Denver, during an October snowstorm.
No room for a book, though, with a largish baby who was late to walk, and no room for a book when I need to carry extra clothes and maybe a squishy ball for a boy in need of local coherence. Even on transcontinental airplane trips, I pack a book at the bottom of my bag: As an Autismland mother, I am never without Charlie.

The exceptions are school (four more days….), Dad and Charlie time, and when my parents visit. And so this afternoon I found myself reading as I waited to hear myself called to the Genius Bar.

That is, I was waiting for a “Genius”—a college-age student with the air of hip geekness and their Apple store ID on a lanyard—to look at my laptop, which has been “powering out” (that was how the friendly technicians at 1-800 Apple support termed what my computer has been doing at any and every moment). I have to admit that, when I was the age of the “Genii,” my computer randomly shutting down a dozen times a day would have been cause for “oh woe is me” and frantic phone calls, and it is true that my fellow waiters-in-line had just that tone about the iPod with water inside, the malfunctioning MacPro, the Nike+ Sport Armband that did not fit around a woman’s self-described “scrawny arms.” (I used to have something of a muscle in my left arm from carrying Charlie, but—now that he is almost as tall as me—there it goes.)

Charlie was off to a toy store (which he did not want to enter) and lunch with my parents. As I waited, I read a page of my book, checked my cellphone (Charlie had again communicated pre-school and grandparents jitters by—while standing a foot away from the kitchen table—dumping a pot of rice, crying over a puzzle, and smiling while practicing the piano). My name was duly called; my computer disappeared with a Genius; my computer was returned with a chess game running (“the computer is playing against itself,” the Genius said); I sat at the Genius Bar and used the computer for fifteen minutes, during which it never shut down. I went home and, on turning it on, incorrect noises sounded and a multicolored array of vertical stripes filled the display.

I heard the door open and Charlie’s voice, Charlie’s cry. Charlie ran back up the steps and into the house, saw Grandma and Grandpa, and ran back out: Charlie still seems to be massively confused about Grandma’s changed appearance since her return from the hospital. The piano teacher came at 6pm and, while the lesson began with a crying boy, it ended with Charlie learning to use two fingers to play the keys. Charlie was all proud smiles on a bike ride with Jim and then beside himself with nervousness about eating dinner, a good portion of which he threw before even sitting at the table.
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Jim and I got Charlie downstairs to our room and talked about going back up and eating just “a little bit”—I sat right by Charlie (who said “Mommy, sit”) and gave him a few spoonfuls of rice and chicken and string beans at a time. He ate quickly, told us “all done!” with some rice to go, and, while Jim sat with him and I ate with my in-laws and parents, Charlie smiled delightedly and did a complicated puzzle. That done, Charlie jumped up on the couch and buried his face and the front of his body in the crease of the cushions. He sat looking at photos on Jim’s computer while I made arrangements to ship my computer back for a major repair.

“Tinkkoh!” Charlie called out to Jim, only to dodge away shaking with giggles when Jim turned around. “Tinkkoh!”

Genius is as genius does when your main assignment is to read the book of Charlie—-it is not a bestseller, and what I read therein sometimes puzzles me and raises more questions in my mind, but it is the book I always carry with me.

“Genius,” after all, is from the Latin genius, which means “tutelar deity, guardian spirit” of a place. Need I say who the Genius of Autismland is?

6 Responses to “Never Without My Genius (#439)”
  1. Rose says:

    My gosh, you have been busy! I wish you much luck in your new endeavors. The blog looks very nice.

    I know Charlie throwing the dinner at times upsets you.

    We have a child at school who “spits” at teachers, kids, all day long. He has good aim and he can go halfway cross a room. He spit in the nurse’s face and she went ballastic. We’ll be having a BIP (behavioral intervention plan) set up soon, I imagine. I can’t wait to see what the psychologist comes up with!

    God bless my aides, they want to figure out what’s bothering him. He JUST moved from one new school to another, from one trailer house to another; I imagine he feels his world is out of control.

    I wish our kids were easier to figure out.

    By the way, we already love our “spit boy”. We will be on HIS side in the BIP.

    I am sorry , it’s a little off subject, but I HAD to get it out there.

    I see Ben as my “muse”, I ‘m not sure that is the same as a guardian. Only one other person in my life brought me so out of my shell, and she was “ADD”, undiagnosed.

    Maybe our “guardians” keep the world more alive, in a way.

    We certainly learn what is important.


  2. tara says:

    I consider Owen a genius, and it has nothing to do with his academic prowess. He is unlike any child I have ever met, his special intuition, his purity of spirit, his way of seeing the world… I am so happy to know the origin of the word genius, Charlie and Owen are guardians indeed of so much that is to be held dear.

  3. Lisa/Jedi says:

    Reading about taking Charlie down to your room & helping him to calm down before resuming dinner reminded me so much of B’s meltdown before lunch when we were at his grandparents’ trailer a couple weeks ago. It’s difficult enough to cope with an unhappy kid wit autism in your own home, without the extra dimension (nice, neutral word, huh? ๐Ÿ™‚ of doing it in a space shared with other family members. I’m trying to imagine who I would be able to share my home with right now, other than B & C… my mother visits almost weekly, but that’s very different. One reason that I am currently reading Mary Pipher’s “Another Country- Navigating the Emotional Terrain of our Elders” is that we are in the life stage where our personal elders are right on the edge of “young-old” & “old-old” (Pipher’s terminology) & we do not know when we will have to become more active in their lives. It sounds like you are navigating this stage with as much grace as possible, & with respect for your life in autismland as well. I want to say “you go, girl!” :), but the Japanese have a better phrase- “gombatta,ne?”, which is literally “do your best”, but has much more of a flavour of “go for it!” than the translation implies.

    ps- good luck with your laptop repair!

  4. The food throwing does prove he has a good arm! A whole container of Chinese take-out creates a Jackson Pollack-like….. splat…….. We’ve been working on a BIP. I think it’s something about having a big bowl or plate of food in a plastic container—-just looking at it has instigated the throwing (which is never aimed at anyone)—-thanks for telling us about your student. I would think he feels that things are spinning and he is just caught up in it without any say. I would think he has reason to create a ruckus?

    Charlie has that “purity of spirit,” too—-he tries so hard to do the right thing and please us, and then his wiring gets in the way, and he feels bad if he has done something he ought not to have.

    Yes, the “extra dimension” has made things more tricky—-having to explain why Charlie did something—-and it has also been incredibly helpful, in unexpected ways. I like raising Charlie in a community of family (and the nurse is very much a part of it all, too); think he needs to understand how people change, get sick, age. My sense is that with a kid like Charlie these life-changes get overlooked—people assume he just “doesn’t notice”—-when he’s the most aware of us all.

    Gombatta, ne? (What is the plural form of that?)

  5. Lisa/Jedi says:

    My understanding is there are not a lot of plural forms in Japanese (not like we have in English, at least). I’m still figuring out how you speak of or to a group of people, but it’s not a simple addition of a sound (more like a word or series of words). In the grocery you ask for specifically the number of things you want. I’ve heard/seen “gombatta ne?” used mostly one-on-one (by schoolteachers to students & students to other students). The “ne” part is kind of an “ok?” (“do your best, ok?”), so it seems personal. I say it to B sometimes, when he needs a jolt of Japanese ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll ask our Japanese teacher, though…

  6. Gratias tibi ago…..shieh shieh……. and many more thanks!

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