Charlie’s space (#444)

Charlie got off the bus and opened the front door to find not only Grandpa and Grandma in their old place in the two chairs around the living room lamp but a great uncle, a great aunt, and the wives of two of Grandpa’s former co-workers. Charlie blinked, paused, and walked out.
I coaxed him insistently back in, after which he managed a fast out-the-side-of-his-mouth “hi,” then “b’ack car.” Whereupon, I had to say there was no need to go anywhere—he was home. Charlie stayed somber as he practised the piano downstairs, asking “earn break” and running up the stairs to see (I surmised) if they were still there. I managed to stand at the very top of the stairs and talk to everyone, with Charlie calling out “Mommy stairs,” “stairs!”. When our guests got up to leave, Charlie stood right by the door, gave them his hand, said “bye” and gave each person a light but unmistakeable push.

I can see Charlie being wary around new people and people he only rarely sees, like his great aunt and uncle. Charlie has made it clear that, since Grandma came home from the hospital two days before we left for vacation, he is very wary about being in the upstairs part of the house. It is true, Grandma has been through a lot—over six months away from home in different hospitals—and she is much thinner, tires easily, spends a lot of time sitting in her wheelchair (while making some nice progress in walking with her walker). In the months when both she and Grandpa were in the hospital and when Jim, Charlie and I visited their empty house, Charlie seemed spooked, as if to say, where are they?.

When we first moved into my in-laws’ house, Charlie seemed quite thrilled to be living here, in a house with a big, grassy back and front yard, two garage doors operated with an automatic control, an “elevator” stair chair for my in-laws’ use and, of course, a yellow school bus that took him to his new school. I did assume that the glow of this new arrangement would fade; Jim and I have been waiting for Charlie to return to our old house. But Charlie has yet to do this and seems to think little of not having his own room anymore (Grandpa’s office is “officially” Charlie’s but Grandpa’s files and papers are still in the room).

In our old house, Charlie knew that his bed was in “Charlie’s room,” and I put all of his toys and clothes in his room but, in truth, the whole house was Charlie’s space. I would walk into the kitchen and step over, or gently kick, a blue ball exactly aligned with the lines on the linoleum and the cabinet. Daddy’s blue blanket was often strewn in the doorways of the kitchen or at the foot of the stairs and was routinely stepped on by all three of us. A green chew tube resided on the arm of the blue sofa by the front door.

All of these items, plus many more, made the move with us and, while Charlie is more than solicitous of the whereabouts of four inside-out squishy ball things, his shoes, and his lunchbox and backpack, he has not been leaving carefully aligned objects throughout the rooms of my in-laws’ house. Perhaps he no longer needs to mark the space; there is carpet here, in different colors—-perhaps that practise went with our old house, not with this one.

Here, though, Charlie does not have the run of the house. He knows not to go down the hallway and into Grandpa’s and Grandma’s rooms, and the room that is the nurse’s. He always opens the refrigerator after walking into the house but—almost magically—-he has not tried to eat the numerous foods therein and on the counter that he is allergic too, to sneak dollops of ketchup, bites of crumb cake, sips of Coke. Until Grandma returned home, Charlie did spend more time running in the living room and jumping on the couch, but he only did that for the first time after a long while tonight.

It was 9pm. Grandma and Grandpa had gone to bed; Jim was sitting in the kitchen with his computer and folders of xeroxed research files and I had been watching Charlie put together a puzzle. He finished it and went up the stairs, to run among the chairs still left from our visitors, peer into the refrigerator, to sit in the swivel chair with his chin in his hand.

Yes, Charlie, the world, and the people, places, and things in it, keep changing.

And I think it true that it is far harder for Grandpa and Grandma, at their age and with so many health problems, to change than for us, than for Charlie, and I told him this tonight.

A few feet away, Grandma moaned softly in her sleep. Down the hall, the nurse was talking in Ghanese on her cell phone. Charlie did not say anything, just kept sitting with his head crooked and chin in his hand, and so we listened.

2 Responses to “Charlie’s space (#444)”
  1. Ennis says:

    The nurse was probably talking Twi (sometimes called Akan) which is the major language in Ghana. However, depending on where she’s from, she might have been speaking Ewe or Ga, or any of the languages from the North.

  2. Ennis, it is Twi—I talked about this with her once. Thank you for pointing this out!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

  • What’s all this about?

%d bloggers like this: