Sympathy, with Sugarcane Tea (#533)

At the top of my list about what makes Charlie’s limited language difficult is that he is not able to tell us when some part of his body hurts; when he feels sick. There have been more than a few times that, after an afternoon of “behavior squall”—a storm of crying, caterwauling, knocking around of various body parts—it has been clear that Charlie’s stomach has been hurting mightily, has been cramping and reeling.
Charlie is better but not fully over his cold which Jim and I, symbiotically, have gotten. We both usually catch whatever Charlie has come down with, despite every precautionary effort and while it is definitely not easy to be a sick parent taking care of a sick child, it means that we know exactly what Charlie has been feeling.

Weight of bricks on the head, gunk in the throat, aches coursing through the legs and back: No wonder Charlie spent the weekend and Monday sleeping and, after coming with Jim to meet me in my office in Jersey City, went from black car to couch and napped for two hours. (So did I.) Charlie and I then spent the rest of the day cozily lounging around on couch or bed under various blankets, having “drink wahterr!” and going through a box of Kleenex, and I tried to show him how to cover his mouth when he coughs (he does so after the cough comes out). I made cups of Chinese sugarcane tea for myself and Charlie, who has barely eaten a thing for three days, giggled as he requested “peasz! eat peasz” from a bowl on the table where Grandma and Grandpa sat.

There is no need for words when you know exactly what the other person—one’s lovely boy—-is feeling. Just as, once upon a time when not-yet-born Charlie was inside me, his kicks and hiccups and arching of his body were his first communication with me—-were a kind of perfect, languageless communication.

He fell asleep on our bed with my journal, Polar Bear Night, and one of my library books arrayed in a neat formation. After the coughing fits of previous nights, I watched, I listed to him finally sleeping peacefully.

3 Responses to “Sympathy, with Sugarcane Tea (#533)”
  1. Janet Bowser says:

    It IS hard not knowing if they are behaving in a challenging way because they are ill. My Charlie is the same way. Many times when he becomes the tasmanian devil we find out later that he was actually ill and we didn’t know it. Once he had a sore on his foot that had become infected and we didn’t know.

    Do you have to check your Charlie over every night to be sure he is not injured or will he tell you if he has a boo boo? Just wondering. Sometimes I feel like the only one with this problem.

  2. Lisa/Jedi says:

    Having a verbal kid is no guarantee that they’re going to report illness or injury (sigh). Brendan has a high tolerance for pain (except for very specific parts of his body, like his inner ear) & a short memory, which can lead to scary situations… & we find ourselves coming to similar realisations about intensifying behaviour problems when it becomes obvious that he’s ill. When he was 4 he had chronic tonsillitis but never told us his throat hurt. The year before we put a “well” child to bed & had him in the emergency room by 6 am- he had strep pneumonia! Just last week his dad found a bruise on his forehead during bath time & Brendan remembered that he’d head-banged a window at school that day… Things have improved a great deal (particularly since the aforementioned tonsils were removed) as he’s gotten older, but we still rarely know if he has a headache or sore throat until the pain is making him miserable. Life in Autismland…

  3. Thanks for mentioning about the pain tolerance; makes me wonder if that might be why Charlie tends to suddenly “erupt” sometimes—I suspect he is holding it all in and then he just cannot take it anymore.

    Janet, I do check him every night while he’s showering and then worry if I see anything. Two years ago Charlie got a bad sore under his tongue and no one knew why he was not talking aside from saying one phrase (“pi-ah-pi-ah”) until the sore was discovered, infected and Not Good. It took a few weeks for it to go away at that point.

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