Homing Instinct (#577)

It was flurries and bits of crystalline snowflakes on my coat and Charlie’s fish-fleece hat when we went for a walk to the train station this afternoon. We were a block and a half from our house when I saw Charlie’s bare hands and remembered where his gloves were in his room. The rest of him was quite obscured, between the hat and a down coat, Size Large.
If this week began with a wrenching day of anger and ache, and yesterday was better but still bumpy, today had a kind of easy flow. Charlie woke up on his own at 7.30am (yes, the melatonin continues is helping him to sleep) and had another good day at school. He waited in the driveway while I got my coat. Charlie walked on the sidewalk’s edge, his body barely swaying to balance himself, warbling with some melody. A black dog barked and Charlie glanced over, then ran up the steps to the train platform. On the way back, he skipped and raced ahead of me.

I still hold Charlie’s hand when we’re in crowded public places—the subway—or on a busy city street. But not on these walks, and not in the grocery store: I can never be 100% sure and always have to keep ears and eyes open, but over the past year Charlie makes his forays away from me, and then comes back, or stops to tilt his head and look out of the corner of his eyes for me. It’s as if he has a sort of homing instinct: You go so far, you go back.

At the store, Charlie held the plastic basket stiffly before him, one metal handle in each hand. He paused before the fish counter; “not tonight,” I said. “Chick-ennn,” said Charlie and peered into the plastic lids of cooked chickens. “If you have some in your lunch, too,” I said. “Sushi!” Charlie chose a pack and then went to examine display of cakes for several minutes, until I quietly told him we had to go; he did.

“Turn on!” Charlie called as he buckled his seatbelt. Besides Jimi Hend-rickss, reggae and ska are high on Charlie’s current list of favorites (Jim’s doing, not mine) and, since last Friday, and I have not been able to find a certain CD. Last night, I made a new one and put it in as I started the car. Charlie sat straight up in his seat as “Sweet and Dandy” came on.

Back at home, I handed him the heavier two grocery bags and he took them, one in each hand, and walked briskly in. Charlie dropped his coat and hat in the center of the living room floor and set his shoes perpendicular to them; he ran downstairs and brought up his blue blanket, an old blue shirt of Jim’s, and a small plush basketball, all of which were arrayed on the carpet in places where they would be likely to be stepped on: This was something Charlie used always to do in our old house, to create a sort of total floor mosaic.

See that, and smell the sushi, and you know you’re in Charlie’s house.

4 Responses to “Homing Instinct (#577)”
  1. mcewen says:

    I wish someone [anyone!] around here had a homing instinct.

  2. I would give anything for a homing instinct around here. Do you feel you encouraged that in any particular way or is this just how Charlie is?
    I won’t lose hope, Patrick is only almost 5, but that kid can be a km away from me (we live in the country) and wouldn’t come back. *sigh*

  3. We had to encourage and teach it—-part of this involved _not_ getting overly excited when Charlie seemed to be heading off in the opposite direction of us (a teaching session requiring two people….). Whenever Charlie walked beside me without holding my hand, I would praise him a lot (though sometimes, in Charlie’s case, praise means not saying too much). I’m thinking on what else we did—will post when I do!

  4. Clay says:

    Edith, like Charlie has finally begun to not wander (or should I say sprint away!) too far from us. However, she is still dangerous in parking lots and streets. She is naturally prone to run out into the road without looking for cars. I’m trying to teach her to look both ways, but I’m not sure I’m getting through. When she looks both ways her head is tilted and I can’t really tell if she is actually looking at the road for cars or somewhere else.
    Despite our best efforts, there have been a few close calls. The other day I came home from the Shoppette on Base and saw that Edith was out in the front yard with her mother and grandmother. She hadn’t noticed that I had pulled up yet. I got out of my car and was getting the goods out of the car. When I turned around here came Edith barreling toward me at full speed. Also coming at that same time was a car, (naturally going too fast through housing). Thank goodness she was caught on that end before the car could hit her. Needless to say my heart was in my throat!
    There is no blame here. If you look away from her, even for a few seconds she takes off. The biggest fear I have is that during one of those brief moments of inattention, Edith will get killed by a car.
    Because of Edith’s epilepsy, she is never alone. At least one of us is with her. But, try as we might, there just isn’t any real way that we can maintain 24/7 watch and not slip eventually. I don’t think any parent truly can.
    A family friend told me that day that Edith almost got ran over, that Angels are watching over Edith. That may be, but, perhaps due to my lack of complete faith, it didn’t seem to calm the panic I still felt. Oh, me of such little faith?!

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