Never Too Late For a Little Holiday Glow
It's a good thing that we lived for two years in St. Paul. The summer we moved into our 2nd floor duplex (in the Merriam-Grove area, just a few blocks from Macalester College) I ordered two beige LL Bean parkas in size L and in size S. We've packed their puffinesses up through several moves to warmer climes, though Jim's found his parka the perfect thing to wear on a frigid subway platform, especially in the days when he commuted daily to and from the Bronx.
Thanks to a winds of up to 50 mph yesterday, it was c-o-l-d, with cold air coming in through the windows and gusts howling like in some Disney movie. Jim and I were still able to put our "keep Charlie moving in and out of the house, and from activity to activity" about every 1 1/2 – 2 hours schedule into operation largely thanks to the parka. Jim took Charlie for an early morning ride to see his school and bagels and then dashed in for his parka and Charlie's (much less puffy) blue one. Charlie seems pretty resilient to being outside when even in very cold temperatures; needless to say, he was quite content (Jim too) to stay inside after that, heat up frozen items in the microwave, and watch some videos. The two of them went out another walk later in the afternoon ("when the wind's not blowing, it's not so bad," Jim quipped before they trod off) with the same result, Charlie being quite glad to warm up surrounded by blankets on the old blue couch.
Inbetween those walks we joined an indoor pool. Charlie had been very eager to put on his swimsuit (he wore it in the car—he's not one for pulling on sweat pants over his suit). But once he saw that the pool was not the YMCA pool we've gone to for the past three years, he said "no swimming" and wouldn't budge. I suspect it will take him some time to warm to a new pool environment and there's really no rush. This pool does have better hours, with open swim time three times a day (at night, too). I always get ready to jump in the pool with Charlie—he's a far, far better swimmer than I'll ever be, but sometimes some extra reminders are needed about not going under the ropes where people are swimming laps—and frankly I was ok not having to jump and walk out with wet, or rather freezing, hair.
We were very fortunate that Charlie's sitter from last summer is home from college and she came to visit yesterday. She came over two times or so every week in the summer and Charlie really enjoyed her company. Yesterday, he greeted her with a little secret smile. While she was visiting, he kept saying "Arielah! Versha! Peggy! Claudette!". Those are the names of other therapists from when he was 2-4 years old and we lived in, respectively, St. Paul and St. Louis, Missouri. I suspect Charlie was perhaps mentioning the former therapists so avidly as a way of telling himself who his sitter is "like." She, like almost all of Charlie's therapists when he was little, is a college student and he always looked forward (posting himself at the window) to seeing them. Indeed, in those first two years of home ABA, the therapists really did not feel like "therapists," but part of a little community we were all creating to take care of Charlie.
You can bet it was cold, those two winters we spent in St. Paul, but there was always so much good feeling. We had a few glimpses of that sense of "people all around us" today. There was our friend's visit (with the promise of stopping by again during Spring Break and in the summer). And, I called the doctors' office and had a nice talk with the office manager who assured me, of course we can come back with Charlie. "Things happen," she said, and she reiterated that the pediatrician who'd seen Charlie on Saturday had remained very concerned about him.
It's seemed that, more and more as Charlie has gotten older, the world have become a colder place. People often (understandably) think he's a full-grown man at first and are very puzzled when he doesn't respond. I can't tell you how many times he and I have been in the check-out line and we've been asked "are you together?". I want to say, "how could we not be?" but then I remind myself that what's so obvious to me, engrossed in our life with Charlie, is most likely not at all apparent to the casual observer. If I were holding Charlie's hand or he had some more obvious physical trait signaling that he's disabled, I guess people might "get it" more quickly. Too, sometimes, when people see that Charlie is "different"—especially when he's in distress, even minimally—the immediate response is fear, is being threatened.
So little reaching out these days when Charlie shakes off our hands, when there's no more "he's so cute!"—that gesture goes a very long way. I think I may even be starting, albeit a bit belatedly, to feel a little holiday glow.
Without even having to wear my St. Paul parka.