Out There We Go
Thank you so much for your kind words of sympathy for Jim's mother's passing. She was not in good health, physically and mentally, for many years—the 'emotional unease' Jim referred to. When we lived with her and Jim's father (June 2006-August 2007), she could barely walk; she either sat at the table in the kitchen across from the ever-on TV set or in her chair to the right of the lamp in the living room, just at the top of the short flight of stairs leading up from the entryway. (The house was a split-level, very 'populuxe,' with a lot of brown and orange and melon and pale yellow for colors.) Jim's mom rarely left the house.
But, as Jim wrote, she always had an ear and an eye turned 'out there.' She used to read five or so newspapers a day. For years, every couple of weeks a bulky manila envelope would come in the mail for Jim. He'd casually open it and sift through the contents, neatly cut-out articles about whatever topics Jim's mother thought would be of interest to him: American history, the Beats (Jack Kerouac especially), jazz. In time she started sending articles about Latin and Classics. And after 1999—after Charlie was diagnosed—she sent articles about, yes, autism.
She liked to say (which was true) that she read all the movie reviews—she watched the Oscars intently—but never the actual movies. And, she liked to say that it wasn't for her to go into New York City (where she'd worked at WOR years years and years ago, before she got married), but she (and other denizens of New Jersey) just liked knowing that 'it's there.'
I met Jim's mother in June of 1994, around the time Jim and I had (over sushi—I guess that was prophetic) concluded that we'd get married, it was just what was going to happen. The photo I posted of her on Monday was taken at our wedding, on the 15th of December, 1995, in Berkeley, California. While she visited us in St. Louis, Missouri, and St. Paul, Minnesota—and made a few trips to southern California to see Jim's younger sister and to Vermont for holidays with his older sister—mostly Jim's mother didn't leave New Jersey. While she could walk, stiffly and very painstakingly in the 90s, by the time Charlie was born she pretty much stayed in her house. Some two years ago, it took Jim all of his verbal resources (of which he has plenty, I think I can assure you) to get her to walk a few feet in the driveway. She'd had knee replacement surgery on both knees and had a terribly hard time with the rehab—she became clinically depressed in the process—and she clung to her walker, even as Jim stood beside her and coaxed and gently, lovingly encouraged her to walk with him.
I have very few photos of Jim's mother carrying Charlie, who (a big baby) soon grew too big for Grandma to manage on her lap (already unsteady on her feet when Charlie was born in 1997, she never wanted to carry her youngest grandchild unless seated). When we lived in Jim's parents' house, I was soon aware that Charlie's boundless energy and his liking for roaming all over the place, looking around and into things, measuring out his space by moving in it—that all this must have seemed unfathomable to Grandma, seated in her kitchen chair or the living room one (she and Jim's dad never sat in their scratchy couch—it had become too hard for them to pull themselves out of it; Charlie probably made the most use of it as a sometimes trampoline and 'jungle gym').
And who knows but her sense of the big city 'over there' and all that was surely 'out there,' not that she was inclined to go forth and into it—that her constantly having her eye and ear elsewhere seeped into Jim, who was (by his own report) even more and ever constantly in motion, in a hyper kind of way, as a kid, and thence into Charlie who (as you know from the past several posts that feature the three of us walking, walking, bike-riding, and walking yet more) seems lately to have a tremendous need to be out, about, on the move.
Monday he awoke at 3.51am. We heard him take a shower (he could do a better job with shampoo and soap, but he has the beginning of the basics down enough to do this solo) and get dressed. And call for his socks. It was just after 4am by then and Jim told Charlie, wait an hour. I went to get the timer, set it for an hour, gave it to Charlie who very dutifully went to his room, placed the timer on his bed. And stayed there till it went off.
I'd been able to get some more sleep and out we went, with the sun rising and Charlie snug in his green sweatshirt with the hood pulled up. Once home, he decided to bring his breakfast into the car and waited till Jim and I came out.
It was the usual full day of school, more walks (with a definite 'no' to the sweatshirt—Charlie was right, he ran quite a bit and warmed himself up), a bike ride, computer (with Charlie being very patient with our internet connection being extra balky). He didn't go to bed till almost 10 but it didn't take him long to be sound asleep.
The funeral for Jim's mom will be Friday, when Charlie is in school. Her wake will be the afternoon and evening before and we've been talking about Charlie going to some of that maybe—only as much as he can handle. We've decided it's best for Charlie to stay in school during the funeral. There's going to be a lot of emotions all around, something Charlie is very sensitive, and susceptible, to.
And, to Jim and me, Charlie already gave Grandma the best farewell he could, when he asked to visit her one last time the day before she passed on.
After everything on Friday, I'm sure we'll all go for a walk, out and around. Out there.