E&G | Issue 157
“When I was a kid, I had a severe case of autism. But it’s worn off and now I’m fine. Well, not totally fine. I mean, it’s worn off of me physically but maybe not mentally.” Isaac was telling the dinner table exactly what he thinks of his autism. “I mean, sometimes I need to take a test in a small group but I don’t need someone hovering over me like a UFO trying to abduct a cow.” We all laughed at the image Isaac painted for us and he went on and on and on. “Isaac. What year are you in now?” Dad asked, a question my kids have answered many times. “6th grade.” Isaac answered without hesitation. These kids know how to answer these questions as novel even though they have been asked of them before. “But he sounds like he’s in 12th grade! Isaac, I’m so proud of you.” Mom said, referring to his very mature and astute self-awareness. Isaac spread his hands out to either side and said, oh so matter-of-factly, “pubertyyyyy.”
No, there is never a dull dinner in this household and I, for one, am basking in these nightly conversations and quietly absorbing the more tender moments I get to witness here and there. Nearly a half hour later that evening, Mom and Dad still sat at the dinner table while Mom chatted away with Dad as he dutifully agreed and nodded to most anything she mentioned. “Tomorrow I’d like to go pick up some mums for the front yard and maybe some pumpkins. Would you like to join me?” she asked Dad. “Pumpkin? Sure we can get one and carve one up.” My mind transported me back to the 80s, kitchen table covered in newspaper as the sweet smell of pumpkin filled the room, hands wet from reaching inside and pulling out the seeds that were later to be toasted and salted. They haven’t carved pumpkins in years but Dad remembers, these things he does. “No, no.” Mom said “Pumpkins not to carve, just for the yard to decorate.” Dad nodded and said “We can do that.” Mom, trying to jog his memory a bit asked where he thought they should go. “What about Wyman’s?” she asked. “Oh yeah! Wyman’s!” Dad clearly remembered this local gem as well.
As I placed the leftover pizza in the fridge, I was struck by just how midlife I really am right now. In one moment, a child’s self-reckoning sprinkled with the hilarity of puberty. The next moment, old age and things remembered and forgotten. For the umpteenth time, my eyes filled up at the incredible beauty of it all. I took a picture of one of these nightly occurrences, an image I hope to keep forever. If this is a midlife crisis, I suppose you could say I’m handling it quite well. There are moments of complete and utter insanity here, don’t get me wrong. I have made it abundantly clear my distaste for the ticking sounds and mashup of colors featured on The Wheel of Fortune, on from 7-7:30 every single night here unless, of course, Patriots All Access usurps the time slot which pisses Mom off to no end. “Football! Football! Football! That’s all anyone cayahs about he-ah!” Don’t mess with her regular shows, people. It’s not wise. Over time, I have learned to breathe through the shenanigans and quietly exit stage left when Pat Sajak’s voice comes on, possibly the only enjoyable thing about that show. It is when I am stage left that these precious moments between Mom and Dad take place. It is a new closeness that they have and I, for one, am proud of how Mom has evolved to handle it.
This past week has been busy, busy, busy. Momming, daughtering, teaching, sports, meeting, more sports, another meeting, and appointments. It is really no wonder why I have absolutely no trouble sleeping at night. Were I not living here, however, my life would simply not be as full. I would be missing something, feel unfulfilled. As we slowly climb out of the noise of the past two years, I have found it helpful to be mindful of the glimmers that I see each day while simultaneously accepting, recognizing, and oftentimes laughing at all the shit. It is the only way for me to stay sane “amidst the chaos.” (thank you, Sara Bareilles). The ultimate glimmer this week, and I say this hoping not to jinx it, is that Mom was finally discharged from the wound center after a solid year battling an infected cancer excision on her leg. She was so happy and proud to wear closed-toe shoes for the first time in months this weekend as she and Dad toddled off to Wyman’s to gather some pumpkins and mums. Yes, I “let” them go on their own. They were just so happy to be getting out independently that I couldn’t be the bad guy. It was a choice I made and would make again just to hear my Dad exclaim “Wow! It’s so nice out!” as he slowly makes his way to the passenger side of their minivan. Yes, Dad, it is quite nice out and I’m so very glad to see the sun on your face.
An Eastern Screech Owl woke me up around 2 this morning, its whinnies and trills spookily filling the still night air. This is the second time we have been visited by this nocturnal raptor. “Woooo-oooo-ooooo-oooo! Woooo-oooo-ooooo-oooo!” it cried, sounding like a wounded horse. The sound is just so beautifully haunting and, of course, always reminds me of how I came to read Walden by Thoreau. This book, though I never finished it because that’s just how I roll, taught me how to stop, look, and listen to everything around me, even the crazy stuff. If I were to guess what this little owl was trying to tell me, as I was asked to posit by someone I care quite deeply about, I’d say that he was not trying to establish territory as I originally suggested but was instead attempting to remind me that even when you wake in the dead of a black, starless night, there is always something beautiful to be found and heard.