Back when my grandsons were elementary age, and my sons were in their late teens, I went to a self-help course with the intention of becoming a better listener for my children, and less of a suicide pondering junkie. I left my daughter, who was living with me at the time–along with her four young sons– to hold down the fort. She watched her four autistic brothers for a week while I added to the skills that would help me continue to help them. When I returned it was to a messy brood of needy individuals all pulling at me for attention and help.
Let me describe: My oldest son was still unable to wipe his butt or dress front to back and had no language. My next oldest thought he was Jim Carry (no, seriously) and could only talk in random mutterings of senseless humor. Next in line was my seriously bossy, bordering on abusive, hated his brothers except when they were following orders, good at talking but bad at understanding one. And pulling up the rear was my Tourette’s ridden, still echolalic, totally out there youngest.
Of the grandsons (four rambunctious boys who call me Dramma) two were also on the spectrum, though only for a short time. At this moment in the story I would say one had sensory integration challenges, and the ‘star’ of the moment, the grandson who’s words would cuddle my heart and invite this telling, was still autistic-ly in love with Thomas the train. Also, luckily for me, he had language.
We were all together at a resort, and I knew the best way to give everyone a fair amount of my attention would be to distract them with an activity so fantastic and fun that they would naturally be less insistent upon it. So with all the kids in tow, surrounded by a cloud of sounds, bad Jim Carry impressions, wandering words and repetitive Arnold Swartzeneger movie lines, I smiled intentionally and made sure to appear appropriately attentive as we headed to the swimming pool.
I was feeling frazzled. Dressing and organizing and overseeing them as we changed into our swimming gear. (My daughter was catching them as they exited the dressing area and heading them in the right direction.) Finally, I was down to the last child and myself. I entered a stall and my grandson entered the stall beside me. As we slithered out of our clothes we began to make train sounds and talk about the dirty puddles at our feet.
In a moment of silence that I was about to break, this young man spoke a longer, more perfect sentence than I had ever heard come from his lips. “I am glad your back Dramma. My life just isn’t as good without you in it!”
And suddenly I wasn’t frazzled anymore.
Though I do think I might have cried.