Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Things I Can Do

Each summer, we send our son to sleep-away camp while we rent a house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Here are things I can do while my 17 year-old with autism is at sleep-away camp:

Send my typically-developing 14-year-old son and husband off to golf with my parents while I stay and bike along the postcard-perfect shore, startling a fox into dropping its breakfast of a small, black bird as he darts into the tall grass.

Pedaling and pedaling and pedaling as I think about my brother-in-law, who was killed by a drunk driver as he cycled the bike he built for himself, with his own hands. Wanting to remember him because I’m terrified of forgetting him but exhausted from the sadness, the grieving, the complete enormity of the loss. I pedal until I can’t tell if the wet on my cheeks is from the sprinkling of raindrops or my tears.

Read The Glass Castle, thinking to myself that I’ve read it before—I feel like I’ve read it before--but not wanting to stop since it’s captivating and I’m not really sure if I’ve read it before. It’s worth reading twice, anyway. Most good books are. I put off reading the Lena Dunham book I bought for this trip. I fear there’s too much thinking involved, too much seriousness. Perhaps an unfounded fear, I love her after all, Girls is a tour-de-force and she's so brave, but I’m not brave enough to take the chance. There’s time for that later, I think to myself. Later, for Lena.

Pay attention to—be present with—my typical son who I fear gets the shortest end of a very short stick. A nub, really. Steal glimpses of who he will be as he slowly becomes a man because I have the leisure to really look at him. To really see him. Do you understand what I mean? To see him? Waiting to hear him talk about girls but settling for listening about water erosion instead as he casts another line into the Bay. Later, I guilt him into yet another bike ride with me because each ride--no matter how reluctant--gets him off of his computer. (That computer!) A smidgeon of a victory, each minute off of a screen a triumph of sorts. Sorry, not sorry.

Play Pictionary late into the night with my typical son and my husband and my parents, marveling at our incapacity for even the most rudimentary art skills needed for the game. Admire my ability to draw the outline of a sheep+dog=sheepdog to win that round but exasperated at my ineptness in depicting “outside.” Appreciate the normalcy of it all, the quiet in the other rooms apart from us.

Perch unmoved atop a splintered, weathered wooden bench on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay for 15 uninterrupted minutes, admiring how the last of the sun dances on top of the small waves of the water, nursing a club soda since I’m saving my allotment of wine for dinner. 

I wonder how much the owner paid for all the riprap he needs to hold back the unrelenting lap lap lap of the Bay’s waves. How often they need to repair, to beat back the water and the driftwood the storms deposit on the top of the rocks.

Complete one book, disappointing since I usually finish two on vacation but was sufficiently distracted by the caretaker’s unexpected tirade about how the rental property’s owner wouldn’t give him enough money and is letting this place go so it’s starting to look like a n----r shack and we should come see this other house he takes care of for owners who give him enough money, leaving my mother flabbergasted, me offended, we’re all offended, and my husband red-hot sure-fire pissed. My dad shook his head and pulled at his ear. After the caretaker came back two days later, I also got to calm my husband down after he gave the cantankerous caretaker an earful. He left quickly. The owner apologized. So, you know, just one book this week, although maybe only a half of a book since I’m convinced I really did read The Glass Castle before, so that wouldn’t count.

Sit at a brown-paper-covered octagonal picnic table on the deck of a local seafood place, picking blue crabs covered in Old Bay and dip the magical white meat in a tiny plastic cup of vinegar (or butter, you choose, but I prefer the tart and bite of the vinegar). Watch the sunset dapple the calm water of the Bay, understanding that my typical son professes to love crabs—he can eat three or four, really, he says--but knowing he’ll only eat one and declare himself full and move on to the chicken tenders. See my mom answer her cell phone with spice-covered fingers, then pressing the phone to her ear and the fingers to her forehead as she hears my sister’s boyfriend tell her that she’s gone back to the hospital with complications after the birth of their first child. She’ll be fine, the baby’s fine, my sister’s fine, but I worry. I worry. We’ve had too much loss the past year and a half to be still. At least, for me. I can’t be still. I am always pacing, even if it’s just in my mind. Moving, moving, always moving, restless.

And yet, despite all the restlessness, the pacing, the ruminating, I do find time to sit. To calm. To breathe.


DMc said...

Just beautiful. And sad.

Cath said...

Very beautiful. I love reading your posts. I hope you and your family are coping with all you have been through. Best wishes.

Alisa Rock said...

Thanks so much for your feedback. Much appreciated. We're doing ok.

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