Yesterday morning the alarm went off waking me up from a deep sleep. Assuming it was still Saturday and not, in fact, Sunday, I muttered something about being forgetful and setting alarms -and turned it off. It wasn’t until we were 30 minutes behind schedule did I wake up realizing that it was, in fact, Sunday. It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal (I can shower in under 5 minutes if need be) but waking Josh up and rushing him through the morning wasn’t happening. It threw his entire day upside down and by the time the sun was threatening to set, he was asleep. Exhausted from the amount of effort he had to put into the day.
Simple things -such as not being able to run through his morning routine -are vital around these parts, and most days -I don’t give them a second thought. They are what one might call, normal. At least to us. He wakes up early, shuffles out to the living room where he watches his morning TV ads. He likes to be alone in the morning. Some prefer to wake up with someone beside them, some prefer coffee -he prefers solitude. I can respect this, and let him do his thing while I oversleep or prepare for my own morning. Regardless, we stay out of each others way until TV ads are over and I have consumed enough coffee.
If I am still asleep he will slap me across the face to wake me up -and if I am already up, he will move onto the next item on the morning schedule. He picks his way through breakfast, we fight it out over clothes, morning hygiene and if we are both lucky -we will be out of the house only 5-10 minutes late. He goes to school, I go to work. I don’t see him again until later that night -after he has put in his hours at school, therapy, socialization, and everything else that is deemed important. Things that stretch, push and pull at him -things that make him uncomfortable, angry, irritable, and frustrated.
By the time we reconnect he wants his alone time. This can be anything from hiding under the bed to laying stretched out on the floor with nothing but his underwear. It depends on the day, the trials and troubles. Depending on his location and the amount of time spent in solitude I can gauge how his day went. I don’t need to search his backpack for notes, clues or hints. I know it all by watching him.
The world doesn’t operate around him, and as luck would have it -not everyday is the same as the day before. These small changes wreck havoc in his mind. He doesn’t flip out like he used to. He doesn’t panic, run and scream. He doesn’t claw his way out of his own skin. He doesn’t bite, kick, or hit. He used to. He doesn’t drag his feet to school. In some small way -I think he might even enjoy going to school. The routine, the familiarity, he is a people pleaser and there are plenty of people to please at school. But at the end of a long day -he likes to unwind, and I try to stay out of his way until he is ready.
After homework and dinner are complete, clothes taken off and put back on -he flops into bed. Lately, due to various circumstances -we share a bed nearly three times as big as the one I am used to. He draws -marking the top blanket. I take the red pens away, he glares. He stashes the remote controls. Lines them up. And laughs when I cant find them. I laugh too, because in his mind -I like to assume he is playing a joke on me. I watch him draw lines, make squiggles and create master pieces. Something that just a few years ago -he wouldn’t do. Holding a pencil was enough to make him scream.
Eventually he falls asleep -and for a few minutes I sit. Watching his chest rise and fall. Finding the comfort in the even breaths he takes. Surrounded by chaos and confusion, the simple things -such as watching his chest rise and fall gives me comfort. I try not to think about the things in life that keep me up at night. The unfamiliar future. The uncertain condition of the future. The things I don’t know or understand. The innocence of children dying. The pain and sadness. Instead I watch his chest rise and fall, and take comfort in knowing that in this moment -this small window, this tiny fragment of life -I too, can breath easy.
Tomorrow isn’t certain. Life is unfamiliar. Stepping out and changing who I am is not easy. But I owe it to him. I owe it those who are no longer here. I owe it to those struggling and hurting.
I can’t promise him a smooth day, a better tomorrow or a bright future. But I can keep promising that as long as I am able -I will fight to give him the best that I can. Whatever that may look like. Even if the best is dancing carefully around the landmines in his life -trying to give him space, comfort and peace within these four walls so at night -he can flop on the bed, take a deep breath -and fall into a sleep with dreams that will one day, come true.