It’s Amazing

Jeff’s echolalia epitomizes all that’s right and true about COVID times, even with profound autism, in the beauty of the view beyond.

He said it, because I said it. “It’s amazing,” Jeff chanted, on the morning of the annual ISP meeting, as he ran through the living room in his PJs. A word snippet that he captured mid-air, as I grumbled about some inane event that blocked me from our goal. My words had snark. Frustration, born of history. Fear. – Yet Jeff made them song. Happy and free, his crystal-clear voice lilted, reshaping two simple words and giving them back to me, far better than I gave to him.

It really is amazing.

Here we sit, over 15 weeks since the men last boarded the morning bus for their day program. Since house arrest, and husbandly flu, and a new pandemic schedule, and house-ly, inwardly focus. Since churches closed, and New Hampshire said please don’t come and hike, and we bumbled into a new daily schedule focused on long walks and Zoom-ing ourselves into new connections.

We made it.

It’s amazing we didn’t lose Will as his own frustration with a shrunken life manifested in bolts at 2 am into the night If only his fervor for proficiency at the automatic garage door, and the pride in accomplishment at making Mommy lunatic-mad again, could have been applied to one of his ISP goals. That walking over 500 miles – 500 miles!! – since late March trimmed him, gave him a new something to love from a Dunkin destination – that epitomized COVID’s new paths, and surprising joys.

It’s amazing Jeff has borne through such change with an even keel, a smile, and a song every day. That our ridiculous imperative to always make sure Will is safe and within eyeshot when he’s awake didn’t take away Jeff’s sense of balance, or his smile. That he’s tolerated yet another meds trial and doesn’t hate me, as I watch him struggle and tell him I’m really trying to help him be his better self. That he sweetly sings and smiles when he paints, or climbs mountains.

It’s amazing I didn’t crash the car out of sleep deprivation, or my clients didn’t fire me for juggling too many balls as I squished 30 hours of work into 15 hours/week in between Zooms and staff availability.

It’s amazing we’re still married and I haven’t thrown a shoe through the damn TV usurped for manly content, while the honey-do chores like bathroom cleaning – there’s just no time!

It’s amazing our daughter blossomed into a lovely human, and actually enjoys hanging out with us in all our weirdness.

COVID-19 barely scratched us, compared to those ravaged by the disease, and the hundreds of thousands who have fallen. Blissfully sleeping in new big boy beds, I can kiss their foreheads, and tell them I love them in deeds purer than words.

Autism’s ugliest parts like self-injurious behavior didn’t arrive at our door, apart from Jeff’s slight rubbing his fingers when he has to wear gloves he doesn’t like at the food pantry. We weren’t forced into the unfairness of choosing to leave our kids in a group home where we were banned from visiting lest we infect them – or forced to take them home and manage them 7/24 with no help. We appear to be on track toward a more optimal day program, and despite my stunning inability to actually finish any one task while 50 undone ones surround me, I felt near-exhilaration at making time to sit here and let the words flow, not for hire.

It’s amazing that a pandemic could bring us closer to our real selves. As we reclaim our lost loves – hiking in New Hampshire for the first time last Sunday, on a trail we did in the crunch of February snows – I was amazed at all the things I didn’t see before. A rock stairway that shaped easier footing near the top. The view from Peak 2 (Belknap) back at Peak 1 (Gunstock), where Jeff and Paul and I looked back at where we’d been, as we headed up. Will’s tiny smile as I snapped a picture of him simply walking in the woods, a wordless “I like this.” The same smile when he stopped himself from bounding through the porch door and used the “I want swimming pool please.”

The dewy wonder of the view from my office today says it all, my new-old-reclaimed desk now facing a different direction, where the cardinal red of my neighbor’s mailbox shouts “I’m here! I’m beautiful!” next to the willowy green bush. So much is new, and fresh, and growing.