But yet to be right myrie wol I fonde.
Now wol I tellen of my [first and only] housbonde.
–Chaucer, The Wyf of Bath, with one little change
An aging woman, an aging marriage! Oh, to have the attitude of the Wyf, who is getting on in years but still will try to be merry. But I even hate the very words “husband” and “wife.” They are old-fashioned, in a dreary, uncharming way. They call to mind slogging away, work without pleasure, dull pasty-faced dumpy people with bent backs and kerchiefs on their heads. I’m also thinking of Woody Allen, in Annie Hall or Manhattan, who said that “love” was not an adequate word for how he felt, so he said, “I leurve you.” He had to make up his own word.
I need a better word for what Ned and I are to each other. We leurve each other. But that’s kind of an ugly word. This word has not been invented yet.
We have been through so much together. (Also, by the way, I don’t like the names “Ned” and “Sue;” to me, we are more like Nicholas and Alexandra, without all the Russian Czarist mishegos, I just like the grand names. Ned and Sue are kind of yellow and blue names. I think of us more as brilliant red or hot pink.)
All of this is because what I feel for Ned is young, beautiful, strong, fun, sexy, and alive. Not-husband. Antihusband. A guy commenting on Ned’s blog post about our DC trip mentioned to him that his “girlfriend looked elegant.” That’s me: Ned’s girlfriend.
I have loved other people, but nothing has ever come close to this. Ned and I grew up together, (pictured here at our Penn graduation, 1984) and we still are growing up together. This is not to say our relationship is perfect, nor is it not boring. I get bored a lot with him, especially when he doesn’t want to take vacations, go out to dinner, or comes home late and then flips open that *&$ laptop because it still isn’t done at work! But usually, I just have to give him the look and he closes it and comes to me. He makes me laugh at really inopportune moments and he puts up with so much of my sh**. He is the one who told me to become a writer, and then, a blogger. He held me through three childbirths, from conception to conclusion. And we went through the autism ringer together, and emerged with ourselves and our Natty intact. Not to mention Max and Ben. (Not to mention? I just did!)
I have Ned wrapped around my little finger, everyone thinks. But what they don’t know is that I am also completely wrapped around his.
The debate roars on about stem cell research, and also the causes of autism. But what I am interested in is stim research. I want to know how it makes Nat feel to open and close his hand and make sounds like, “Whooo,” and “Heem,” and every now and then, a “real” word (i.e., one that I understand, NT-centric that I am). Today he suddenly said,”No ants.” I looked at him and said, “No ants” in a room full of people talking, very quietly. He looked right at me and repeated it, then he grimaced. He shut his eyes tight and looked like he was in pain — because of me? Because of what I said? I agree, though. NO ANTS! Why can’t we share that? What’s so bad about my joining in?
I just want to connect with him. Why does it always have to be HIS way?
Just kidding. But really. At least he went in the ocean with me today, holding hands. And smiling his head off as the wave broke against his bony chest.
We were kind of bored today. We had made lots of plans, none of which came to fruition: day trip to Cape Cod; ferry to George’s Island; create lo-carb Marguerita; canoe on the Charles. In the end, I just ran (slow and excruciating) and gardened (dirty but satisfying and beautiful. Nat, ever spacey, helped me weed, and Ben helped, too, trying to earn money for a new Lego set. I even paid Ben $2 to play with my hair. Max is much better at it, but won’t do it anymore, sigh), Ned took a walk with Nat, we grilled burgers, and the puppies made a funny little movie (note how clean Ben’s floor is!):
Tomorrow we are leaving for a Cape day trip at 8 a.m., in the hope of getting a parking space at Nauset Light by 9:45! I have already made a barfy but huge lunch with nine drinks in it. Ned packed the beach things: swimsuits, wetsuit tops, juggling stuff, goggles, sunblock, hats, towels.
If you’re going, look for us. We always go to the left, of course.
This bit I wrote is in today’s Washington Post.
What’s Autism Got to Do With It?
Sunday, July 30, 2006; B08
How do we make sense of the murder of William Lash IV, an autistic 12-year-old from McLean, killed by his supposedly loving, well-respected father? After living with my son Nat’s severe autism for 16 years, I am no stranger to hardship and struggle.
The lowest point in my life was when Nat attacked me at the subway station. Though 11, he was almost as big as me, and I had my infant son in my arms, with the stroller hanging heavily from my wrist. None of my parent training would have prepared me for that moment of sweaty panic as I struggled to slip the stroller off my arm, hold on tightly to the baby, and fend off Nat’s clawing hands.
I remember the agonizing thoughts running through my brain. This was the most severe of many such episodes in the preceding few months. I felt myself going to a dark place in my mind, down that “what if . . . ?” path. Life would be so much easier had he not been born or if he were. . . .
That evening, I cried as we began to make arrangements to put Nat in a residential placement. My sadness collided with my guilty relief, as I dared, at last, to imagine our life without Nat: travel, going to parties easily, visiting other families.
In the end, I just couldn’t send him away. As hard as things were, it just did not feel right. And so we hung on; we got through it, with calls to supportive family, new medications and the healing passage of time.
The thing I know now, that I did not know then, is that many parents with or without disabled children have similar devastating moments, filled with terrible wishes. Autism does not make my family unique or its circumstances more tragic than those of any other family. That is what makes the stories about William Lash, and Christopher DeGroot and Katie McCarron, all the more horrifying. These children were killed by their parents, and the way the stories read, presumably because of their autism.
Like those parents, I have seen some pretty dark days because of autism. But I have also known some of my brightest moments because of my autistic son. Understanding Nat and autism have certainly been difficult, excruciating at times, but by now, so have certain other challenges life has thrown my way.
No question, dealing with autism without understanding it is difficult. But murdering because of it? Unfathomable and inexcusable. We all have our own sack of troubles, as my great grandmother, a pogrom survivor, used to say. And to paraphrase another survivor, Tina Turner: What’s autism got to do with it?
– Susan Senator
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
Blogs are a strange and wonderful thing. We all like to beat up on them, calling them tools of self-absorbed folk, and outlets for others who have nothing better to do than read other people’s business. But I don’t think that. I think blogs are a brilliant new phenomenon, and only years from now will we start to know what are the effects of creating public diaries that are eternally accessible to others. In the past, people wrote diaries for themselves and intended for the most part to keep them private. Now we have the weblog, which is one’s private thoughts but which is obviously public. Why do we do this?
I find that blogging satisfies a need I must have had for a long time, that went otherwise unmet. I am forced to organize my thoughts, knowing that people are going to be reading them, and also to think about what I say and don’t say, because it is, as I said, public and forever (even when you remove the damned thing). I get the joy of seeing my work “published,” in the sense that it is in a format that the public can get to. I also hear from others, in a controlled manner, not face-to-face, which can be all kinds of things.
A lot of people have told me that they both love reading this blog and that they feel a little like they are getting illicit snippets of a friend’s life, which makes them feel like it’s kind of a guilty pleasure. But read it they do.
To them I say: pleasure is good; guilt, not so much! I am honored and puzzled by the fact that so many people find my self-absorbed soul-searching and worries interesting. Please know that I write this blog because it gives me an easy way to express myself, without paying a shrink or boring my husband and friends too much. It allows me to further raise consciousness about autism as a part of life, and also, to make people aware that just because one is a middle-aged wife and mother of a disabled child and two others, doesn’t mean she is some kind of lifeless martyr-drudge.
I usually do not put in more than I am comfortable with, knowing as I do that on the Internet, you live forever! And believe me, there is still a whole lot that I leave out, and even keep to myself. I learn from the responses I get, or don’t get, where I have struck a nerve, who agrees with me, etc. That is a gift. I love that. It makes me feel less alone in this noisy, disturbing world of ours. Blogging — and getting your responses — makes me feel less vulnerable, more connected to others.
So if you keep reading, thinking, and commenting, I’ll keep spewing, venting, fantasizing, and writing.
Nat is in a phase where he is very quiet and seems to loathe talking more than ever. He has never been moved by communication books, because for him, the issue is not about an inability to speak or communicate; it is about not wanting to. So I do not use communication devices with him, or visuals, they only seem to make him withdraw more.
I catch him staring at me, and when I look at him, he looks away, almost like a boy looking away from someone he has a crush on. I smile at him, but then I always wonder, what does the smile mean to him? Does he get it, or does it go over his head. If he gets it, does it move him?
This seems to be a period of declining ability, which saddens me. I am at a loss as to how to stimulate his interest in something, other than the usual insisting that he try it for a certain number of minutes, and then he gets some sort of reward of his choice, even if it’s just a cessation of the activity.
This inertia is similar to what I find with Max, however, which makes me wonder, to what degree is it based on something related to autism, and to what degree is it about being a teenage boy, or even being a member of our quirky family? None of the males in the family is particularly communicative or expressive, unless it is about his particular (often odd) area of interest: for Max, he will talk at length about cartooning or the game Uru Obsession or Myst, or about his computer. Ben will talk about his cartoon characters, the story he is working on, but try to ask him about his day and he clams up, or gets mad. Ned will give me brief snippets about the goings-on at work, but nothing very deep that I can connect to. And just forget talking about anything technical he is working on. I just don’t get it.
So I know that Nat’s silence is complicated, but it worries me, because I fear regression, and the loss of skills. Nat needs to be able to initiate, just like Ben needs to be able to answer uninteresting questions without getting mad. And Max needs to branch out. I guess. Or they will just have fewer friends, and maybe that’s okay (?) But in Nat’s case, my biggest fear is how this will have an impact on his ability to live independently, still a dream of mine, but ever more distant.
One of my friends keeps bugging me to really write about the whole White House thing. He says I never really did it justice. I asked him today if he thought it was totally stale by now, nothing new. He said, “Nothing on your blog is really ever new.” Kindness is not one of his strong points, but I do like his honesty.
Ned thinks I should make it into an article. I don’t know, maybe they’re right. I decided to get them off my back by getting this off my chest. Here, then, is my personal tale of going to DC, what was really going on in my head, Susan style.
The call came while I was on vacation, staying at my parents’ Cape Cod house. We had just come back from the beach, and I was checking voice mail. The message was from Carolyn Something, and it sounded like she said from the White House. I listened with half an ear, my attention suddenly called into sharp focus by the name, “Eunice Shriver,” and the words “black-tie dinner.” I listened again, and when it got to that part, I wordlessly handed the phone to my husband Ned, my wide eyes telling him that he had to listen to this. As he listened, he gave me the thumbs-up sign, and then hung up. We just tried to absorb it all.
“Is it for real?” he asked.
“I think so,” I said.
“So we’re going to meet Bush?”
“Yeah.” I never got too bent out of shape over the implications for my political integrity but I knew that others in my circle would. I whipped off the obligatory heads-up to them and then resumed my fantasizing about what the evening would be like.
This was how the whole night in DC began. With trembling hands, I started trolling the Internet for flight and hotel information, while also calling various friends and family to tell them the wild news: that I was being invited to a black-tie dinner at the White House, where the President and Mrs. Bush were honoring Eunice Kennedy Shriver for her birthday, and Special Olympics, which she had founded in 1963. One friend never called me back or said anything; the others were thrilled and offered their own advice or asked questions, mostly centered around what to wear, and how to use the opportunity to spread various political agendas near and dear to us. I also wondered, naturally, about the flirtation potential.
“Do you think it was Tim Shriver who got you invited?” Ned asked me.
“Who knows?” I replied. “I guess so.” Tim, who is the Chairman of Special Olympics, had called me after I had written about Nat, Rosemary Kennedy, and Special Olympics. He had said that mine was the only good coverage of his Aunt Rosemary, who had just died. Tim felt that I had really “gotten it right,” about her, in that she had been an inspiration to his mother, Eunice, and also the way I did not judge the Kennedys for the debilitating results of the treatments Rosemary had endured. My feeling is that families make the best decisions they can given the information at the time; we all go with our guts, in the end, and hope for the best. I have been there many times, myself, with my children.
My children! I had to get my parents to agree to leave their vacation and come to my house to stay with the boys so that Ned could come with me. I was allowed one “guest,” and of course it would be Ned, and I had to give the White House a lot of information about us for security purposes: dates of birth, legal names (Edward, rather than Ned) social security, how we planned to arrive at the White House. My parents, bless their hearts, agreed right away, then they started making bragging calls to all of their friends.
Ned would need a tux and I needed a dress. I had asked the friendly White House social events person what did most of the women wear; she told me, “Oh, Mrs. Bush will most certainly wear a long, elegant gown, as will most women. A few will wear shorter, elegant dresses.” Elegant. Well, I could do pretty, sexy, cute, ugly, and sometimes even gauche, but elegant would be difficult for me. I figured that my mother, even though she is pretty earthy herself, would know what to do. We went shopping at the Hyannis Mall. Ned started making calls to Mr. Tux, grumbling the whole time about having to wear one, including those dopey black patent leather shoes and sheer black socks.
I must have tried on around 30 dresses that day, from the horribly tacky to the magnificent, finding many that were close, or that could almost close, until finally, Mom suggested Filene’s Basement. I rolled my eyes. Mom with her bargain shopping! So not me. Still, after only five minutes looking, there it was: a sugar pink satin strapless column dress, in my size, a Shelli Segal, one of the best brands Bloomie’s carries. Tried it on, and it was perfection. But it needed spaghetti straps.
Total agreement among the dressing room women, too – always a good sign. Mom was so excited, she bought it for me. Then, onto Marshalls for some $13 strappy pink high heel sandals. Totally psyched about my low budget outfit.
We left our vacation a few days early to be sure we were ready for this. Ned was surprisingly nervous; he is usually the calm one, but this time, I was. “Why aren’t you nervous,” he asked me.
“Not yet,” I said. “But I will be.” Especially when I realized I only had a few hours to find a seamstress who could attach just the right kind of straps. If I couldn’t, I’d spend the entire night yanking up the bodice of my dress; not quite the elegant image of a White House guest. I had the idea of cutting off the straps from an old pink ballgown that was now too big on me, that I’d worn when I was a bit heftier, to a Christmas bash at Ned’s old job, back in the day when he worked for IBM and there were big bucks to throw around.
The straps were a perfect match. I rushed over to Bonnie’s in Brookline Village and begged her to sew them on: they were going to close in an hour. She said yes. I drove around Brookline for an hour, went to TJ Maxx to buy a handbag, nothing, then back to collect the dress. Tried it on: perfect. Bonnie was delighted with the solution and her happy customer.
We flew to DC, which was fun because we were on the plane together sans enfants, and it was very relaxing, even the part in the airport where you have to take off your shoes, etc. We took a long cab ride into the city and checked in, and I noticed that my dress was wrinkled. I tried to steam out the creases, but then I saw what looked like water marks and almost fainted, except I don’t faint. Ned said, just like a man: “No one will notice.” What could I do, try to find another dress in a couple of hours? Yes, but I didn’t feel like pushing Ned this way. We left the room and instead went to visit our college friend Ray down in Georgetown.
At 5:30, as we hurried to sweatily dress, I felt the first pangs; I wanted to throw up. I didn’t; I just fixated, instead, on the wrinkles in my gown from the flight. Ned assured me I looked fantastic; I told him the same. I hadn’t seen him in a tux since our wedding day, twenty-two years ago!
The cab dropped us at 15th and Alexander Hamilton Street, where we were to go in by the old Treasury Building. All I saw were gaping tourists, who must have thought I was somebody, gliding in my finery up to the gate with the Secret Service guys, duly equipped with earpieces and sunglasses. They stopped us and checked our I.D.s against a list. They did not have Ned down, because it turns out they had him as “Ned Senator,” (his last name is Batchelder). While they checked on Ned, black limo after black limo passed through the gate.
We stumbled through a few minutes later and we saw Tim Shriver. I thought that was a good sign. We greeted each other and I met his wife Linda, who told me that my article was taped up on the wall of their dining room. While I was talking nervously to her, I was glancing around me, trying to absorb where I was. The long windows to
my left looked out on a gorgeous perennial garden, with stands of pink, Suess-like cleome and friendly yellow coreopsis, and topiary hedges of boxwood or yew.
We passed a pair of women in military dress playing a huge golden harp and a flute, then filed into a lovely room three times the size of my living room, with large oil portraits of important people I didn’t know, a baby grand piano, and more long windows. Hors d’oeuvres every few minutes: caviar (the good kind) on endive, and potato-y thingies, all good. I saw Barbara Walters, Tim Russert, Peter Lynch, Ted Kennedy, as well as others who looked vaguely familiar or Kennedy-esque. No other women were wearing pink; most were in black. Ah, elegant = black. But I felt like I had done well, in maybe a Jackie O retro kind of way, considering how out of my league I felt. My nervousness subsided and I started to enjoy myself, looking around for whom I might try to meet. I made it into kind of a game, where I would try to meet as many interesting-looking people as I could. What was to be afraid of? I tried Barbara Walters, who was pretty wooden. She reminded me a lot of my Aunt Rhoda, even the way she held herself. I made Tim Russert pose for a pic with me because Mom loves him as an interviewer because he “follows up.”
There were twelve “Global Messengers,” representatives of Special Olympics worldwide. These were actual athletes who had competed in the World Games. Some had Down Syndrome; others’ disabilities were less apparent. These athletes were the easiest people to talk to: so friendly and open about their experiences, and so eager to help me get Nat into the World Games. We are quite a long way from that, but who knows? If I get it into my head that Nat should do it, and if Ned has the energy to support my impulse — well, you read the book.
Then we started lining up for our photos with the President, the First Lady, and Eunice Shriver. I got nervous, and did not listen to the instructions of where to stand, whose hand to shake, etc. When I got in there, I looked at the President, taller than I had realized, and nearly swooned, although I don’t swoon. Instead, I fixated on the curtains, which had some threadbare parts. Why in the world would the silk hangings be threadbare, I wondered, staring at the famous people out of the corner of my eyes. More to the point: What the heck was I doing there? How had this happened? Unreal. But, like being on the Today Show, here it was, and I was going in full throttle, head held high, as dazzling as I could be. No regrets.
Also, I couldn’t help but wonder, how did they all feel, always being treated like stars?
Ned and I kind of ambled over to the President and suddenly Mr. Bush was gently telling me where to stand. “Oh, sorry, I forgot,” I mumbled. Why don’t I ever listen to directions? But then the President said softly, “Oh, I know, it’s hard to remember this stuff.” For that split second, I was in love.
But then, it was over and we were ushered out into another overly decorated silk-hung room, into the dining area. My seat was at Table 6; Ned’s was at 1. Oh no, another mistake! Shows you what I know. No spouses were together. A quick glance at the names at my table: Maria Shriver! Senator Chris Dodd! Okay, not bad. And two tables away: the First Lady. One table beyond that: the Prez and Mrs. Shriver! Calm down, I told myself. Elegant, elegant…
Then Arnold came in, with that unmistakable hard, jutting jaw. He was shorter than I had realized. How to meet him? I had to, for the story if for nothing else. I noticed a woman corralling him into taking a picture with her. So then I went up to him and asked, “Do you take pictures with anyone?”
He answered, sounding just like The Governator, “Not anyone, but I will with you.”
For the second time that night, I was in love.
I never did get that picture, because Arnold had to get back to California to govern, or something. But I got my story.
Dinner was like a fancy wedding in a bordello. Gold rimmed plates, red silk tablecloths, fat dahlias in silver vases, gold flatware. I loved the soup, which was chilled avocado concoction with spicy corn thrown in. There was no bread, however, and I had been prepared to toss Atkins for the night. Oh well.
As for my illustrious table: Maria did not speak to me, nor did Chris Dodd, until I forced the matter on them by introducing myself, leaning across the table desperately, and telling them about my writings, even slapping down a promotional card for my book. Yikes! The other people at the table were okay, a bit quiet for my tastes. I began to realize that most of the people there that night were either Special Olympics Board Members, athletes, politicians, Shrivers/Kennedys, members of the band (Rascal Flatts), or — me.
I enjoyed talking to the man on my left, however, Leonard Flowers, who had had a pretty big role in the movie The Ringer, which is a Farrelly Brothers film about a guy who rigs the Special Olympics. Leonard was sweet and charming. He would not try his soup and I almost offered to eat his, but I figured that was bad manners (See? Elegant).
The food was strange and not enough of it, either: four little bits of lamb as an entrée, a weird salad of grapefruit and artichoke, that kind of thing. Four different wines, including a champagne. Dessert was Mrs. Kennedy’s birthday cake and chocolate Special Olympics medals, which I gobbled up!
As we filed out for the entertainment, photographers snapped away, and so Ned got out his camera. Luckily this happened just as the President and Ted Kennedy were walking by, so I sidled up to them, grinning my face off, and Ned took our picture!
Around this time, a devilish older gentleman (my favorite kind), started flirting with me. He asked me, “Who do you belong to?” And I told him, “Ted Kennedy.” He looked startled, then laughed, and was my pal for the rest of the night, which continued on at the St. Regis Hotel bar, where the Shrivers were having an after-party party. There we sat with the voluptuous Vanessa Williams, Olympic skater Scott Hamilton and his wife Tracy, Maria Shriver, my gentleman friend, Ned, of course, and Tim at the other end of the table. My feet were bloody stumps from the walk over from the White House, but never mind! It was boiling hot, too, but never mind! A party with the Shrivers!
Maria got a little raucous, which was fun. We all did. Tim made a nice speech, as did one of the Global Messengers, whom I adored and decided she ought to write a book. Or — maybe I should, about all of them…
Another guy in the corner of the room kept saying I looked like Sarah Jessica Parker. He came over and kissed my hand and told me how he loved my work in Sex and the City. I thanked him. He also told Ned that if he were ever tired of me… Luckily Ned doesn’t mind that kind of thing; it just makes him feel kind of proud. Ned understands me better than anyone I have ever known; remember, we were friends first, for a year, way back in 1981 before we got all hot for each other. Or should I say, before he finally got all hot for me, because I was so there, within a month of knowing him — but he was not. Ned was the longest flirtation campaign I have ever waged!
After a while, I was too tired to enjoy any more. My mind was full. I had to get home and debrief, in both senses of the word: to recount the evening and because my clothes were squeezing me.
Back at our hotel, Ned said, uncharacteristically sentimental, “I don’t want to take the tux off, because that will mean it’s over.”
I am sad to say, it is over. But I hope to be back one day. And next time, forget Elegant!
Hot, steamy July day with murky blue sky
Finishing a delicious book
Cold, creamy iced coffee
Freshly washed, soft white towels
Anticipating seeing a friend
Max pettily demanding that Nat mow his share of the lawn
The innocent little back of Benji’s head
Trashy or sexy music on my iPod
Second round of roses
Ned without his glasses
Paddle turns in my pink hip scarf
Ned calling me “Cover girl,” this morning
Benji’s new nickname: Spanky
Tan belly, like caramel
Nat’s and Max’s tiny blond peachfuzz beards
I noticed that there is yet another movie about ants: the Ant Bully. That makes three: Antz, Bugs Life, and now this. What is with moviemakers, to think there is so much interest in ants? This, from someone who never had an ant farm and in fact, has always been grossed out by ants. They are not up there with spiders, for which I even have my own measuring system of scariness. Ned will say, “How big?” And I will give him the body-to-leg comparison. If the body is fat and bigger than a pinky tip, then it doesn’t matter how big or small the legs are: a fat-bodied spider wins on Susan’s Scary Scale. Ned will also ask, “Hair?” And I will shake my head, or better yet, nod, with chilling satisfaction. (As a girl, I had memorized the page in the S Encyclopedia where a full-color photo of a tarantula spread out over two pages in Playboy centerfold glory.)
I must digress a little and talk about our first apartment, 508 South 41st in West Philadelphia, which we call “The Roach Motel.” So many German cockroaches (I’m not being racist, that is what they are called, and they are extremely quick and hard to get rid of), and I, an otherwise happy newlywed, was miserable. We even changed the room we slept in because we saw bugs in our bedroom! All of my wedding gifts, full of roaches. Spaghetti box, infested. On my plane trip back from my honeymoon in Italy, I was thinking one thing (no, not that, you filthy minds): what about those bugs?
We ended up fleeing (like roaches when the light goes on) only days later to a blissfully clean, beautiful apartment on 44th and Pine. It had a little stained glass window and a tiny kitchen, sans insects. And that landlord from the Roach Motel took us to small claims court for breaking our lease! We won, however. Ha, ha! He even had a lawyer! Total loser.
Ants are not screamingly-gross-can’t-even-kill-it-call-Dad/Ned, but I admit to a horror/fascination with ants when they are doing a food pile-on and it looks like an undulating brown rug until you look closer and realize: it’s tons of bugs on a cracker crumb! Then I just want to stomp, stomp, stomp. (Or how about those dusty beige mounds that burst from your lawn, like a Liliputian mini golf course? I love messing them up with my feet. I imagine the little buggers saying, “What the F***?” in their antennae language, bleeps and buzzes or something, and then they have to go and spend another lifetime digging a new back door in my crappy lawn.) But I don’t, because of Max. He actually gets a little sad when I kill a bug. What a darling. He doesn’t say anything, he just gets this little sad expression on his face while Ben howls with satisfaction: “Did you get it?” For some reason, I have no problem smacking bees, even sometimes with my bare hands. I do not fear stings; I’ve had them before and believe me, my sister’s or Nat’s pinches were worse. But harmless things like ants or spiders — well, I don’t or can’t kill them under Max’s scrutiny.
It’s funny to me to think that I actually got rid of “sugar ants” (makes them sound so benign, doesn’t it, sweetening them like that?) just by washing the table every time after Benji ate there. Nat is a messy eater, too, but the ants were not on his part of the table; just Benji’s. Tiny little black ones, but they still bothered him. It reminded me of when I was little and I was pouring out the Apple Jacks, and a little dead ant fell out into my bowl. I was so sickened I couldn’t eat Apple Jacks for like a year. Laura and I called out together, “Ma! There’s ants in the cereal!” To which she undoubtedly replied, “Oh, sh**!” Mom HATED bugs in the cabinet; but who doesn’t. Yet, somehow, Mom’s hatred of them bordered on religious fundamentalism. (Dad would then pretend to scoop up a bug and eat it.) Ned tells me that once, he and his mom were baking and out of the egg beater popped a roach, which then plummeted to its lumpy death right into the batter. And my friend John tells me that his mom once made biscuits with ant-infested Bisquik, not realizing the added protein in the mix. [My friend John just wrote to tell me the following: "No, it was my grandmother who made the chicken and
dumplings with the ants in the Bisquik, and my mother
who wanted us to pretend they weren't there!"]
[And Ned wanted me to add that it was meringue, not batter, and that they did not eat it!]
It really bugs me, having to live side-by-side with insects.
Physical therapy is a weird experience. Some guy hooks up your aching joint or muscle to some electrical stimuli for a few minutes. Then, he rubs same parts down with an ultrasound tool smeared with ultrasound goo (the last time I did that I saw baby Benji in my belly, but this was obviously a different body part). Then, you get the massage of your dreams, but only on one little part of you. Then, he contorts you in ways that you didn’t think possible, wedging his body against you so that you stay in that position long enough to feel like a circus freak.
Why does it work? I’ve only gone twice and I feel so much less pain! I have been maintaining the same level of activity, too. I cannot believe how much better I feel.
But it is all very awkward. For one thing, I always feel like I wear the wrong thing, but what would the right thing be? I wear nice shorts and my espadrilles, because I never wear sneakers if I can help it — only for exercise. One therapist asked if I wanted to change into some gym shorts they had. But why would I? He would still have to stick his hand up my shorts to get to the hip. Why oh why did it have to be the hip? A foot would have been less embarrassing, but I suppose I’d have to consider foot odor in that case. So he tucks a sheet around me, as if that makes a difference, all the while chatting so that neither of us has to think about all the different parts on display. I feel I have to make sure my legs are really smooth, too. I’m sure it doesn’t matter, but I just could not relax if I knew I had cactus legs.
I also wonder about the etiquette while lying there. It is not like a spa massage, where it is totally about you, and you can drift off to dreamland or read Vogue or whatever you want. Here, it’s like I’m supposed to talk with him. I’m definitely not supposed to moan with pleasure, but that thigh massage is pretty intense! I don’t really mind talking with him, but it’s not relaxing to me to do so. I brought my book today, and I did not get a chance to read much.
Next week I go to the other guy, because mine’s on vacation. So, new awkwardness just when I was beginning to get the hang of this guy.
I also wonder if they change the pillow cases on the pillows that they slip between your legs and under your head…
Weird, icky stuff but it certainly works.
Well, so far, not going anywhere. I can’t even run around the reservoir, let alone run away from Boston! My *%$ knee was on fire. Tomorrow, physical therapy with a very nice young man in a location I can walk to (ironic, no?). Took a long bike ride instead, actually downshifting a few times! Ick. My bike fought back because it was not sure who it was riding it; I never go below the hardest gears! So the chain came off the derailleur a few times; I had to ride with black fingers and remember not to wipe the sweat off my face!
I made Benji clean up all of his Legos — actually, Ned and I made this happen, together. A little threatening, a little coaxing, a little bribery. So much dust on Ben’s floor when we were done, but it looks like a real room now! Ned bought all these bins with drawers from Staples. Mind numbing task but worth it. I took Ben to IParty for a bald wig when we were done; he wanted this because he is making a (violent) movie with a friend and I guess he needs to be hairless. He was a bit disappointed with the quality of the wig; it was basically a thin, flesh-colored bathing cap, and much too big for his little head. I stuffed all my hair into it to make him laugh and he didn’t and now I smell like a balloon.
Somehow I was energetic enough to make a really good dinner: gazpacho! Ben made a joke of it: What’s gooey, spicey, and ruins dinner? Answer: gazpacho! Well, Ned and I liked it. And it wasn’t gooey, by the way. I haven’t had that in years. It used to be our favorite newlywed dinner, gazpacho and cornbread. So Nat made the cornbread and I also fried up some chorizo and cheese. MMMMMMMMM but it was too good so I wanted even more. We went to Coldstone Creamery and had ice cream. Holy crow, that was good!
Here, also, as a non sequitur, is something Ben and Max did together: silliputtimation. I love my puppies!!!!!
Another non-sequitur: my fabulous husband made it so that I get positive reinforcement for not checking email: everytime I shut down mail, two kisses appear at the top of my screen. When I check mail, it drops down to one in lower case. He believes — and I agree — that I would be a happier person if I were less plugged into this thing.
Feeling so restless. I have not felt this way in a long time. I am reading a book, Sweet Ruin by Cathi Hanauer, very good, very me. The main character describes a subway ride in New York, something I haven’t done in a few years:
It cheered me no end, all these different faces and bodies, all the thoughts and lives. I spotted a seat and lurched over, squishing between a plump woman in a red sari and a skinny old — man? woman? — holding bags of leafy vegetables. The train screeched forward, and I smelled bodies, sweat and perfume and hot dogs, saw ads for milk and vodka, a plea not to give to panhandlers, a number to call if you’ve been sexually abused. …The subway, with its blunt, no-bullshit beauty and ugliness. There was nothing like it in the suburbs. Absolutely nothing.
I want that!!! To be able to write like that and to be able to experience that. My mind starting racing forward, thinking, how can I get that, or some of that? In the fall I’ll be traveling to conferences again, which is exhilarating but not exactly what I’m talking about. I’m thinking more permanent. How I loved DC, from the hot, hot weather to the political electricity in the air. Maybe if I lived there I could work for the Special Olympics, or the Washington Post. I’ve certainly gotten nowhere with the Boston Globe.
But then, there’s the question of where would Ned work, where would Nat go to school? What if the school system is not as good? Would I be ruining his life? But what if it were better? The New Yorker actually wrote about one autism family’s experience with Montgomery County Schools, which were also in a lawsuit with a different SPED family, that went all the way to the Supreme Court. But I have a friend in Fairfax; maybe it’s better there?
Would Max and Ben hate me for making them move?
Or what about my lifelong fantasy, of living and working in New York? I’ve never done that. Is that never to be? Is that over? Is there no way I can accomplish that? How would I even begin figuring out where Nat could go to school in NYC (Manhattan or Brooklyn)? Where would Ned work?
There’s always Philly, where we went to school and fell in love. I have friends there, it’s affordable, and a city I love. But, again, where would Ned work that would be interesting to him? Where would I work? The Philly Inquirer? Not so much. Maybe Penn? The Writer’s House?
How do people decide to leave a part of the country? By the way, I’m only talking about leaving one part of the Northeast for another. I doubt I could live in the south, as beautiful as it is, or the vast midwest. Or California, God bless it. I’m still totally a Northeaster, just maybe not so much Boston anymore. We are so wedded to Boston, but sometimes, I want a divorce.
Ned told me about this website, The Shape of A Mother. Amazing! This is because we are often discussing our bodies and joking about them, and what time and use have done to them. Most of us probably have an ambivalent attitude towards our bods, kind of love/hate. I think that’s where I am, anyway. I think that being able to work out like I did at age fifteen has affected my outlook positively, however. While most women seem to hate their stretch marks, and take the fashion magazine view of them, as a thing to hide, I kind of like the way they shimmer in certain lights. I now see them as stripes I have earned, from carrying my boys for 40 weeks. You look at the Shape of A Mother website and you see that so many of us hate our bodies. It is horrifying that this is so. Why are we so self-conscious? Why does everyone scrutinize and judge everyone, particularly women?
The other day while walking on the beach, in my bikini, my father said to me, “Don’t you hate seeing those fat women, or even not so fat women, in bikinis?”
I thought, “Oh my God, he is giving me a message!” I took a deep breath and recovered quickly; it did not matter if my father thought I was fat and shouldn’t be in a bikini. I did not agree with him, even if that were what he was trying to say. My therapist would be proud, and I said, honestly, “No! I love seeing women in bikinis! I think it’s great if a woman feels like showing off her skin. I always feel happier in a bikini. I don’t know why; maybe because Ned likes it so much.” He must have loved that!
But it’s true, and not only with women. I love looking at everyone on the beach: old, young, dark, light, fat, thin. The endless stream of epidermis is fascinating to me.
I also love the new trend of pregnant women wearing bikinis and tight clothing and showing off their huge bellies. Why the hell not? Your body is your body; it is you. You’d better start loving it because it’s the only one you’ve got!
Mother of boys. It conjures up all sorts of images, mostly ones that make you go, “Ahh, how beautiful.” Strength. Sweet mischief. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie.
What really comes with this territory? (As you read this, dip a finger in red wine for each item)
The Ten Plagues of Raising Boys
Piles of stuff.
Built things that multiply.
Oversized black tee shirts.
Too much hair.
Horrible toilet issues.
Ugly cartoons on TV.
And that’s just me!
Ha ha. I’m laughing through my dust-coated tears.
No, really, how do I get some control over my house? There are piles and piles of Ben’s pads, Ben’s Lego creations, Max’s sculptures, Max’s schoolwork, Max’s books, Ned’s music, Nat’s books, Nat’s discarded clothes, Ned’s half-started projects, Ben’s lemonade stands-turned-spaceships…
Where does the girl get to be? My little windowseat? My 1930′s art nouveau dresser, festooned with earrings, bangles, lace, discarded bras, silver mirrors, perfume bottles? My pretty cheval glass, decorated with necklaces and pink belly dancewear? Is that all I get, in this huge messy house? Everything else is male-volent.
At least my kitchen is clean — sort of.
Twenty-eight years ago I was fifteen, and traveling through Israel for the summer. My sister and I were spending six weeks there with 60 other teenagers, as part of NFTY, National Federation of Temple Youth. On this trip to Israel, we visited Jerusalem three times, because the Bible says that all Jews should see Jerusalem three times in their life. We climbed Massada, (lower picture) using the crooked trail, of course, (we were told that no self-respecting Jew would take the Roman ramp, which the Romans built to kill the Jews who lived up there). We watched the sun rise there. Later that day we swam in a waterfall, called Ein Gedi; it is in the Bible, Song of Songs: “My beloved is unto me as a cluster of henna in the vineyards of Ein Gedi.” Good stuff.
We worked on a Kibbutz for two weeks, picking pears and shoveling cotton. And we drove through the Sinai desert and slept right on the sand. Back then, the Sinai was part of Israel, not Egypt, as was Eilat, a beautiful resort on the Red Sea, where we snorkeled. We went to all the borders: Syria, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon. We ate with Bedouin nomads: freshly made pita bread and really sweet tea from a leather container. We visited Yad V’Shem, (other picture) the memorial to the six million and sixty teenagers became speechless for a little while.
I also fell in love in Israel, with a twenty-year-old Canadian named Gabriel, who was living on the Kibbutz K’Far HaHoresh. He taught me how to drive a tractor, among other things. I acquired the nickname “Magnet” from the other kids in my group because of all of my interactions with guys there! I am still in touch with Gabi, who loves kite surfing and has a beautiful daughter, around the same age as Max.
My diary from this date describes a little of Israeli culture:
We’re rolling again, and headed back to Akko (Acre) to see the famous prison, which radical Jews blew up.
It was a very scary place, especially since it is now an insane asylum. We saw a couple of inmates. We saw the gallows, and the prisons. It was very eerie and depressing place, with walls that could have been ten feet thick.
We had lunch and then dropped half our group at Kibbutz Yfat, while we went to K’Far HaHoresh.
Our kibbutz is nice and the rooms are okay, kind of antsy, but I’ll live. We’re rooming with Elise and Stephanie again. Laura and I are taking the late shift for pear-picking — from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Shit! The worst hours! I’m very apprehensive about this.
I thought about Israel today because she is still a fantastic country in my book: strong and proud. She is beleagured on all sides, and judged harshly by the entire world, a world that forgets the 1930′s and 1940′s. Even after breaking off chunks of herself for peace, her neighbors are not satisfied. Not until she is dead and gone.
I fear polarizing you, dear readers, but I love Israel passionately and am so angry at the way the whole world turns its back on her. A couple of questions for the U.N. and perhaps the Boston Globe: what does every other country in this world do when they are attacked? What did we do after Pearl Harbor and 9/11? Where did refugee Jews go when they were fleeing the death camps of Europe, before FDR saw fit to open the doors of America? Before there was an Israel? ‘Nuff said.
(Sung to the tune of “Hips Don’t Lie,” by Shakira)
Never knew my knee could make me feel so ill
It makes a woman want to take Advil
I want my Mama
Should rest in mi casa
Oh body when you act like this
You make this woman go mad
I’m in — midlife crisis
I better — go ice this
And start reading the signs of my body
Oh I’m in pain tonight
My hip’s not spry
And my knuckles are turning white
But if I go
Will it still hurt me like so?
Not a girl,
But I really got my body moving
Now it’s driving me crazy
Didn’t have the slightest idea
Until I started belly dancing
And when I woke up from the dance floor
Nobody could ignore the way I’ve been kvetching
And all this pain’s so unexpected — the way it keeps on throbbing
Yet I just keep on shaking it.
Never knew a workout could be so much fun
Unless you count my Cape Cod run
No way I’m stoppin’
Motrin I’m poppin’
Makes me feel better than shoppin’
You know I ran today
It hurt so much that I couldn’t finish, no way
I’ll still go
Baby I’m an Exercise Fanatico
Now you got to go to
Sitting in the dark theatre
The Pirates on the screen
Boys right and left and behind me
Kiera Knightly falsely venting spleen
I waited for Johnny Depp to thrill me
Or for Orlando to make my lust bloom
But all that happened was a huge calamari
And pirates dropping from the boom
A strange black wench with inky teeth
Spoke gibberish in a swamp
I hoped against hope old Jack would have her
And treat us all to a lusty romp
But she only gave him a sandy bottle
And told him something about a heart
Before I knew it they were sailing full throttle
Fighting Orkish guys who were half men, half carp
When finally Kiera made out with Johnny
I can’t say I was happy with this
Because by then I was so confused and sleepy
And two of my boys needed to take a piss
We don’t even know if the Cracken is dead
Nor do we know for sure if Cap’n Jack made it
We don’t even know why the thing’s called a “Cracken”
But I do know I don’t really give a ****
Two thumbs up — Robert Iger’s ass
My parents are very funny people. Sometimes they mean to be, especially Dad. Most of the time, though, they are just funny being themselves. Often, as in Mom’s case, they don’t even know why I’m laughing. Over the years I have made a practice of Parentology, which is the study of one’s parents, so as to better understand oneself. In order to convey to you, my readers, as close a facsimile as possible, you have to hear them in your head the way I do. Dad offers a kind of running commentary on what’s going on around him. If you listen carefully, you will hear all kinds of dead-on observations and silly jokes, puns, all uncensored stream-of-consciousness comments. Dad’s voice is soft and mellow, kind of a Gene Kelly timbre, with a Brooklyn accent. He looks a bit like Gene Kelly meets Woody Allen. Mom is kind of an innocent, though extremely bright. Everyone loves her; she’s very dear and forgiving. Her voice is the tiniest bit salty, not quite as low as Lauren Bacall, not as much Brooklynese as Dad. She has a kind of way of looking at you with her almond shaped catlike eyes, as if she is trying to get what you’re all about. Or maybe that’s just me.
We have a lot of Senator family lore that I think I’m going to write about for real one day, but for now, I’m going to record for your pleasure and contemplation, the Senator Momilies and Daddages, in no particular order of importance:
I Can’t Give You Pennies Every Day (No Spoiling Allowed)
Never Go In Empty Handed (Be Economical With Your Actions)
Do Your Chores (Dad Made Us Do A Lot of Chores, Like Gardening, Which I Now Love)
Is This Okay? (Meaning, If I Feed it to You, Is There The Slightest Chance You Will Die?)
Control Your Voice (SUSAN is too loud again)
Do You Like it? (Meaning, If You Like it, It’s Fattening)
The World Doesn’t Owe You A Living (Stop Sulking)
Where Was I Going? (Mom in Her Car, and Now Me in My Car)
Activities of Daily Living Don’t Count as Exercise (Dad is a Very Macho Exerciser)
Know Your Car (Dad is a Car Yenta)
Don’t Say “Should” (Dad Hates Obligation But Lives By It Nevertheless)
Don’t Contemplate Your Navel (They Hate it When I Think Too Much)
Black and White are Not Colors (Dad is Very Opinionated)
It Must Be the Chinese Food (Eating Has Its Consequences)
That’s My Worst Sound (Dad is Very Opinionated)
What If You Never Tried Chocolate? (Meaning, Try New Things)
Did You Rinse That Before You Used it? (Mom Worries Needlessly About Taking Care of People Properly)
Clean Up As You Go, It’s Much Easier (Mom is Very Wise)
So? Don’t Bother With Them! (When People Get You Down — Both of Them Believe They Believe This, But Don’t Practice it)
Go Find A Friend! (Stop Contemplating Your Navel!)
A friend asked me today why I had not yet written, really written, about the White House thing. I really don’t know the answer, but I knew that it would be like this. As voluble as I am, there are times when I get tongue-tied or feel like keeping my words to myself. I have enjoyed telling friends personally all about it. I helped Ned write all about it in his blog, too. Ned has an excellent moment-by-moment account of the entire evening, and I don’t want to rehash it here.
What has stayed with me is the supreme feeling of achievement I had, where I realized that I was there because of some pieces on the Special Olympics I had written for the Washington Post, thoughts inspired by my darling boy, my firstborn, my son with autism, my Sweet Guy, my Baby Delight, my athlete (I just looked over at him and he gave me his special smile, and then turned away), my Nathaniel, my gift from God.
Also, I loved wearing that dress.
Anyway, the other thing that made a big impression on me was Eunice Kennedy Shriver herself, the raison d’etre for the entire organization. Ms. Shriver (along some very well known brothers) grew up with Rosemary, a sister who, among many lovely traits, had a disability, and she was very close to her. I am endlessly fascinated with the legacy of living with disability, the good and the bad, as I am with understanding all sides to a story and all parts of a person. My therapist used to say that “the container is big enough for all of it,” so we should acknowledge all. Eunice Shriver freely acknowledges what her sister meant to her, and gives me hope that my younger sons will also thrive beautifully living as they do in and out of the shadow — and light — of autism.
Below, I give you the best part of my evening at the White House, with permission of Tim Shriver, Eunice’s son and Chairman of the Special Olympics.
Remarks of Eunice Kennedy Shriver
The White House
July 10, 2006
President Bush, Mrs. Bush
Members of Congress
Stephen and Jean Case
Peter and Carolyn Lynch
Athletes of Special Olympics
President Bush: thank you for your wonderful remarks. I could have no greater honor than to be welcomed to this amazing house to celebrate the ideals I have held so dear, for so long. And I’m sure I will not be able to express how honored I am to be here on my birthday. But I am not telling which birthday it is.
President Bush, you have been so courageous in your commitment to compassionate action, especially in your response to the AIDS crisis in Africa. And in addition to your achievements in politics, you have also managed to control Teddy, at least some of the time. PLEASE, please: tell me how you do it!
Mrs. Bush, children who are reading all over this country know you as their special champion. May they enjoy a lifetime filled with libraries, knowledge, and imagination and thank you for it. We are so honored by your gracious welcome here tonight.
Yet no matter how honored I am to be here with all of you, perhaps there is a greater honor still. Many years ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote,
If you do away with the yoke of oppression
If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the oppressed
Then your light will shine in darkness
And your night will become like the
Tonight, I thank each of you for I believe that the noonday light of justice is shining around the world because of your enormous generosity. For in your dedication to our campaign and to over 2.2 million athletes of Special Olympics, you have each sought the light of the prophet.
When the athletes asked us for better health, together we answered YES, and over 340,000 athletes saw a doctor at Special Olympics! When non disabled young people asked us for the chance to learn more about our athletes, together we answered YES, and over 1 million young people welcomed Special Olympics into their schools. When families asked us for more hope, together we answered YES, and over 30,000 family leaders created networks of caring.
And most importantly, when athletes asked for a chance to play, together we answered YES to the skill, the courage, the sharing, the joy of 2,250,000 athletes in 168 countries around the world. And they have triumphed in the noonday joy of sports -— Champion athletes! Champion citizens! Champion human beings!
Mr. President, the honor we celebrate here is the honor of being part of a movement that is working one village by one village; one person by one person, one attitude by one attitude to change the world. Special Olympics athlete leaders and Best Buddies leaders and all the family leaders remind us that it is not just about “them” but about each of “us” as we journey toward being the best we can be.
Tonight as we celebrate, we know beyond us lies a dangerous world. And sadly, throughout my lifetime, it has been so. World Wars, regional wars, ethnic wars, religious wars. O that they would cease! O that we could do better than war!
But one thing has changed in my lifetime. When I was young, my sister Rosemary was told “NO.” And I remember so well as my mother sought help. Over and over again, she heard “No”—no place here, no program here, no welcome for your daughter here.
Tonight, Rosemary is in heaven, and I miss her. But despite the struggles of her life, for 86 years, she was patient and kind; she never put on airs; she never judged, she always forgave; she loved to look pretty, she savored chocolate and she made everyone happy. She taught us all that adversity meant almost nothing—that it could always be fun to be together no matter what. And I know she is joining me from heaven in thanking all of you tonight.
When we wake tomorrow, let us not forget that we have miles to go to overturn the prejudice and oppression facing the world’s 180 million citizens with intellectual disabilities. But what joy for together we have begun.
May you each continue to spend your lives in this noble battle.
May you overcome ignorance.
May you challenge indifference at every turn.
And may you find great joy in the noonday light of the great athletes of Special Olympics!
Thank you and God bless you all.
Went to my doctor yesterday
He said I seemed to be okay
He said, Kid, you better look around;
How long you think that you can run that body down?
How many nights you think that you can do what you been doing?
Who, now who we foolin’?
Our mothers always told us to be sure to wear clean, nice underpants when we went to the doctor, right? But mine never prepared me for this one…
Saw my doc today about the blasted hip pain. He bent my leg this way and that and pronounced me in need of physical therapy due to musculo-skeletal distress. But he wanted me to get an X-Ray, just in case.
An X-Ray?! Yikes.
In case it’s “early arthritis.” Jeez. Pass the linament.
So I went downstairs to radiology. They checked me in, hospital bracelet and all. The radiology guy told me “Take everything off below the waist and put on a gown.”
Jeez. So I did as I was told. But the whole time I was wondering, “Everything?”
Now you girls know that when we are told by our doctors “everything,” it literally means “everything.”
But apparently this guy did not know that. I asked him, red-faced, if he meant panties, too.
He said, “Oh, that’s okay if they’re on.” Or something like that.
I said, a little too quietly in retrospect, “They’re not.”
Remember, this was for a hip and pelvic X-Ray.
I got up on the table. Everything okay so far, with him moving me to the center of the table. First he just poked my hip, and then he took the X-Rays from above. No problem.
Then he moved my feet apart an inch or two. Getting a little uncomfortable, there… more than a little…
And then he said, “Okay, now I want you to bend your knee. Like a 4.”
“Like this?” I moved my knee carefully upwards, gown in place. Total red flags waving now.
“No, move it way to the side,” he said. Was there a hidden camera from Saturday Night Live in the room? Or Monty Python? Pretty soon John Cleese was going to come in and insist I remove the entire robe and do a dance!
Enough was enough. I slid off the table. “Um, would you just give me a minute to put on my underwear?” I couldn’t even look at him.
“Oh! I thought you said you were wearing them!”
“No, I said I wasn’t.” I started rummaging in my bag for the panties.
A moment later, I called, “Okay, ready.” My face was totally red but my voice was light. I could tell this was weird but also funny and that once I got Ned on the phone I would actually laugh. But not yet.
Then he told me I had to put my legs in “The Frog” position. Thank goodness I was prepared. At that moment, any underwear would do. Getting out of there would do.
I must be way too young for arthritis. I’m clearly too young to get an X-Ray right!