Susan's Blog

Thursday, April 22, 2010

House is where the heart is?

Tonight Nat referred to The House as “home.”  It stuck in my throat like a piece of dry steak; there’s nothing that will make that thing go down once it’s passed your teeth.  But I kept trying.  After he said that, I inserted the words, “The House,” and “tomorrow- when-you-come-home” several times in the conversation, because I am that petty.  So now he thinks of there as home.  And so what are we, chop liver?

I wonder what Nat thinks of this place, his childhood home.  What are his memories like?  Does he get shots of scenes shown incongruously with others from his past and present, like I do?  Does he suddenly see our previous home, his nursery blue walls with the Laura Ashley border, when he’s looking at the walls of The House?  Are words tied into the images, or are words too difficult, even in thought and memory?

When did I stop thinking of where I grew up in Connecticut as “home?”  Was it when I went to college, or when I got married?  Now when a childhood memory flashes before my inner eyes, it feels odd, like “did that really happen?”  Today, for example, when I posted a shot of a rabbit in my garden (see below) on my Facebook page, I was thinking of Dad.  Dad loves rabbits, identifies with them, defends their garden-destroying ways.  I love them, too, but I love sparring with Dad even more.  Dad reads Watership Down every May, for his birthday.  He knows the language of the rabbits intricately, and the way they thought as they made their journey to their new home.  He discusses the qualities of Hazel’s reluctant leadership, the growth of BigWig, the belligerence of Woundwort; he sees how each character has his use and purpose to the rest of the group in the warren.

When Laura and I were little, we played a game called “rabbits,” with Dad.  We would be crouched around the living room floor, pretending to eat lemon leaves and lettuce leaves, but eventually, inevitably, Mr. MacGregor (Dad) would show up and try to catch us.  He’d call for help from Mrs. MacGregor (Mom), but she seldom helped him.  That would have made it really an unfair match of them against us.  Mom would call things out from the kitchen or wherever, but Dad was pretty much on his own.  This was our game.  Sometimes instead of being Mr MacGregor, he would be The Trap.  He would lie on his back on the blue tiled foyer that was next to the blue living room carpet where our garden was.  Every so often he would raise a robotic arm or leg with a “chk-chk-chk” mechanical noise, because after all, he was a machine. I can see it and hear it as if it were yesterday, and yet I also see how strange this whole scenario seems.

Dad perpetuates our memories and our childhood by talking about the rabbits and The Trap every now and then.  He has an amazing memory, so he dredges up jokes and games from forty + years ago, so that we remember them as if they just happened.  And yet when I really think about them, it feels like they couldn’t possibly have happened to me.

So what does Nat remember?  When I try to quiz him, like fill-in-the-blank, from a favorite childhood book, he looks at me blankly.  It could be that he doesn’t remember; it could be that he doesn’t want me to do that.  After all, Max and Ben only barely tolerate my frequent dipping back to when they were little.  Maybe Nat feels the same?  It is so hard to know what he feels, what he thinks about.  I know that it is that way with the other two as well, but they still communicate so much more with their expressions.  It’s like I keep grasping at them as they were, and sometimes they let me catch them and they indulge me in the memory.  Nat doesn’t.  He doesn’t even think of this as “home.”  I guess he has made his way to the new warren and is very happy with his place in the group there.  And I’m supposed to be Mrs. MacGregor and not interfere.


sigh…of course, you WANT him to be happy. But, you HAVE to keep grasping at Nat. When he ever lets you catch him, maybe that’ll be your next book?

As I sit here remembering…people and “homes”; images and color schemes; the tears come (like they often do reading your posts) and I wonder too…What does Timmy think? and remember?

If home is where the heart is…and where the heart is, is difficult to track (at best)…when homelessness is a choice…

Hurts to think right now. Lost my train of thought. Thank you for writing, as always =)

P.S. You don’t strike me as the Mrs. MacGregor type.

— added by Timmy's mom on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 6:42 am

I like the idea that he’s made a home for himself. A place he’s comfortable and likes being there.

Part of growing up is making a home for ourselves.

Doesn’t mean he doesn’t like to visit anymore, but he realizes he no longer lives there.

— added by farmwifetwo on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 7:36 am

yeah, I think its how I felt when I went away to college, that I would never live “home” again, it was a place that I visited for whatever length of time. I was a grown-up in my mind, and that could be how Nat feels, the exciting grown-up things he gets to do, the jobs that he has. I don’t think you are chopped liver, I think he just gets it:)
As far as what our kids, autistic or typically developing, are really thinking, its usually difficult for me to tell. Dylan did something the other day which, for a moment, seemed to propel him in light years…I feel like sometimes I live for those moments. Something had happened where he overreacted to something and really tried my patience. I didn’t say a word but I guess he could tell I wasn’t happy with him. After a few minutes he came into the room where I had gone and put his cheek against mine, then kissed it. Then he looked at me and said “momma loves Dylan, Dylan loves mom” Then he rubbed his hand down my hair and said “gentle hands on mom” Can you even believe it??????? ? Woo-hoo!!!!!!!!!

— added by eileen on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

My oldest of two autistic children is seven. I am so far from contemplating what it will be like to separate from him, if we are even fortunate enough to have a safe choice to do so in fourteen years. So many times when I read your blog I feel I’ve been given a window into my future world. Sometimes, it’s scary, but more often I am relieved that it can indeed work out. I felt that way with your memoir too, so grateful that SOMEBODY took the time to write a book about a non-recovered kid! I am happy for both you and Nat, and certain, somewhere in his soul, he will always feel buffered by two homes.

— added by kim mccafferty on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

Aw, Susan. I can hear the ache in your words. I feel the same as Kim McCafferty, like reading your posts about Nat are a window into my life in a few years.

— added by ASDmomNC on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Susan, these kids have “steal-trap” memories, so I doubt he forgets a single thing…in fact he probably has a huge scrapbook of memories from his entire life inside his gorgeous head. Please don’t feel forgotten. Look at it as a good thing that he is finally “comfortable” enough to be calling his new place where he hangs his hat “home”.

— added by Candy on Friday, April 23, 2010 at 10:33 pm

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