When Nat was a baby, one of his favorite toys was one he got when he turned a year old. It was a “kitchen,” but it really was a small oven-toaster-microwave in one solid chunk of bright-colored plastic. The oven door could open and shut, open and shut, the burner could spin (because after all, don’t we want our burners to spin?) and the toast could be pushed down and then it would pop up–with toast. Boing, boing.
Oh, how Nat loved to make toast! Was there ever anything more adorable than his blond-ball head hovering right in front of those little smiley-faced pieces of bread? I just now brought the thing up from the basement and Nat followed me, saying, “Nooo, nooo.”He didn’t want me to take it out. Pretty clear message. (I did it anyway because he doesn’t always get his way.)
I’m always saying, “Well, Nat can’t really tell us what he wants.” I’ve been saying this for two decades. I just said it to the doctor two days ago. He can’t always answer accurately. And he most certainly does not just come out with expressive language, “I want…” if he has not been asked.
But he does. He does, he does, he does.
Let me explain. Even though Nat can, indeed, tell us, it is not always accurate. I have written about this scores of times. The piece that stands out the most is my New York Times essay where I bemoaned the fact that I can’t count on anything for Nat because he cannot even make his own bagel for breakfast. I was not complaining about Nat, mind you, I was stating my worry that he would need others to help him so much as an adult, when I’m not around, that kind of thing. The autism parents’ shared nightmare. I did qualify this by later writing about how, yes, he can make himself a bagel — with supervision. He microwaves the frozen thing, then he has to wait for someone to cut it. I get them pre-cut now. He can put it in the toaster oven but ours is so complicated I always stand there and show him, hand-over-hand, exactly how you have to twist the dial past the little toast icons, not right to them, down to the number ’10,’ and then turn it back to the toast icon, the whiter one, because it will burn less.
(Why, Hamilton Beach, why do you suck so much?)
I woke up this morning hearing him pacing, as always. Always, always, always, forever, never, never. These words are the seeds of despair. Don’t use ‘em, folks. Because of what happened next. He came upstairs, threw open my bedroom door. I said, “What is it, Nat?”
“Want to eat cereal.”
“Oh! Great! Okay! Go ahead, Darling!” And I stayed in bed. Me, in my bed, on a Saturday morning.
Then it became even stranger. I got up at last, and as I wandered down the stairs, I smelled a toasty smell. “Nat!” I exclaimed, walking swiftly into the kitchen. “Did you make a bagel?”
“Yes,” he said. I looked at the toaster. It was off, but it was warm. I looked in the trash. Bagel scraps, mostly eaten. Plate with crumbs. Everything else put away.
There goes all my ass-umptions, up in smoke. Not literally, though. Because my Nat knows what he’s doing.