Susan's Blog

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two Sweet

So today Max was sick. He was supposed to go on a long bus ride to vacation with Hannah and her family for a few days. He was with me to pick up the car and as we waited for it to be brought out, I looked sideways and saw a very down look on his face; highly unusual before a visit to Hannah. He told me he was nauseated, maybe anxious about the bus ride. I gave him a Pepto and waited, driving towards the station anyway.

As we made our way through the madness and crooked, curved streets of downtown Boston, he was not getting any better. I touched his face and it was clammy. He got on the phone to Hannah and kept apologizing. I turned around to head home and he told me he was feeling better. I turned back around, miraculously locating Storrow, etc. I noticed that the Rose Kennedy Greenway was complete, something I’d been dimly aware of, and how beautiful this was, this triumphant achievement in highway landscaping. This park was the result of the infamous Boston Big Dig, now complete.

Anyway, as we neared the station, once again he was nauseated. This time I was headed home for good. More apologies to Hannah. I said, “Don’t be so hard on yourself! Everyone gets sick sometimes!” And he stopped. He has a big conscience; too big, sometimes. But I guess this was how he managed his own disappointment — by focusing on hers. Very like Ned, I think.

He went up to bed and I bought groceries. Ben was extra solicitous, something I have noticed over the past months. He is now the direct opposite of what he used to be: compliant, happy, affectionate. Yet also, intimidated by me. Not by anyone else; just me. He seems to be terrified of my anger. Anytime I raise my voice — which I do, mostly because I’m simply loud, and excitable — he runs to check on my mood.

What has happened here might be that he is trying to adjust to his own growth. His growth has always been very visible to me. When he was a baby he would suddenly clench his fists and grit his teeth, but was unable to say what it was all about. I think he was maybe angry or frustrated but had no words for it. As he got older, it seemed that his creativity was lightyears ahead of his expressive language. He could not get his thoughts out in words, but he did in stories and drawings. And lots of anger that would flare and dim.

Now he seems brighter, lighter. He is more fluid in his moods. But there is that attachment to me that seems a bit anxious. Maybe he is also anxious about Nat leaving home; maybe he feels somehow responsible or scared that it will happen to him, too. Oh, God, I don’t know.

So I went out to Kurkman’s Market to buy some ginger ale for Max to settle his stomach and I noticed the Hershey bars while standing in line. I thought of how my mom and dad always said that chocolate bars were good for an upset stomach. I realize now that that is probably not true, and yet — they never did me any harm, upset-stomach-wise.

I put three bars on our counter and just went about all the chores: laundry, cleaning the house, cutting the grass. After I gave Ben lunch he helped me carry loads of laundry up and even folded with me. Well, why not? They have to learn all these things, just like Nat.

Back down in the kitchen, Ben asked, “So are those chocolate bars going like to Extreme Sports Camp or something?

“What?” I said. “Oh, you mean to Nat? Because you want one?”

“Well, yeah,” he shrugged, not wanting to seem too eager in case the answer was “no.” Max is like that, too: don’t want something too much because it is too disappointing when you can’t get it. How did this happen? I can guess but I don’t want to.

I had never intended to give that chocolate to Nat. I had bought three: one for Max, one for Ned, and one for Ben. Well, I had bought four, but the fourth was for me, if I dared.

“No, one is for you,” I said, kind of vehemently. Probably not the best way to answer. He grabbed a bar and gobbled.

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