Susan's Blog

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Fairy Tale — Kind of

When I was on my bike today, it wasn’t until I was about 3 miles from home that I thought about Nat. So that was about an hour of no thinking. And I realized — not for the first time — that that is why I ride: to have a sliver of the day when I am not thinking.

Today was a little different from the usual silent thrumming bicycle high. At that moment, when Nat took shape again in my mind, I thought, “So this is how it will be.” I was seeing my life from a different perspective, watching it narrow to a distant vanishing point: the future.  If my life were to continue basically like this, where we have Nat home on the weekends, the days would kind of always unfold like this one. And it was alright.

Here’s how it usually goes on my summer Sunday. I wake up first. I test my knee and heel for pain before standing fully. I go downstairs, make coffee, turn off the alarm, and open the front door. I look at my garden, and every color is bobbing there, melding into one another above the green grass, like a pointillist painting.

I go back in, get my coffee, and wander into the garden. My thoughts are little-girl-like now, things like, “magic,” and “secret,” “treasures.” Looking and looking is all I want to do. I peer at all the plants, hoping to notice something new: a cucumber curling fetally under the vine; a tomato that is the perfect red. The tall phlox, dying, the wine-colored asters popping open.

Nat has come downstairs in the meantime. He perches on the white couch, blue shirt, blue eyes, corn husk hair, gold skin. He’s as perfect, beautiful, complete as my garden. He is watching me. Waiting. He’s waiting to eat.

As soon as we make eye contact, he holds me there, his whole expression willing me to ask him if he wants to eat. He won’t do it himself. At least, not here. In his apartment he gets his whole breakfast himself while John stays in bed. But here, we have our established patterns that just won’t change.

I’m usually the one to look away first. Forget that autism stereotype about the eye contact — that’s not the way it happens here. I take a breath; I wanted some more time to myself, though I’m glad to see him. But as soon as he is down here, the me that was out in the garden slips underneath tall strong alert Mom-me, and she lies down quietly, like Sleeping Beauty.

We eventually do get our breakfasts and eat together silently. Somehow it is already 8:30. Ned is down here, laptop open, humming to himself. When I bring him his coffee, he is always surprised and grateful, deriving so much pleasure from just having it arrive, perfectly sugared in the familiar green mug. Now I do something like empty the dishwasher, and we talk a little, about nothing. The day feels strong and ready to be plucked.

I might take Nat on my ride, I may not. Yesterday I did, today I didn’t. I wanted the whole thing to myself today. But I felt a little guilty. I left him watching Totorro, which is now — what, 20 years old? It was so strange when I first saw it all those years ago, I could hardly stand it. But so many sittings with Nat-Max-Ben and, well, repetition made the heart grow fonder. Now that blare of silly trumpets made me smile. Nat was settled in, dreamy and comfortable, so my guilt was only a twinge. But the twinge is still sharp, but small, like a pinprick.

Then, I’m on the ride, plunged in like a swimming pool feels when you’re a kid — nothing like it. What’s in my head? I just don’t know. Turn here, push down, go up, go fast, breathe hard, feel the breath catch again and slow. Flickering light, blinding shade. Dreamlike and yet fully alert. Looking for my favorite spots, that bend in the road where suddenly there are no houses, that yard that looks like a meadow. The magic slides over me and I’m simply flying.

So I came down to land as I approached the city-like traffic of home and I thought, “this is what it will be.” Caring for Nat, caring for Ned, (and Ben and Max when they’ll let me), all my favorite jewel-tones, threads woven into my story, work and play, worry and love, sun and shade. And I suppose, in a way, — as long as I have some beauty to sink into, some thrilling rides, and the magic of my family, I am living happily ever after.


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