Why Do You Chew Like That?
I just love all of this family time.
If one more person talks to me, I will light my eyelashes on fire.
Starting today, I am going to eat healthy!
Another cookie can’t hurt.
I need to stop watching the news.
Let me just check Facebook for a minute.
These days are so long.
I am lucky to be alive.
This is my brain lately. It bounces around like a pinball in some rusty old arcade game.
And when my brain gets tired, my mouth picks up the slack.
I love you.
Please do not touch me.
Today we’re going to stick to a meal schedule.
Fine, have ice cream for lunch, I don’t care.
Why do you chew like that?
Stop wrestling because of one of you gets hurt we are not going to the emergency room.
There’s nothing to worry about, we’re safe and healthy.
What can I tell you that you don’t already know?
My name is Carrie.
I have five kids.
My second son has autism. His name is Jack.
We are in the middle of a pandemic.
Have you ever tried to explain the concept of a pandemic to a 15-year old boy with autism?
Just kidding. Of course I have.
I mean, I tried to explain it and he asked f there were pans involved like to cook with and I said no and then he asked if we could still go to the movies and I said, well, no, and he stomped away.
I called him back and he yelled down the stairs that he had no more words for this minute and I felt sad and annoyed but mostly sad.
I just need to catch my breath, you know? I cannot catch my breath.
What I can I say that you don’t already know?
We are standing at an intersection in our nation’s history.
When I tell my kids stuff like this, it makes the pandemic seem important, and wholesome—special, almost. As if we received a VIP invitation to an exclusive party.
The thing is, I have taken so much for granted, I can’t believe it.
I have taken my health, our safety, paper products, school, a stocked grocery store.
Trips to the salon, manicured nails, hot yoga classes.
Way back when, I took it for granted that I would have a normal, happy family and then autism showed up at the door in all its messy, lovely glory.
I should have learned my lesson, is what I am trying to tell you here.
One day, some day, this will be behind us.
When it is, I want to remember a few things.
I hope I remember how scared I was—how I heard about people dying alone and the rising statistics and not enough ventilators.
I want to remember the empty school hallways, and hospital corridors jammed full, both sharing the same streams of evening sunlight—a stark contrast of learning and loss.
I want to remember it all—the long days, the nerves, the arguments, the food.
I want to remember the way we rallied as a nation. When this is all over, it won’t be a celebrity who saved us, or an athlete. It will be doctors, and nurses, and people cleaning the very hospitals where we struggle for breath.
We did good things. We sewed hundreds of masks and brought our neighbors groceries.
We didn’t give up.
We aren’t giving up.
Life will never be the same.
Why should it?
I want to package it all up and hold it in my heart, for the days when I need to drag it out into the light, and see it once more.
My family, around the dinner table.
My dog, on the end of his leash.
The incessant news reports.
The harsh words and the dancing in the kitchen and the anxiety and the fear.
It changed me.
It is changing me.
It is time to become our best selves.
Not because we may die.
But because we will live.
We did good things.
We are doing good things.
Let us take nothing for granted.
Because sometimes, there are no more words for this minute.
And this is how I explained the idea of a pandemic to a boy named Jack, once he came back to me.
He always comes back.
April 20, 2020 @ 9:00 am
Beautifully said, Carrie!
I hope you are hanging in there.
April 20, 2020 @ 1:37 pm
I look forward to your blog each Monday. You’re such a talented writer.
Could you write about how you navigated puberty with Jack. I have to admit I’m terrified of my 11.5 year old son going through this soon.
My son has Autism, mild cognitive delay, anxiety and a bit of OCD to make things interesting : ) I’ve read some books and social stories but they’re either too simple (for lack of a better term) or too much information. How did Jack learn to do certain things in private, shave, shower every morning without a fight? How did he learn how his body was changing? And getting acne was normal? I’m worried my son may regress or begin to have seizures as I’ve heard can happen.
I realize you don’t have all the answers but your recent experience could help a lot.