Since Charlie has been sick this past week, he has of course been home from school, and we have had to cancel all of his usual ABA, VB, and speech sessions. Not that his education has been entirely on hold. Charlie is learning every minute, every moment of the day, in health and in sickness, at school and at home. Jim and I teach our college students a few hours each week but with Charlie, we're on 24/7.
Everyday it's as if I'm Penelope in Homer's Odyssey. Waiting in Ithaca for twenty years while her husband, Odysseus, sails away to fight the Trojan War and then to return home, Penelope is able to fend off the clamoring suitors who seek her hand and Odysseus' place on the throne by telling them she must first finish weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, Laertes. She weaves all day, only to unwind her work at night, to start at a loom bare of threads again the next morning.
As I'm making the coffee every morning, I'm plotting out what colors to use for the warp and to wind through for the weft. Is today the day to try a fancy new twist for a different pattern? A bit of silk from some far-away land? Or maybe it's just a day to stick to the tried and true, the back and forth, the under and over, and to keep pushing the threads together with my wooden comb, and this has certainly been the case, with a sick boy to nurse.
Charlie woke up at 5am coughing and sniffling; I hurried to get him some medicine and water. He curled his hands under his squish pillows and hunkered down under Daddy's blue blanket and must have stayed awake. A bnit later, his room stale with the sour-sweet odor of sickness. After a nice hot shower, he went right back onto his bed in a fetal position and slept until 3pm.
"Yes, white rice," said Charlie shortly after he had awoken. He came downstairs in a t-shirt, with his blanket, as I set a pot onto boil. I made just a bit and sat and offered him more water as he savored the smooth white grains. "Rice. I want rice," Charlie said when, finished with one small bowl, he dumped raw rice into the just-emptied pot. I measured out a bit as Charlie lay his head--eyes so much bigger, and so full of appeal--on his plate.
The second bowl was duly cooked and consumed and Charlie spent the rest of the day lounging on the couch near Jim and checking out a golf tournament and the Steelers; nibbling the rest of his brown noodles leftover from yesterday; and looking right at Jim to request "cwear drink! Daddy ride!".
It was 8pm and the three of us piled into the black car and made the rounds of 7-11, Walgreens for the ATM, the Hess station. The streets were very quiet and, as I leaned back, a feeling of familiarity--the three of us out for a ride--came over me and I knew that Charlie would get over this virus and get back to school.
"Oh Charlie." At home, Jim and I sighed to find him pulling at the skin off his lips, which have gotten chapped and dry. Charlie had picked so much that they were bleeding and our attempts to offer tissues, vaseline, other ointments, were all too little too late. I tried to wrap Charlie's hands in his blanket and wondered if I should have him don gloves (and remembered how, three years ago, he had been fortunate to have world's mildest case of the chicken pox--seven marks on his back--one of the only times I have been glad that he took a vaccine for a disease).
Jim and I have both learned (very painfully) that the best way to keep Charlie doing something is to tell him not to do it (thereby drawing attention to it). So we both said the minimum about his bleeding lips and Charlie instead chewed on his green chew tube and watching the Superbowl until, long nap and all, he said "Stairs, yes piggyback." Throughout his sickness, Charlie has made sure that his bed is loaded down with every prized object--chew tube, green bunny, purple bear, blue squish pillow, about eight other squish pillows, Barney book, The Cat in the Hat (paperback)--and tonight he added an almost empty bottle of diet soda.
I pulled up a stool. "How 'bout putting that here?" Charlie did though, when I checked on him a bit later, the bottle had disappeared under his blanket, amid so many other creature comforts.
"He's calling for something," said Jim. I went upstairs: "Pumpkin, stairs," said Charlie, and I ran to get the little plastic pumpkin Charlie had brought home from his old school last Halloween.
Orange, gold, green, blue, yellow, red, pearly white: Today's weaving was a real rainbow on a quiet day, and I'm already looking forward to see what other pattern I can make, what new colors I'll need to look for (with Charlie's help, on his long journey) tomorrow.