The Vaxxed and the Unvaxxed, Take 2

Mending Wall

Diagonallines treeThere are people who look for walls or maybe the word would be conjure. Three rocks, that's a wall, was the maybe in-joke an archaeologist told me. To most people a wall is just, in simple tautology, a wall. You hang things on it, it signals where the rooms are, you paint it, paper it, lean back on it.

With zero home improvement skills I always took a wall to be as solid through and through as its surface. Charlie and his head changed that.

I permanently shy away from ironic uses of the term "head-banger." To many, it's a deliciously over-the-top expression of deliberately self-endangering behavior such as is sought at, for instance, a heavy metal concert or in a Ramonesque setting. To us, head-banging is just that, the self-injurious actions that have left Charlie with a permanent calcified knob in the middle of his forehead. The first time it happened was him out of the blue flopping to the floor in a Walgreen's in St. Paul when he was a toddler. Throughout his childhood, adolescence, and teenagerhood, there was never a time when he did not do it, on the walls of our house and at his school, on the windows of our car (he broke one and one windshield), on the hoods of cars (ours and other people's), on the schoolbus, on the sidewalk, on telephone poles, on the pavement, on the center console of our car, on the arms and hard back of the couch. One wall of his bedroom in our Cranford house had been used so often that the drywall was all crumbled and bits of horsehair stuck out amid tape and sheafs of paper. We kept jars of spackle and a spatula on hand -- there were splat holes in every room of our house except the bathroom -- but the wall behind the head of Charlie's bed could only be fixed by total reconstruction.

During the two years that we rented a condo so Charlie could attend that town's autism program, a friend of Jim's recommended someone who fixed walls and she patched and painted over the ones Charlie had made. But the holes in our Cranford house all remained when Jim locked the door for the last time on the 24th of December, 2013, to be finally filled in and fixed in a repair of the entire house's surfaces by Sergio the realtor and his cousin Joe.Diagonallines

Over the past ten years since that day we flew out of New Jersey and landed in California, Charlie has done very well, beyond hopes, dreams, and all expectations. He is poised and sleek, a young man with the athletic gait of Stephen Curry, inclined to be one amid a group and able to roll with whatever comes his way. He and Jim have ridden over 70,000 miles on bikes (the first half was in New Jersey where sometimes five or six rides a day were all that kept Charlie's raging energies from full explosion). He received his Certificate of Completion from his non-public autism school in June of 2019 after having, for the last few years, zero target behaviors. He is settled in a community-based adult day program that keeps him engaged and busy, making the rounds of libraries and stores and parks (where he picks up litter) sorting clothes at St. Vincent de Paul, and bowling on Fridays before weekends of bike riding, puzzle-doing, helping us around the house.

He is well and today we are getting holes patched in the ceiling of our garage and dry wall, mortar and spackle done, after a big plumbing job that we, wary of Charlie encountering holes in walls, have long put off. Contacting a wall-repairing business, I was struck with a pang and it occurred to me how, for most, mending wall is nothing to fuss and or think much about. Something there is, about a wall.



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