Friday, March 19, 2010

A Muddy Fine Boy

Last night I heard a knock on the door. I went up to get it and found Sean standing there. He looked like a boy dipped in chocolate -- the white of his eyes life soft marshmallows peering up at me.

“What happened?” I asked, stifling laughter and holding the door close to me, not letting him run through and track wet mud all throughout the house.

“I fell into the water,” he said matter of factly. “I come in?”

“In a sec. Let me start the tub,” I said closing the door, pulling the knob, the hot water and steam pouring out of the tap and grabbing my camera.

Back at the door I asked him to stand still for a picture. He was slightly annoyed but complied and then I stripped off his wet, muddy pants and shoes and guided him toward the tub. The soapy water turned slick and dirty quickly, his body and face streaked with grime.

I shared the pictures with my husband and older son. They had been outside playing lacrosse as Sean hopped around the railroad ties near the shallow creek. Sometimes the creek swells but mostly it’s just a little stream running off from a slightly bigger creek. We laughed at the photos and I felt nostalgic for the old house where I was raised.

When I was growing up our house backed up to a cornfield (rotating crops of corn and soy.) There was a creek, too, filled with tadpoles and insects, a rusty bike and weeds. It was there we would find salamanders and capture them and bring them to keep in the rusty silver milk box in the front of the house. If I close my eyes I can see it all clearly. The muddy path to the creek, the sounds of dirt bikes, like angry wasps, buzzing in the distance and the stalks of corn dwarfing us as the mice scurried in the soil.

When Sean showed up at the front door I thought of my mother who let us run like feral cats in the field -- dirt and mud caked in our hair and fingernails. It took me back and made me thankful for having a mother who gave us freedom and space to grow. We were happiest there, the field stretched like an endless dream, lilac bushes, wild blackberries and the farmer’s crops spilling without corners or edges. And yet the backyard with the concrete patio and scattered baseball gloves and clothesline was always within view.

I helped Sean pick out pajamas, combed out his hair and went to scrubbing the tub, mud and pine needles circling the drain. He was squeaky clean, smelling of soap and apricot oil. He cuddled up in my lap, his arms and legs growing, spilling over me.

I have been struggling with him, our bodies tense and sore from swimming against the current. I’m trying now to let the waves carry me, to stop fighting the pull, to let it just be and see where it might take me and to just be okay with that. I’m realizing that maybe I don’t have as much say in this whole matter as I thought I once had. Now it’s time to stop walking into the wind but to let the wind be on my back instead.

My boy needs me to smile more, to not fight it so hard because he is tired, too. And not to think for one minute that he doesn’t have as much invested in this as I do. He is the one who has to live with it. I have to let him run, too, softening the borders, opening my heart and letting him stumble into the boy he needs to be regardless of how hard this can be to watch sometimes.

On a separate note, I have to give thanks to those who read my writing and who think of Sean and send warmness and goodness our way via kind thoughts and emails. In life it’s not about the square footage of the house or the car we drive or the size of the diamond. It’s really about the people in our lives, the relationships that keep us connected, that buoy us during the storms. It’s the mountains made from comforting shoulders of others who selflessly hold our words with sacredness and grace. And for the moment, that is all I want and need.


Mary Belle said...

Hi Katie! I miss you. I just caught up on your recent blog entries and am very moved by them, as always. Hope you and your boys (all 3) are having a good Spring Break week. Love to talk to you someday soon.
Mary Belle

Gimky said...

Aw, Katie. What a beautiful, beautiful post.

And my goodness, WHAT.A.SIGHT!!!

Deb said...

Oh my goodness! That is too funny! I showed D the picture of Sean and it brought a smile to his face. :)

jsantaca said...

Hi my girl,
as always your words touch my heart and are such a comfort to me. Whenever I need some perspective, motivation or inspiration I turn to your words. Thank you for continuing to be my inspriration and for continually teaching me. Love,Jude

Anonymous said...

Thanks Katie for sharing your inner most thoughts. We miss Sean every much. We often talk about Sean with much affection. You guys have done a marvelous job!!

mar said...

Hi Katie,

I don't know you, I stumbled across your blog and because of its title decided to read it. Students with autism teach me about life, I do my best to support them in school( special education teacher). Often I think about what a struggle it must be for them to navigate the neuro-typical world. Your sharing your journey helps me learn about that from a mother's perspective. Thank you...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your stories. As the father of a 10 year old with autism, I can truly relate.

I just took my three kids to what's called "Amphibian Night" at a nearby park and every time I lost sight of him I would call out his name repeatedly.

The hardest part I find sometimes is just letting him be himself. In the end, we all had a great time.


Katie Donohue Bevins said...

Hi Steve, Thanks for your comments. You are so right regarding the "letting him be himself." Glad to hear it was a good time.