The Things We Take for Granted

IMG_0463My son Jonah is 30.  Ashton Kutcher handsome. Silent.  A human being who has never sinned in his entire life.   And yet over the years his autism has given us a run, (I should say at breakneck speeds) for our money. Sleeplessness.  Seizures. Unexplained self-injurious behaviors.   But last night, during our weekly visit with him, he had no idea what kind of gift he gave me.

Typically he comes to our home every Sunday night for “Shabbos dinner.”   Every Friday night I prepare a Thanksgiving-grade meal, with plenty of leftovers.  From homebaked bread, soups, and main courses, to  desserts, Jonah  gets his “Shabbos meal, a couple of days later.

Yesterday our schedule was such that we went to his house to visit him.  It was 8 p.m.   He was falling asleep on the couch watching a Disney movie.   He allowed me to snuggle up to him, (not a given when someone has autism) and sat  holding my hand and resting his leg on mine.  Then, after a few minutes, he stood up, walked to his bedroom, got into bed, pulled up his blanket and went to sleep.

He read his body cues.  He knew what he needed and followed suit.  By himself.       Understanding that bed is the best place to sleep.  No one told him it was time for bed.  It was, an 100 percent independent activity that he chose.

It may not seem like a leap for someone who is tired to get into bed and go to sleep.   But seeing him do this filled me with joy. He lives a life with shadows, one on ones, someone always supervising him.  He has to.  He doesn’t understand danger and needs that level of supervision.   But that he was able to judge his own exhaustion and do what was necessary to properly address it, was something I’d never really seen before.

It’s not often that a parents will say, “my 30 year old son was tired and went to bed.”   But that’s what he did.  I kissed him goodnight, the way a mother of a small sleeping child might, and left feeling like I had been given a gift.   A show of independence, a rarity in my adult son’s life.

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Winter Valentine

imagesIt’s February 10, and for the past two months all I’ve heard is how hard the winter has been.  It’s true, we’ve had more than our fair share of snow, ice, below zero temperatures.   But if complaining could change the situation, maybe I’d consider engaging in such discussion.  Instead, I turn off the weather reports, layer up, leave the house looking like the abominable snowman and embrace the pristine beauty and cold temperatures that are Michigan, Winter 2014.

So how, with all the ice, do I manage the long walks I have taken almost daily since my first child was born over 30 years ago?

I call them ice cleats– although their formal names are Yaktrax,  Stablicers,  a discovery that allows me to plod on in the frigid temperatures.   And I have to say, these rubber/wire contraptions not only have prevented me from slipping and sliding, but have allowed me to observe some breathtaking winter beauty in what is otherwise, a drive by neighborhood.

This past weekend “hospitality Maestro” Danny Meyer was profiled in the Wall Street Journal.  He commented on the great lesson he learned from a college professor regarding walking.

“He told me that we learn at an inverse proportion to the speed at which we travel.  If you’re in a car, you’re going to see some things.  If you’re on a bike, you’re going to see more things and if you’re walking, you’re going to see a whole lot more things—and that’s where great ideas come from.”

As a writer, I couldn’t agree more.

Without my cleats, there would be no safe winter walking.  And though I am not one to celebrate Valentines Day, I thought I should publicly declare my affection for the ice cleats which have allowed me to walk freely for many Michigan winters,   and are something I believe every safety minded person should consider owning,