Thursday, January 22, 2009

dark of the moon

The fogs have come and gone each late night, each early morning. They rise up from the river, or billow down over the hillsides. The trees drip, as though it were actually raining, and sounds echo, and all seems gentled. I walk, late at night, early in the morning, all hours, with my son, trying to calm his heart, trying to still his fears.

We look at the street trees, still wearing their blue-white holiday lights. We listen for sleepy birds waking in the remaining redwoods.

He carefully steps over each crack or flaw in the sidewalks.

Since Christmas, with brief respites now and then during which he announces "I'm back" and returns to his normal sunny and interested self, he has been living in a world of pain and darkness and strange things that come and go and can't be expressed. Or shouldn't be expressed. He stares at empty corners. He speaks in whispers. He weeps and says that there are buildings falling and children hurting and that the world is so sad.

There seems little to say to that. You're right? or "Hey, look, the kitty is sleeping on his back, doesn't he look funny?"

The smiles of my son are fleeting.

So, when your son with Down Syndrome has gone through a number of times of clutching his heart and saying he is scared and that his heart is sick, broken, hurting...well, you take this seriously indeed and you haul him off to a doctor.

Our doctor happens to be a very pretty young woman with a wise soul, and this suits Gabe tremendously. And a few days ago we sat together in a little treatment room and chatted about...stuff. Anxiety. Hearts. Life. Tears filled the eyes of that young woman, as I told her about Gabe's worries. She said to him "it is sometimes a hard world, and these are sad times, and if you are a sensitive person--and you are--it does stay on your heart". Gabe nodded.

His heart is fine, and that was indeed a relief. So we talked about the other things--the wild sleep cycles, the strange things in corners, the anguish. That he believes his father is a bear. Now, I think that is very accurate, though the corollary that Gabe and I are, instead, wild wolves, takes some getting used to.

That unseen people talk with him--well, this too doesn't give me pause, because I've had my share of odd experiences.

Anxiety? Depression? Spiritual crisis? Breakthrough?

You know, I don't care about the labels. What I care about now, with my son having been awake for 36 straight hours weeping about the world and seeing things in corners, is that I seem so unable to comfort him.

At about 3 in the morning, as he looked at me, eyes wild, as though I were indeed a wolf come to eat him, and I backed away gently, saying as I would to a wild and hurt animal--"it's okay, I'm sitting here, it's okay, you are my dear son, you are human, I am human, let's turn on the lights" (and I did)...and he sighed as the lights illumined the scary corners...well, I tell you, my heart has been breaking.

And that's when he said "I love you, mom, and I love my papa, and I love my sister, and I love my brother, but it's too painful to think".

And you must understand that my beautiful Gabriel has never in his life said he loves anyone. Well, maybe his childhood dog, or a cat. But those are not Gabe words. And you must understand that Gabe, on a good day,speaks in signals and brief utterances: "water" "shopping" "Papa funny". Not in an inflected statement of love and pain.

So I took out his baby book, and we started again at the beginning. Once, Gabriel, you were growing within my body, and we were very happy you were coming to be born, and there were blackbirds singing in all the trees. Once, Gabriel--look, here's the photo--your brother was just a kid, and your sister--look, she was kind of funny looking, wasn't she? now she is so pretty. And here, look, it is your papa, and he is holding you--see how he loves you? We all love you, my dear, we did from the start. Oh, look, here you are with Pepper, she's licking your face--isn't that silly?

And on and on. And he fell asleep, finally, curled against me, safe for a moment.

His pretty doctor phoned today; the blood tests are in, and yeah, there might be something about his thyroid going on; let's try some medicine. And we will. And maybe the night will lift.

And maybe I will see that smile a bit more often, and let those wolves retreat. And yes, maybe..maybe sometime I'll sleep as well, letting the fog settle around me.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dr. Quill has almost reached the creche

Dr. Quill, with the Stag King, three pigs, the Tinman, and assorted other treasures and relics of my childrens' early years, is enroute to the stable. Well, really, he is enroute to a corner of my large amazing bookshelf, the one built by a young handsome carpenter who is fond of French literature, who helped during the summer bookstore move. There on the corner shelf, not far from the little carved statue of Gandhi, is where Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus were set up for the 12 days of Christmas this year.
Starting on day one, the 25th of December, the wise people (and animals) journey to visit. They arrive on Ephiphany, the 6th of January.

And this year we had Dr. Quill lead the group.

Dr. Quill is orange. Well, really he is coral and pinkish, a 70's plastic color. He is a monster with hands outstretched and fingers waving. He is covered with bumpy prickles. I bought him for my eldest son when son was 3 or 4 and I was having a fun and somewhat guilt ridden weekend with my current partner, leaving the child under his father's care. When my son and I moved out to the forests to live with partner, despite all my vows to the contrary--"I will never set up house with an adult male" I told myself, content with my single motherhood--when we set up house together, all the toys came.

And actually, before that, the toys covered the floor of my tiny rental by the river. Paul and my son would enact long Russian novel sorts of scenarios with Candyland figures and plastic dolls.

Dr. Quill was the acupuncturist of the group. He made everyone else well, being just covered in energetic prickles.

Since my eldest is now 31 he probably could care less about his childhood toy; he is good at letting go of things. I rescued Dr. Quill from the trash some years ago. My daughter recalls how she'd push madrone berries down the good doc's gullet, pretending they were poison. Complicated youngster, that girl--she made homes for the little sowbugs, yet she tried to poison the poor doc.

When I rescued him I did have to remove some rotting berries from his stomach.

So now he sits, benignly about to visit a holy family, and we have come through another season. We've had some comfort and some joy. And some loss, and the world doesn't seem to have paused much in its madness and its beauty.

Christmas Day my youngest grew suddenly very sorrowful and withdrawn. We'd been celebrating at his sister's house, with his brother and his adored brother-outlaw. The potica (I must remember to print the recipe here someday) was duly baked in my daughter's oven, since the bear destroyed the stove at our cabin and at the bookshop we have just a hotplate. Games were played, presents admired. The big yellow cat my daughter and I brought back from the edge of death last summer was also admired and petted. Outside the storms raged, snow fell.

And suddenly Gabe was sad, and needed to come back to our own private realm, through sleet and snow.

The world, he said, was sad. People were sick, people were dying, the world was hurting. His urgency and the tears in his eyes--these were hard to deal with. He tugged at his father's sleeves, he pulled at me, he said, staring into our eyes with desperation "make it better, make the world better, help the people".

And then he tried some deep breathing, and then he told us "breathe bad in, out breathe happy".
And then he seemed to feel a little better.

It was an odd few days after that, during which he refused to look at television, in which he once looked at me, and patted me, and said "tears come, always, breathe". We did what we could. He said his heart hurt, but was careful to tell us, no, it wasn't that it hurt physically--he searched through a box of cards to find the word "good", to tell us "heart good".

And on the 5th day he smiled and said "I'm back now".

The world is a mysterious place. Lord knows I weep, thinking of the terrible things going on. I wish I could help and heal and save and comfort. I wish I were as capable as my youngest son believes me to be. We do what we can. Gabe has enjoyed going with his father to bring books and food to prisoners, to the emergency shelter. We feed the little birds. We laugh.

It's a complicated thing, this life.

Oh, my dears, wherever you are--comfort and joy to you. Maybe the loving crazy energy of Dr. Quill--of our childish imaginings and hopes and dreams--could really heal us all.

Who knows?