Howie was on the floor of his room. He was wrapped up in a towel, drying off from the shower.
“Mom. Do I look in sorts?”
“I don’t know. Not really I guess. Maybe a little? Are you?”
“No,” he responded. “I’m a little out of sorts.”
“I could tell. You think it’s because you’re not feeling well?” He had been battling a mystery fever for the past two days. No other symptoms, just a low grade fever.
“No. Not that.” He was looking up – not at my face but just passed me.
I stood over him as he stayed cocooned up on the floor.
“Why do you think you’re out of sorts?”
“Sensory overload,” he replied. His eyes shifted and immediately connected with mine.
“Really. What overloaded you?”
Howie paused for a moment.
“Sometimes that just happens,” he said. “I need a fidget. Like something rubber. Or a ball.”
He said it in a very quiet, almost nasally voice. It’s the voice I recognize when he’s uncomfortable.
I looked around quickly in his room.
“I found a small Minecraft Creeper figure. Will this do?”
He took it from me and smiled.
I took a quick picture of him on the floor with the creeper and showed him his happy face. He stayed on the floor for a few minutes, rubbing his hands over the figure and squeezing it.
I left the room to help Lewis into the shower. When I returned, he was dressed in his pajamas and in bed.
“Can I share the picture I took of you with the creeper to show people how you look when you’re back in sorts?”
He snuggled under the covers and grabbed his weighted stuffed animal.
“No,” he said. “Don’t share it. Can I have a Mom squish?”
I leaned over and squished him tight. Part of his self-advocacy has to be the right of refusal of what I share and what I don’t.
“I won’t share it. I promise. I love you.”
I took my position at the end of his bed. He slid his legs under mine and fell asleep.
I could write about the sheer enormity of that conversation and what it means for him, for me, and for the people in his world. About how much hard work he has done with his teachers and therapists to get here – to not only understand his body but express it in a way that we could understand. I could write about all the signs I missed during the day today that could have told me what he so eloquently did tonight and even though I preach “behavior is communication”, I ignored it all.
I could write that.
But right now I am just listening to him sleep. Soft, even breaths.
The ones that I now recognize come when he’s back “in sorts”.
And I’m just going to stay here a while.
“ Walk with me the diamond road
Tell me every story told
Give me something of your soul
That I can hold onto
I want to wake up to the sound of waves
Crashing on a brand new day
Keep the memory of your face
But wipe the pain away” – Diamond Road by Sheryl Crow