January 23, 2011
We Are Family
“Come on Justin, run!” Zachary yells to his lagging older brother, the one captivated by the swirling cadence of the electronic flashes darting across the screen of his favorite video machine. Justin and I rush to catch up with my youngest, his father, and our BCBA as they purchase one game of bowling and rent the requisite soft shoes for the outing, and we make it in time for Justin to grab his pair for himself. We are assigned a lane at one end of the alley, fortunately far away from the other early morning families and couples immersed in the cacophony of brightly colored orbs crashing into their intended targets. Justin seems exuberant, which is somewhat of a necessary prerequisite for this outing to be successful, has been grinning ear to ear since we pulled into the parking lot. So far, the outlook for the first collective McCafferty clan activity in an eternity, looks favorable.
In many respects over the last few years we’ve had separate families, me generally ushering Justin out of the house on weekends, his father staying behind to care for Zach. In part this has been due to Zach’s nap schedule, which I’ve followed religiously because he is the first of my offspring to actually take one without screaming about the concept for an entire hour prior. The second reason is that on weekend afternoons Justin is often pulling me toward the front door with his shoes in hand well before I’ve even dispensed with the lunch dishes. Since this event always coincided with Zach’s naptime, the situation hasn’t boded well for all of us to exit the house together. Couple that with the fact that my eldest wants to ditch every place we go in the same amount of time it takes me to get a manicure, and you can see why our trips have been so infrequent.
Today, I’m hoping that will change.
For me, this is the culmination of the real reason I’ve been taking Justin here every week to meet the divine Miss M. Sure, I like getting him out of the house on a weekday once in a while, and I’d prefer him to find a pastime other than video games and animation to engage his mind. I’m also excited he seems to like the bowling as much as the horseback riding because it’s something he can do when he’s old, when I’m no longer around to schlep him places. Hell, if required, his caregivers could even wheel him up to the lane and help him roll his ball off his lap if they had to. In theory, he could play this game for life.
I know. I’m supposed to be trying to live in the moment. Someday, I’ll get there.
All of the aforementioned reasons are valid, but the one that is really crucial to me, that keeps me up at night with all the other worries swirling around my overtired brain, is this: as a family, we can’t continue to live every aspect of our lives on separate trajectories. At the moment, restaurants are out due to Zach’s GF/CF diet. A beach excursion lasts seventeen minutes before Justin is trudging up the sand to his fancy stroller, looking back over his shoulder to see if any of his family members is bright enough to realize he’s ready for his fudge fix. You already know what happens at the movies. Frankly, to my continual dismay, there just aren’t that many activities Justin enjoys. This, coupled with the four-year-age difference, has made getting all of us out into the community together about as simple as a task as convincing me not to open the second box of Girl Scout cookies in our freezer within a twenty-four hour time period.
Hell, I made it all the way through to cadets. I figure it will be my God-given right to eat them all.
Finally, the five of us make it to our assigned lane without either losing a child or a diaper bag, and Miss M carefully types Justin and Zachary’s names into the waiting blank screen. We’ve convinced my youngest to let his older brother go first, because his previous attempt at turn-taking here was not met with a great deal of enthusiasm, and I still want Justin to enjoy bowling even if Zach will conclude each frame for him. Thankfully, I have remembered to place the timer we’ve used before within easy reach in Justin’s large personal bag. Miss M has whipped out a lanyard with white beads, an item which looks like something I made at camp in 1977, but in reality is a device to help Justin understand how many frames he must bowl until the game is concluded. We’ve already used our “photo array”, which consists of a sentence strip with a variety of snapshots attached by Velcro, which in prior sessions has helped Justin understand the sequence of events in our afternoons. We are, as those devilish Girl Scouts say, prepared.
I am already tired.
We procure the lightest equipment we can find for the boys, and Justin, old pro that he is, heads without any prompting at all to his familiar yellow friend, holds it securely in his arms, and releases it down the silver ramp to its intended destiny. Zach cheers his brother on, and I watch in wonder as Justin sidles up to his father, grabs his hand, looks up into his face, then looks back at his ball hurtling down the slick lane. Without words, with only a simple gesture and glance, he just as clearly said, “Daddy, look what I can do”.
Even if we weren’t having fun, my son demonstrated joint attention with one of his parents. The trip was worth it for that moment alone.
The rest of the game proceeds without issues, Zach lustily crying “Yippee!” even if the bowling balls touch nothing but air, Justin joyously jumping up and down with each release. The boys were happy to be there. Miss M was thrilled with Justin’s compliance and eager enthusiasm not only for each of his turns, but for his brother’s as well. Jeff and I were happy to be anywhere but home.
We were having fun. Just like any other family.
I know, it sounds like the simplest of mornings, an adventure at a bowling alley, two boys playing a game together, and rooting each other on in their own respective ways. But this is just one more tiny example of the scales of happiness finally weighing in our favor, one more item on those round disks pushing us over the edge to contentment. Justin’s crush. Zachary’s role play. My eldest gently touching his brother’s face in the bathtub as his younger sibling tries to tickle him. Justin possessing both the motivation, and the ability to execute, sharing joy with his father.
Simple little things, yes. And to our family, miracles all the same.