His exuberant enjoyment of life takes a lot of energy. His energy. My energy. Our family’s energy.
I love this guy, the sweet soul who has suddenly become taller than I am. He spends a lot of time kissing me on the cheek, especially when he wants something. He puts his arms around me often and hugs me. He bosses his brothers around, demanding that they eat dessert. He wants things to run on his schedule so that he has control over his environment and his anxiety.
It’s only when Isaac’s gone from our home for an extended time that I realize how many accommodations we make for him. We do it automatically. For years we have known what to do and when and why, so he is comfortable and happy.
This week Isaac is out of town. He and his 10-year-old brother, Henry, are at Vacation Bible School with their grandparents and two cousins. After careful consideration, Noah decided he would rather stay home and attend Summer Jazz, which started today.
The house is quiet with only one son here this week.
At times I hear only silence. Silence.
Yesterday morning Noah and I drove to Big Woods Lake and walked the trails. As we talked, we admired nature and even spied a turtle. Noah mentioned how peaceful it was at that time of day – outside in nature in the morning – just the two of us.
When Isaac is gone, I’m not on alert, wondering what he is doing. I don’t worry about how many minutes I have until our next activity or excursion. I feel much more relaxed.
I feel like I’m on vacation.
What can I do in Isaac’s absence?
I can sit in the front passenger seat of the van and control the music. For almost a year, I have been sitting in the back seat when Chris is driving. Isaac will do everything in his power to sit near the driver so he can control the music. We must listen to his favorite country music station at all times: 98.5 FM.
I can move most of the furniture out of our living room without Isaac having a meltdown. I can have the rocker and ottoman in the kitchen while our carpets are being cleaned. I can turn on the fans and instruct everyone not to walk on the carpets until they are dry. (Thanks to Dale’s Steam Way for making this dream come true yesterday. Our carpets look fantastic.)
I can take a shower whenever I choose without Isaac having to turn on the water for me.
I can start the dishwasher and unload it whenever I feel like it – or I can choose not to run the dishwasher at all.
I can go to the grocery store only when I need to buy something.
I can take our recycling to the transfer station any day of the week, not just Thursday.
I can leave before noon to go somewhere with the expectation that it’s my last trip of the day.
I can go for a walk by myself while Chris is at work without having to hire a babysitter or a respite provider to care for Isaac.
I can go to bed at night without first writing out a schedule of what is planned for the next day: morning, afternoon, and evening -- plus the dinner menu.
I can set the van keys on the kitchen counter and nobody will confiscate them.
I can use a napkin while I eat any meal, and I can get a fork out of the drawer without protest. (He likes to throw away napkins and will fight to get one out of my hand while I’m eating.)
I can serve myself first during dinner. Isaac prefers that I am served fourth. No exceptions. Who’s last? Chris. Always.
I can play music and watch TV whenever I prefer.
I can use my laptop without Isaac putting it away or begging me to turn it off.
I can sit in silence instead of hearing the songs from the Super Why Rock ‘N Read Jukebox that is constantly played while Isaac’s on the computer. He loves to have six tabs open, so the songs sounds like a round. The woman’s voice says many times, “Choose a song!” He will say proudly, “Six tabs” and laugh. I have heard these songs in my sleep.
I can open the cupboard and am guaranteed to see clean dishes stacked inside, not the occasional “clean” dish he wiped off and put away. Sometimes he will put a brownie or slices of bacon on a plate and put it in the cupboard. Surprise!
I can make my own schedule. No more “Hy-Vee at 4:00. Park at 6:00. Let’s go.”
I can go about my day without worrying about the smell of his armpits. I don’t have to wash them with soap and water. I don’t ask if he has put on his deodorant. I don’t tell him, “You have to take a shower.” I don’t hear him say, “Shower closed.”
I can drive home a different route without having to go by the library, coffee shop, McDonald’s, and the car wash. Noah said that’s how I have been driving, though. I told him the van is pretty much on autopilot. I guess my brain is, too.
I can go to a fast food restaurant without worrying about finding a table with a view of the cars in the drive thru.
I can go to Target without worrying. Where did he go? Will he get in trouble for putting those carts away? Will someone say something rude to him while he’s standing near the automatic doors? Which microwave is he opening now -- and is he putting anything inside?
I can shut the blinds in the living room before it gets dark outside, or I can keep them closed all day.
I can put my favorite shirt in the laundry without discovering later that it’s been washed and dried – and now it’s too small.
Noah is somewhat bored, being the only one in this quiet house. He misses his brothers, even though he admits to needing a break from them. He looks forward to Henry’s emails. The last email included a picture of a fan that Isaac had found and turned on at his grandparents’ house. It was the first thing he did when he walked in the door, Henry said.
Noah said he’s glad he’s not an only child. We talked about how the dynamic changes when even one sibling is gone.
“Now when we’re in public and Isaac is gone, people can stare at our normalcy. The funny thing is, we’re far from normal,” Noah said.
I told Noah that “normal” is only a setting on the dryer. Chris said “normal” is the big part of the bell curve, and the really interesting people who think and do things differently are on the outer edges.
“Normal” is boring sometimes, we said.
We’ll be happy to see Isaac and Henry when they return home Friday. Henry will talk non-stop about everything that transpired during the week.
Isaac will say, “Let’s go!” approximately 243 times that day. He’ll want my computer password. He’ll want to go to the park and the grocery store. He’ll be happy to be home and upset to have missed a few days away. It’s likely he’ll want to sit in the van and listen to 98.5 FM while he puts his head on my shoulder and holds my hand for a moment.
When Isaac comes home, I’ll be ready for his exuberant enjoyment of life, his joie de vivre. I hope he remembers to put on his deodorant.