Familiar melody, low grunts. Melody, grunts. Charlie was singing in the shower, a tune I knew I should be able to identify. He sung the bars with the tune on key, with that sweet lilt his voice has when he is not being asked to speak and to produce language on command.
That strain in his voice—-reflective of the tumult of worry-waves inside—was loud and clear as we drove home this evening. “Daddy bue blanket,” said Charlie. Remembering how me saying a few too many “green squishy ball‘s” two weeks ago had only stoked Charlie’s anxiety over getting home to find his favorite object, I only echoed Charlie once or twice.
“Daddy bue bankett,” said Charlie, stern and insistent; I remembered driving home from the dentist a week and a half ago. He did not say any words, just noises, and then he was flailing all over the back seat. Driving home on a cold dark night, I preferred not for that to happen, especially as today had been a tough one for Charlie at school. He had cried in the morning, he had called for “California” and his grandparents (whose Cantonese names, Gong Gong and Po Po, Charlie used always to say when he was upset), he had calmed mid-morning, he had cried and moaned and clutched his stomach for a long while. His teacher called me as I sat grading Latin quizzes in my office: A bad stomachache? Too much greasy chicken last night? It was good to talk about it on the spot.
Charlie rode the bus home fine and had no qualms to go for a walk in the cold. He was quick as ever to get in the black car for a ride, but then his worry returned as we drove home.
I kept my hands on the steering wheel, the music playing, my own words few.
“DADDY BUE BANKETT.” (Perfectly clear, strain very evident.)
At least one of us could relax a bit more when we got off the highway and headed to our house. Charlie ran in. By the time I was inside, he was smiling and wearing his blanket like a cape around the house. He left it on his bed while showering, and singing.
Now in harmony, now a husky grunt, By the rivers of Babylon / where we sat down…..
Familiar melody, low grunts. Song then wail. Grin then grimace. Then the melody, again.
That’s how it is, one moment from the next, on any old Autismland day, a long series of call and response, of words from our mouths, and meditations in our hearts.