Hope you had a great one, a safe one. And now I’m off to eat the good candy out of Evan’s stash.
“I am a woman built upon the wreckage of myself.”
I started Chris Cleave’s Incendiary and immediately found it to be different from anything I have read. And I also began to appreciate the value of proper pronunciation, though I eventually adapted to the writing style. The book is written in the form of a letter to Osama bin Laden after her young son and husband are killed violently in a terrorist attack on a London sporting event. Yes, I said a letter. A 237-page letter, at least for my version of the book. I’ll be honest here because I have no reason to be dishonest: I found this to be an uncomfortable read. Interesting? Yes. Intriguing? Yes. Sad? Yes. But far from comfortable. Your heart wants to weep for the main character. And then while I knew that I will never relate to her suffering, I have some suffering of my own through which I have lived, and so I found some passaged especially poignant.
So her life, after the attacks and the recovery from the injuries she has sustained in going into the bombed stadium to try to find the other 2/3rds of her young family, her life takes some bizarre twists, including an affair with a cocaine addict and subsequent involvement in a weird triangle with his girlfriend. Which progresses to involvement with the cheif of police, and back again to the cocaine addict. Somewhere in there, she discovers that the autorities knew in advance that the attack was going to take place and opted to not do anything because it would ruin their luck with their sources of information. And then her downward spiral accelerates. She hallucinates, seeing visions of her son everywhere. She even begins speaking to him in front of others.
It is all just so horribly…sad. And while it is fiction, and I know this, I also came to the horrific realization that in our post-9/11 world, this is/was/will be someone’s life. Somewhere there is a widow who has gone through this. And my heart breaks for her.
Incendiary was Cleaves’ first novel. You may know him by his novel Little Bee, which is next on my list. This book is worth the read. because of its subject matter, I am sure that each reader’s reaction is as unique as the book itself.
Incendiary. By Chris Cleave. You can buy it here.
I was sleeping. I had been up all night, and then John had class and so I stayed up with Zachy for that, too. When John got home, I sank into my bed like a rock and after a chapter of Little Bee, I was down for the count.
Sometime later…30 minutes? An hour? 12 hours? …after I fell asleep, I was awakened by a frantic John.
“Andrea, WAKE UP! There’s a PROBLEM WITH ZACH!!!!!”
Wtf? A problem with Zach? What sort of problem? Bleary-eyed, I tried to make sense of the scene. He was holding Zach, wasn’t he? But wait! OMG. OhmyfuckingGod!!!!
Blood everywhere. Everywhere. Literally pouring from his nose. From his mouth. I kept wailing, “What happened to him, John?!?” But John was in hysterics and couldn’t answer me. It was all rather dramatic. We couldn’t tell where the blood was coming from, Zach was screaming. I was trying to put on clothes, for which John was cussing me. ( “I’m glad it’s not an EMERGENCY or anything!”—more on this later.) And I was trying to catch the story. Something about a kitchen chair. And he was pushing it around. Everything was fine. John rounded the corner and was just right there, picking up a few toys from the floor when he heard the BANG-CRASH-BOOM! Zachy apparently had pushed the chair over to the counter where there was a carousel of his sippy cups drying. Damnit, the smart baby wanted a drink! And he pushed the chair to the counter and climbed up. He can deduce from the blood smear on the couter that he hit there first as he fell, raking his face first on the edge of the counter, then the door of the dishwasher, then the chair and the floor. Ouch. Holy shit.
The problem for me wasn’t the blood. I’m conditioned for blood, even when it is my own or my child’s. What got to me was the possibility of teeth/ jaw/skull/nose fractures with those kinds of blows to the face. “Get him checked out, just to be sure.”, I was thinking calmly in my head. So we went to the ER, where sweet, adorable Zachy wooed all of my coworkers, and I heard someone explain that we have the baby and then we have a ten year old!!! Yeah, that’s right. We’re somewhat rusty on this toddler shit.
Zach is fine. Since he won’t have anything to do with ice packs, he is getting popsicles galore. Turns out he tore his frenulum and he has the fat lip from hell. Some monster bruises appeared to be forming, but now, further removed from the incident, even those don’t look as if they are going to be that bad. No stitches, no head injuries. Just some antibiotics for the mouth laceration to prevent infection, ibuprofen for pain, and a little boy who looks like he’s been on the losing end of a fist fight. But some analysis is required here.
I’m the mom. I think, by most standards, I am supposed to be the one to freak out. That so is not the case here in this house. No, I don’t like seeing my kids hurt. And I react a little differently when it is my kids as opposed to one of my patients. Now John? John freaks out. Picture a hysterical woman in a hoop skirt running and screaming, “ATLANTA IS BURNING! ATLANTA IS BURNING!” and you kind of get a picture of John in a first-aid siuation. He did it when Evan had croup. He didn’t think to wake the respiratory therapist in the house who treats croup allthefuckingtime. He just ran around screaming and rushing me out of the house, and when we finally get to the ER, I stop and realize what is going on and that, while it sounds bad, it truly sounds worse than it is. And then the time Evan cut his foot: John was carrying 7-year-old Evan, fireman-style, through the house, screaming, “we’ve got to go now, he needs stitches! He may need surgery! It’s bad. SO BAD!”, all while freaking Evan out, too. Turns out that once I cleaned the blood off of his foot, it was a tiny cut that a Steri-Strip and band-aid from the medicine counter would fix. But while I was working on it, John was still freaking out. As in, “Andrea you aren’t a doctor yet and he needs to go to the hospital NOW! Are you depriving him of medical care?” No, I’m giving him medical care right now. He’s getting a Band-Aid and some Neosporin, Asshole. And then today, with Zach. I got yelled at for putting clothes on first. Because while it was bad, I was at least able to do what I always do.
Take a quick second. Assess the situation. Okay, Zach is bleeding badly. His color is good, so he isn’t bleeding too much. He hit his head, but he is alert, so likely no massive head injury. he is crying, and those of us in the industry know that the problems are when they stop crying or cannot cry. Then you have a big problem. He won’t let me get close enough to it to see where all of the blood is coming from, and since neither of us saw exactly how he hit, we don’t know. He could have injured underlying structures, so let’s get him looked at and make sure he’s okay. That’s what insurance is for. No need to call 911. Throw on clothes, grab a change of clothes for him now that his sleeper is all bloody. A couple of diapers and my cell phone and out the door we go. On the way, call Ev’s school and let them know we will be late picking him up because we have an emergency. Simple as that. Within 3 minutes, we were en route to the ER, and I even got to wear clothes! No need for screaming or hysterics or cussing or carrying on. Yes, Zach is hurt, but it isn’t life threatening. See, assess, decide on a course of action, and then do. Don’t react. That makes it even worse.
Somehow I will get all of this through to my Drama Queen of a husband. In the meantime, I have a little boy who is fine, and is getting spoiled like it’s nobody’s bid-ness because today, he sustained his first (and hopefully last) big boo-boo.
The schedule is getting rather overwhelming. Therapy once a week with the psychologist. Psychiatry every few weeks while we play with medications. In other words, every few weeks, Evan has 2 appointments in one week, always on different days because nobody’s schedule ever lines up so we can do it all at once. Thankfully, I have excellent insurance, but we are still paying about $500 montly for meds and appointment co-pays. I have to start a flexible spending account at work to try to offset some of this, but I want to save the right amount, so I am, as of right now, meticulously keeping track. This week, Evan was started on Celexa, the big-time antidepressant in the category with Prozac. This, of course, was added to his Adderall. According to the psychiatrist, it will mellow him waaaaaay out. The label tells me to watch for suicidal thought and actions, that these are most common in children and teens. So now I am worried for my son even more than before but we have to try something. Since we have started with the people at Children’s, it is almost as if the issues have gotten worse. More powerful and intense meltdowns. Aggression. Mood swings. And school? Terrible. I am hoping that it is because, with prodding from the psychologist and psychiatrist, deep-seated issues are coming to the surface. And for the past few appointments, Evan is meeting with the therapist alone. So he can speak freely about what is bothering him. And I wonder and worry about this, too, with his history of storytelling. But if it helps him, I’ll justt bite my tongue.
His teacher means well, and we have told her of the homework difficulties at night. Her solution was, when we couldn’t take anymore, to put the homework away and send her a note or email and she would make Evan complete the work the next day during recess. I mean, what kid wants to stay inside for recess when they could be out playing with classmates?
Evan. Evan would rather be inside and away from his classmates, even if it involves doing math or writing sentences.
Turns out that his status as the “weird” kid in class has earned him a place on the receiving end of some cruelty from the other children. One of whom has a father who works with me. I want to put those children in their place so badly that I cannot stand it. I want to go and belittle them, call them names, make cruel and uncalled-for statements and watch their faces contort with their tears for hurting my baby. Those little bastards. Those little monsters. I really want to hurt them as they have hurt and emotionally fucked my child, only to get in their faces in the end and ask them how it felt to be on the receiving end. To see how they like it. Can they not see the good in Evan? That he could be a great ally and a fun friend? But I won’t because I am an adult. I am a resonsible adult and I cannot do it. I realize they are just kids. But I hate them all for hurting him. I never thought I would say that about kids, but damnit, a mother’s love and a mother’s scorn are both some serious shit.
My child has gotten to the point where he avoids recess and lunch and anything else that involves a chance for these kids to torture him. Smart, smart Evan. Poor Evan. And I feel terrible because the only way he had of communicating this to us was to fight with homework so he would be punished by having recess taken away. It reminds me of the time when he was about 3. Everyday at daycare, he would call the same teacher a name. We couldn’t figure out why it was the same time of day and always with the one teacher. Turns out that he hated naptime and her punishment would be that he would get “quiet time” at his desk for the infraction, which meant reading books. Well, that isn’t a punishment for Evan, who has always read books. It took some figuring out, but once we did, and she stopped using this method of discipline, the name calling stopped.
But this isn’t about naptime. I have a hard time intervening in a behavior that he is doing as a defense mechanism.
So we go through this. Day in and day out, we go through this. I am hoping the continued therapy and the new medicine will help and that our name will quickly reach the top of the waiting list for our official evaluation so we can be doubly sure that this is what we are dealing with.
Incidentally, I came up with this today. There are tons of articles like this all over the internet, and it is kind of troublesome because it almost makes Asperger’s look like a badge of honor. It isn’t. But Evan has some very good company.
Famous People with Asperger’s Syndrome, Official or Suspected
Sir Isaac Newton
Hans Christian Andersen
Henry Cavendish (discovered Hydrogen!)
Satoshi Tajiri (Father of Pokemon)
George Orwell (Animal Farm, 1984)
Maybe one day, this will be a consolation for Evan. As in yes, he’s different, but look at all of these awesome other people who were, too.
That’s me. I suck and I’m sorry. Here lately, I have missed out on some of the blogs I love. The little free time I have left after work, family, and school has been spent either on my own blog or reading something for non-academic purposes because I love to read, and well, there never is enough time, is there?
I promise you all that I will be a better Bloggy neighbor. I swear. Please forgive me.
Because if so, Zach is most definitely a little diva. The other day, after a healthy dinner, we gave the boys Edy’s Frozen Fruit Bars. This was the first time Zach had anything like this, but since he is cutting molars, and has been for some time, I figured it would feel good on his little gums. Little did I know that he would refuse to hold the bar because the stick wasn’t bulky enough for his little fists and the popsicle part was too cold. The solution? To make mommy hold the damned thing until he was finished with it, which was when it was gone. (PS–excuse my stained nails–from chopping veggies for the Diet Felt ‘Round the World.)
For his birthday this past Spring, Zachy got a set of old-school wooden blocks. You know the kind–lowercase on one side, uppercase on the other, numbers, some naked sides and some painted. No frills, no batteries. Just what I wanted for him. The problem was that up unil now, Zach has only been interested in the toys the flash, blink, spin, and screech. Today, John and I were trying to distract him while Evan sat at the kitchen table working on his math and spelling. Lately, Zach will go up to Bubby and harrass him, not understanding why Evan isn’t playing, and Evan will then be too distracted and will stop doing his homework that was an epic battle to get him started on in the first place. it’s ugly, so we’ve resorted to this tactic. This time, on a whim, we got the blocks out. I was building, John was building. And yes, Zach was building. He can stack blocks now, which is a big milestone in fine motor development, mind you. But then we realized something: Zach can be mean! He kept destroying John’s buildings, and of course, Daddy being the ultimate kid, John was more into the building than Zach was. John was even spelling words out like a little kid. And then Zach started picking the blocks up and chucking them at John’s head, giggling the whole time. Of course I got photos for you!