[Scene: ISAAC is at home with ANA, his nanny. She is trying to get him to eat his carrots.]
ANA: Isaac, papi, have a carrot!
ANA: Isaac, come on these carrots are so good! [Eats one]. Mmmmmm!
ISAAC: Ana likes the carrots, Ana can eat the carrots.
And here we are. He walks into assembly at school now, completely untroubled. Months ago, he refused to go near the place with its linoleum floors, bright lights and deafening clamor. The anxiety is still there, as is the elevator obsession, joined by a new companion: buses.
These days, I awake as often as not to a recitation of our municipal bus lines. It's part of the deal, our special interest, if you will. It doesn't faze me too much--I remember my grand passion for escalators at that age--but then the world has a way of intruding into our snug little cocoon.
The world loves norms, doesn't it?
When my mother died, a part of me watched with detachment as I moved through the stages of grief--frequently all at once. But one thing people don't tell you is that your friends and acquaintances move through those stages with you as well. They have a timeline too.
They begin with shock, as we the bereaved do. Then kindness (sometimes distancing). Food is brought, hugs given, long weepy monologues patiently listened to. Assurances--"whatever you need..." are made. But then, at some predetermined yet mysterious moment, there is a shift.
You are supposed to be better. You are supposed to be back to normal. Because--let's face it--we humans are made profoundly uncomfortable by variations from the norm.
But the truth is that the bereaved accommodate as well. We try to pass. We pretend to feel better. We pretend to be back to normal. We simmer with anger. Or we express that anger.
Because then we have two things to battle: the grief, and the illusion that the grief is gone.
And this is where we are, in a way. As my boy matures, behavior that was passed off lightly at two or even four is now so much more evident. When he is overcome at school and lies on the classroom floor, or when he refuses to exit the elevator, demanding yet another ride, the climate shifts, and everyone has to accommodate themselves to this departure from the expected.
They want him to be normal, because, you know, it's so much easier.
But here's what I've learned. My normal has stretched to accommodate a lot more than it used to. And with that comes a certain serenity about what is happening at any given time.
So here is my advocacy project, my challenge to you and to the people around you. If you really want to make a difference in my son's life and the lives of people like him, challenge that unease you feel. Provoke it. Stretch your normal.