back to school

After spending all day every day of the past fourteen months taking care of my disabled son Calvin, he will be returning to school on Monday, barring any unforeseen circumstances or seizures.

I can't say how well my boy will make the abrupt transition from the literal and figurative softness that is our home—cozy rooms, rugs and sofas, beds and pillows, warm, loving bodies to lap-nap with and hug—to the the high school's hard-edged spaces and commotion, blaring announcements, rigid chairs and desks, industrial floors, and lots of people whom he hasn't met or spent time with in months.

As for me? Hahahaha! I'm feeling a bit anxious, like a mom sending her kid to preschool or kindergarten for the first time. I worry about his comfort and happiness, particularly since Calvin can't verbalize his troubles or wants, and I'm despairing at the thought he won't get hugs. Though in many ways Calvin is a tween-sized infant-toddler, chronologically he's seventeen, and last year the administration maintained that embracing him might look suspicious in a sexual way. On the one hand, I understand the logic in this age of predators. On the other, it's most regrettable that we live in a world where one of Calvin's most basic human needs is denied because of fear of litigation over appearances. I also fret about Calvin's ability to move freely between the school's classrooms, hallways and stairs, which his akathisia (drug-induced restlessness) demands his body do. But, until he is compliant at wearing a mask—though it's yet unclear what exactly that means or how it will be measured—moving through those spaces when others are present will likely be prohibited, despite the fact he's fully vaccinated. With that in mind, I've had Calvin practice wearing a mask, and I'm amazed and proud of how well he tolerates the bothersome cloth which, like so many things, he doesn't understand.

I trust Calvin's teacher and ed-techs to do their best to keep him happy and allow him to be active or restful, depending upon his needs. I hope they don't push him too hard; I imagine his stamina has waned while being indoors through the icy Maine winter and frigid spring. I also hope they don't leave him sitting at a desk staring at a toy he doesn't care about. I hope they speak to him, engage with him, read him books and sing him songs. I really am fretting his return.

I've heard it said that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but I'm not convinced. Though caring for Calvin full-time has been a major test to my patience and morale, the past fourteen months has brought me closer to my son. For the most part, I've enjoyed hanging out with him. It has also been rewarding to see his progress: pooping and peeing on the toilet (mostly); improved balance; better responsiveness to our verbal cues; a tiny bit of headway eating thick yogurt with a non-adaptive spoon; getting in and out of his bed with less help; taking bites from sandwiches and bananas (which we hold), his sheer growth—he's five feet tall (though only eighty-five pounds.)

And while I'll be happy to be freed up to do mostly as I please between 7:30 a.m. and noonish on weekdays, with the exception of Wednesdays, I'll miss my kid. I'll miss our frequent cuddles on the faded green couch, miss tickling him, giving him lots of hugs and kisses, strolling with him around the yard. I'll miss our relaxing morning drives, holding his hand and feeding him finger foods from the driver's seat, and watching him in the backseat sometimes moving as if he's dancing to the music. I'll miss taking in my favorite magnificent vistas, and seeing the smiling, waving, now-familiar faces of people who have unwittingly brightened my days through this long and lonely pandemic. And though I relish the thought of having the house to myself for a few hours, plus time in the garden alone, I already feel sad at the thought of losing our pandemic routine. Thankfully, though, there are still weekends, Wednesdays and dreams.

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