Backward Days

Jacob has put his underwear on backwards again this morning. It doesn’t happen often anymore, but still, occasionally I will come into the living room prompted by Jake’s “I’m dressed Mommy!” shout-out, to find them on the wrong way.

Then, like this morning, I have to tell him “No, Jake, they’re backwards, let’s get that fixed” and not just the usual “That’s a good start, Jake, how about the shirt and pants, too?”

And it reminded me of last Thanksgiving when I had watched my husband squirming a bit too much in his seat on the way-long car ride up to Putnam county where we were to be feasting at my sister-in-law’s house.

I asked him why he was acting like he has shpilkes and he confessed that HE had put his underwear on backwards that morning, and they were a bit shy of comfortable. He hadn’t noticed until he was taking a quick final pee before setting out. And, as we were running late (as usual), he hadn't wanted to take the time to remove his shoes, get undressed and redressed again.

And I had to laugh. I had thought the whole backwards underwear thing was a factor of Jake's autistic distractedness, I hadn’t realized it was a family tradition.

And, because I never let an opportunity to gently tease my husband go to waste, all day long I kept referring to his awesomely ass forward undershorts. It helped to have a joke running, to undercut the sad that ran through the day on that Thanksgiving, in that shitty year of loss, the first without my father and Dan's mother.

I also took the occasion this morning to notice how tight Jake’s size 10 to 12 underpants are becoming, same as nearly all his clothing. Time soon for my still nine year-old son, my gentle giant, to move up to the next, full-on teenager's size.

I look at Jacob now and so often see parts of my husband's face looking back at me. I did not know Dan as a child, or even a young man; we met when we were shuffling into middle age, and have well grown deeper grizzled in the thirteen years we have been together.

But in the photos of his childhood I see Jacob, as Ethan so recapitulates my youthful visage. Uncanny really, how one is nearly all mine, the other his.

This morning once again watching my son dressing, eating, drawing yet another picture of his beloved Dragon Ball Z Kai characters, I see shades of the teen he is on the precipice of becoming, the man's body he will inhabit in the fast blink of an eye.

This manly illusion broken by his lilting voice: "Mommy can I pet Cocoa now?" His mind and spirit clearly remain so firmly still in the grasp of childhood, of autism; his obsession with the family cat waxing not waning.

"Cocoa, you're my best friend" he tells her, as he hugs her goodbye for the day. And it's true. She is. And I don't let him see the tears that well in my eyes as we don coats, trudge outside in the semi-darkness to await his school bus.

Thankfully they are gone by the time I sweep my hand across his cheek, kissing his tousled head while intoning my daily admonishment: "Listen to your teachers, work hard, no growling in school!"

I start to walk back inside, and then I turn; I turn and wave.

I wave at the darkened windows of the bus, knowing that inside sits my sweet, gentle giant.

My Jacob.


Varda writes about Autism parenting, eldercare, grief, ADD, parenting in general, and tells stories from her wild and varied past on her blog, The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation.

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