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Places the Vine Can’t Reach

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Sometimes I don’t want to talk about autism.

It’s not because I’m angry or sad. It’s just that…sometimes it seems that autism is like a creeping vine, silently inching along and winding itself around everything it touches, altering things that were.

It’s not good or bad, nor right or wrong. It just is.

Every school meeting; every play date; every meal time; every homework battle; every post I read or write.

It was unexpected when, on Saturday, a trip to the emergency room was a rather sedate and uncomplicated affair. Except for the fact that Connor had broken his arm – his first broken bone, falling while riding his scooter in front of the house. He had only cried for the first few minutes after falling. We put ice on his arm and calmed him down. After a while, we saw that the arm was bulging a bit on the side, and decided we needed an x-ray.

Of course we brought the iPad. This is simply a given. The ER was blessedly empty, and he waited patiently while he was examined, inquiring about when he would get his x-ray. When they wheeled the x-ray machine over to his side, he calmly put the iPad aside and laid his arm on the glass platform just as he was asked to do. He was disappointed he couldn’t see the image immediately, but was amenable to resuming his game when assured he would see the x-ray shortly.

He looked intently at the scan as the doctor told us he had broken both bones, a few inches above the wrist. When they applied the temporary half-cast, he asked pertinent questions about how he would bathe, how long he would wear it, and how long it would take for the bone to heal.

We left an hour later, with instructions to follow-up with the orthopedist on Monday. As we drove home, I realized that the entire ordeal had felt so routine. Ordinary. No discussions of behavior, no perseverations or refusals to comply. It was like finding a space where the vine hadn’t yet reached.

The orthopedist appointment was much the same. When it came time for the doctor to straighten the bone, there were many tears. But there was no screaming, no trying to get away. I held onto his other arm and stroked his hair, telling him how proud I was of him, that he was very brave, and promising ice cream.

The doctor, no shirker at handling bones or people, came back with a purple popsicle that they must keep stocked for just such an occasion. Connor held it out to me and said, “here mom, you take it. You deserve it for taking care of me and bringing me to the doctor.”

But I refused. It was freeing to spend this time away from thinking and worrying and planning and exploring the A word, and I just wanted one more moment…seeing my little boy enjoy a messy, dripping popsicle.

These moments of connection, of presence, you just don’t know where they’ll crop up.

It might just be in the emergency room, because of a broken arm, out of the vine’s reach.




About Flannery

Kid, husband, dogs, my mother, full-time job, maximum stress, minimal relaxation...sooner or later I had to vent. AND we moved from California to Texas. I could start a whole other blog about that.

16 responses »

  1. Oh my gosh! What a brave little boy! Conner is a sweetheart to have offered you that Popsicle. I am so sorry to hear he went through all that pain but out of that experience it sure sounds like a lot of good things came. Much love to you both as he heals.

  2. So beautiful, Flannery. I knew you could do it. 😀 Pardon me now, I need some tissue. *runs away*

  3. He handled that well…so well , you too:)

  4. I had a very similar experience with my Cam when he was 5 (11 years ago). As strange as it may seem, I have such fond memories of that experience because it was so very “normal”.

  5. “Here mom, you take it. You deserve it for taking care of me and bringing me to the doctor.” ARE YOU FOR REAL??? Love him. And you.

    Well done!

  6. This made me cry. Especially when he offered you the Popsicle. You would think the vine had even more of a presence in this type of situation. How great that it wasn’t! Beautifully written.

  7. My heart just melted reading this! SO great!

  8. Wow, this post is so beautiful. The imagery is incredible! And of course, so touching. I found myself tearing up. I have had moments like this too and have treasured them. I love the vine analogy–next time I have such a moment, I am sure I will think of you!

  9. When I broke my toe they gave me a digital pic of it to give to an orthopedic surgeon in case I needed a consult. Did you get one? He’s probably love that!

  10. Such a great analogy with the vine; autism and other special needs frame of mind sure does get insidious! Your boy is such a trooper. I love how the moments of pure orindainess come, seemingly, out of nowhere. They are gifts we don’t take for granted, that’s for sure!

  11. Absolutely BEAUTIFUL post! Thank you.

  12. Wonderful post! I know how that feels, whenever my boy is sick he is like a whole different child. A “normal” child, mild mannered, well tempered, pleasant to be around! There are no arguments, everything is at a normal pace, rather than the usual high speed/high tension. It’s crazy, we are always a bit relieved during cold and flu season, sad to say.

  13. Shucks. Stayed up way too late reading your archives. I look forward to reading more!

  14. That’s so sweet that he offered you the popsicle.

  15. Wow. Your little boy grew up a lot just then, didn’t he? You have so much to be proud of, Flannery. So very very much.

  16. Poignant, and beautifully written. I love the vine imagery. We have lots of beautiful vines in our backyard– jasmine, wisteria, rambling rose, grapes– and they will absolutely overtake all of the other plants if they’re not carefully tended.


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