We were going to do some grocery shopping Saturday afternoon, not a lot, just the usual eggs, bread, and milk for the coming week. Because it had been a long, tiring ten days since we got home from our vacation (yes, nanny woes, again), A♥ said “Maybe we can take in a quick movie too? We won’t be long.” I didn’t even think about it. I said yes right away.
Alex was home to keep an eye on his brother and we had temporary care lined up to help Alphonse. I couldn’t resist the lure of a movie to distract us from the daily grind. And it was a real date, even if there were groceries involved.
I hurriedly changed into a new outfit I had been saving for the next date- a pair of tattered jean capris and a loose white cotton blouse I had purchased in Fuji on sale. I took out my hair rollers and gave my hair a quick run through with my fingers. I dabbed some sunblock, laid over a primer, and worked through my makeup as fast as I could. When A♥ saw that I was ready, he grabbed his keys, flashed me an OK! sign, and gave final instructions to Alex for his brother’s care. And then we were off. Almost.
When we reached the bottom of the stairs, we ran into Alphonse on his way up. He was humming a wordless ditty but upon seeing us, he stopped. He looked at us- first at me, then at A♥- and took in our clothes and the makeup on my face and then, just like that, it seemed as if a universe of happiness was sucked out of his whole being. His back bent into a stoop, his shoulders slumped, his hands stopped flapping. As he became still and small, his eyes turned vacant and glassy. The corners of his mouth drooped into a sad little pout. He didn’t make a sound. If I could describe what betrayal looked like, I’d have said that Alphonse, at that very moment, personified all its hurt and sorrow.
Despite my promises to return with presents for him, he just stood there, staring at us, that same sad, wretched look on his face. If he had grabbed at us, perhaps, I would have been firmer and maybe we would have made it out the door. But that afternoon, when it was all too possible he was still wounded and hurting at the sudden departure of the new nanny, he needed, nay, wanted, us to be there for him. How could we leave him?
A♥ took command and got Alphonse dressed and ready to go in no time at all. The three of us headed to the grocery store and ran our errands, the movie and date forgotten casualties of parenthood. We passed by McDonald’s for a treat before we went home. Alphonse was quiet, but he was smiling again.
Later that night, as Alphonse hovered around us again, I asked him a few questions.
Mama: Alphonse, are you sad when Mama and Papa leave you at home?
Mama: How do you feel? Ouchy? In here? (I point at his heart.)
Alphonse showed me this.
Once in a while, this nonverbal, profoundly autistic young man opens up to the world and it is a rare, amazing insight into his heart and mind.
Don’t be afraid, son. Mama and Papa will stay as long as we can.