Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Detour

We had a big family dinner at my mom's last night, complete with baked tortellini, stuffed zucchini, pork tenderloin, salad and fresh baked semolina bread, bowls of fresh fruit and olives. Anyhow, the usual big Italian family dinner involves many screaming children and controversial, animated discussion (Last night's topic: whose kid will be the most beautiful when they grow up. Yes, it got ugly.)

So anyways, there I was, plotting my revenge against anyone who didn't agree that my daughter was God's gift of ultimate beauty to the world over and above all her mangy cousins. (Is everyone BLIND???!!!) Suddenly, we noticed my 2-yr-old son Nicky had disappeared. For those of you who didn't know, Nicky is autistic. A very wise person once told me to think of it this way: most children are like cars on a road. They swerve, they adapt to the conditions of their enviroment, they change direction when they want to do something else. They can drive alongside other cars/children. They can stop quickly when they must. Nicky is like a train on a track. One direction. One destination. Can't stop for miles. He has repetitive tendencies, is very solitary and doesn't "get" abstract concepts, like "bring me the cup so I can give you water". He'll stand by the sink crying instead, unable to understand what the cup has to do with the water that comes out of the tap.

He has problems with speech, and talks in single word utterances. He can only identify items he sees ("CAR"!) but not items he needs but doesn't see ("water"). This is very unlike his twin sister who is a chatterbox and a master manipulator. On the plus side, she instinctively takes care of him. When someone gives her a sippy cup with water/juice, she won't leave until that person gives her one for her brother too. Same thing with cookies, snacks, etc. When Nicky can't find his blankie, Natalie helps me tear the house apart looking for it. When he cries, she runs around saying "Nicky crying! Don't cry Nicky! Don't cry Nicky!" She even gives him his pacifier to make him stop. She is a patient marvel with her 'little' brother. (Can you see why she is so beautiful to me?)

Anyhow, I was worried about my son, so I called him back to the living room, which never works but I never stop trying. (He doesn't come when called.) Resigned, I got up to search for the little escapee, when suddenly he comes tearing around the corner, his face ablaze with victory.

"Mommy, I got the grapes! I got the grapes!"

Sure enough, raised high in his little fist was a handful of grapes that he had swiped from the dinner table. It was his first sentence. It was the first time he had "helped" himself.

I suddenly realized that in the contest for most beautiful, it was a tie.


At 11:25 AM , Blogger bornfool said...

That put a smile on my face. Thanks.

At 11:34 AM , Blogger Magdalena said...

Excuse me while I reach for a tissue. Absolutely beautiful Franny! And you know, your children take the prize for most beautiful because they have such a beautiful mother, inside and out! Hugs!

Lots of Love,

At 1:22 PM , Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

That was such a touching story, Franny. It brought tears to my eyes. I can tell that you must be a wonderful caring mother.

At 4:09 PM , Blogger Motherkitty said...

One triumph at a time! Always believe your son will be beautiful as he progresses and grows. Thanks, mom, you are doing a wonderful job with your kids.

At 4:25 PM , Blogger MacManus said...

Your children are perfect. they sound like they complement each other beautifully. I grew up with a guy who had an autistic brother and feel richer for meeting him. He was heavily autistic but was such a wonderful person...you just had to be understanding of his routine and his habits.

Congratulations on the big step...and may it be the first of many :)

At 6:45 PM , Anonymous Cataldo said...

There's also an epilogue to this story that I didn't tell Franny about. Both kids have security blankets that they take wherever they go (think of Linus). They won't even go to bed without them. But last night, Natalie lost her blanket. I tore the house apart, dreading the moment when I will have to put Natalie to bed without her "binkit." Well, I failed in my duty as a father, but it was way past their bedtime, and I had to do what I had to do. Both kids went to bed without too much fuss, but as soon as Natalie realized that her blanket was missing, she started wailing "Where's my binkit??!?" Then the sweetest thing occurred: Nicky reached over to Natalie (their cribs are side-by-side) and gave her his blanket, and said, "Here you go." He then looked at me, and said, "Water, please." (another night time tradition. I didn't get their sippy cups yet). It is said that the connecton between twins is something so special that it cannot be described. While Natalie looks out for Nicky, it looks like my little clone is starting to do the same for her.

At 9:14 AM , Blogger Mark Leslie said...

Just beautiful, Franny (he says, wiping a tear from his eye). And nice epilogue Cataldo. It's amazing the generosity, grace and raw kindness and compassion that kids can show to each other. Doesn't it make you think that there really can be hope for us all.

At 4:43 PM , Blogger Kimberly said...

I have known since the moment I layed eyes on those children that they were without a doubt the most beautiful I have ever seen. When Franny's kids are involved, there is no contest on who is the most beautiful. It's them..all the way!

At 6:15 PM , Blogger Pete Mitchell said...

I am totally choked up right now. I've worked with ya so I know; you're kids got their protective, look-out-for-each other qualities from you. We've all been blessed for knowing you Franny, many more will be blessed in the future from knowing you and your children.


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