Michael Turns 2

After Christmas, I spent all of my available time on my computer getting the Shock Street Team up and running in advance for Rick’s new CD release in late February.  I decided to divide up the duties geographically, since most of the tasks I’d delineated required local people on the ground to visit stores, call radio stations, show up at promotional events.  I’d reached out to fans all over the country to ask them to be managers of their regions; I now had twelve people in charge of their local areas, all of whom would work directly with the fans.  My job then became more to get the information from the higher ups at the record company, decide how to proceed with it, and let those underneath me do the heavy lifting.  Meanwhile, I designed a whole new website for the new record, complete with the all access reward area for our teamers. It was a ton of work,  but R wasn’t around to complain about it because he was doing his year end close. That also meant he wasn’t around to pitch in and help, either.

Which is how I came to be alone one morning at the pediatrician’s office for Michael’s 2 year well child check up.  I’d dropped off my daughter at preschool, this time enjoying the luxury of having only one child in tow as I sat down in the waiting room.  I put down the diaper bag and set Michael in the toy area by the trains and busy beads and puzzles.

A few slow minutes ticked by as I watched my little boy there, looking silently at the toys in front of him and not interacting with them at all.   I hadn’t had time to slow down and watch him much lately;  as the minutes ticked by, I tried to imagine him as the doctor might.   I showed him how to move the beads up and down and all around the colored wires, but he wasn’t interested at all.  I showed him the puzzle and started fitting the pieces together one by one.  I felt a sense of relief wash over me as he finally reached out for one of the pieces.  There wasn’t anything wrong with my sweet, smiling little boy, I admonished myself.  He was just fine.

I looked away and let my mind wander until our last name was called by the nurse.  As I bent down to pick up Michael and the diaper bag, I realized what had kept him so occupied for the last five minutes.  He hadn’t been putting the puzzle together at all.  He’d taken every single puzzle shaped car and lined it up with the next one, so each end was touching, in a perfectly straight line across the floor.  “Let’s get this cleaned up before we go back there,” I told him sweetly, but he was not amused.  The fussy noises escalated to full blown meltdown screams, and the rest of the waiting room started to stare.

“Just bring him back and don’t worry about it,” the nurse said kindly as my face grew redder and redder.

I struggled to contain the wriggly mess of my son as we rushed into the labyrinth of examination rooms. He was fighting against me, not understanding at all the sudden stoppage of his play, but I was finally able to sooth him and calm him down through a combination of juice and cheerios.

“Any special concerns today?” the nurse asked brightly as my head swirled around in a mass of thoughts.  Why did my little boy freak out so much?  His tantrums were loud and embarassing to the point that we had stopped going out to eat to avoid them in public.  But then he could play literally for hours with just a few favorite toys, repeating the same actions over and over and over.  He didn’t talk yet, he didn’t point, he didn’t wave hello or goodbye.  I hadn’t realized any of this as I quickly went through all of the questions I knew the doctor had asked at our eighteen month appointment.  In fact, if I had to say so, I would say that my son probably hadn’t progressed at all intellectually in the last six months.  Melinda, at this age, was learning so fast that we thought it was like magic.

I could feel a turn in the pit of my stomach.  Something was definitely wrong here.  “Yes,” I answered the nurse.  “I don’t know how to explain it, but it feels like Michael isn’t learning as fast as my other two children did.  He still doesn’t talk, at all, not a single word.  He gets really upset sometimes, he’s super picky about food, and he does the same thing over and over and over all day long.”

“Alright then, I’ll make a note in the file so the doctor can talk to you more specifically about your concerns,” she answered, as if I’d said that I was worried that my son’s hair was too curly or that his cheeks were too pudgy.  I’d just put words to the nagging feelings I’d been pushing down for the last nine months or so, and it was a note in our file?

“She’ll be with you in a few minutes,” the nurse said as she closed the door behind her.

I looked at my sweet blond boy, who sat on my lap chugging apple juice.  “Well, we’ll see,” I said in a consoling voice, knowing exactly who I was really talking to.

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