Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dinner was good...

...because I had made up my mind to have a good time and try to keep the boys from getting out of control. It didn't take long. Heir No. One has Aspergers. That means a disruption in routine can be catastropic in terms of his feelings and how he reacts to things. He usually gets amped up a few days before a holiday, starts breaking out in hives, requiring doses of Benedryl.

This was no different. It started yesterday. When we got there today (he stayed a Papa and Nana's overnight), he was already upset about something. Once I got Heir No. Two settled, I went to my in-laws bedroom, where my wife had taken Heir No. One. He was sitting in the chair next to the bed, crying. My wife informed me that he was in a time out for throwing a fit about not getting a turkey leg. He was very upset, and shouted about wanting a turkey leg. I softly asked her to let me talk to to him, and then asked her to go out and enjoy her meal with everyone else.

I crossed the room, and got on my knees so I could look him in the eyes. I started to talk to him and explain that he didn't ask Papa before hand, so all the meat was taken off the turkey leg. He got upset again, screaming about how he didn't want any more Thanksgivings. I kept calm, and told him that he was at a 4 and he needed to be at a 1 before we could talk, and I turned around, leaning back against the chair and stretching my legs out in front of me. I waited until I heard the sniffling slow down, and then I asked him to come sit with me.

He got down into my lap, and I very quietly started to talk to him about it again. He started shouting again, and at that time, Nana walked in, and he started shouting at her. She left, and then my wife walked in with his coat and shoes, and suggested I take him for a drive, because he was disturbing dinner. I asked for a few more minutes. She hesitated. She whispered to me that it hurt her to see him like this. I whispered back that I understood, but I thought we could work it out. She stood for another minute, watching, her empathy leaking out of every pore, then left to rejoin the family at dinner. I pulled his coat up over him and gently rocked him, letting him calm back down before I said anything more. Once again, the tears slowed, and the pauses between the sniffles got louder. I asked him "Its hard with all these people here, and all this stuff going on, isn't it?"

He first nodded affirmatively, then said "Yeah Dad, its hard. Really really hard." I could hear the catching in his throat and his voice cracking. I didn't have to see his face to know the tears were welling up again. I've been there too many times lately myself. I asked him if I could tell him about Thanksgiving at my Grandpa and Grandma's house when I was his age. Once more, and affirmative nod and a sniffle.

"I know its hard for you E. It was hard for me, too. Do you remember meeting my Grandpa the last time we all went back to Michigan. I took that picture of you and him wearing the silly glasses?"


"Well he and my Grandma had a really big house south of where your grandpa and grandma used to live there, and just like it is here for you with Papa and Nana, I was there so much with them that it felt like my house, but then when holidays came, things got all moved around, and they were always so busy with things, and the house smelled different because grandma made all the food, and then my aunts and uncles would all show up and there would be a lot of people in the house, and it didn't feel right and I didn't always know how to act. But there was always lots of good food, and my Grandpa would make a fire in the fireplace in th family room, and sometimes it would snow, and I could go sledding on the hill in back of their house, and so even though it was hard, I still had fun, and now I have some really good memories."



"I think I'm hungry, but I know I can't eat in here."

"You're right. You can't eat in here, but if you calm down a little more, we can go out there and eat. I know Nana made a really good turkey, and there are rolls, and pickles, and sparkling Apple Cider..."

"I think I'm calm now, Dad. Can I sit next to you while we eat?"

"Sure. Do you want to pray first?"


(I love how it just always seems to calm him down.)

We prayed, and then I looked him in the eye, and said "I'll get your dinner plate ready, but I need you to do something for me."

"What, Dad?"

"You need to go apologize to Nana. This is her house, and you do not get to disrespect her in her house...or anywhere else, for that matter. Don't make a big production out of it. Be discrete. Go whisper in her ear."

We were walking out as my wife returned. "Everything ok?" She asked, the question as much in her eyes as on her lips.

"Yes. He is going to apologize to Nana, and I'll get his plate ready."



"Can we eat in the kitchen with J?"


My wife prepared his plate as I watched him go out and apolgize to my mother-in-law. She hugged him, and said "That's OK.", and I ate my Thanksgiving dinner in the kitchen, sitting with my boys.

He still got a little excited, but he had a great day.
I think my wife and I agreed that even though there was stress, it was probably the best Thanksgiving we have had.

Grandpa, I really wish you and I could talk right now.