I Am Your Oma

My parents saw Cricket once, when he was five and a half months old; my mother snatched him up and passed him around, and then made a joke about kidnapping him. My mother’s sense of humor is not my favorite thing about her—as it turns out, Ruth doesn’t appreciate it either. She subsequently wrote my mother a letter citing the joke and letting her know that she would never see Cricket again. My parents have been permitted to send a birthday gift each year, and they do, but that’s the extent of their contact.

But this year, I decided to ask Ruth and/or Nora whether they would be willing to have dinner with my parents on the visit—anywhere you like, they will pay, and they will be on their best behavior. Nora was willing to give it a shot, and my parents were thrilled. And then, the morning of the visit, my mother pulled Cricket aside and started talking quietly to him. I couldn’t hear her, but even assuming the most harmless chat (which it probably was), I started shaking my head at her so hard that it looked like I was having some kind of fit, my expression a clear message: WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING? I sent my dad a text from the road, saying that listen, I know this is weird and probably condescending and I’m sorry, but it would be really good if at dinner there could be no teasing or joking and no talking to Cricket where Nora can’t hear. My mother was hurt by my silent, frantic criticism of the morning, but she and my dad talked, and they ended up on the same page.

When my dad talked to me about his position, he said: “I pretend that I’m on the sex offender registry. Like, here are my hands! I will keep them in view at all times! And I know that I’m not a sex offender, but—” he shrugged. “We haven’t seen him in years, and we just want to eat him up, but we know that we can’t. But hopefully he’ll know that we care about him, and when he’s older, if he wants—we’re here.”

At dinner, my parents were interested and friendly and wholly appropriate; they thought that Cricket was lovely and hilarious. Nora told them that they could ask Cricket to call them whatever they liked, and so they are using the same terms they do with Joy and Kit: Oma and Granddad. Nora texted me later that night to say that my parents had been very nice, and that Cricket had enjoyed himself—and that they’ll try to come for a longer visit next time.

And then my mom spent her night just crying and crying. My dad told me genuinely but without any real hope that they would love to invite Cricket to our family vacation next summer. he expressed a hope that maybe next visit they might be able to give him a hug. This adoption stuff is awfully rough sometimes.

12

Thanks to everyone who has reached out—I’ve really appreciated it, for all that I haven’t responded. I don’t want to write about Wednesday—I want to have written about it already. But there’s only one way to get there, I reckon.

Joey was evaluated by an occupational therapist and a speech therapist; they were exactly the sort of people you hope are working with special-needs kids, sweet and enthusiastic and clearly both competent and wicked smart. They explained that the Regional Center doesn’t try to get kids proper diagnoses until close to age 3, because up until then, they aren’t needed for treatment. In six months or so, Joey will be evaluated by a behavioral psychologist.

It was very strange. Joey was in a good mood and as cooperative as I could have hoped for—the women did things like make loud noises behind him and call his name, which he ignored about 80 percent of the time (this is totally normal for him). They talked to him, they made sound effects at him, and they tried to get him to put puzzles together and put pennies into a piggy bank. They picked him up and set him down; they asked him to help them feed a baby doll. They were very positive and extremely encouraging, occasionally asking me a question or talking to me about what they were noticing. I was totally caught off guard by the revelation that he has low muscle tone—according to the OT, this is affecting all kinds of things about him, from the way he sits to the fact that he’s still so baby faced. When they were done with Joey, the women worked with their notes and some score sheets, and then they talked to me for awhile; I think they were trying to make sure that I wouldn’t freak out when, in a week or two, I get the final report.

Joey is operating at the level of a twelve-month-old more or less across the board. There are six- to nine-month milestones that he is failing to meet; there are areas in which he performs as well as a fifteen-month-old. Joey is twenty-eight months old. The speech therapist asked me whether the speech therapist Joey is already seeing “raised any possibilities”; I said that she had told us that we should have him evaluated for autism. “And now that you’ve read some about autism, did that seem way off base, or like it might be possible?” When I said, tightly, that it seemed plausible, both women nodded vigorously. I think I may have cracked the secret code.

In a week or two, I will hear from our case manager, who will find us therapists who will work with Joey in our home—a friend whose son also had low muscle tone told me that we should expect physical therapy, the OT mentioned that he would get “an intensive program” of occupational therapy, and there will be speech therapy, too.

I am sad and angry and kind of dazed. I feel guilty about not realizing how bad things were—I only mentioned his speech delay to the pediatrician because he had lost words, and because he seemed so young around kids his own age. But I feel so thankful to have my Joey.

The occupational therapist asked me at one point whether he can jump. No, I said, but he really wants to. “We can get you jumping, buddy,” she said confidently. “Oh, yeah.”