A little while ago I woke one morning muttering the word ‘cattywhampus’ to myself. I’d never heard it before but it rolled around my head so much that I decided to google it. Oddly enough it means ‘in disarray or disorder’ or ‘gone askew’ and lends itself, I think, incredibly well to describing mine and Charlie’s life.
We are shortly to be living on our own again. My wonderful long suffering parents are due a break. Having sheltered us from another storm Mum has been banished to the garden to dispense her calming wise words through a plume of cigarette smoke amongst the palms, not having been able to do so inside because of Charlie’s health. Dad, ever frustrated at retirement, at not being able to jet off to some distant destination to work has taken to obsessively drawing the amalgamation of Ireland and England as if in some nervous frenzy and has had to curb his rants about our political leaders because of Charlie’s anxiety. There they sit, both divorced from each other years ago, but still co-habiting nonetheless. She smokes, he draws, in an attempt to distract themselves from the lingering question “How has this happened to the grandson we love so much?” Smiling still at the circus that is Charlie and I, they have been thrown over the big top by the arrival of Floyd the dog. Resident sex pest. Tis a complicated and comical household.
Charlie meanwhile has become a schoolboy again at a small village school. He goes for three hours a week and progress is slow as we start the painful process of trying to develop relationships between him and the rest of the world. In truth there are so very few people he connects with even though like a territorial canine he would like to physically connect with the postman each morning. There are still nude days aplenty and I ponder for how much longer it can stay relatively amusing before I eventually have to start telling people he is a practising naturist. And there are many muddled and anxious days and cancer takes a backseat to the ever present, always apparent autism. After five years of tinkering with behavioral therapies, speech therapies, diet and supplements we are still at base camp, the summit hidden in the dark clouds above. While I busy myself this week in creating conversation sheets and comic strip scenarios, in making sauerkraut and kefir I do stop and think it may all be in vain. That he will unravel the way he wants to and do things in his own time. Thankfully most days we are able to head to the beach where between the vast expanse of sky and sand he is able to be who he is with only the clouds watching and can collect his thoughts on life in the peace, the disarray becoming the debris of yesterday’s tide.