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FACILITATED COMMUNICATION/ Linda Lawson Dearmama, iloeyuyl. Iliketo goforrideswithyu. Ilikyutoreadbootetome. Love, Craig —Craig, 9 The Atlantic in October is cold but not frigid, at least not in southern Maine, where Craig walks barefoot in the receding tide, pant legs roUed halfway to his knees. He's invented a game, taking mincing steps into the shallow froth until a large wave slaps his shins, and while its action involves only him, sound effects—Oh no! Look out!—are crucial. Because my son does not speak, these faU to me. From drier sand a few feet away, I loudly feign panic whenever a new surge makes for his legs: the shriller my voice, the harder his laugh as he baby-steps backward , teetering to balance. I'm tempted to shuck off my own shoes and wade beside him, but Craig tends to stop and whine whenever somebody draws too close or interrupts with noise. If he abandons this particular game TU have to suggest something else, and options are Umited. We could take a ride up the coast, maybe putter through Ogunquit, but already I've driven five hours north to rendezvous with Diane, the paid care provider who has become his second mother, and collect my autistic son for our visit. Back at the motel there's television, but who wants to loll inside on a sunny day? Best save sedentary and indoor activities for tomorrow, when rain is expected and energies may be low. Plus I want time to inspect. We haven't seen each other since spring, and though Diane and I talk regularly by phone, I need to observe for myself Craig's height, weight, posture and skin tone. I note his bright eyes, recently trimmed hair and soft, clean ears. Like a mother handed her newborn, I have an urge to unwrap and examine; if we had time and space, and casuaUy undressing one's nineteen-year-old son even innocentlydidn'tseemsucha strange thingto do, I'mnotsureIwouldn't peel every shred of clothing from his body and study each surface and texture, from the whorl on the crown of his head to the tips of his long, bony feet. Is he weU? Comfortable? WeU rested? Happy? Craig does appear happy; also taUer, heavier and older. In the water at Long Sands Beach he steps forward and back, hands to his chest, grinning broadly 32 · The Missouri Review with pleasure of his own manufacture. I stare when he's not looking, disoriented by his size. He's nearly as tall as I am. Is this what grandparents go through? Separated from this chñd for months at a time, I see evidence of his growth only irregularly. The sequence of his evolution seems more flipbook than film: off-speed, jerky and riddled with gaps. And thebigger Craig gets, the more evident his disability, adding to my transitory confusion whenever I see him again. When he was smaller, quirks in facial expression and behavior were less incongruous because physicaUy he was also immature. As long as his chUd's body was stül a work in progress, his oddities seemed impermanent. DevelopmentaUy speaking, aU doors remained open. But now, the same age I was at his birth, Craig is nearly complete, his mustache and budding beUy proof that physicaUy, at least, childhood is gone. Before his seizures began, when he was nine, Craig produced most consonant sounds. Vowel sounds were harder. The only one he made consistently was a soft U, so that most consonants came out buh, duh, muh. At his most talkative and intelUgible stage—just prior to beginning seizure medication—he attempted combinations of simple consonants, the clearest of which was wah-duh for water. Facial expression, gesture, body language, tone and context were critical to understanding him. To me and his father and hisbrother, Kyle, and to teachers at school and neighbors up the road, wuh could mean any number of things. We learned to ask endless questions: Wheel? Wall? Wood? (He nods.) Wood? Woodstove? (SmUe.) You want wood? (Nod.) Oh! You want to put wood in the stove. No, Honey, the stove is hot. Let Mummy do it. Hh! Yes, hot. Don't touch! This...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 32-50
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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