With the Christmas rush behind us, we can take time to savor the season and appreciate the unexpected gifts we may not have noticed in the flurry of activities surrounding the holidays. Specifically, I am grateful for the following “gifts.”
For once, Alex actually gave me specific ideas about what he would like for Christmas. In years past, he would occasionally make a suggestion or two, but this year, he seemed to have some definite ideas about what he wanted. One request was a Chicago Cubs blanket, which was a great idea because his medications make him feel cold a lot of the time, and he is often wrapped up in a blanket to keep warm. A quick Google search enabled me to find a nice fleece blanket with the Cubs logo at Bed Bath and Beyond, which my mom picked up for him and gave him as a present from my parents. This gift has been put to good use this cold week, as Alex wraps himself in the soft warmth of the blanket.
Besides the blanket request, Alex also asked for some DVDs; he wanted the entire Shrek collection of movies and a movie about football. This led me to online shopping at Amazon, where I found all four Shrek movies in a nice set and a DVD on the history of the Chicago Bears. What Alex didn’t know was that I had made a great Black Friday purchase from Target of a portable DVD player on sale for half price so that he can watch DVDs in his room. Interestingly, Alex has not had a lot of interest in watching movies the last few years even though he loved watching Disney movies when he was little. Recently, he decided he wanted to watch the Harry Potter movies, and we were surprised how well he was able to focus upon the plot and enjoy the movie. This improvement in his attention span is a gift in itself to us.
Another pastime Alex has enjoyed lately is listening to music. Throughout the month of December, he and I listened for hours on end to Christmas CD’s. While we have several Christmas music CD’s by country singers that he knows and likes, he decided that his favorite one was my Amy Grant Christmas CD. In fact, he’s now such a fan of hers that he says she’s his favorite singer, and he’s requested to listen to her other CD’s that I have. Had I recognized his devotion to her, I would have gotten him one of her CD’s for Christmas. Instead, I went with his previous favorite singers and bought him the most recent CD’s from Alan Jackson and Taylor Swift, both of which he likes, as well. Fortunately, Alex and I share similar tastes in music, so listening to music is a pleasant activity that we can do together.
Aside from the various typical gifts, I’m also thankful for other improvements in Alex. One of these is the reemergence of his sense of humor. When he was overwhelmed with anxiety, he seemed to have lost his quick wit, which also seemed dulled by the medications to help his anxiety and made him sleepy. Because he’s been more alert lately, he’s more observant and better able to communicate. A couple of weeks ago, Alex was talking to my brother and asking him how much he weighed. When my brother told Alex his weight, Alex was thrilled to have that information. Although Alex weighs forty pounds less than my brother, when asked how much he weighs, he immediately deducted two pounds from my brother’s weight and claimed that’s how much he weighs. He was delighted when we all laughed at his comment, and it was nice to see him enjoy making a joke.
Another positive change is Alex’s desire for grooming. Last year, he refused to cooperate with getting haircuts and shaving, perhaps because these activities overwhelmed him with sensory stimuli. As a result, he looked like a shaggy bum for several months. Now, not only does he allow me to cut his hair and shave him, but also he seems to enjoy being groomed and even asks me for haircuts or shaves. He looks so much better with shorter hair and clean-shaven, and I’m pleased that he lets me keep him well groomed.
Probably the most noticeable difference in Alex is that he welcomes my presence. Last year, he much preferred Ed’s company to mine, even telling me bluntly at times, “Mommy is leaving now!” Lately, he likes hanging out with me, listening to music, watching television and videos, and just talking. I’m pleased that he seems to be coming out of the fog and is able to answer and ask questions clearly so that we can have conversations again. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing, and he’s currently a bit clingy, wanting to know where I am at all times, which at times feels a bit like I am being stalked. While I’m glad that he likes my company, I’m hopeful that he will soon be less of a Mama’s boy so that he can be more independent in entertaining himself, and I can go about my activities without always providing him a detailed report of where I’m going and what I’m doing. In the meantime, I remember that he won’t always want to hang around with me, so I need to enjoy his adoration while it lasts. Truthfully, I’ll be glad when he’s not as fond of me, though.
Reflecting on this Christmas season, I’m thankful for the joy we can now see in Alex’s eyes when he’s engaged in his favorite activities, the love that has carried the three of us through good times and bad, and the hope that Alex will continue to get better and better. In the words of an Amy Grant Christmas song that is a favorite of Alex’s and mine: “Love has come for the world to know, as the wise men knew such a long time ago. I believe that angels sang that hope had begun when the God of glory, who is full of mercy, sent His Son.” And in the words of Charles Dickens’ beloved character Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.” Romans 15:13