I ended last time by telling you that our friend Rachel Ottley came to our rescue. She, literally, flew in to rescue us on a United flight from Tulsa. :-)
Her plane arrived on a Thursday afternoon so I took the boys along with me to fetch her at the airport. That's not a chore for them as they love going to the airport because they get to see lots of planes taking off and landing. We parked, went inside (also fun for them) and began searching for Rachel. I hadn't seen her since my wedding day eight years prior (Jeremy and I had seen her husband, Tim, many times over the years, but we hadn't seen Rach) and was really, really excited that she was actually in town!
After a bathroom break (I told them to go before we left the house but they never listen), we finally connected, hugged, got teary-eyed, and then I introduced the boys, both of whom were fairly quiet. We walked to our car, loaded up and headed west toward home. I don't recall the topics of conversation or how involved the boys were in the discussion. At some point, though, during that 45 minuted drive Rach whispered, almost to herself, "it's mild" or "it's very mild". I can't remember exactly. Maybe she didn't say that at all...maybe that's just what I heard...but when I heard it, I didn't ask any questions or ask for any clarification - I simply carried on with the conversation. But I did wonder if she was saying it to reassure me...or to reassure herself.
You see, I'm sure it was a bit unsettling for Rachel to have to be the bearer of difficult news, if it came to that. But, as I told her, I would MUCH prefer to hear the truth from a trusted friend (someone who cares about us) as opposed to a therapist we just met and only interacted with for a few hours. I am so grateful to her for being willing to set aside any uneasy feelings and "what if" thoughts and do the hard thing - tell us what is going on with our son.
We got home and showed Rach around the house. We ate dinner. We caught up on life. Basically, she just enfolded herself into our lives - our mundane lives - and observed what happened and how Harrison reacted to what happened.
On Friday morning she went along with us for all the usual activities - drop off Graham, drive home, do school with Harrison, pick up Graham, lunch.... - all throughout this time she simple observed, interacted with both boys, tried debating with them (not agreeing to/with everything they say like I apparently do!), and asked me questions here and there. It was on the way home from picking Graham up from school that Friday that Rach asked, "do you realize Harrison's not responding to you?" My response to that way, "What do you mean he's not responding to me?" I didn't understand the question. I just didn't see it. She said, "I'm going to keep a tally. I'm going start keeping track of how often he responds to you."
That was the beginning of my eyes being opened.
That was the moment I was awakened to a new reality.
She started recording Harrison's responses and I started noticing his lack of responses.
For example - actually, it's very hard for me to give specific examples. I know they help you all understand this situation better. I totally get that! It helped Jeremy and me immensely when Rach pointed out specific things Harrison was doing, or not doing, AS HE WAS DOING THEM! But, in hindsight, it's difficult for me to remember those instances. I'll do the best I can.
Here's what I can tell you...you know when your little ones are itty bitty (before they can talk...actually, even while they are in the womb) and your pediatrician suggests talking to them? Talk all the time. While you are changing their diapers, describe what you're doing. When you are in the car, chit chat about your day. When you are making dinner, tell them what you did wrong and how you have to trash it and move on to Plan B: microwave popcorn. Read to them for 15-20 minutes every day. While they are in the bathtub...you get the idea...talk, talk, talk.
I did all that.
Turns out, though, I was so busy talking I never noticed Harrison wasn't responding. I would ask him a question, he would stay silent, and I would simply carry on with the conversation or try to ask a different question or switch to a different topic or (and maybe this is worse) I would INFER his response and answer my own question for him! And, even then, he wasn't responsive enough to tell me if my conclusion was wrong or right.
I'll try to recreate a scenario for you:
Me: Harrison, what was your job at school today?
Me: Did you do the calendar?
Me: Did you check the weather or were you the line leader?
Me: Did you pick up the carpet squares or pick the music?
Harrison: Pick the music.
Me: What song did you choose?
This type of "conversation" would go on with me continuing to guess and Harrison continuing to tell me very little. Now that I write it out it sounds so incredibly frustrating. And exhausting! And to think I had absolutely no idea that this wasn't normal.
That's because this WAS our normal! Until Rach revealed to me how UNnormal this is.
To give perspective here's how a similar conversation would go with Graham:
Me: Graham, what was your job at school today?
Graham: Well...Cayden checked the weather and Jolie was the line leader and Brooklyn picked the music but she choosed (Graham always uses correct grammar) a girl song so I didn't want to dance.
Me: But what was YOUR job, buddy?
Graham: I did the calendar. Today is Monday, December 3rd.
Me: Did you eat your snack?
Graham: Well...I drank all my apple juice and ate half of my granola bar because my tummy was full and I couldn't finish it so the teacher put it in a bag for me to bring home.
See the difference?
Yeah, kinda hard to believe I didn't.
to be continued...