Green Eggs and Blue Berries
I’ve sat down to so many ideas in the last couple of months. I’ve written about the curious habit of running, about the blueberry bush our daughters found hidden in our backyard. I’ve written about the good fortune of kind neighbors and a little cabin on a river in the middle of nowhere. But try as I might I can’t focus my thoughts enough to finish any of these because none of them are what I really want to write about. Because what I really want to write about, most of the time (pretty much all of the time), is Autism.
I perseverate about Autism.
Perseverate is a word I learned fairly recently. It is a word of criticism. A word with harsh connotations, suggesting that a person continues to repeat something far beyond a desired point. Insistent, redundant, without purpose or direction.
But we all perseverate. We all talk about the same things, again and again: dating, football, fitness, babies, gluten, that one friend that cannot get it together, a new tardy policy at the office, what to watch on Netflix, campaign politics, whatever. Green Eggs and Ham. We all have our collections of subject matter, like playing cards, which we are desperate to fold into any conversation, at any given time.
And this is my hand. So I do, I perseverate. I perseverate for answers, for attention, for sympathy and ideas. But mostly, I think, I perseverate for comfort, for understanding. Because even though the verbiage of our predicament may have it seem dismal and despairing, it isn’t that way at all so much as it is heavy, complicated and ubiquitous. It is rich soil filled with rocks, deep, dark, still water and a sunset that could break your heart. It isn’t good or bad it’s just geography. Our life’s landscape. How will anyone ever see it for what it is if I don’t speak the words, in spite of their connotations?
Try them, try them and you may…try them and you may I say.
This is why we tell our stories, this is why we perseverate: initially seeking comfort and later, when the right words are finally found, to give light.
I yelled at her once because she wouldn’t answer me. Because it is, sometimes, so difficult to pull her out of herself, to compel her to hear me, to look up. I said her name over and over and over and she wouldn’t answer. So then I yelled ANSWER ME! ANSWER ME! and I was crying and yelling and she finally looked up. She walked over to me and put her hand on my face and said “I’m sorry. I just don’t know you are there sometimes. But you can do it. You can calm down. I know you can.” And her words fell over me like hope, like light dappling our world.
Someday soon I’ll tell you the story about the pie we made with the small round fruit the children found in our backyard. They told us again and again it was there and we did not believe them until we finally, begrudgingly, went to see it for ourselves.
I’ll tell you about pace and pentameter, the summer I ran the hills of Charlottesville, what I learned crossing those streets again and again, how comfortable I became with distance and prose. How much I miss these things in a life which doesn’t have as much time for them to become what they need to be: the forty minute mark, lines and language making sense, the heart swell, the feeling that you must, you can, you will keep going.
I’ll tell you about the time we left the cabin and drove and drove down that long gravel road toward the races, how it seemed to take forever, but we finally arrived, and walked the path to stand barefoot in the current, the cool water rushing over our legs. We must have caught twenty fish that day.
I’ll tell you about the man who lives next door and his teenager who loves to take pictures of elevators, about how I wanted and wished and waited to talk to him, about the time he stood in my driveway and told me not to be afraid.
I’ll tell you about all of it.
But know this: my perseverations, whatever they may be, will always be the undercurrent, the instruments, the music in the background, the sound that shapes my thoughts and urges me to choose words of a fragile variety. Words that bear unfair connotations, nuances beyond their control. And I’ll carry them carefully into the light of an honest paragraph about how much this child means to me, how much she has changed me, how much better I am for loving someone who is everything I was most afraid of. And it might seem like a story about blueberries but it's really, always, about the uncertainty of the walk, guided by their small stained hands, and what it meant to them to be right. For so many remarkable discoveries of this earth are disregarded, denied, approached with reluctance and doubt, and yet: perseverantly defended by the ones who saw them first.
So please: perseverate. Tell me again and again about your mother, the pieces you lose of her every day. Tell me about your marriage, the things you can’t undo. Tell me about the day you met your baby and they all asked: don’t you just love him so much already? And you didn’t, not yet. Tell me about the time you went to Leon’s and sat outside. There were glasses of wine and empty plates. It might have been your birthday. You looked across the table and asked him Do you think she is going to be okay? And he took your hands and said I don’t know…but she has us.
Tell me again, tell me about all of it. It is so good, so good, you see.