I have electric power again! Shower, dishes, clothes…ahhh. Running around with preschoolers, Ella and Kalen has kept me very plugged into “the here and now” and little time to reflect on Billings. That may be a good thing. I may be less fresh in my telling about seeing my little buddy in Billings, but possibly have some perspective. We’ll see in the telling.
The motel, C’mon Inn, was perfect for our visit. The place was landscaped inside with artificial trees, boulders, real running water and koi in a pond. The blast of warm tropical air, drenched in chlorine steam was an otherwise a nice respite from the chilly and dry outdoors. The swimming pools around the courtyard (hot tubs), the big pool and 2 ft pool were full of families and grandparents in many cases. We fit right in. The footbridge was a favorite of my own toddler-preschooler grandson and helped him map his way back to our room.
At the airport my buddy greeted me with his hands over his face. It had been too long. When he peeked out (sitting on the roof of the car) he smiled and weakly offered, “Grandma?” I snaked up to him and held his hand, asking if I could hug him. He nodded. Nothing ever felt so right. Legs hooked at my waist locked arms (mine and his) breathing into one another’s necks. “Hi, Grandma” he said. Hi, Buddy.
We checked into the motel. I got mom and dad their own room with our smiley little 5 month old Liza. They needed a respite, too. We ate lunch, dinner and played in the pool together. He was very tentative in his movements, talk and expressions. He watched me, mom and daddy carefully. Social referencing. We actually all watched one another with some caution. The buddy-guy barely spoke. When he said something I had to come close. He’d utter a word here and another. He’d lost his talkie-ness. I went on with my talk, describing, sportscasting as if all was the same as before. He cautiously laughed a few times and then after mom and dad went off to their room, really loosened up. He began talking. “….This is a little pool, there’s the big one. I don’t like splashes. Can I blow bubbles here?” He let himself play, splashed at the water and eventually lifted his feet up off the bottom and announced, “I swimmed, grandma!” His moody eyebrow and drawn mouth lifted. I saw a sparkle in his eye before I had to leave. I was not imagining this. I just asked myself the question and no, it was so. We played together, talked, snuggled, rocked, giggled, watched an animal show on TV and read familiar books.
I sang him to sleep with our car seat songs. I made up a song about our motel. He asked me to sing it again. Out time together was like a much needed cool, long drink of water. Way better than any ordinary water. A quenching. That’s what it was for both of us. Sweet and quenching.
He was a hungry. His food behaviors were that of a starving puppy we once adopted from the shelter. Tyler had been found in a dumpster with his litter mates. He ate like he feared we’d steal every bite. Wolfed and snorfed until it was gone. It took months to get him to eat slowly. It may take him months too. I watched him put one bite after another into his full mouth, shoving until overfilled and he was unable to swallow. I offered my hand and asked him to put some there and I’d save it for him until his mouth could hold it. What happened? He was a little underweight, pale and “deadpan”, but not starved. He acted as though food had been withheld. Regularly withheld. In the room we ate shrimp and rice and broccoli that was delivered from a nearby restaurant. He wanted all the shrimp. I told him it was all his. I asked him to eat one piece at a time. Then handed him one then another. The phone rang, I talked to grandpa and five or six shrimp were pushed in. He gagged. I hung up and we started again. “This is your food. Not grandma’s.” This was therapy I wasn’t up to. I wanted to lie down and cry. I fed him one at a time. More than a helping, two or three. His tummy must have ached with the over- fullness. Later, at 2:30 am when he woke up to pee, he asked for the cole slaw he’d not eaten. What have they been doing to this boy?
I was talking to grandpa in the morning before I left and he put the animals on a magnetic board with a jungle scene; “you stay right here. I told you to never, ever, do that again. Hear me? ” he narrated. “I don’t ever ever ever want to hear you do that again,” he scolded in a raspy whisper. Therapy. We have to do this often. Again really soon.
Mom and Dad were closed about their new life other than to say that food stamps was generous, the Medicaid was coming soon and Section 8 sounded hopeful. Montana is great, they boasted. I asked them if all that was going to help them reach their goals. “Absolutely” and nothing else.
Shoes that fit at Dillard’s and a jacket for little buddy and some jammies for sissy. Mom didn’t bring any clothes and she’d peed thru. Mom and Dad are besotted with their baby. Buddy outside the circle. Diapers and wipes and left overs at the airport. Bye and I’ll see you soon.
You can take him if you want for a few weeks. Ann said. Not today, I said. How about in mid-February? Sure. She said. ” I want to go with you to see grandpa.” He cried. ” Please, I go too. I love you, Grandma.” ”
Bye.” crying in the carseat after they dropped me off three hours early. Their Sunday curfew was in the afternoon some time. Their nightly one was at 8 pm. They are children again. Always. Maybe that’s what they need. But what do the kids need? ugh. I called and invited him on February 17 for two weeks. Grandpa could stop by on his way home from an east coast trip to get him. Okay? Fine, Dad said. Okay with Mom? I’ll ask again. Okay. Talk to He was full and informational. Still there. Not lost yet. Hold on, just hold on, I tell myself with tremendous sadness and concern. Gma has to figure some things out.