Owen loves to walk, except when he’d rather stand. He can stand for a long time, his back to me, totally still, pensive in the cold winter woods. But thinking of what? seeing, hearing what?
Usually when Owen and I walk we take the dogs, who always need exercise. But the dogs don’t do pensive. They pull my arms out of my sockets rushing forward, particularly times like tonight, when Owen doesn’t want to move. I wind up frothing at the mouth and frustrated, and my irritation becomes a flood of words pouring out my mouth into the space between me and my silent son.
Owen’s kind of humor, his language, the insights he brings, are fragile things. They are easily lost in any commotion. Like a reflection on the water’s surface, agitate it and you have only bits of random movement. You miss the whole thing. Owen seems incapable of thought, lost, vacant. I hate it when he looks vacant. And hate it particularly in the hateful mood I find myself in tonight, yanked forward by impatient dogs, detained by my unwilling companion, unable to move. Then something precious is lost between the pulling dogs and the winter darkness falling outside and within.
I want to choose the way it will be: two of us walking side by side, enjoying nature, enjoying each other’s presence, dogs rambling in front. But the dogs go in circles or strain suddenly forward, and Owen stops and lingers on the trail behind.
I want it to be that Owen, although a different soul, has things to contribute, isn’t too difficult to care for, laughs and smiles if he doesn’t speak, has a quirky sense of humor. But dark nights such as these press upon me the truth – that Owen doesn’t always respond at all, doesn’t laugh or speak, or understand my speaking, is sometimes distant as Pluto and cold as the moon.
As we come up the pathway to our warmly lighted porch I realize another truth: in my frustration and hurry today I closed the doorway to language of all kinds, eye, face, and tongue. I have been busy and focused elsewhere lately, not making any space for communication to happen between us. Communication for Owen will always require support, the best support simply tuning IN. Stop stirring up the waters, and wait, believing that there will be something there to see.
What was Owen thinking about tonight? Was there something he wanted to tell his grousing, criticizing mother back there, when he lifted his face up to hers for just a moment, coming down from the darkened farm field and the wide winter sky to our street? His mouth opened, just slightly amused, eyes suddenly engaged, he seemed to search for words he could not find. Maybe It’s ok Mom – relax! Or Calm down – do not be afraid. Or I have a stone in my shoe…?
I’ll never know.
I pulled on his sleeve and we came down the hill, home.
First published on Weebly, December 21, 2014.