[a creative nonfiction but that was just rejected for publication]
I spent the better part of the last 20 years letting three children suck the life out of me. They consistently depended on my help at all kinds of ungodly hours. Preschool aged mornings were the worst. I had twin girls, one of whom had severe developmental delays and autism and a boy who was three years younger.
One particular morning, I wake to see that Kathleen has rearranged furniture in the living room. This is one of her many autism tricks that she performs from midnight to 6am instead of sleeping. My other non-autistic daughter has surveyed the situation. “Now we know where the dvd remote was”, she sighs.
My son toddles out in a t shirt and nothing else. Where are your pants? Oops, he says and leaves. I hear his every move, see him in my mind searching around the covers of my bed where he has taken off his pajama pants and underwear. He sleeps with me because his autistic sister scares him.
The week before he was blocking Kathleen’s view of the tv so she pushed him down and kept pushing into his chest. He was white when I found him, so scared that he didn’t cry. She was silent and only cried when I screamed for her to get off. I never told anyone, petrified that she would be determined to be too dangerous to live at home with be and be taken away. Away to some undetermined place.
Kathleen comes in and takes my hand and leads me to the fridge. I put a finger to her lips. “Words,” I say, “tell me.” “Pamcakes” she tells the refrigerator. It’s important to reinforce this newly acquired speech, or so I’ve been told. Give her what she asks for.
We have pancakes on the reg and after years of burnt pancakes, I finally looked up a recipe. Heat medium, not high, let your pan heat up and then only turn once when the pancake has bubbled all over. Why was this so fucking hard?
The boy is thrilled with the “pamcakes”. I make the small silver dollars and arrange them to make a mickey mouse head for each plate.
While the kids are eating, I get to finally go pee. When I walk into the living room the new furniture arrangement surprises me and I walk full speed into an end table that has had it’s plastic veneer picked off in a strange ritualistic fashion by Kathleen. The plywood is exposed and it hits my knee.
My scream is particularly loud and unnerving. Kathleen is startled. She starts to scream and cry “BARNEY!” over and over and over. I go to the bathroom anyway, I have to pee and I need to compose myself. I sit for a minute and cover my ears. The boy starts screaming, “NO Kathleen NO”. I don’t know what is really happening but it’s not good.
To deal with the screams Kathleen covers the kitchen floor in broken eggs. This “kitchen egging” is another trick that she has recently mastered. Her sister is doing her best to clean this creation with balled-up paper towels and I can see her tears through the back of her head. I tell her to eat. I’ve got this.
The small spaces between the vinyl tile are still caked with eggs from last week. This is really going to smell. I call the bus driver and let her know that she can skip us this morning. She doesn’t seem sad about missing us.
The kids finish their breakfasts, I start scrubbing the floor. I think of my ex-husband in this situation, particularly how he would have just screamed at the kids and then at me. When I realized he was really gone a knot opens up, untangles and is released in my stomach that I didn’t know was there. A brief respite in an otherwise chaotic situation. It can always be worse.
I drive the kids to school so I am late for work but lie and tell my boss that I had a flat tire. No one ever believes my autism stories, not even my mom, so I stopped telling them years ago. I eat Arby’s at lunch in my car and not knowing that when I got back I would be fired for being late once again.