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Handle with Kid Gloves
Scenes from a Quirky Life
It was the White Rabbit returning, splendidly dressed, with a pair of white kid gloves in one hand and a large fan in the other: he came trotting along in a great hurry, muttering to himself as he came, "Oh! the Duchess, the Duchess! Oh! won't she be savage if I've kept her waiting!"
—Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865
Allen has pulled a shopping cart from the corral and tied our market bags to it. He adjusts his face mask and prepares to push into the market. I stop him with a touch on his arm.
“Remember what I said about the gloves?” I nod to the heavy gloves he has been wearing for the last two days as we worked on the yard, clipping bushes and clearing up the debris from many winters of neglect.
He shakes off my hand impatiently. “What?”
I put on a smile. “I asked you not to wear those work gloves in the store because you’ve been using them in the yard. They are full of dirt. We don’t want to spread anything.”
His outburst is instantaneous. “Then I can’t go in!” he says loudly. A couple of people turn in our direction but after years of mothering this autistic adult, I know it best to just ignore them. “I need to protect my hands! The CDC says so because of the virus!”
I speak calmly, my mind exploring alternatives. “You could put plastic bags on your hands, the ones they have for the vegetables.”
But my son is adamant. “NO! I have to wear gloves! I have to!” I fear we are bordering on a meltdown, the last thing any mother wants in a public place. And at 6 foot 4 inches, Allen’s meltdowns can make others wary.
“Okay,” I say to him. “We’ll just go home and get a clean pair of gloves.” He is mollified for a moment but becomes agitated once back in the car.
“I just have other things to do!” He says. “I don’t need this!” He is taking short breaths, hyperventilating, and begins a series of grunts and groans, verbal stims.
“I know,” I say as I pull out of the parking lot. “It’ll just take a few minutes.” I keep my tone light. No pressure. All is well. The more I believe it, the more Allen will, too.
He is silent for a few minutes, slapping his hands against his thighs, but his breathing is becoming even. I can almost feel the fury leaving him as he sinks back against the seat.
We are two blocks from home when he speaks again, his voice quiet and regretful. “I hate when the beast in me comes out. I don’t like it at all. I don’t like to act that way.”
“I know,” I tell him. “None of us like to get mad.” As Allen has gotten older, he has gained more control of his meltdowns. They are now few and far between.
“I really try to have good intentions,” he tells me. “Like helping you shop and do the yard work. But then things go wrong. And I feel like a beast. And I just want to roar, and I feel like I could just, like, eat the whole world.”
Lately, Allen has been able to verbalize his feelings more clearly and be open with them. I am proud of how hard he is working at it. “But you knew how to control it,” I tell him. “You knew what the problem was, and you told me.”
“And you solved it,” he said.
“No,” I tell him. “You solved it. You knew what you needed and asked for it.” I shrug. “I just happened to be smart enough to buy several pairs of gloves.”
We pull up to the house. I take a moment to admire the work we have been doing. The overgrown rose
bushes are now trimmed, the ground beneath them covered with mulch. The bushes on the hill are sprouting the little yellow flowers that were hidden under dead leaves. It has been a long, long time--years--since I have had time to give to a garden. I wonder briefly what Ron would think of the outside now. I go onto the porch to get a clean pair of work gloves, passing the little stone I have placed by the front steps. “Goodbyes are not forever; goodbyes are not the end. They simply mean I’ll miss you, until we meet again. “I return quickly to the car and hand the gloves to Allen. He puts them on and seems happy with them.
“You can use these for market gloves,” I tell him. “We’ll wash them each time.” He nods and turns his hands over, stretching his fingers. Sensory issues are a problem sometimes, but the gloves seem to be passing the test.
“These are good,” he says. “I like the way they feel.” He continues to test them out, turning his hands this way and that, bending each finger.
In a few minutes, we pull back up at the market and get out of the car. Allen pulls a cart out for us and ties the market bags to it. I grab the handle and begin to steer my way toward the door.
With his new gloves, Allen touches my wrist, stopping me.
“You know,” he says, “you’re a really good mom. Even when I’m a beast.”
“Because even when you’re a beast,” I tell him, “You’re still my son. And I love you."