Now that we have Nate’s new aide Alexis firmly in place, set to improve Nate’s social ability and put him on a firmer path to independence, I find myself thinking of two stories that, though they took place around 6 or 7 years ago, are key moments in forming my belief that Nate on his own may never happen, or at least happen in a way that would put me at ease. (Phew! That’s a long sentence, but structurally solid. Positively Proustian.)
Our neighbors two doors down were undergoing a massive reconstruction project: new staircase, bathrooms, well, everything. Graciously they allowed Nate to come observe when he got home from school. We let him go, without any chaperone. There were enough adults on the scene and Nate was probably in 9th grade. He’d walk over, stay for a while and come home all excited, telling us all the new developments.
This one day, after a bit of rain, Nate headed to watch the construction. Our house is pretty quiet when the doors and windows are shut, but within minutes I could hear a piercing scream that sure as hell sounded like Nate. Without thinking I ran down the wet sidewalk in my socks and charged into the house. I passed a dog sitting calmly on the front lawn, leashed to a railing.
“Nate! Nate!” I yelled, but he didn’t answer. I was sure it was him that I’d heard. His shrieks of pain are right out of a 1930’s horror movie. Finally, he answered and came to me. His right leg was dripping blood; he’d been bit by the dog.
We took him home, accompanied by the owner of the house, who was a nurse. She helped us wash the wound and gave us some peace of mind on it. The dog was known, no need to search for it or put it down. We tried to explain to Nate that if he got hurt and he was close to home, he had to come back. It wasn’t proper to remain where he was, with an open bite. Did he understand? I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now.
The other tale, the one I think of most, happened here. I was sitting right where I am now, at my computer, talking on the phone. Robbie came walking in.
I waved him off.
“Rob, I’m on the phone.”
“There’s water coming down from the dining room chandelier.”
I hurriedly got off the phone and, sure enough, there was a mini-waterfall clinging to the base of the chandelier before it followed the individual stems, then falling to leave a huge pool on the hard wood floors. Nate’s room was right above.
I ran up the front staircase to his room. There he was, calm as could be, about 5 feet from his bathroom (our house was a Bed and Breakfast so almost all the bedrooms have bathrooms). His toilet was overflowing, water pouring out the bowl and finding its way through the cracks of his floor to the ceiling below. I shut the valve.
“NATE!!! You can’t just sit here and not know what’s going on. You have to be aware!” I yelled.
While cleaning up the dining room, and learning how painful shocks could be as I wiped down the light, I wondered if Nate could handle any kind of emergency. If he was unable to notice a flood just a few feet away, what would he do if there was a fire?
He’s older now, but I still worry about his ability to think in a crisis and do the right thing.