Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Shiner

I just keep seeing the moment over and over again: his face hitting the granite and me, powerless to stop it.

We were strolling in Yerba Buena Gardens and things were starting off so well. Ben was excitedly running towards a ramp that would take us to the top of a waterfall fountain. He was going at top speed and looking back at me. The look of joy on his face made the moment of impact all the more heartbreaking. He never saw it coming: the stone block - designed as a bench - right in the middle of the walkway.

His legs hit first and the forward momentum wrapped him around the top of the block, smacking the side of his face down on the surface.

We found a quiet place to sit and let him cry. The fact that he was crying, in retrospect, was a good sign. A year ago, he would have gone into an emotionless rampage, attempting to hurt himself the same way again. Having gotten wise to this, the first thing Chris did was show him what happened so that he didn't feel the need to re-enact the injury in order to process it.

He burrowed his face into me and was eerily quiet for a long time. We got some ice and stuffed it into an extra sock that was in the backpack, fashioning a makeshift ice pack. "Does he have a concussion?" I asked, going into my normal worst-case-scenario mode. "I want to go home," he whimpered.

We were both determined to NOT let this send us all the way back across the Bay Bridge to the afternoon doldrums of trains and videos.

After awhile, he sat up as Chris read a book we had brought along. I suggested we go find a treat - some cake or a cookie - and he was amenable to this. "I want to go home," he reminded us on the way to a nearby Starbuck's.

"Right after we have a treat." I knew sugar could buy some time. It's in the genes.

Right next to the Starbuck's in the Metreon is the Chronicle Book Store. After a few bites of a disappointingly dry Snickerdoodle, he wandered over to the books. Things were looking up.

He planted himself down in the children's section and studied a stack of chapter books from the Hot Dog and Bob series, still a few years beyond him. His concentration and focus seemed almost meditative, even more than usual.

I'm not sure if this is common to other Hyperlexic children, but looking at words and letters seems to have a profoundly calming, centering effect on Ben. It has for a long time, since before he could actually read. Today, he sat on the concrete floor for maybe 20 minutes or more just slowly turning pages, disappearing into the book.

When he got up, he was cheerier. He still wanted to go home, but was now transposing a Dora story to our walk. "First we'll go over the steps, then we'll walk over the bridge and that's how we'll get to the car!" We took the "long way" to the car, which was really just strategically walking past the children's playground. By the time he saw the playground, he forgot about going home and the swelling red patch on his face and just ran and slid and climbed.

He didn't even protest when we went and got a burger at a nearby restaurant for lunch. We sat down for one of the most calm, easy restaurant meals ever - all without the usual aid of a stack of books to help pass the time. He was happy to just goof off with the silverware like any other kid.

Back at home, he ended up falling asleep on top of me while we lounged on the sofa. The emerging shiner made him look like a miniature hooligan, passed out after a bar fight. Although the tough guy look was tempered a bit by the fact the he was holding Cranky the Crane in one hand and his stuffed monkey in the other.


Drama Mama said...

Hi Christa.

I have a daughter with residual PDD NOS, who was considered hyperlexic, too.

I loved reading about your darling son - I remember those days so well. And I love the way you dealt with a potential meltdown/shutdown after the fall.

I like your blog -I live in SF and it's nice to know the landmarks.

Susan said...

Oh dear. I am so glad you stayed and ended up having a good day. And wow our guys have a lot in common. Today's motto: "forest - bridge - circus!" sound familiar??

Anonymous said...

Christa I am always so impressed by your writing skills! What a great day- I have such a clear impression of it in my mind! Connor's mom

jaki said...

another great story with a happy ending and with more insight into Ben. Thanks.