Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Brother? What brother? Oh, Right, That Brother!

It never ceases to amaze me, the way kids live in the absolute present. Of course, they ask about their birthdays, and Hannukkah, and Disney World, but for the most part, all that matters is what's happening RIGHT NOW.

So, it doesn't bother me too much that none of the kids has asked very much for Jonah - even Erika and Hilary, who, as close to 7 and 5 as they are, are old enough to understand these kinds of things. I did find Jonah's TV on most mornings after the older kids left for school (until it was unplugged for the recent room reshuffle), although I was never sure how to interpret that recurring event. Did Erika or Hilary or Declan or even Ronan come into Jonah's room looking for him, and finding him gone, decide that they would settle for one of his Sesame Street videos? Or was it more calculated - i.e., Jonah's not here, so let's watch his videos! Either way, the guilty party/ies were consistently unable to figure out how to turn on the DVD player, and what met me every day was 32 inches of faintly buzzing static. There was something so heartbreaking about that snowy screen, so symbolic of Jonah's absence.

This is what we've told the kids: Jonah is staying at a hospital for a while, where he's learning how to be a good boy. He'll come home once the doctors have taught him not to hit so much and throw so many temper tantrums.

We took all the kids down to Baltimore last weekend for the first time - including Keri and Matty's kids, and Keri and Matty, and my mom, and Marina and Oat. Jonah was happy to see everyone - even Erika and Mom (his more typical greetings to them at home have been, "No Erika! No Grandma!"). And the kids seemed happy to see him. Erika especially was hugging him all afternoon.

We went to the Baltimore aquarium, which is supposed to be one of the best in the world - a fact I can neither confirm nor refute, since all I really got a good look at were the backs of people's heads. We couldn't believe how crowded it was after 5:00 on a Saturday evening. I guess when there's only one great thing to do in a city, you should count on it being packed at all times.

Afterwards, we walked a bit along the waterfront and ended up at Five Guys for burgers. Jonah and Aaron bonded silently but importantly over their mutual love of ketchup. Once we cleaned them both up, we headed over to another food court for dessert. And then it was over. We took Jonah back to the unit, and the kids played in the lobby while the adults took turns going up to check out the accommodations. None of the kids expressed any interest in seeing Jonah's room. No one asked whether Jonah's excellent behavior throughout the afternoon meant he would be coming home soon. Not one of the kids asked to come back and visit him again.

But that's okay. Because I know that, once Jonah gets back, the other kids will act as if he never left. And that's just fine by me.

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