I had one job last Wednesday morning: Clear the snow from both the end of the driveway and the sidewalk leading to the front door of the house, and I’d leave the rest of the shoveling for the evening when Cindy got home from work. I told her I would get it done, and I can say with pride, “Mission accomplished!”
Perhaps more than a few of you who follow our adventures are rolling your eyes because you’re easily able to cross off a large-scale project or two on the honey do list well before dinnertime (“Hope you didn’t exert yourself too much, cupcake!”). But in the span of 10 to maybe 15 minutes I’d shoveled the snow that a snowplow had deposited at the end of the driveway, put out both the refuse and recycling cans for collection later that day, and shoveled the snow up to the front steps.
And when I went back into the house, Nolan was furiously pounding the keys on his Casio keyboard, rocking from side to side and focusing intently on his latest composition. The only thing that was askew was the keyboard and its stand, which he had turned 90 degrees from its usual spot facing the living room wall.
Finishing a task that needed to be done always makes me feel good. Coming in from outside and finding everything the way it had been moments earlier, meaning the refrigerator door is closed, all the furniture is where it’s supposed to be, and my son is still in the house and fully clothed? Priceless, and worthy of a big sigh of relief.
Fatherly bias aside, Nolan, who has Autism and is nonverbal, is for the most part a pretty well-behaved 15-year-old. But there are times, such as last week when he was on winter break from school, when accomplishing anything – doing the laundry, washing dishes, emptying my bladder – can get challenging. One moment I’m answering nature’s call, and the next Nolan is standing at the bathroom door either clutching the food he pulled from the fridge or letting me know via the communication program on his iPad he really, REALLY wants a bowl of soup because he’s repeatedly touched the “soup” folder to the point the voice has the rapid-fire cadence of an auctioneer. One moment I can be in the basement to put a load of clothes in the dryer, and the next I hear the toilet flushing upstairs and discover that he’s pantsless and wet – or worse – and I know I’ll end up having more clothes to wash.
So I’ve learned to try to space out what I need to do (“All right, Nolan just went to the bathroom. I can take out the garbage, grab the mail, and be back inside in less than 60 seconds.”), to work as quickly as possible, and to always be vigilant. But sometimes that isn’t enough.
Cindy and I found out a few years ago when we were living in our previous house that Nolan can do a significant amount of damage when we let down our collective guard. Cindy was getting ready for work one morning and got into the shower, only to discover that there was no hot water. I raced to the basement, fearing our hot water heater was kaput, when I happened to glance at the water softener. The readout said we’d already used a couple hundred gallons of water, and it was barely past 7 a.m. Nolan had gone down to the bathroom in the basement while we were focused on preparing him for the day, turned on the hot water faucet in the sink and left it running. He’d also tossed cat litter all over the basement floor while he was down there, then for good measure he took the orange juice out of the fridge and spilled it on the kitchen floor while we were dealing with the chaos downstairs.
I’m the type of person who likes to keep the house as orderly as possible. But bad things can happen when I don’t focus on Nolan as well as I should.
We’d only been in our current home a few weeks when one morning I wanted to take a few minutes to change the sheets on Nolan’s bed. He was occupied with something either in the living room or the kitchen, and I figured I could be done quickly. A couple minutes passed, and I couldn’t hear him. I just happened to look out the bedroom window that faces the neighbor’s back yard and I saw someone moving around on her deck.
Who’s letting their kid run around unsupervised in a stranger’s backyard?
Crap – I am!
Somehow, Nolan had slipped out our back porch door without me hearing him and decided he wanted to check out our neighbor’s swing, which he’d been eyeing since we moved in. I bolted outside and pulled him back to our house, uttering a few hundred thank-yous skyward that he hadn’t gone farther away.
I know that the housework won’t do itself, and I also know that neither Jeannie nor Samantha Stephens will show up, conjure a spell and – voila! – everything will be taken care of. I’ve come to realize that it might take me longer to accomplish something than I would like. Sometimes I’ll take every precaution to keep Nolan content before trying to do something, and it won’t matter. And I know that sometimes certain things need to get done and I have to do them immediately, even if it means working quickly and crossing my fingers that I’m not welcoming a catastrophe.
The end of the driveway didn’t look perfect when I’d finished shoveling it, but it was good enough for the refuse and recycling cans to sit stable. The sidewalk had a couple spots with a little bit of snow packed on it, but someone could walk to our front door without slipping. Nolan stayed safe, the house didn’t look as though a cyclone had passed through, and the entire driveway got shoveled that evening.
It was job … done. I’ll take it.