Monday, February 22, 2010

The Blue Cast

The cast that my son wore during his constraint therapy sits on a shelf now. We've kept it for periodic use in his occupational therapy. It's a royal blue color with a rough texture, fit and formed carefully to his small arm and hand. There's a hole for his thumb and three velcro straps to hold it firm.

I wasn't there this time when the occupational therapists at NYU set him up with it. I came home and found him already armed and ready for battle. He was happily clobbering his toys with loud pronounced karate chops. He was soon clobbering me with the same delight and force.

"Whack! Chop! Smash!" He sounded more like a junior member of the cast to Enter the Dragon than a boy in therapy. It was a relief to see him having some fun.

As much as I dread these sessions, it wasn't as hard for me as it was last summer when I waited in the office at NYU with my wife while they heated up the material and formed it to his arm. That initial visit reminded me of when my own broken arm had been put in a cast. It reminded me of all the adult feelings I associated with his experience: restraint, frustration, weakness. It made me feel lousy to watch that little cast go onto my baby son; I just wanted to grab the boy and run.

And I like that cast very little more now, even now, when I know how much good I've seen come from it. When I had to put it on his arm after a bath and he resisted it and twisted and cried I felt awful. When he wanted to pick something up with his arm and could only nudge it with the hard cast and looked up at me for help I hated it. When he went to rub his nose or his eyes and forgot he had the cast on and wumped himself on the forehead, I cringed. It is a lousy necessity.

But these moments of frustration are just that, moments. During his therapy, my son constantly reminded me how quickly we adapt; he reminded me how adept we can be when we're forced to work with less than all our faculties. He reminded me of the captain of a hockey team with a man down in the penalty box who somehow rallies his remaining squad to score. No matter what the obstacle, the boy just manned up to it and plowed through. I was (and am) wonderfully proud.

Just the same, I don't know quite what to do with these little relics of his constraint experience. I don't know and can't fathom what the boy will want when he's grown. It may be that he'll want to have them and know about this time in his life. I suppose I should save them against that possibility. The little cast is innocuous enough by itself and it doesn't take up much space.

But for me, each time I look at it, I feel as if it might still be trouble. I know I'll never want to find it in an old trunk or box or storage closet and confront it suddenly like the scales from a great red dragon that might suddenly call their old owner back into existence to billow smoke and snort dangerously at us again. I look at it and know that as much as it's helped us, I will never be friends with that little piece of plastic.

I'll keep it just the same. I suppose I could be wrong.

Good night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Diamonds on Black Velvet

In my heaven I see the mischievous taxis again on Fifth Avenue
And pass the first and second and third security guards
In their rumpled blue shirts so unlike the splendid robes of angels.

"Morris, I'm here to see Morris," I'll say again in some other name and
Pass through the sealed doors that part because I've been admitted
By the perfumed hand of a cousin so unlike the palms of a trusted saint.

Here in the heart of the guarded place so very unlike heaven
The plump hands of the jeweler will withdraw bright stones again
And lay them out on black velvet so like the stars in the ink black sky.

So like the stars and the sky that I must offer to win my heaven.

Monday, February 15, 2010


My son's round of constraint therapy is complete. The little blue cast is on the shelf like a figurative notch on his belt and he's back to his normal routines and activities. Our house too is starting to rediscover it's old patterns and schedule. It feels that we've had a difficult guest for the last month who has finally left for other environs.

There's been some benefit. We all see it. Some of the improvements are visible in his therapy sessions; greater willingness to move his arm and even to grasp with his left hand. Some of the improvements are noticeable outside of those sessions; I've noticed that he'll now position his arm correctly for the sleeve opening when I put a new shirt on him.

But we're all exhausted; and foggy; and irritable. I feel like I do sometimes when I've had a lingering illness or injury and health is just starting to return. I don't want to trust the change; I still have a tendency to protect what was weak.

And although winter hasn't released it's grip on us yet, the light lingers longer at the end of the day. When I get out of my office at night, there are days that I still catch the gold and the yellow and the muted orange on the edge of the horizon and am surprised by how the hope seems to startle me like something that has fluttered suddenly to my shoulder.

I hope to return to writing a bit now more too. I know when I'm ready to write, that I'm feeling stronger and more hopeful. I feel like a tree that's stood amid the snows and suddenly, surprisingly feels the sap rise when it seems least likely.

Good night.