He has not gone for more than a year.
We don’t know why.
He could not tell us.
We only know that as soon as the tires of the minivan rolled into the parking lot, there would be tears.
He would ask us for this outing.
His way of asking, “Where would you like to go?”
Our response, “I don’t know, where would you like to go?”
His reply, “Bowling.”
And so we would prepare for this family excursion.
But many times.
Too many times.
The steps of getting dressed and putting on his shoes was just too much for him.
The anxiety taking over his large nine-year-old body.
Leaving him with clenched fists and red eyes.
He wanted to go to the place where the brightly colored round balls rolled across the wooden floor.
Where the perfect sphere hit the long objects called pins.
The place where yelling “strike” is cause for celebrations.
He just wanted to go bowling.
And in August his requests became more frequent.
Hiding in his purple sleeping bag with his paci in his mouth, I could hear his words, “Where would you like to go?”
My answer, as always, “I don’t know, where would you like to go?”
Rolling up into a purple cozy ball, his voice, “Bowling.”
But in this hot sticky month, his asking was different.
It was something that I could not put my finger on.
Until I did.
Sitting at a stoplight.
Listening to the radio.
Tapping my thumbs on the steering wheel.
Oh, my gosh.
I know what he is doing.
The child is desensitizing himself so that he can go bowling.
It was a long stoplight, so my celebration with myself continued.
That is it! Good Lordy, that is it! That is why he is making all of the requests for bowling.
Dawson is doing it. He is figuring out what he needs to do to help himself over this hump so that he can go inside and bowl!
My happy dance in the silver minivan did not stop even as the light turned green.
So the requests continued.
And they were hard.
So many attempts ending with my sweet boy crying in the parking lot of the bowling alley.
I still don’t know what.
Was holding his body back.
On Wednesday, August 21, 2013, he arrived home at 5:00 p.m. after his occupational therapy session.
I stood in the front yard talking to his sweet caregiver who had just delivered him home to me.
He grabbed my hand and pushed past me.
“Mommy and Dawson go bowling.”
“Silver car. Go bowling.”
So what do you do when your child requesst to go on an outing at 5 p.m. on a school night and you really need to start thinking about making dinner?
Well, you go.
I yelled to my neighbor across the street, trying to explain my plans and asking her if Mae Mae could stay a little longer over at her house.
I was talking.
Dawson was pulling.
My kind neighbor assuring me that my sweet girl was welcome to stay at their house for as long as needed.
And so my little boy and I were off.
We headed down Route 29.
Crossed over the river.
In its sing-song high-pitched way.
In an octave that told me anxiety was creeping its into my boy’s heart.
“Go to the parking lot.”
His melody whispering that I could respond to his words.
And with careful rhythm I uttered.
“Yes, just to the parking lot.”
I peeked in the rear view mirror.
His eyes were closed.
I watched the road and then peeked again.
His head rested against the window.
His eyelids shut.
He was preparing
The building with the long lanes and bright orange balls awaited his arrival.
And the tires of the minivan turned into the lot.
His breathing stayed steady.
His hands rested in his lap.
I closed my eyes.
I let the air fill my lungs.
I turned around in my seat.
“Okay buddy. We are here. We can just sit in the parking lot.”
His body moved toward the front of the van.
His arms bumped against the captain’s chair.
His fingers reached for the door.
His voice strong.
“Let’s go bowling!”
I took his hand.
The lightness in his steps.
The smile on his face.
His jumping as we walked through the doors.
His body bending over with excitement as I paid for the game.
They told me my son was ready to play.
He kicked off his Crocs and I handed him his bowling shoes.
He pushed his body against me as I leaned down to tie his laces.
His feet galloped to find the neon orange bowling ball.
I chased after him.
Redirecting him as he tried to roll the ball down Lane 26 when we were assigned to Lane 41.
And redirecting him again as he tried to the roll the ball down Lane 35 as we continued our journey to Lane 41.
He sprinted to the magical line of the alley where he could release his ball.
And he threw that round object.
His knees bending.
His arms and hands flapping.
The crash of the pins hitting the wooden floor.
Oh, the beautiful sounds.
Looking for my eyes.
The warmth in my belly spread to my face.
The lightness in my heart stretched to my arms.
I stepped forward.
I hugged him.
“You did it buddy! You did it! I am so proud of you!”
I reached my palm up for a high five.
He met it.
Then quickly he grabbed the ball that had just appeared from the machine.
He hugged it and smiled.
He turned to share his beautiful blue eyes with me again.
And with breathless voice.
“We are bowling!”
And I heard the applause.
The hands clapping from the ones who are not there, but who hold our family.
I felt them.
Around my boy.
Where would you like to go?
I don’t know, where would you like to go?
Yes, sweet boy.
Let me take your hand.
we will mount up with wings like eagles
we will run and not be weary
and we will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31)
Let’s go bowling.
Copyright Cheairs Graves, September 1, 2013