“I’m going to heaven, right Mom?”
Jake asks me this about 1,593 times a day. Seriously, the kid will be in his room and peek his head out just to ask, then waits for me to respond in the exact same way every time, “Yes, sweetie,” before retreating back to the safety of his Pokemon game.
He asks this question, not because he's busy pondering death, so much as because he's obsessed with being a good person. Also, he hasn't wrapped his head around this whole heaven thing, and probably never will, so he continues to obsess about it...
I don’t think I have to spell it out for you, but I will. The kid is riddled with OCD.
According to the National Association of Mental Health, obsessive compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder and is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). Repetitive behaviors such as hand-washing, counting, checking, or cleaning are often performed with the hope of preventing obsessive thoughts or making them go away. Performing these rituals provides only temporary relief, and not performing them markedly increases anxiety.
This question is like a tic for Jake. He’s completely unable to keep himself from asking, and he needs to hear my answer. It gets so bad, the barrage of The Question(s)! occurs with such urgency and frequency, that while I answer the exact same way every time (Yes, sweetie!), my tone of voice ranges from sweet, to exasperated, to just plain pissed off, depending on the time of day. Well after the sun has set, I sound as if I might be clinically depressed as the onslaught of The Question! ratchets up with frightening exigency.
“I’m going to heaven, right Mom?” Jake yells from the bedroom, threatening to wake his brother while eviscerating the last vestiges of my crumbling sanity. By the end of the night, I want to become an ice cream eating zombie who gets to watch a few episodes of House (I believe I’ve mentioned I have a huge crush on Hugh Laurie) without being interrupted. I do NOT want to be yelling back and forth from the living room and the bedroom… “Yes, sweetie… yes sweetie…YES SWEETIE… YES SWEETIE!”
So, the other day I was in the bathroom straightening my hair and Jake, having had a stressful day, was yelling The Question! to me from the living room, where he sat watching television with his brother, who was settled comfortably within his own tic-like OCD moment - rewinding and replaying a thirty second clip from Robot Chicken he’d somehow taped. I freely cop to the fact that it was not even remotely close to being an age-appropriate clip which contained an expletive and I immediately erased it when he went to bed that night…
“Mom, I’m going to heaven, right?” Jake must have asked more times than even his nine year old just-becoming-verbal brother could bear, because suddenly (and because I was purposely pretending not to hear) Jaxson sighed very dramatically and screamed, “Yes, sweetie!”
Ha! Okay, that was f-ing funny. Jaxson and I understood one another in that moment - the nine year old autistic boy and his overworked mother came together over the sacred bond of complete and utter annoyance.
It was a beautiful thing.
Not so beautiful, however, a few days later when Jake was particularly worked up and spinning like a top because the following day two very big changes would be made to his normal Friday school schedule - changes which involved a field trip to the ice skating rink and an hour after school for some much needed socializing, via the geek-lab.
(TRANSLATION: Computer lab video game night.)
Yes, both would seem to be fun changes, but changes are changes in my boys’ lives - good or bad, they’re not particularly welcome. Because I change my haircolor with about the same regularity as I change my panties, you'd think Jake would be loosening up a bit in this regard. Not so much.
So Jake had been tossing out the question with alarming ferocity and I was answering him like a good mom when Jaxson started to mimic the question, not even realizing he was doing it - his eyes glued to the inappropriate fifteen second clip from MAD which involved Dora the Explorer barfing into her lunch bag before being dismembered. (I’m not sure how he manages to tape episodes of wholly inappropriate shows that come on well past the time he’s in bed, but I spend at least twenty minutes every night erasing them form the DVR.)
“I goin’ heaven, wite Ma?” little Jaxson mumbled four times.
Oh, sweet Jesus, not him, too. I am not sure I’ll be able to handle it if The Question(ing)! metastasizes to the second kid. Maybe I can get the boys to answer one another and I can free myself from the OCD loop altogether.
“I’m going to heaven, right Mom?” Jake will ask.
“Yes, sweetie,” Jaxson will answer, before asking, “I goin’ heaven, wite Ma?”
“Yes, sweetie,” Jake will say, rounding out the circle jerk of dysfunction.
Now that will be a beautiful day...
This post is dedicated to my friend Michael Amrien, who has sailed into Plato’s invisible - where every sound tastes like butterscotch, where smells mingle and crescendo to a ballet of wind chimes - where the sun shines with the force of a thousand unblemished truths, and laughter swirls in Technicolor; a place of perpetual early spring. Where the Sisyphean task we call life is no longer in his memory, and for that I am grateful.
I’ll see you when I see you, my friend. Till then, like the song says: …Take it easy.