Down syndrome · favorites


Cayden suggests an experiment. He has two vials of water, one smaller than the other. They are capped neatly.

“I’m gonna put these in the freezer. Which one will freeze first, Daddy?” I give him the correct answer. I say something about volume. Thirty minutes and one game of Battleship later, I’m right.

On to the next experiment.

“But which one will THAW faster, Daddy?” and Cayden runs out the door to place same-said vials in the sun, on the outdoors and lattice-work table, which, by virtue of the drought more than anything else, has resisted rust.

It’s sunny out, so remains my disposition. Cayden sets the kitchen timer. We put Battleship away and wait.

I woke up earlier in the morning with Finn singing. He does this. He doesn’t have words yet–his Down Syndrome having him still pre-speech–but he matches syllables to his own manner of sounds. If I say: ‘Findlay Cooper’ in my made-up brogue, he’ll repeat, ‘Dum-dee-da-da.’ It’s a comfortable echolalia and something nice to hear, even better to wake up to. Finn sings and he talks. In a room of excited peoples, he’ll gesticulate like mad mimicking all the things we do when talking to each other.

One time I told him I didn’t want him.

I don’t like to admit it, but it’s true. There is anger and there is grief, also words accidentally freed from icebergs.

In Cayden’s room we play guitar. The vials are out in the sun and Cayde is explaining magnets to me. I’m cross-legged on the floor with my friend’s Mitchell. Finn, meanwhile, has planted his hand firmly on the fretboard so my C#m is muted. I’m playing the song ‘Where is My Mind?’, which is appropriate because I’m due for both the doctor and a refill. Cayde momentarily pays attention to the music lesson, so we take a minute to figure out the lead guitar bit on the Playskool xylophone.

“Cayde: just do blue to green for four counts, then four on orange to yellow. Dude—it’s an easy part. Think The Ramones.”

Cayden knows The Ramones. He gets it finally, and he taps a yellow mallet on blue and green in time with my strumming. Finn decides to let go of the Mitchell’s neck and air-guitars his own song while bouncing at the knees. He turns in a circle and sings exactly eight syllables.

We make music.

Meanwhile, I’ve forgotten how to play guitar. Passing in between songs, some that I’ve written and most I have not (and all the while Finn dancing) I land on a forgotten chord: the D minor. Three fingers in the same array as if you were pitching a curve ball. I think so, at least. I’ve forgotten how to pitch, too, with my beard now graying, and it having been a long time since Little League. Currently it’s Cayde who fits my old baseball tees.

(The Beatles ‘I Want You’ starts on a D-min).

Cayde breaks up the party because the kitchen timer is going off. He darts away, then returns with his experiment in hand.

“Look, Daddy—they both thawed out.”


7 thoughts on “Thaw

  1. There’s something really important about everyday moments that tremble as waves of the past wash over them, reverberating meaningfully in immortal echoes. The trick, I guess, is finding a comfortable spot somewhere between mere living in the moment, and wallowing in the past. This piece made me think; apologies if my own thoughts went off track.

    1. To further the water metaphor, it’s certainly important to not get stuck in the undertow, but be something tidal instead. Yeah–there’s a forwards and backwards there, but always movement. Thanks for the comment.

    1. I get something, Whit. I sobbed after hitting ‘publish.’ This piece came from that one place, that wellspring place, where we occasionally siphon words. You know. Bill Peebles said ‘fuck you’ when I posted this on the ‘Share Thread’, so there’s that. Thanks, Whit.

  2. What to say? I’m drawn to the seemingly ever present balance of science and music in your house. I know life is tidal, ebbs, flows, freezes, thaws, but the truth as an occasional witness to your life is that you and that gorgeous bride of yours have found an impressive way on managing the tides. Those boys are made of good stuff. Just like their daddy.

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