Monday, August 27, 2018

I couldn't hear a word

Reading time: 2 minutes

One of the two men started it. The younger one. He started telling something and became very animated. Waving his hands, stomping the red earth. By the worn-out van loaded with household stuff and with a hammock in a small side-grove. His entire body became involved in the telling. 
His eyes got bigger. His gestures contracted while he anticipated a response, a reaching out from the other. I stood in the parking lot watching them from about a hundred yards away. We were at a tourist spot famous for watching surfers in Maui. 

Both men were shirtless. Sea-wind seared faces. Lean, muscular bodies. With hungry ruggedness of living solely by the shore. 
The older man, in a red sarong, started listening while walking towards his friend. He slowly got the drift, gave out a guffaw. His body caught the wild story. Wide grins and questions in eyes. Ah, the enjoyment. They kept talking, turning towards each other in circles to hold the tension and vibe. I only followed their body language. I couldn't hear a word. 

We walked up a cliff to a spot to watch the wide ocean. The surfers were magnificent. They paddled in, waited, caught a wave and rode it back with skill. Torso and limbs in perfect coordination. Aligned minds. Majestic. Ah, the thrill. Many came to watch, like us. We dotted the cliffs on the shore. In mid-ocean a couple of surfers casually chatted with each other while waiting for a wave. Bobbing up and down, hanging to their boards. They were far away. I couldn't hear a word. 

Something bothered me. I couldn't figure it out. The something filled me with sadness. Shall we go? I asked my son, 11 then, who had wandered into a grove. Yes, he said, running back. 

It came to me two months later. What had bothered me. 
Their bodies followed their minds. The beach dwellers and the surfers. When erratic or disciplined. In whatever their minds indulged in. A wave or a wild story. Reliably. Dutifully. Not for my son. His body does not easily follow his mind. Even when he wants it to. Autism is a betrayal between mind and body. Like, on the vacation, he wasn't able to sleep at night. No matter how much he tried and wanted to.
How do I know? That his body does not follow his mind? I know because they talk to each other. They keep trying and trying and trying. I can hear every word. 

As his mom, what business do I have in enjoying the coordination of another's mind and body? What about him? Is such coordination the means and end to everything? Am I betraying him by watching? 
Nope, it came to me four years later. There's the body, there's the mind and there's the heart. The heart doesn't use words. It is never not coordinated in feeling. I needed to learn to steer into its band of slowness. 
When I'm there, I can hear the beautiful silence that is behind words. I don't need to hear every word. 

Note: Thanks a local volunteer organization my son, M, went surfing. He was astounded at the experience and became very, very quiet for a few hours.