It was just after 9 p.m. and I heard the back patio door click shut. I tucked Wil into bed only moments before. But I knew it was him. My alarm was set for 3:20 a.m. to rise for work, so I’d recently tucked myself into bed too.
I got out of bed, walked to the kitchen, and opened the patio door. I saw Wil walk to the far edge of our yard. He stopped at the outcropping of alfalfa. About five deer were scattered across our back field contentedly grazing. Two of the deer lifted their heads; more in curiosity than with concern.
Woody, our yellow lab, sniffed the grass close to Wil. Woody would have created chase with the deer in his younger years. But now with arthritic hips, Woody guarded Wil in close proximity.
Wil turned around and saw me standing on the back porch. Instead of running away, he walked over to the hammock. Woody followed him then rolled in the grass. Wil attempted to open the material of the hammock wide enough to lie down. He decided that was too much work, sat down on the hammock, gripped the material on either side of him, and swung gently as if on a swing.
“Not tired yet, Wil?” I asked.
“Hmph.” With this response, I knew pressing or prying would only tighten the knot of his emotions and he’d clamp down, resisting any type of communication.
“It’s a nice night. Look at Woody roll in the grass.” Wil looked at Woody, then back at me. His open response to my comment, even if non-verbal, was a good sign. I decided to take a chance. “Are you upset because your sisters aren’t home?”
“Yes,” he said and dipped his chin.
“Don’t worry, they will be home soon. How about I walk you back to bed and give you extra snuggles?” I said.
“Ok, Mom. You going to work in the morning? Can you make me breakfast?”
“Sure, Wil. I’ll leave it on the island for you. I bet I’m back home before you’ve put your plate away!”
“Thanks, Mom. Hugs!” Wil jumped off the hammock and barreled into me. Only a year ago he likely would have responded by running away from me or remained on the hammock refusing, or unable, to explain his upset. But on this night, with only minimal resistance, he shared his feelings of sadness about his sisters not being home. And as he typically makes his own breakfast, his asking me to make it revealed the extra comfort he desired in my absence.
I tucked Wil back in bed, with the extra promised snuggles, then crawled back into my bed. I’d barely pulled up my sheets when I heard Wil’s heavy footsteps move toward the kitchen (with low muscle tone, he’s not exactly light on his feet). This time it wasn’t the patio door that I heard shut. It was a kitchen cabinet. Then I heard Wil scoop up ice, pour it in a cup, turn on the faucet, and walk back to bed.
“Ah, fresh,” Wil said (a phrase he commonly uses sipping a cold drink). With these words of satisfaction, I knew sleep would soon follow. And it did, for both of us.
A milestone in communication had been attained that night. It was mutually understood…no explanation necessary.