It was a sight to see, let alone hear. Alex peppered the shelf-stocker with questions and comments about movies and television series, especially Star Wars and Family Guy, while the young man strolled through the store and placed books on the shelves. As the employee pushed the cart from aisle to aisle and stocked used arrivals, Alex followed alongside and talked. And talked. And talked. At times, his voice and excitement carried throughout the bookstore, overtaking the pleasant Muzak piped in overhead. I swear it seemed they turned up the volume a little to mask his talking.
But who can blame him for seeking new conversation? Who can blame him for clinging to connection?
The kid was desperate for a change.
On top of his fighting a cold for now entering its 20th week (thankfully in the waning stages), he had been stuck at home for over the past two weeks while our accessible minivan underwent an endless stream of repairs. Without transportation, Alex couldn’t go anywhere other than our house or the neighborhood sidewalk. He couldn’t go to his favorite restaurants. We couldn’t go his favorite stores. He couldn’t go to the park or mall or zoo. He couldn’t visit his friend, Zach! Because of the van repairs, we even had to postpone a Children’s Hospital appointment, which he loves, thankfully, for the social engagement.
As anyone who knows Alex can certainly understand, being homebound is torture for him. Throw in Duchenne, and staying in bed gets real old, real fast.
It’s not that we didn’t get him out of his room. We did. We would hoist him out of bed and bring him downstairs so he could roll around the house. We would bundle him up and head outside for a stroll around the neighborhood. But, it’s just not the same for a social kid like Alex. Especially, someone who is dependent on others for nearly everything, most notably transportation.
Because Alex enjoys staying up nights and sleeping days, our ventures around the neighborhood sidewalks usually occur in evenings. Unfortunately, this is when most people this time of year are inside eating dinner, unwinding from the day, or doing homework. During an excursion last week around the neighborhood, we again found everyone inside or simply waving while they drove by. Our prospects of visiting were fading, when one neighbor suddenly came out to greet us. When he did, he found Alex desperate to talk about anything. Before long, cold temperatures pushed him back inside and us home. As the sun set, the winter forced us to wait for another day.
When the weather turned warmer later in the week, Alex awoke one day to voices in the neighboring driveway. His eyes flew open and he asked if he could head over for a visit. The 45-minute process of getting him dressed, out of bed, and outside was well worth the effort as Alex enjoyed driveway conversations there and elsewhere late into the night. Our neighbors kindly walked him home well past dark with a smile on his face and rosy cheeks. The visits helped his feeling of isolation, but as I hoisted Alex back into bed that night, Alex I could see needed more.
He did because, during the two-week-plus repair, Alex had worked the phones often to find friends to come over for a visit. But, unfortunately, he struck out with every call for one reason or another. It seemed everyone he called had something going on with school, sports, work, homework, girlfriends, or family time. Alex understood, but sighed his disappointment in spending another night with Mom and Dad sitting in his room. Not that he doesn’t enjoy our company. We’re a barrel of fun! But, as Alex puts it…“No offense, Mom and Dad, but I see you guys every day!”
No worries, Bud. We get it.
So, when Mobility Works called to say our van was ready, Alex could hardly contain himself. Finally, he could go somewhere! Finally, he could get out of the house and do his thing! Finally, he had control! We quickly worked out a plan that while Alex’s Home Instruction teacher came to the house, our good neighbor, Don, would give me a ride to pick up the van. When I returned, I could see it on Alex’s face. He had watched enough television. He had watched enough YouTube. He had played enough video games. He had enough schooling. He needed out. Desperately! He was bursting at the seams to socialize. I hoisted him into his wheelchair, secured him in the repaired minivan, and off we went.
So, where do you go after being homebound for two weeks?
Well, of course,…Zoup!
Alex loves this restaurant. It’s a pleasant environment, the food is outstanding, and the staff is always friendly and accommodating. It’s not surprising he selected this destination for his first stop. Fortunately, nobody was in line. Alex had free reign to do his thing. I asked for soup sample after soup sample knowing full well he only wanted to chat and hang out. As we watched them pour samples and prepare our soup and sandwich selections, Alex was in heaven talking with the workers. I smiled for his happiness, filled our drinks, and then found a table. Alex continued chatting. I literally had to push Alex away from the counter so we could eat. As I helped Alex enjoy sourdough bread dipped in his tomato basil soup, he would talk across the store to the soup staff.
“The tomato basil soup is really good today!” he shouted.
He accepted another bite, and then enthusiastically asked for more. I wiped soup from the corners of his mouth, before dipping another piece and placing it in his mouth.
“When’s the French onion soup coming in?” he inquired while chewing. “I looovvve French onion soup!”
And so it continued between nearly every bite.
Later, as I dumped our trash in the garbage bin, Alex zipped back to the counter to talk some more and pinpoint exactly when the French onion soup would be served. I just watched, smiled, and was thankful for his newfound freedom from his bedroom. Never in my life had I known that soup had such an impact on a kid. After about an hour in Zoup, we headed to his next requested stop.
Half Price Books!
There, I chuckled as the young shelf-stocker greeted Alex and asked how he’s doing.