Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Sand and Surf

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sand and Surf

We are back safe and sound from a fabulous extended weekend at the beach. Saturday the three of us swung by my grandmother's house in the valley for lunch, where we ate and watched football with my grandma, aunt, and uncle. Grandma gave Erik a big, red bucket and shovel for the beach. After lunch we headed to Eugene to pick up Shaena and her baby from a tailgate party at the University of Oregon game. Of course, both of our cell phones mysteriously failed to connect around the stadium, so we couldn't contact each other. There were thousands of people and cars, and we couldn't get remotely close to the stadium, so Brian parked in an adjacent neighborhood and walked in to find her in the drunken, barbecue sauce-soaked tangle of tailgate parties (a seemingly impossible task). Erik and I stayed behind, but he immediately began to fuss, so I reluctantly deposited him in his stroller and began walking down the street toward the stadium, rolling through a thick layer of yellow leaves illuminated by bright afternoon sunshine. Miraculously, just minutes into our walk I spotted Brian, Shaena, and baby Samantha coming towards us on the busy sidewalk. We made it back to the Jeep together, and Brian installed Sammy's car seat next to Erik. From there, we headed off to the coast. Andy, Shaena's husband, planned to join us after the game. There was only one moment all weekend that completely depressed me, and that was the last half hour of our journey, when Erik decided that Sammy's coos and laughs, although they were very quiet, either hurt his ears or frightened him. Although he is doing much better around toddlers and older kids now, babies apparently still freak him out. Since he has been doing so well and seemed happy the first part of the drive, I was caught completely off guard. The last half hour of our ride, Erik was inconsolable, sobbing so hard he began shaking and gasping. What really bothers me is the fact that the other parents around us, of course, feel terrible when Erik does this and feel obligated to hush their children when they aren't that loud to begin with. Our friends never fail to be understanding and calm about this unique and frustrating situation. I hold on to the fact that this seems to be getting better over time, although Erik will always be sensitive to certain noises. Once we arrived and I spent some time alone with him in the car, he was much better around Sammy. He still clung to us in her presence sometimes but had his shining moments around her. He obviously liked her, as he smiled at her, talked about her, and looked for her when she was not in the room, saying her name like Rocky Balboa would ("Sam-MEEEE!").

Our two-story cottage was right on the beach and featured a full kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. It had a great view. Shaena and I drove into town to pick up groceries at a little store where nobody made eye contact with us and the checker had some sort of unidentifiable, pruritic rash. Of course, we had a blast just being out and about together like the old days (only this time we were buying baby food). Upon our return, we made ourselves comfortable, and Andy joined us after the game. We eventually put Erik down in his playpen, and he slept like a log. Actually, we all did. Saturday morning we lounged around, baked cinnamon rolls, and watched television until Erik finished an almost three-hour nap, when we went into town for fish and chips. The cod filets were as big as my arm. I ate every crumb on my plate and when the waitress asked how it was, I smiled and told her it was terrible. Erik, of course, charmed all of the people in the restaurant he could see, and Sammy greeted the people in the next booth. Both kids did so well. Erik created some artwork with the impressive selection of crayons the waitress provided. After we ate and I struggled to get Erik's stiff brace-legs free of the high chair, a little old lady on whom Erik had previously worked his magic stopped me and said, "I'll take him home with me and keep him. He is so handsome." She seemed almost determined to tell me this in a surprisingly serious tone. My heart twinged, and I thanked her. Erik and I were stuck at home for months of his infancy, and I never really experienced much in the way of strangers fussing over him. Now that he is no longer a baby and is becoming friendly, he is bringing people to me and more than making up for what I missed out on. It is sort of magic, and it is just what I need these days.

As for the beach, Erik loved everything about it. He even loved saying "beach" and "ocean." He charged toward the water, and Brian swooped him up every time the waves threatened to envelop his shoes. The sky was robin's egg blue, and the wet sand reflected the light and wisps of clouds like a giant mirror. Andy, Shaena, and Sammy put their footprints in the sand and got some beautiful photographs of them.

I noticed this was the very first time the ocean didn't seem massive to me. Maybe it was because the weather wasn't angry like it is a lot of the time or because I had my hands full with a small child. I went out alone the last night and watched the orange ball of sun sink behind the contour of the earth millimeter by millimeter until it left a fading, tangerine-colored smudge above the ocean. I found myself thinking about how there was no guarantee the sun would come up in the morning to warm us again. I suppose that's an ominous thought, but I was completely comfortable with it. I know I need to enjoy things moment by moment. If there's one thing I have learned in the last two years, it's that there are no guarantees at all. Everything that seemed solid as stone around me in my life seems very temporary now to me, like a transient but beautiful mist. I can't see myself taking much for granted ever again. The weekend was definitely perfect.


Blogger Aspen said...

Oh Nancy, every part about this post was beautiful! Your descriptive words, the pictures, your face, the crayon hooked perfectly in Eriks ear, the ocean, just everything!

I am so happy that you had such an amazing time. You needed this break away.

Glad your back! LOVE YOU!

7:35 AM  
Blogger Kerry said...

What great pics!! It seems like you won't be able to top your weekend for awhile. I love going out for little jaunts like this in the middle of an otherwise boring month. How fun!

I wonder a lot about the sensitivity to hearing that a lot of the WS kids have but Brady does not seem to. I know all the kids are different in many ways, but I'm wondering (as Brady's therapists seem to think) that if noise factor is the reason. We live on a street that is certainly not REALLY busy, but you definitely have to look both ways before crossing. Plus Tom and I aren't exactly the quietest people, plus throw in an 8-yr-old boy. Brady's therapists seem to think that this has all contributed to his non-sensitivity. I can't imagine making any noise on purpose that would no doubt bring tears to his eyes, but is there any other way to help him through this?

I noticed on the aerial photo of your house you are definitely in a quiet-no-noise zone! Barring from picking up your stuff and moving into downtown NYC, what about doing things in short waves .... vacuum for 1 minute, for example.

Please excuse my ignorance if this is not plausible -- just something I wonder about a subject I know very little about. My mother always said if you don;t know something, keep your mouth shut... well, now you know why we're so loud over here - I can't keep my mouth shut! :)

Anywhoozer - I hope he outgrows it a bit too as I know how heartwrenching it is to see him suffer on something you can't control. :(

Love you- K

9:38 AM  
Blogger Lisa R said...

I love the beach I find it so refreshing and rejuvanating(sp) I know I picked a fine day to care about spelling HAHA....I am so glad you all had fun and are home safely...I like your hair up :)

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Shaena, Andy and Sammy said...

Yes, we three agree, the weekend was just perfect. We are looking forward to our families next outing together. Lets' plan one soon. Happy Halloween!

Love, Shaena, Sammy and Andy

9:43 PM  

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