These were the first words that greeted me as I arrived for work today, spoken by my nineteen-year-old client.
Straight away we set the rules for ourselves. We would spend our long walks discussing the “plot” and he would spend his free afternoons writing it on the computer. Our evening sessions would be spent illustrating the passages that he had written that day. He expects to have the whole thing finished in two weeks!
Next, while walking five kilometres in the sunshine with our pedometers fixed to our hips:
“Susie, I would like to thank you”.
“For what?” I asked.
Laddo, as I call him, had already thanked me that morning for attending a family funeral a few months earlier, and had also thanked me for helping him answer a few of the questions that he had stored up for me.
At break time I told that him he is the only client I have who thanks me so spontaneously, so often and so specifically. He has done so from a very early age. On the other hand, he can also be quite critical, and over the years has asked me many times, ”Why didn’t you explain that to me before now?”. My answer always was and still is that I didn’t know it before now, otherwise I would have shared my knowledge.
It is strange how people start talking to me and Laddo on our hikes in the countryside. Today a neighbour was crossing the road with her grandchild and said called Hello to us. I had never seen her before but she knew who I was as, after twelve years, does the whole village.
She told us with a wide, friendly smile “I have been watching this miracle from afar since your first visit”. I smiled too but explained that this is no miracle but the product of very hard work. Not my hard work but the hard slog put in by Laddo and his family. She smiled and said “Perhaps, but you have worked hard too”.
There is a huge difference though. I get paid for my hard work and as a bonus I also get the gift of seeing Laddo start to write his book. Laddo only gets a bonus and it sometimes takes years for it to get paid out. Today he is lapping up his rewards, he feels good about himself.
Often when we are out and about in the village my client doesn’t like to stop to chat with others. He knows the villagers better than I do. He knows better than anybody how they speak to him, whether they "nerv" him, as he puts it in German.
Many do nerv him and I understand why. They are the people who have never stopped treating him like a baby even though he may now tower head and shoulders above them. These are the people he ignores, but the lady with the miracle, and another we met later on who joins him at water aerobics, are people who don't nerve him and they get the pleasure of his company, the others don't he just keeps marching by.
The sunny day went on
Later came a difficult question:
“Why does it take me so much longer, years longer even, before I can do the things my siblings can do?”
This wasn’t a question specifically about dressing, eating, drinking, or walking, it was about living. About travelling by public transport, going to discos, even going for a walk alone. All the things he is now beginning to attempt unaccompanied for the first time, things like visiting his grandmother's grave alone, which is so important to him.
I had to go back to basics to answer this one. Luckily I know the basics and the roots of all four children involved and could use concrete examples in my explanations to help my client to understand.
My client was satisfied with what I said. He understood that he needed time for everything that he does and to soak up experiences. He needed time to learn to keep his balance when a car came by, time to work out how best to get his money out of his pocket to buy a ticket, he needed time to learn everything that for his siblings came just about automatically. He must learn, one slow step after the other what they often learnt in leaps and bounds. But he was getting there and we still have lots of time.
I explained that having to learn all these steps consciously takes a lot of time, which all added together has put him several years behind his twin brother and his sisters when he considers what they now do in their lives. The older they get, though, the quicker he is catching up because they are now old enough to take him with them on some of their adventures. He doesn’t need to be accompanied by Mum and Dad any more which always makes for a completely different experience. This is certainly showing in my client's development, which has stepped up a pace or two this year.
After all this there came another spontaneous Thank-you!
I do not have tears in my eyes anymore when he thanks me. It is not that I am getting used to him saying it, I shall never do that, it always comes at a so-unlikely moment and surprises me each time.
I do still have moist eyes however when I read over his shoulder what he writes in his “book”. Or when he asks his Dad whether he should write about the bad bits, about when the Grandmas died, or about the aggression that he felt when he was fifteen. It is when Dad replies that of course, because that is what makes him who he is, and that he mustn’t forget to include crashing the Audi into the brick wall, that my eyes mist over again!
Yes, as a young lad of twelve, he did crash a car into a wall and Dad was not laughing about it then. Laddo still insists that he only changed the gear and that someone had left the hand brake off. I actually believe him as I do not think he was strong enough then to move the lever.
But he is certainly strong enough now!
Today was the very first time since we started playing our game of sitting up as many times as our age, that my client was faster than I was. We started with this years ago, with his ten and my forty-three, and I would always be sitting ready, waiting and offering encouragement for the last two or three of his “sit-ups”. Until today.
He thought that I should be sad because he beat me but he understood why I was delighted. He didn’t thank me this time just smiled broadly.
It will be in the bag before he starts work
I thought that my client was wishfull-thinking by wanting to start and finish his book project in two weeks. I think that I now know why he has this goal in his sights. It is probably because he is motivated when we work together when he always has someone around, to ask for assistance. It looks like he just might make it. Volume 1 of the autobiography could be in the bag in fourteen days time, if he keeps this rate up. All wrapped up and out of the way before the much looked- forward-to first day at work, on September the first.
At lunch time he did a bit of research, asking Mum and Dad what his childhood had been like for them. They told him that he was always jolly and fun to be with but sometimes it was difficult when they wanted him to do therapies that he didn’t want to do.
By the time that we met this evening he was able to tell me that he had completed writing about the first stage of his life, and that he remembers, going to the Petö Institute in Budapest for an assessment when he was five years old.
He had come to me with the idea to paint a Hungarian flag, the colours all planned, which he soon completed. Then he superimposed a child’s face on it, as can be seen above. It is to be the cover picture, he tells me. His list of acknowledgments is also complete, including he says all his immediate family, and aunties and uncles and cousins and neighbours who all help him achieve everything that he does.
I love it because he never mentions me in any of this. I am the invisible tool and that’s just how it should be. He stores up his plans and ideas and questions till he is with me and we set about finding out together how they can all work out and come to fulfilment. We part company for a while and I leave him to get on with doing whatever it is that we sorted. Till the next time and the next plans.
For the last part of our “work” today we took our paints out to the garden and did a bit of a Vincent van Gogh or a David Hockney, by painting en plein-air. My client's first time painting outside, and he loved it. If the gorgeous weather remains we shall be out in the fields by the middle of the week painting wind-turbines, cows, bales of hay, church spires and rolling hills and at the same time planning the next chapter of the book.