“Yeah you know the one that has poop for brains.”
Now I know who he means. A girl in his grade who is 3-4 years older because she has some intellectual difficulties.
“What? It’s true.”
“She doesn’t have poop for brains. She has some problems in her behavior, but she’s a nice girl.”
“Yeah, but like you know she gets up in the middle of class and, uhm, starts singing and dancing.”
“She’s weird, dad.”
“Don’t you ever feel like doing that in class?”
“Yeah, but I don’t.”
“Well, you’re lucky because you have the switch in your brain that tells you it’s not the right thing to do, or that it’s the wrong time to do it.”
He looks doubtful. He pauses at the window of a toy story we pass every day on the walk home from his school.
“Dad. Dad. Look. It’s the new Lego characters…you know the Chima that I told you about.”
“Yup. Let’s move Noah. You have homework and I have to make supper.”
“Dad. Can I just go in for a minute.”
“Awwwww-unh. I promise I won’t ask you to buy anything.”
“It exhausts me to always be shopping for stuff, whether or not we buy it. Fills my head with useless noise.”
He grumbles but follows my irrevocable forward movement.
“Yeah. About Brenda, dad. What I wanted to say was that she got a Chima set.”
“Maybe she’s just saying that.”
“No, no, like she brought it to school. And it’s so cool, dad, you should see it.”
“Yeah, she has a Grandmother. You know how grandmothers are. They always say yes. Remember dad, Nonna was like that. I miss her.”
My Mother died last year. He has no grandparents left.
“I miss her too.”
We walk in silence for a while. It happens more often lately. He’s ten now.
“Doe my Mother have like a switch missing? Like Brianna?”
His Mother is schizophrenic and violent. A whole control panel of missing switches.
“You’re Mom has a mental illness, called schizophrenia.”
“That’s why she hated you?”
“Didn’t help that’s for sure.”
Silence. Half a street block later….
“Dad, do I have the schizo…uh, the schizo…”
“Yeah, do I have the schizophrenia, because you know how it is with the genetics, you know.”
Yeah, I know. This is a recurring question of his. Heredity is not destiny but…
“Probably not. You have a great family that loves you. Your mother did not. And you’re your own person, you’re not her and you’re not me.”
“Yeah, like I’m really good at music and you suck. I don’t want to hurt your feelings, dad.”
“No, no, it’s true.”
“Dad, was my Mother like, uhm, Brianna at school.”
“No, it’s a whole different set of problems. When I met your mom she was fine.”
“She caught that schizo thing?”
“No, you don’t catch that kind of illness. It just develops in the brain and shows up eventually.”
“So how do you know that I won’t like develop into it, you know?”
“I don’t know for sure, but it’s unlikely. You know anything can happen. You could get hit by an asteroid.”
“Hehehe … imagine! Right here on the street like, boom, I just blow up and leave just like you know a shadow with my arms like this.”
He throws his arms out and freezes with his tongue sticking out.
“You look just like Brenda.”
He punches me and chuckles.
“Dad, do you have any like switches that don’t work, like in your head?”
“Absolutely. And some that work better than most people’s. I have talents and I have fears and I have loves and I have handicaps. Like everybody.”
“Awwww, I’m starving, what are we eating dad.”
“Brodo (chicken soup) and little toasts with melted cheese.”
“Oh yeah! You make the best brodo, dad, even better than Nonna‘s.”
“That’s one of my talents.”
“Yeah, and cleaning is like one of your handicaps.”
“Oh you little dork.”
“I throw him down on the snowbank and try to bury him.
He squeals happily. I rumble just as happily.