by Chris Davis
Jay’s disability lies scattered somewhere between Anchorage and Nome on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum. The alcohol took my three-year-old grandson’s speech, in-utero, but spared his strength and wisdom.
We are casing a deserted playground- a rusty jewel ensconced in a crown of birch and fireweed on a sun-dappled afternoon. Jay loves it here. No child gates or fragile knick-knacks. No firm Grandpa voice.
I follow him to the swings then sit in one, rocking it back and forth. “This is how you swing, Jay.” I try to place him onto the swing, but he resists. He rests his chest against the seat, pushes himself up with his feet and raises them, squealing with delight as he ‘supermans’ back and forth. This is how I do it, Grandpa.
He soon loses interest and skitters over to a mishmash of chutes and ladders, climbing halfway up a slide then jumping into the pea gravel. I point to the adjacent ladder and climb to the top. “This is how you climb, Jay.” I attempt to guide him to the ladder, but he wriggles free and finds the stairs on the opposite side. He walks up to the highest step then peers down at me. No Grandpa. This is how I do it.
He shoots a few slides then guides us across the playground, stopping in a field of dandelions that have gone to seed. I crouch beside him, pluck a dandelion, then blow. Together, we watch the delicate seeds float away. I pluck another urging him to try and then place it into his hand. “Blow on it, Jay.” He throws it to the ground and before I can become annoyed, he launches through the field into the late afternoon sun. Billions of tiny parachutes fly into the air behind him and he laughs while revving to greater speed. He corkscrews through the field before stopping in front of me, silhouetted by the afternoon sun and wreathed in floating dandelion ‘chutes. No Grandpa. This is how it’s done.