“It’s a window in the world,
A little portal where you get a better view.
And the wonder of it all
Is all you need to see the Goodness getting through.”
Some time ago I wrote a post about Rhema’s fixation on windows.
In recent months that fixation has grown into a real problem. Rhema’s room has 5 large windows, 3 of which are bay windows. She would spend all night standing in the windows, going from one to the next in a continuous loop. Eventually she would tire and collapse on the floor just under the windows. Then a few hours later she would climb back up and resume her pattern.
These are the old-style, double-hung rope and pulley windows with stained blue panes. The ropes have long been broken, and every night Rhema would pull down on the ropes. I could hear the counterweight inside the frame screech up to the top and then come crashing down. Rhema liked the sound, and she particularly liked to hear it over and over in the middle of the night. The noise would drive me crazy. Cra. zy.
Recently she upped the anty by jumping down from the window with the rope in her mouth, and then letting it go so that the weight could crash down.
Last month a concerned neighbor contacted me. She said she could see Rhema in the second-story windows at night and worried that she would fall out. “One night,” she said, “I started shouting to her from my kitchen, ‘Rhema get down from the window. Get down!’… And then you appeared out of nowhere and pulled her down. How many times a night do you have to do that?”
For a moment I wished I could just tell Rhema to stay out of the windows, and that she would actually listen and understand. If only it were that simple.
I talked it over with several people – Brandon, my father, my brother-in-law, friends. We thought of putting up bars (on the inside) or even boarding up the windows altogether, but worried about fire codes. Completely replacing the windows was also an option, but a very costly one. What to do?
Enter an angel by the name of Mr. Steve.
Mr. Steve, whom I’d only met weeks before, offered to work on the windows. First, he tried vinyl screens. But we thought Rhema could push right through that. Then he decided to place plexiglass in front of the windows, and it worked like a charm.
But Mr. Steve did not stop there. Before putting in the plexiglass, he observed Rhema in her patterns as she made her way around the room, climbing up and dancing on the sills, touching different surfaces, spinning pulley wheels.
“It’s really quite brilliant,” he said, “…what she does.”
As her mother, naturally my concerns have been centered on her safety (and yes, peace and quiet at night). But Mr. Steve’s comment gave me pause, and for once I was able to see Rhema through new eyes. I no longer saw a child with autism stuck in an aimless pattern. Instead I found purpose and wonder in the way she hummed and moved throughout her room, the way she communicated with light and sound, the way she experienced every surface.
Mr. Steve installed various “toys” around the room to replace what she lost in the windows. A cord to pull, wheels to spin, handles to help her climb. For years Rhema has had nothing in her room except her bed – no dresser, no toys or books, no lamps (for safety reasons). I never imagined that her room could be a place she could enjoy. And Mr. Steve has big plans to make her room even more enjoyable (-there are even rumors about a rock wall!)
At my request, Mr. Steve nailed shut a bench beneath a pair of windows in the room. (Another midnight pasttime of Rhema’s is to open and slam the lid repeatedly.) But Rhema was able to pry open the bench in no time at all. A friend and I removed the lid from the bench altogether, and in so doing, created Rhema’s dream bed (aka casket)! Maybe, just maybe she will sleep better now, beneath her beloved windows, having the feeling that she’s surrounded on all sides.
I’m so thankful again for the many, many ways God provides for us through the love and kindness of friends.