Power Bars? Check.
I thought I was all set to take Josh to get a COVID test at a local community center. We are planning to go to a cabin in the mountains over Thanksgiving with my sister's family and my mother so we all decided that we were going to test beforehand. I talked to it about it the whole time we were driving there, promising him his beloved cheese quesadilla at Taco Bell afterwards. The strategy was lots of communication, lots of bribing which usually works pretty well. He was in a very good mood and was echoing me eagerly.
"After the nose test we're getting a quesadilla."
"After the nose test we're getting a quesadilla!"
I should have know that things were going to go south when we stood in line behind a set of nervous preschoolers. They both started to cry as they moved toward the front of the line and saw the clinical set up inside the community center. Children crying is kryptonite to my son so he started making anxious noises and putting his fingers in his ears.
When we finally got up to the table where we were asked to show the QR code for our registration, I was greeted by two very tall, confident Asian men in their early 20s. Through their PPE I could see that they both had haircuts and tattoos that communicated a high degree of hipness.
I told them about Josh's autism and intellectual disability and they confidently had Josh sit down and came at his nose with a long swab. Things went bad pretty quickly. Josh was not at all interested in having something go up his nose and started screaming, "No! NO! NOOOOOO!" He started to flail his arms and kick with his feet. The chair went flying.
The cool Asian men in PPE tried to hold him down enough to get 10 swirls of the swab in each nostril but it just got worse. Josh screamed like he was being tortured. For a second I thought about the faces of the people in line outside and wondered what they thought was going on and what might be in store for them when it was their turn to get tested. It made me want to laugh except that I also wanted to cry.
It was all going to hell in a hand basket when a short, older white woman came over and took charge, ordering the men to stop trying to hold him down. She took a couple of deep breaths and we all followed suit. We sat there breathing deeply together while everyone in a large auditorium were all probably very aware of us.
Then the woman told Josh in a very calm but authoritative voice, "Josh, we need to put this in your nose. I'm going to let you do it with me and we're going to count to ten." She held out the swab and let Josh put his fingers around it while she also held onto it. Then together, they stuck it up his nose and swirled it around. He didn't like it but he did it. And when she told him that we were done and that he had done a good job, he said, "Want chocolate." I quickly gave him a piece of the leftover Halloween candy that I had in my purse. The lady gave him the rest of the candy while I got my nose swabs. Just as I was finishing, I saw that Josh was holding her hand and asking her for a quesadilla.
As we drove from the community center to Taco Bell, I could literally feel the tension swirling around my body like someone had taken all of the stress from the past 7 months and and squished it into a tight bolus which I had swallowed. Adrenaline pulsed down my arm like little arrows. It's been a while since Josh has had a full scale melt down like that but, wow, he can still do 'em pretty impressively.
When we got back to the parking lot outside of his school, I turned around to see my beloved son contentedly eating his prize from Taco Bell like the generally calm, happy person that he usually is. I love this kid so much it hurts. I took a deep breath and said, "Ok Josh, let's go back to school." He was quiet for a minute and then he said to me, "But first chocolate."