I am doing a spotty job of reading The Book of Mormon aloud with the boys in the mornings as they eat breakfast. They are awake and eating at separate times, so I’ve started plunking away at 3 Nephi with Henry and 1 Nephi with Charlie.
What Charlie understands and what just whooshes through his head and flaps away behind him into the ether is a mystery. But I figured I could try; maybe he would understand something. So I told him about Nephi and his father, Lehi, the prophet, and that they lived in ancient times in Jerusalem.
“A long time ago?” Charlie perked up. “Like 1989?”
Vintage Charlie. He listens, but he listens around what you’re saying. He asks questions barely related to the topic. He leaves the subject at hand to fly away on tangents and asks vague questions multiple times.
He’s Charlie. He’s listening, but he processes all of it in his own way.
When Jeff gave Charlie his baby blessing, the entire thing was about how he would live his life by listening. He was blessed with the gift of listening to his parents and his brothers, listening to the people of his mission, and listening to his future family. It was a lovely blessing, unlike any I’d ever heard.
Then Jeff held Baby Charlie up under his armpits and dangled him in front of the congregation. Most people hold their infants in a cradled fashion when they present them to the audience following a baby blessing, as you might hold something delicate and porcelain.
Jeff held him like one might hold up a prize puppy at a fair. Charlie was wide-eyed and alert, all round cheeks and rubber-band wrists in his cable-knit suit. He didn’t mind be dangled. He was looking right back at those few hundred people looking at him, his light brown hair springing up in a fluff from his swivved comb-over.
After Truman’s crazytown preemie delivery, Charlie became a wild thing, obsessed with routines and rigid about pajamas, clothes, food, and basically life. He would wash his hands for an hour if I let him. He would insist on the same guitar pajamas every night NO MATTER WHAT. He would take off running down the street and I would follow, having no clue if he planned on coming back. He ate basically nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for a couple of years. He had the grossest diapers ever and they went on day after day, year after year.
I remember eating a cupcake at Kneaders with my friends late one night when we sneaked away for carbs and wailing to them, “Is Charlie ever going to listen to me? Will he ever potty train? Will he ever snap out of his little isolated state of Chully and pay attention?”
Brittany replied, “Maybe he is listening.”
As if to say, perhaps inside all that neuroticism there was a boy silently mulling everything he heard. I will admit that statement shut me down and made me think.
Charlie does listen. He is listening. Things have changed in Charlie’s world. Instead of sprinting down the street at the first thought that he would like a treat from the gas station, he asks me if we can go get something together.
He hears changes in tone and is beginning to understand emotions in other people beyond happy, sad, and mad. He informed me recently when he overheard someone say “the “eff” word,” which is to say that Charlie is paying attention.
He listens to my conversations with Jeff, which we can no longer have in code in front of the boys because we have a teen in the house, and because Charlie’s spelling has improved.
He listens when I ask him to get his shoes off the kitchen counter and put them away.
And he listens when I tell him about Lehi’s vision to leave Jerusalem.
He just thinks it happened 27 years ago.