Suddenly, a bee buzzes past N's head. He jumps, startles, freaks out. This is what he does when there's a bee. It's OK. He retreats into the house, gathers himself.
A few minutes later, he comes back into the garden.
"Was I ever stung by a bee when I was a baby?" he asks.
"Nope," I answer. "Not that I can think of."
He ponders for a moment. "I hope my friends were stung by a bee when they were a baby," he says. (He's referring to our Sunday Gang of friends, who are on their way over.)
Now I'm startled. "Why would you hope that your friends were stung by a bee?" I asked.
He looks confused, and just as he says it, I get it. "I don't hope that," he says.
"I think you mean you wonder if any of your friends were stung by a bee when they were babies," I say.
"Right," he says. "I wonder."
I wonder if he knew what he'd said. When he heard me repeat the sentence with the word 'hope' in it, he didn't seem to recognize it as his own. But if I hadn't supplied the word 'wonder' for him, he wouldn't have come up with it on his own, not right away.
Still, he knew what he meant; he knew what he meant to say. That's not what I'm worried about. I worry about the fact that, so often, the sentences that come out of his head all mixed up and jumbled sound like real sentences. Like this one. People think he means what he's saying. But his yes can mean no; his up, down; his black, white; his hope, wonder.
I wonder whether I'll ever really get the people who are supposed to help him to see these so-hard-to-see deficits in a reliable way. I wonder whether he'll ever be able to make himself really, truly understood, to find his way to words that don't dance away and around him all the time.
I hope so. I hope he will. It's what keeps me going.