Almost didn’t get this finished tonight, but here it is.
Dr. Engalls stood up and pushed his chair back under the table. “Mr. and Mrs. Avery, I will be following Billy’s progress. I may not agree with this decision, but I will respect it. While I, Dr. Richardson, and the other staff have a good idea of what he should be able to do at any particular stage in development, We’re not his parent. I need both of you to take note of the changes that happen as the day passes. Please bring anything you see, no matter how small, to our attention. Preferably to April’s attention as she continues to provide care. I trust her judgment on what she needs to pass on immediately, and what can wait for a report.” he told them both and offered his hand to each of them in turn.
“Thank you doctor.” Rick said as he shook hands.
“Yes, thank you.” Sharon agreed.
As Dr. Engalls closed the door on his way out, Dr. Richardson said “Thank you for your confidence.” as he placed a gentle hand on Sharon’s forearm.
“You’ve earned it.” She said with a warm smile.
“Truly.” Rick piped up.
Dr. Richardson took a breath and then as if he just discovered something, told Sharon “Oh, I apologize for getting so adamant about the past, I just really needed you to see how different this situation is.”.
“Hey, don’t worry about that. I’m just glad to see it means that much to you, really.” she replied.
“OK. There’s still some things left to talk about, mostly about what we expect to see over the next day or so. Dr. Engalls is correct, in my opinion. I expect that as time goes on, we’ll see Billy exhibit more and more behavior suited to a young toddler or an infant. I want to be clear,” he said as he turned to April, “they need to determine what is and is not appropriate steps to take to deal with this. For example, if they think he needs a highchair, then it needs to be provided, it’s that simple. Don’t get me wrong April, I value your judgment, and I know you’re the ideal nurse for this situation. Unfortunately, you don’t work twenty four hours a day.” he told her with a smile. " I expect you to offer advice through this process, I just don’t want another situation like the one Dr. Clarke told me about this morning, at the change of shift.".
“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that.” she answered him with a grin.
“What do you expect to see happen?” Rick asked.
“Why don’t you come with me, I want to show you.” he said getting up from the chair and exiting the conference room.
Leading the other three, he walked to the door he had pointed out to Sharon earlier. They all entered and he closed the door. In the room were a dozen monitors lined up on a shelf spanning the length of the wall, each with a large number above it, from one to twelve. There were several chairs and another shelf below the monitors that would allow someone to sit and take notes.
Further in the room there was a forty two inch monitor, and as Dr. Richardson pressed a button on a panel, the image of Billy with his grandmother popped up on the screen. Pressing another button, the image changed to a still of yesterday evening, as Sharon sat in the rocking chair holding Billy. Pressing another control, the image changed to video.
"Watch closely. Notice his movements as he goes to scratch his hand. Normal coordination, the movements are precise, and his control is fine. This process involves both hands, and both coarse and fine motor skills. This is what I would call normal for Billy’s physical age.
Hitting another button the screen jumped to a video as April is talking to Billy. She talks to him and he claps his hands once. The doctor stopped the image and replayed it. This time Sharon saw what he was talking about earlier.
“See the exaggerated movement? His hands overshoot and then come back too far and they don’t meet well. The fingers aren’t extended all the way, as you would expect for an eighteen month to two year old.” he explained.
Rick saw the changes. He knew he was watching evidence of Billy quickly regressing. “My God, where will it end?” he thought.
The image changed back to Billy with his grandma. She was sitting with him in her lap. He was watching her for a moment, and then they saw him reach out with an even more exaggerated movement, catch her small hoop earring on his finger and almost pull it off. She winced in pain, took his hand away from her ear, and laid him back and handed him his bottle. Billy, after two attempts, took the bottle from her hand, and then promptly dropped it. Phillis caught it, and offered it again. This time, he took it in both hands and brought it to his mouth and began to nurse, leaving both hands on the bottle.
“As you see, he’s already gotten to a point where it’s becoming difficult for him to control his movements.” he told them.
Sharon was frightened. When the whole concept of babying her little boy had first come up, she had been both anxious, and joyful at the opportunity to be close to him again. She had been willing to brave this uncharted water because she wanted her son back. So much so, that she had made the first move. Through the process of diapering and holding him Christmas eve, and then the difficult events Christmas morning, she had gotten what she wanted. At that point, she was quite willing to prolong the babying of Billy so long as he wanted it, and it didn’t interfere with him having a normal life, whatever that was.
But what she was watching was not the image of a child playing at being a baby. For all practical purposes, her son was a baby, not even able to hold his bottle with one hand. “When will it stop?” she asked Dr. Richardson tearfully.
Looking at her with a mixture of sincere compassion and concern, he answered “We don’t know.”.
Phillis watched Rick and Sharon move away with Dr. Richardson. She held Billy close with her hand supporting his wet bottom. He lay nursing his binky, with his head resting on her chest, his right arm pulled in, his left held straight by the board taped to it. “He looks so small.” she thought.
Her first thought when she had seen him in the wagon with his legs held far apart, his diaper peeking out from under the gown, had been “He looks precious!”. She thought she was looking at a nine year old enjoying a second chance at babyhood. When he had called her “Gamma”, that had gotten her attention, but she dismissed it as him getting into the baby role. When Sharon came over and talked to him as if he was two, that had started Phillis wondering just what was going on.
April, seeing the tape on the board running over the back of his left arm coming undone, told Phillis “I think we’ll take this off. I’ll put it back on when I get back.”. Reaching into her pocket, she pulled a pair of bandage scissors out and cut each section of tape. “This is gonna pull a bit Sweety, I’m sorry.” as she pulled each piece of tape left on his arm off the skin, one at a time. By the third one, Billy was trying to pull his arm away crying loudly. “I’m sorry Baby, I really am.” she told him when it was over as she rubbed his back.
Phillis just rocked him and patted his bottom, and he soon settled down.
“I’ll take his things back to his room.” April old Phillis.
The last piece of the puzzle snapped into place when, as Phillis followed April to his room, she asked Billy how he was, and he looked at her confused. Rephrasing the question had yielded the same results. At that point, it became clear. This was no game.
They were in the room, Phillis about to lay him down in the crib to change his diaper when it hit her. “He’s gone.” she thought as tears stung her eyes. The boy that had spent many days showing her the wonders of his world through science, physics and electronics was no longer there. She remembered several instances of him demonstrating his latest project. This very smart boy had needed to explain more than once what he was doing for her to understand. She came to love the time she spent listening as he went on about the wonders of the world. The light that came into his eyes as he became excited at possibilities, was contagious. She found herself caught up in the wonder herself. This was something they shared often. Looking at it him now, she didn’t think they would ever share that again.
She couldn’t contain her emotions as she mourned the loss of something so dear. Holding him close, the hurt was almost tangible as she could only rock him back and forth as her shoulders bobbed with her sobs.
She had rocked him gently for some time when Billy, in a tearful little voice said “Gamma?”. She could hear and feel he was afraid. Getting a grip on herself, she forced the loss down and pulled back and told him “It’s alright Baby, I’m OK.”. She knew it did no good to lie to children, they can feel what we feel. She took a different approach and reached to where April had laid his Pooh Bear and picked it up.
“I see Pooh Bear is here.” she said in a sweet sound only grandma’s know how to make.
Billy smiled, reached out for the stuffed animal, almost knocking it from her hand, and pulled it in for a tight hug.
“There you go Baby.” Phillis said, patting his diapered bottom. Remembering he was wet, she moved to the shelf, grabbed a dry Pamper, the wipes and the Desitin just in case, she laid them on the mattress and put Billy gently on his back.
He lay there fully engaged in looking at the bear as she released the tapes on his diaper and pulled the front down out of the way, and began to wipe him clean. About six seconds later as she reached for his ankles to lift his bottom, his erect little penis shot a stream of pee out at her. Having raised two boys, she reacted quickly and pulled the wet diaper back up over the mini fountain. Looking back up at his face, she saw that he was still playing with Pooh Bear, totally oblivious that he’s just wet all over. “He doesn’t even realize it.” she thought. Any hopes she had been clinging to, of him just really wanting to be a baby, were dashed. She knew then that he’d lost his potty training.
After getting him in a dry diaper, and wiping his urine from her shirt with a baby wipe, she picked him up and sat in the rocking chair. Looking deep into those big brown eyes she said “You are such a beautiful little boy.” with a warm smile.
Billy loved Gamma. She gave such good hugs and kisses. She was gentle, and she smiled a lot. Smiling back at her, he was distracted by a glint on her ear. He reached out to grasp it and she made an owwie face and took his hand away, telling him “No Baby, no touchy.”.
Phillis, her eyes tearing up as the searing pain throbged in her ear, lay Billy across her lap, reached for his bottle and held it out to him saying “Here Baby, drink your ba-ba.”. Missing it twice, almost knocking it to the floor, he managed to grasp it and take it from her hand, but as he brought it closer to his face, he dropped it in her lap. Picking it up quickly, she brought it back up and offered it again. This time, he took it with both hands and brought it to his mouth and began to nurse.
As Phyllis stared into his eyes, it dawned on her. “He’s not gone, he’s just different.” she thought. The pain of the loss of something precious they shared was still there, but it was tempered by the trust in those big brown eyes. The wonderful smile he gave her then sealed it. Smiling, she said “You may be a baby, but your still my Billy.” as she began to rock the chair back and forth slowly.