Surviving Mayhem

The three months long mayhem came to an end.  All the basement walls were replaced with  mold resistant sheetrock and most of them was already painted.  The carpet was removed to let vinyl tiles cover the basement’s floor. Not without problems, a new shower was installed in the bathroom.   A few minor touches are still needed to complete the work, but they do not affect the overall presentation of the basement’s family room.

It was a hard time for Robert.

In my  post Antipodes I described Robert’s first encounter with a contractor. Knowing that  it would not be possible for contractors to remove the walls with Robert in the house, we took Robert skiing.  Of course when Robert came home, he noticed missing walls and was not happy about that.  “Wall, wall, wall”, he kept repeating and we kept answering with vague promises that walls will be installed next day.  Suffice to say, that Robert asked many, many, many times for the walls. To counter his perseveration, which after first hundred times, was getting on our nerves , I used the old trick, which helped me in the past.

“Wall, wall, wall.”

” What about wall?”

A second of hesitation. “Tomorrow.”

“You right.  The contractors will put the wall tomorrow.”

I had found out in the past, that when I responded to Robert’s obsessive repetitions with a question and thus changed them  into a dialogue, their frequency decreased.

Almost every day, I used the same strategy, to help Robert deal with new changes, and help myself deal with Robert’s reactions.

It was a winter vacation week.  A few times I took Robert to Sunapee Mountain for adaptive ski lesson at NEHSA.  Upon our return, Robert immediately inspected the house and noticing unwelcome changes demanded explanations. It could be another wall, which missing, it could be a missing thermostat, or temporarily covered by new wall, old electric outlet.  For the first ten times, we kept giving straight, short answers. “Thermostat is broken.  We have to buy a new one. The outlet is under the wall.  Tomorrow we will fix it.”

After ten times, when Robert already knew the answers but kept his fixation alive, we went back to dialogue.

“Here, here, here.” Robert did not know the word “thermostat”  and to let us know what he meant, he was knocking on the wall, where thermostat used to be.

“Oh, you mean thermostat?”

Unclear imitation followed, “Stat, stat”

“What about thermostat?”

“Is broken.”

“You right, thermostat is broken.  We will buy a new one tomorrow.”


“Yes, we will buy new one in the store.”

I have to say, that the unwelcome changes in the basement forced Robert to initiate many more conversations and at some point I started enjoying our relatively intense communication. However, at some point,  Robert got used to the mayhem and stopped obsessing about it. That meant that he also stopped asking.  His anxiety decreased, because  every day after coming from school, he was met with clear improvement that did not require any additional explanation. Because there was no need to ask, he didn’t.

One of the hardest thing for Robert to tolerate was the moving of the furniture. Soon however, we found a middle ground.  As long as the TV, VCR, and DVD player reminded connected and watchable from the sofa, everything else was less important.

Robert, who as a self-proclaimed guardian of his environments attempts with all his might to keep his surrounding unchanged, not only survived three months of pandemonium, but accepted all the alternations in the end.

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