Vanishing Act

August 24, 2015

Robert doesn’t like when the things disappear. The matter of fact neither do I.

A couple of years ago, Robert suddenly became agitated as he couldn’t find one of his three favorite dinner plates.  He seemed to check everything: cupboard, dishwasher, refrigerator, and all the rooms. To calm him down, I decided to find the plate myself.  I couldn’t.  I looked in all the typical places, which Robert had checked already and in less typical places such as the garbage containers, under the furniture,  garage, and  the laundry room.

I knew it was irrational to look inside the washing machine or the drier for the dinner plate, but not as irrational as  sudden vanishing of the dish. As my search became more and more futile with every absurdly chosen place, Robert became more  and more and more anxious and fixated on the plate.

But then, so was I.  Yes, I knew that the aliens didn’t kidnap the plate for whatever purpose.  I knew that the robbers didn’t sneak inside the house just to grab one old plate.  I knew it.  But then, what other explanation there could be for the vanishing  of the plate?

Well, there was another explanation.  The plate was waiting in the microwave still holding some forgotten food. (I don’t remember what.)

I don’t know who discover it, but both of us, Robert and I , were greatly relieved. We certainly didn’t want aliens or robbers sneaking behind our backs.

It was then when I  realized what Robert probably  felt when we had disposed of some of the things without his knowledge.

Because Robert always had difficulties parting with things, we erroneously believed that it would be more convenient to get rid of the unwanted things when he was not present.  Big mistake.  Robert wouldn’t cease looking for missing items and that including searching through all garbage cans.

We have learned that if the plate breaks, Robert has to see the broken plate before placing it in the trash.  Robert has to see his worn out clothes torn to a few pieces before letting them go in a rag hamper.  Only that can stop him from hours if not days of searching and asking and demanding an answer.  However, the verbally provided explanation is not as convincing as visual clarification. As they say, “The picture is worth thousand words.”

To explain the disappearance of an everyday article, more than thousand words are needed.

Patterns, Routines, and Adjustments

August 23, 2015

After long period of not writing, I lost focus and have to pick up the pieces.  This sentence doesn’t explain my difficulties as they are only partially caused by both the abundance and the vagueness of experiences and observations. My difficulties are caused mainly by my inability to write in an organized matter.  I am not able to state what is the main topic as, so called, ” supporting details” often seem more important than the main idea. Moreover, those details often support completely different conclusions. And the conclusions all too often do not clarify my understanding of Robert, but lead either to see him as a simplified stick figure or force me to suspend the judgement.  There are simple facts that can be easily noticed and described, but it is much harder to understand what is behind them.  What is their purpose or the cause. What model of  the universe causes Robert to do things in a certain way.


Robert chose three different shirts to go with three different pants and three pieces of underwear.  Only Robert knows what goes with what.  Of course, his closet and his dresser hold more than three of each.  But for Robert, those additional articles of clothing do not exist.  He wears only one of the three.  Moreover he makes sure that they are always accessible to him. Thus, Robert’s preoccupation with laundry.  When two sets are already in the laundry hamper, Robert starts laundry.

Of course, the clothes wear off, they get holes, they get too tight, or they even break beyond repair. Robert still wants to keep them in his dresser until it becomes obviously clear to HIM that they cannot be worn any more.  That is my call to action. If there is a hole, too small for Robert to consider parting with his shirt, I made it bigger, when he doesn’t watch.  I might even tore it into two pieces.  Then, Robert puts those two parts in a hamper with other rags and….

And only then he chooses a replacement from remaining items of clothing. It still has to be three of each.

My job is to make sure that there is a fourth piece of each, just in case.


After I remove the seeds and ribs from the peppers, broil them in the oven, peel them, stuff with mozzarella cheese, cover with flour, dip in the egg and fry them in the oil, I place them all on a serving plate.  Robert will eat all four. But for each poblano, Robert will take a new plate and a new fork.  By the time he is done eating, four medium size plates and four forks land in the kitchen sink.

Although Robert is perfectly happy with one plate for a few pieces of chicken tenders, one at a time, or for 3, 4, or 5 pieces of eggplant parmesano, for poblano he makes exception.  Moreover, those plates are always the same four. If any of them is dirty, Robert washes it and dries it, to make sure he can put poblano on it. No other plate will do. When, however, I made five poblanos for Robert, he didn’t take another plate but ate it on one of the chosen four. Lately, Robert learned to leave one poblano for his dad. For that special arrangement Robert takes the fifth plate not really caring  which plate to choose.

He tried to use the plate even when it had a visible crack. Again, when Robert didn’t look, I broke the plate in half.  Robert inspected the plate, tried to put the two pieces together.  It didn’t work so he threw them in the garbage. Then he chose a replacement plate to join the other three still intact.

I assume that having three of each items of closing helps Robert simplify and organize his morning dressing routine. I am not sure, but this seems logical from my point of view. I am not sure however, what is the purpose of four plates for four poblanos.  Is that simply the result of obsessive compulsive disorder – the need to do it the same way every time? Well, OCD  could be a good name but not an informative explanation. 









August 7, 2015

I haven’t written for quite a while. Moreover, I haven’t been studying with Robert regularly.  There were, they still remain,  many distractions.  We painted some of the rooms. One room was painted on each of the four weekends. We had four different guests, each  staying at least a week. Robert was sick.  I was sick.  Maybe because of  that and a few additional demands put on our family life I couldn’t refocus on Robert.  I couldn’t find energy for an evening study hour. Besides, it was very hot and a constant noise from the running air conditioner didn’t help either. The two-hour long power outage was another unusual event, not without consequences.

For me, and I believe for Robert, the most important lesson of that time was to  adjust to changes or to  learn how to survive  with the slightest possible alterations to our lives.


At first, Robert was very much against it. He tried to put the furniture back by the walls.  He kept taking ladder back to the garage. But at some point he resigned himself to the inevitability of painting and started helping. He must have understood that his help would hasten the return to normalcy. He was the happiest and most helpful when he was finally allowed to put all the pieces of the furniture in their “normal” places.


Although guests usually alter family’s life by changing schedules, routines, r contents of the meals, Robert was rather unmoved by those changes.  There was, however, problem with laundry.  Robert feels responsible for washing everything that needs to be washed in our home. He washed also some garments of one of the guest.  He wanted to wash clothes of another guest, even if they were not in the laundry hamper. so he dared to go to the guest room and examined the clothes.  He wanted to wash them, but the owner protested. So Robert complied and gave them back without washing.

He learned his lesson all too well, and when the next guest put his dirty clothes in the hamper, Robert removed them and carried them back to the guest’s room. However, he complied with the guest’s wish and washed them later. Much later.

The notion that different guests might have different ideas about laundry was a little confusing, but nonetheless, Robert complied.

Power Outage

When the lights went out, Robert immediately assumed that mother could fix electricity easily by going to the fuse box and doing whatever needed to be done. The fact that mother refused to do so, made him really mad. With the light from the candles and flashlight I drew the primitive power plant with wires going in all directions including our neighborhood and our house. I tried to explained that the wires were down somewhere, but Robert didn’t accept my explanation. “Light, light, light” Over and over.  Request for the lights to come back was expressed loudly, dramatically, and frequently over the period of one hour. It got worse when Robert’s dad came home.  The fact that his father couldn’t repair the light was incomprehensible to Robert. He became more angry with our “stubbornness” . “Light, light, light” Hundred times, thousand times. Loudly, dramatically, non stopping.

Robert’s dad wanted to take him to the McDonald.  I was against, as I remember the time when I believed that such distraction would help.  It didn’t.  Although Robert allowed me to buy him fries and a coke, he, nonetheless, didn’t stop calling for light loudly and desperately between sips of his coke and bites of his fries.

The only other ideas was to try to follow with the evening routine any way.  I brought the flashlight to the bathroom and turned the water in the tub. Robert reluctantly took the hint.  He washed and dried himself quickly. We turned on a movie on Ipad, Robert calmed down and joined us to watch the movie.  He calmed down a lot.  Not that he had forgotten about missing lights.  But the frequency, loudness, and drama all went down.  He was almost ready to go to his bed and sleep, when the light came back.  Robert ran through the house turning all the lights out and then went to sleep.