Great-full

That’s what Jonah says. He sniffs you and then half-giggles, “You smell great-full.”

And that’s how I’ve been feeling lately, except I would probably spell it “grateful”, because I mean it in the gratus (Latin) sense. Funny thing about the word “grateful”—in particular, it’s formation in the English language. Most adjectives ending with the suffix “-ful” begin as nouns. Beauty (n) becomes beautiful (adj). Regret (n) becomes regretful. But the word grate (a now obsolete word that means pleasing, agreeable or thankful) is an adjective. When you add “-ful” you essentially are turning an adjective into an, uh, adjective. Who says you can’t have too much of a good thing?

According to the etymologist Earnest Weekley, grateful is a “most unusual formation,” a true anomaly. The Word Detective adds that the formation of the word grateful is “just more evidence that English (or any language) is a quirky, juryrigged patchwork, not a kit where the pieces fit neatly together, and even the most common words often have strange stories.”

I know I probably don’t need to say it, but this is a wonderful way to describe Jonah. He is his own strange patchwork of quirkiness. Take the way he’s started to periodically cup his hand over his nose to breathe in a few big whiffs. When asked why he does this, he responds, “It makes me feel comfortable.” This morning he could not talk about anything but Inspector Gadget (believe me, I tried to redirect the conversation a half dozen times). He insisted he wants to get into a car wreck (which was the catalyst that turned John Brown into Inspector Gadget) so that a doctor could “cut me open and take out all my guts and put in the steel so that I can be the real Inspector Gadget!” I tried to impress upon J the pain that this would involve, but he was undeterred. I even went as far to (try and) burst his bubble by saying that Inspector Gadget isn’t actually real. J thought about this for a moment, then roundly dismissed my blasphemous statement.

I read a handful of blogs by moms of autistic children (most of them are in the Blogroll column to the right). They remind me we’re not alone. They also teach me a good bit about Jonah, helping me understand his sometimes strange behavior. John and I concur that J’s currently inhabiting a kind of golden age. He’s curious, and almost completely unselfconscious. He’s often quite helpful. He’s hilarious and affectionate and daring. Maybe he’ll stay this way. Most likely he’ll change. Who can say? I try not to compare his difficulties with those of other autistics, but a little bit of juxtaposition can’t be helped. His struggles are not severe or terribly debilitating. That said, they are real, and I try not to discount them or chalk them up to simply bad behavior. Set J up next to a “typical” kid and the differences can be stark.

But the people who love him (and there are many) love him pretty much exactly the way he is and do their best to meet him there. May it always be.

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One thought on “Great-full

  1. I do love Jonah just the way he is. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you guys.

    Love all your blogs but especially this one and the last.

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