The Clone Chronicles
Copyright 2003-2016 Steve Williams
All rights Reserved
All rights Reserved
Anyone who has ever shared a bed with a child, knows the meaning of a rough night. I know that I slept, but only for short periods of time. Ian's restlessness was perhaps contagious. Every time he moved, I woke. Now I am again filled with concern.
I wake Ian and send him to get cleaned up and dressed. As I get myself ready for the day, I make some notes to discuss with Marty and Gordon. I also think of some questions for a young playmate.
I hear the bedroom door slam shut and know that the boys are running to breakfast. I head for the dining room and meet with Gordon in the hall.
"Hi Steve - sleep well?" he asks, with a wicked grin.
"I think you already know the answer to that. Speaking of which, I would like a little time today to talk with Alex about Ian's nocturnal habits."
"Not a problem," Gordon responds, as we enter the dining room.
Breakfast today is Belgian Waffles, covered with strawberries and whipped cream, Orange Juice and Hot Chocolate. I cheat and cut up a banana with my strawberry topping. Banter is light and Alex seems a bit subdued.
Breakfast over, Gordon sends the boys to get ready for school. I join with Gordon and Marty in the study.
"What's going on Steve? Has Alex done something?" Gordon asks rather abruptly.
"Stay calm, Gordon. Last night is the first night I spent alone with Ian. I need to find out some things from Alex. No problems."
"What are you concerned about?" asks Marty.
"Ian was very restless last night. He went to sleep quickly but tossed and turned frequently. He also seemed to have nightmares. Once when he woke me, he was soaked in sweat. The next time he seemed cool and dry. I don't know if this is a problem or something to worry about."
"Steve, remember our discussion after the hikes. Fear is primal. It also accounts for most of Ian's experiences. You thought he would fear the pool because of the cloning tank. He didn't seem to."
"I think you're on to something, Gordon," Marty jumps in. But, how did you take him swimming?"
"Alex was there the whole time, helping to show him how things were done," I fill in.
"That may be the difference. If you or Gordon had taken him alone, he might have shown some fear. Since his friend was there, maybe he pushed any fear aside, somehow knowing that he would be safe. As for nightmares, remember that while we sleep is the time for the brain to purge itself. Even though Ian seems ten, he lacks the memories of a child his age. Some kids remember toilet training, tricycles, losing their first tooth and other baby times. As far as we know, Ian hasn't experienced these things."
"I'd like to stay and chat, but the boys are probably ready for class. I'll send Alex up shortly, while I do more testing on Ian." Gordon walks out the door and Marty continues.
"Right now Ian is like a sick newborn. He's not yet able to tell you his fears verbally and he also hasn't had enough comfort times to outweigh the time in the tank. We know he learned some things, but he had no love. That is what you are giving him."
"So in short words, you think he'll outgrow this as he has more positive experiences?"
"In a nutshell, yes. Well," he says rising, "I'd better get back to work. I still need to get ten years of medical records made up for Ian. I should probably give him a couple more shots soon, just to have everything up to date." Marty walks out, leaving me to my thoughts. Once again I take time to update my journal. In looking over my notes, I see the emergence of a new theme to my life. I am needed. My clients need my help, but only Ian seems to need ME. I realize with some shock that I also need him. He is filling a hole that I didn't even know existed. In a moment of inspiration I jot down a thought for my office wall.
"ONE CAN NOT BE WHOLE
WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGING THE HOLES IN ONE'S LIFE"
I don't know how long I just sit. My thoughts are random. Images flash through my mind. Old friends, old flames, good and bad alike. I even think I hear some calling my name until I realize that it's Alex, up from class.
"Steve, Steve. Are you okay? You looked kinda funny sitting there."
I reach out and grasp his shoulder. "I'm okay pal. I was just thinking hard." "Dad said you needed to talk to me. Is something wrong?" He looks like a kid with his hand in the cookie jar.
"Nothing is really wrong. I just need to learn more about Ian. You mentioned before that he is restless at night. Is he always that way?"
"Mostly. Some nights are better and some worse."
"Does he wake you up at night?"
"He did at first, now it's only sometimes."
I carefully phrase my next query.
"Do you remember the last night he didn't wake you?"
"The last couple of nights were pretty good. He was restless, like me, but I don't remember waking up."
I think about the last few days. To my memory, they were filled with love and bonding for Ian and me. Yesterday was also, but ended with some separation anxiety, as I took Ian away from his friend and companion. With this insight, I come to a few decisions.
"Why don't you go ahead and get a book to read. When Ian comes up, I would like you both to clean your room."
"What's wrong, Steve?" he asks. "Has something happened?" He moves to me with anxiety on his face.
I put my arm around his shoulder. "I'm sure everything's okay, pal. I'm just feeling some nerves. I've never been a dad before and I'm worried about Ian's nightmares."
"I've had nightmares before, but I don't remember having any for a couple of years. I'm sure Ian will get over them."
Alex gives me a quick hug, then runs off to the boys' room. I spend most of an hour just sitting, pondering my new decisions. Am I choosing what's best for Ian, or what might make me most comfortable? I decide to talk to Marty and Gordon at lunch.
Finally, I get up and with nothing else to do, I decide to clean. The most needy spot for cleaning is the boys' bathroom. I keep myself busy until lunchtime. I hear Ian coming up and I go to meet him. He runs into my arms.
"Hi D-dad?" There is a slight questioning in his voice.
"Hello Ian," I say, pulling him into a hug. "How's my son?"
I ask the question while looking at Gordon, who followed Ian into the room. I focus on Ian again.
"Why don't you go wash up for lunch?" I give him a nudge in the right direction and he takes off down the hall.
"How is he really doing, Gordon?" I ask, tensing up again. Gordon gets two sodas before answering.
"To be honest Steve, I'm pretty stumped. Ian's cognitive skills seem to be improving by several months per day. I think if he were sitting here, he would understand every word we say. I can sit behind him and give instructions and he will do what I expect; point to this, pick up that. He even seems to be picking up the basics of numbers and letters"
"So what's the bad news?"
"He still doesn't seem to be able to communicate well. He can express concepts like hunger, bathroom, drink, but all in simple one or two word comments." He pauses as both boys enter the room. For a moment, I look at Ian, then I realize that he not only washed his hands, but he seems to have washed his face and combed his hair. I look at Alex who shrugs and shakes his head. On a hunch, I try something.
"Ian, did you comb your hair?" I ask. He nods his head in reply. I quickly pull him into a hug.
"Oh Ian, you are doing so very well." I push him back to arm's length. "Are you hungry?"
"Hungry," he responds, patting his stomach.
Taking him by the hand, we head out to have lunch. Today rich has made grilled tuna and Swiss cheese sandwiches, with clam chowder. At a signal from Gordon, Alex takes Ian outside to eat.
"You're compulsing again, Steve," Gordon starts. "You've been working toward being Ian's father for over a week. Now you have more questions." He stops to take a bite as I swallow.
"I'm worried about the nightmares. Alex says Ian woke him several times, but not lately. Then last night he seems to have been disturbed again."
"Like I said before Steve. I think the only way to overcome the nightmares is to fill Ian's mind with good memories. You're already doing that, so just keep up what you're doing.
We finish lunch as I try and plan for more activities to help Ian. I come to the realization that perhaps I should focus less on helping Ian and more on giving him good memories to dream about.
When lunch is done, I take Ian out for another hike around the island. As we walk, he reaches out and takes my hand. His simple sign of trust, fills me with a joy that I never believed possible. As our walk progresses, I get Ian to give the names of things we see. I praise each success and help him build more. We smell the flowers, watch the birds and listen to the sounds of the woods.
Without really paying attention to where we are going, I eventually lead us to the lake. We move to an area where the soft grass grows right down into the water. I sit and lean back against a tree. Pulling Ian over, I remove his shoes and socks and roll up his pant legs. Pointing to the water, I give him a nudge. He walks over and gets his feet into the water, at the edge.
For a while, Ian seems content to just wade at the water's edge. Then he starts to move deeper, but moves back when the water nears his pant legs. From the dusty corners of my mind, I dredge up a memory of a summer vacation at an uncle's farm. After a day spent stacking hay, my cousins and I headed for a pond to go skinny dipping. Just kids having some good fun. Making a quick decision, I call Ian over. "You want to go swimming?" I ask.
"Swim," he responds nodding. He turns like we are going back to the house, but I stop him.
"Wait a minute, Ian. You can swim right here. Take your clothes off."
He seems reluctant, so I go ahead and start undressing myself. Ian quickly follows and in a couple of minutes we are splashing in the pond. On one of my dives, through the crystal clear water, I spot a crawdad. I point it out to Ian, who quickly tries to catch it, getting a pinched finger for his efforts. He cries, more from shock than injury, but is okay in a few moments.
Watching the shadows and my watch, I give us about 45 minutes in the water, then we go lie on the grass. Very quickly the warm sun and soft breeze has dried us. We dress and resume our walk around the island. Again, I pay little attention to where we walk. I focus on Ian, trying to build more good memories.
In this setting, at this time, I feel like the frog who was kissed by the princess. I feel alive and energized. As I see Ian learning and changing, I also realize that I too am changing. Before finding Ian, if I had walked in the woods, I would have focused only on the goal. I would not have noticed the trees, plants and animals.
For a time, I let Ian lead, following his whims and interests. He spots spiders, caterpillars and even a garden snake. Twice I have to stop him from chasing some unseen animal. Another thing I notice is that toilet breaks are getting farther apart, which shows some of his developing control.
Finally, the cabin comes into view and Ian runs off to find Alex. After taking my own bathroom stop, I move to the den to wait for dinner and to discuss the hike with Gordon and Marty. Again, I seem to have more questions than answers from my interaction with Ian.
"Earth to Steve, is anyone home?"
I look up to see Gordon standing in front of me. I didn't see or hear him enter the room.
"Are you overanalyzing again?" he asks, sitting down.
"Probably." I reply. "Every time I think I am getting a read on Ian, he does something to throw me off."
"I believe this is typical of parent-child relationships."
"Now who's analyzing?" I respond. "Remember how we talked about Ian's fears? Today there seemed to be none. He does not appear to be afraid of animals or insects. He is always ready to try new things. He tried to chase unseen animals. I even took him skinny dipping in the pond. After a short hesitation while undressing, he was fine and had fun."
"If you will recall Steve, we all believed his fears are due more to lack of experiences than real phobias. With that, each new day is a new adventure. Ian is learning to seize the day and live it to the fullest."
"And I am sure that as Ian starts to communicate better we will be able to talk about those adventures so that I understand more." I rub my temples. "I never realized how much hard work was involved in parenting."
"You knew in theory, just not in practice." Marty pipes up from behind. "The only problem is theories don't have Ian's situation in mind."
"Just what I need," I say, throwing my hands up in mock surrender. "Another country heard from. How long have you been listening?"
"Just long enough to have come up with another idea." He pauses as Gordon grabs sodas from the fridge.
"I feel foolish that I didn't think of this before. I'm afraid I got caught up in rote medicine, instead of going outside the box. One way they teach foreign languages is to speak only that language in class. In Ian's case, I think we need to make him speak more. By making him ask for things. I think we can improve his speech and language skills."
Gordon rubs his chin. "You could be right. We should also use more phonics and educational machinery to help him."
"What do you two think about school?" I ask. "I'm leaning toward private school, but I see advantages of public school as well."
They look at each other for a moment before Gordon responds. "I think you're leaning is better. Due to the nature of public schools, I believe Ian will progress better in private school."
"Now I only need to figure out how to pay for it. I have too many poor clients," I respond.
"We might just have a solution for that," Gordon says with a smile to Marty. "We were going to save this for later, but now works."
Marty moves to the desk and retrieves a large, security sealed, manila envelope.
"For the past few years, we have been fighting a battle to get good therapists for federal agents. As I'm sure you know, there are many out there, but few who really care and can or will commit to stick with their patients." He pauses and hands the pouch to Gordon who continues.
"Inside this envelope are all the papers, contracts and identification needed to officially make you a federal therapist. You will be able to keep any of your current clients, yet get new clients from different government agencies. You might get agents or criminals on federal probation." Gordon hands me the pouch as Marty starts again.
"You will usually get a short briefing letter on a new client. You will also get a fair salary, including special grant money to help educate Ian. It will be listed as a research grant due to the need to track Ian's progress."
As Marty stops, I open the pouch. As I view the contents Gordon quips, "Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to draw upon the resources of the federal government to aid your fellow man and raise your son."
"All you need to do is sign the appropriate papers, sign your ID card and your employment will have begun as of the first. When you get home, you will get files on some new patients. On some cases, you may be asked to file status reports, but nothing that openly violates confidentiality.
Silence reigns as I take several minutes to read the papers. There is the employment agreement, federal confidentiality agreement, tax forms and several others. When I read the pay package, I am truly amazed. The salary is more than I would have expected and there is also full insurance, retirement and even a government provided car to replace my old clunker.
"Do you," I start to ask, but am waved off by Gordon.
"We don't know about your financial package, except in general terms. It's one of those governmental secrets, just like in any business deal. We do know about the car because you will be on call if needed. Your car will have your State's license plate on it but will pop up as a Federal Vehicle. Your money for Ian will be sent to a special trust account in the next day or two."
On a side note," Marty interjects, "I can say that if you sign, we will all have the chance to get together."
"We're supposed to be encouraging Steve, not scaring him," Gordon dead pans.
The tension broken, I finish looking through the papers and sign them. As I sign my ID card, two things come to me. Where did they get the picture and, "Who do I work for? There is no organization listed."
"It's harder to explain than to understand," says Marty. "From an administrative level, we work for Health and Human Services, although no one there knows who we are. Our ID however, is set up to allow us access wherever needed. We actually have the power to override most agents, except Secret Service or Homeland Security."
"How did we get so powerful?"
The power is there, but so is a hope that we don't need it. It is mainly to free our hands, to help who we can without being stuck in a hierarchy that might limit us or try to control how we help someone. It also frees us from departmental biases and politics.
"Who do I report to then?" I ask.
"Me," says Marty flatly. "For now, I am your superior. Within a few months, you will be considered a civilian contractor and really be answerable, only as far as filing needed reports, to the superiors of your clients."
"We're listed under HHS, so that we can be more effective, yet open to all agencies, but not hampered by them, Gordon takes over. "You and Marty also have power to take over and negotiate from FBI if needed, although that's never been done."
As if on cue, the two boys come running into the room. Looking at my watch, I realize it's dinnertime. Heading to the dining room, Rich is there with another fine meal.
Garden salad with shrimp and Italian dressing, Minestrone soup, Lasagna, garlic toast, mixed vegetables, drinks and Hot Fudge Sundaes for dessert.
As dinner ends, I call Ian over.
"Ian, since we went swimming, I would like you to get a bath, please."
He turns to Alex.
"Ian," I say, turning him back. "You need to do this yourself. Go get started and I will come and check on you in a few minutes." As he hesitates, I conclude, "I know you can do this. You've done it before." I pull him down, kiss his forehead, turn him and send him off with a soft swat to the rear.
Gordon meanwhile, has been talking quietly with Alex, who waits a couple of minutes, then heads down the hall. Gordon fills me in.
"Alex is going to clean up in my shower. When both boys are done, I want us to go down to the lab. There's another bonding exercise you need."
The next several minutes are spent straightening the den and I go to check the boys' room. For two ten-year-olds, the room isn't too bad. Finally, I move to the bathroom to check Ian. He's in the shower and seems to be doing a good job getting clean.
"Are you about finished?" I ask.
As Ian turns off the water, I grab his towel and hold it open. He moves into my arms and I wrap the towel around him. Again, I am struck by the oddity of the situation. I know this will not and rightly should not last very long, but for now, it feels right.
Ian seems subdued. Perhaps he senses that things are changing. Maybe faster than he wishes. I fear for him, as he is being forced to mature quickly, if only to catch up with his body. I help him dry and send him to his room to get into his pajamas and robe. Then we go to meet Gordon and Alex.
We find Gordon and Alex in the lab area. The therapy tables are covered with sheets and Alex is laying on his stomach on one, in only his underpants. Recognizing what is to come, I decide to break the ice.
"I once dated a massage therapist," I open. "We broke up because she rubbed me the wrong way."
As Gordon groans, I get Ian to strip to his shorts and lay down on the table. I have had many massages, but I have never given one.
"Just follow my lead, if you're unsure," Gordon says.
"I might be able to handle this," I respond.
Gordon has even supplied us with an herbal lotion, so I begin by massaging Ian's back, shoulders and neck. Then I work on his legs and feet. After a short time, I get him to turn over and work more on his neck and shoulders.
As I work on Ian's massage, I feel him relaxing. I also feel myself bonding more to him. Though not violent by nature, I realize that I could do physical harm to anyone attempting to hurt Ian. I also realize that Ian is nearly asleep.
Sitting him up on the table, I take a towel and wipe the excess lotion off him. Picking up his clothes, I take him by the hand and lead him up to my room again and put him to bed. He is asleep before I'm out the door.
Gordon is coming out of his room and joins me for a nightcap. A glass of milk.
"You did very well on your massage," Gordon says. "Ian seemed to enjoy it."
"I've had many massages over the years. I used the method I like best."
"I frequently get new parents to massage their babies. It helps bonding and is very good for the babies' feelings of comfort, safety and well-being."
"I've discussed and analyzed love for years. I know love, but I never believed I could feel it so strongly. I even proposed to a woman once, but didn't feel this much love."
"The thing that makes kids so easy to love is similar to some animals. It's their unconditional love. Children are born with the ability to love anyone and everyone. Just watch babies! They will smile and gurgle at anyone who pays attention to them. Likewise, most adults always talk softly to babies. When they start to walk, adults attitudes change. Now, they have to protect the child, which is usually done through yelling. Shortly after, punishment starts."
I cut him off. "And how many parents say they are spanking a child because they love them?"
"That's it in a nutshell." Gordon continues, "Kids don't make the connection. When they're being punished, they feel unloved."
"When I was taking Child Development classes, we discussed the idea of what I call 'Reverse Attention'." I comment. "The premise is that you somewhat ignore a misbehaving child, but increase your attention as their behavior gets more to what you wish. It works well with most children since they, by nature, are somewhat narcissistic. They want attention and a negative response is better than being ignored in their minds.
"I coupled that with the idea of parents allowing children the option of saying no to certain things, if there is no danger involved. If a child does not want to eat a certain thing, allow it, but don't allow an alternative unless there is no choice. I have even told parents to allow a child to go out without a coat in the cold. When they get cold they will learn to use the coat.
At that, and with a slightly surprised look from Gordon, we both finish our milk and head for the sink to wash our glasses. With a yawn, I wave goodnight to Gordon and head for my room. Ian has rolled onto his stomach. I straighten the covers over him, watching as he sleeps. He already seems more relaxed than last night. I lean over, kiss his forehead, then walk around to my side and climb in bed. I too am quickly asleep.
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