Qihan looks up at the dark sky, gathering black cotton puffs of ominous rain.
Rocking himself back and forth, he mumbles over and over again,
“Sky, not dark, not going to rain, sky, not dark, not going to rain….”
Slouching beside him, I try my best psychology 101.
“The sky is not angry. The thunder is just noise, it’s OK.”
“Gong, gong, Gong, Gong,” Qihan’s mock imitation of the impending thunder gathers speed and momentum, like a train rushing to a predestined end, demolishing everything in sight. His eyes darken with intensity and one tensed close fist pounds the open palm of the other in a helpless rhythm….”Gong, gong, gong…..”
“Lord, no thunder, please. You can send the rain, though.” I watch the sky with goldfish eyes.
The dark sky pours down, fat drops that make thuds on the roof.
I get ready, because you never know if it will unleash the noise factor.
My arms are sticky with condensed humidity as I hold him in a lock-arm embrace to calm him down. I know what is coming next--as soon as the light flashes across the sky followed by ripples of thunderous roar, Qihan will shriek and become hysterical. His shriek will pierce the air, raising up to challenge the roar in the sky.
I brace myself for the inevitable nightmare, after all, I’m just the visiting aunt and my heart melts to see my little eight-year-old nephew cowering in the nook of my arms, mangled by his fear of thunder. Which is totally unfortunate because in tropical Singapore, it rains and thunders as often as the sun shines. I look at my brother, slumped in the armchair, eyes on his son, spent and defeated, glad that I’m here to deal with the situation.
The jagged ray lights up the dim skyline and then the expected clank of noise. Qihan flies out of my arms and ran into the kitchen and grab the housekeeper, trying to hide in folds of her dress. He crawls at her with ferocity and lets out screams after screams.
“I want my mommy, I want my mommy!” but mommy is at work.
I go to the kitchen and together with the housekeeper, we form a wall around him and try to rock him back and forth. His hair is matted with perspiration as he clings desperately to us and continues to holler, as if trying to drown out the thunder. Our attempts to soothe him is like a bird’s humming in the face of noise fury.
My brother gets up and come to the kitchen as well.
“Leave him alone. We can’t help him anymore. He’s autistic and always will be !”
His hope for his son has long be tainted with failed attempts and he longer would summon enough energy to hope otherwise.
When the thunder finally eases after half an hour, our clothes arid with the strain of strapping down a child, Qihan is quiet with a detached look.
“Little aunt,” he looks at me, “No more thunder? No more rain?”
“No more thunder. No more rain. See, it didn’t hurt you, did it?”
I know it’s not the fear of the thunder itself but to an autistic child, the loud noise is jarring beyond the mere description of a thousand knives jabbing at the nerves. It’s like been thrown into a maelstrom of explosion, the decibels fire-crackling the ear-drum.
I may not know the degree of his fear but I know fear. Fear that cripples, fear that shames, fear that whips the air out of your lungs, fear that pulsates in your heart, fear that rips the cover of protection and leaves you vulnerable in raw nakedness. Fear that stops you from hoping, fear that dries your aspiration, fear that ties you up and boxes you in.
Like the fear in my brother’s eyes as he looks on--fear of an unknown future for his son and fear of his own inadequacy to deal with his son’s outburst in the face of fear. Fear in the dad mirrors in the son and the weight of it all.
Is there a healing potion for fear? Only Jesus can dissolve fears. And now, my job, more than ever, is to introduce the Healer to the fear-stricken.
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