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But on other days, Aaron’s eyes clouded and his lips sunk down like the sad clown Pierrot. On those days Aaron was hurting — sometimes physically, but more often emotionally. His delicate feelings had been trampled on, and he needed the catharsis of “telling.”
Telling wasn’t easy. Aaron searched for words and struggled to string them into sentences, as I lost patience. Asking him to hurry up didn’t help. “Please,” he’d beg, “it will only take a little bit of time. I need to say this.” So I’d bite down on the inside of my mouth to suppress a yawn.
Some of my kids would flee to their rooms whenever he turned up. Amazingly, though, my youngest child, 11-year-old Yanky, had preternatural patience for him, and Aaron sensed this. He sought out Yanky. Often he brought a game — checkers or Connect Four — for them to play.
I kept my eye on them. Since I’d heard so many stories, my hypervigilance was almost reflexive. Thank God, though, nothing ever happened — not that I really was expecting it to. Aaron wasn’t a pervert or a pedophile, he was just a lonely boy trapped in the body of a man. Still I wondered whether I was doing the right thing by letting him hang around the house.
Sometimes I questioned whether my hospitality did him any good. Aaron took a lot of my time, and on many days he seemed to leave our house sadder than he had been when he had entered.
Then my family had its own worst nightmare. Yanky was out on his bike. As he was riding, a driver of a parked minivan flung open his door. Yanky’s head collided with the door. Because of the impact, Yanky flew into the middle of the street, where he landed, bleeding and nearly unconscious. An ambulance took him to the hospital.
Those first few days, we watched as Yanky lay asleep in his hospital bed. The doctors didn’t call it a coma, but Yanky was gone and we couldn’t seem to get him back. Nothing roused him — not our hugs and kisses, not even the sound of his own name. The nurses poked and prodded long and hard just to get his eyes to flash open for a second, and I felt a fear that seemed to leech out from the marrow of my bones. Would my baby ever come back? Eventually, Yanky did return, cranky and crying but very clearly alive. It took many weeks for his old self to come back.