Content at Last


“So how’s Madison,” my new caregiver asked as she was driving me to my next appointment. She’d remembered my last couple of visits with Madison and my reported incidents—Madison’s bloodied head and then the darling’s decision to whack mine hard enough for me to see stars. She knew I’d struggled with figuring out both when to see Madison and where to see her.

“We had the best visit ever,” I said from the back seat of my van. “She was calm, focused. She spoke so clearly in all the drills we do.”

Our scripted conversations are often the best indicator of Madison’s mood and alertness.

“How are you?” is the prompted question. “I’m fine,” is her learned response.

“What’s up?” I say. “Not much,” she replies.

“How’s life?” I ask. “Not bad,” she says.

At least that’s the way is supposed to go. But often she makes substitutions.

“How are you?” I asked in the last visit.

“I’m 19 years old,” she said, quickly, but clearly.

“No, Madison. How ARE you?”

“I’m FINE,” she boomed back.

“Good job, Madison! Now, how OLD are you?”

“I’m 19 years old.”

“No, try better,” I said and looked down at the floor, with shades of ABA training coloring my response. “Madison you are 21,” I said and looked into her eyes. “Twenty-one,” I repeated.

She looked back at me and I tried again. “Madison, how OLD are you?”

“Twenty-one,” she said, cracking a smile.

“Great job, Madison! High five!” And we gave each other our palms in mid-air.

We visited for a long time. I had brought in lunch for us as I’d learned to do. It’s not the Tuesday lunch outing we were used to, but it gave us some time together. And that’s the point.

We were eating in the school’s lunch area. Madison had plopped down in a folding chair and crossed her legs before plowing into her fries, as usual. But what was most unusual was what she didn’t do. She didn’t grab the snack bag that I bring from home that contains all her favorites. She didn’t plunder it searching for her peanut butter and graham crackers. She didn’t ask for Cheetos or her Nutrigrain bar. She was happy, eating her nuggets and fries. I’d never seen her so content.

So I pressed on with some more “conversation.”

“Madison, what’s your mommy’s name?”


“Your daddy’s name?”


“Your sister’s name?”


“Your brother’s name?”

“PETER!” she shouted, flashing her biggest grin ever. She’s always loved shouting his name for some reason and this time was even more enthused.

I stroked her hair, so soft and well cared for. She looked at me with her hazel eyes, so clear and easily engaged.

I guess she is finally settled and happy. After 86 days in her new adult service program, she has adjusted and is content.

And so am I.

This column was originally published as part of my “Tuesdays with Madison” series at