Chapter 23: Birthday Blues
Today is October 20th. It's Jack's birthday. It's also been two weeks since we found out it will be eleven years before the conditions are right to have a chance of changing him back to his adult self.
This has been the hardest two weeks since this first happened to him. To say that he didn't take the news well is an understatement. Adult Jack would have handled the news with a grim look and find a way around it. Toddler Jack isn't handling it. It took two days just to get him to come out of his room. He also refused to eat. He just laid on his bed curled up in a ball and listening to the 1812 symphony at full volume.
Once I was able to coax him out of his room, everything became a fight. He would have a meltdown at the drop of a hat. Any hat. Any reminder that he was still in a two year old body would set him off. Potty training took a giant leap backward. Baths were battles. Mealtimes became war zones.
I didn't have a choice. I had to do it. When he picked up the baseball and lobbed it through a window, I had finally had enough. I gave him one hard swat on his diapered behind and put him in the time out chair. There was silence from the corner for a full fifteen minutes. It took me the same amount of time to calm down myself.
Jack is not happy about the situation. Neither am I. I wouldn't mind having my adult best friend back. But that's not going to happen. We have to do the best we can with what we got.
I heard little sniffling sounds coming from the corner. I slowly walked over to the chair and squatted down until I was eye level with him.
"Well?" I asked softly.
Jack turned to me with tearful eyes. "I d-don't know what to d-do," he hiccoughed around a stutter.
"Me either," I said. "But you're not alone. I'm not leaving. Ever. Understand?"
Jack nodded slowly, scrubbing his tear drenched cheeks.
I opened my arms and Jack fell into them, his arms around my neck tightly. I held him just as tightly as I stood up. For the first time in two weeks, he let me hold him. My eyes burned with tears as I walked us over to the couch and sat down with him on my lap.
"Sowwy," he sniffled.
"I know," I said. "I know it's hard. It sucks. And it's not fair. But for now this is the way it is and we make the best of it."
"You so full of …."
"Don't say it." I interrupted. "We get through this. One day at a time, okay?"
Jack heaved a big sigh then nodded leaning his head against my chest.
I held him on my lap rocking him a little. I heard a knocking on the front door then it opened. Janet and Cassie came in. As much as they're here, Jack had told me to give Janet a key. Janet saw our position on the couch and seemed to let out a sigh of relief. Maybe the worst of the storm was over. Time would tell.
They also carried boxes. Janet set down a couple of pizza boxes on the table. "Hungry?" she asked. Considering how little he'd been eating lately, Jack nodded but didn't move from my lap.
Cassie set another box on the floor and a six pack of root beer on the coffee table while Janet went to the kitchen for plates and cups. And the always necessary roll of paper towels. I reached for the remote and clicked on the television. I flicked through the channels until I found a hockey game. I left that on with the volume low.
Cassie sat down beside us on the couch. "Hi Jack," she said.
"Hi Cathee," he replied.
The young teen took a deep breath and picked up the box. "Jack… I got this for you," she said. "For your birthday. Before we found out about…. Well…. You don't have to keep it."
"What ith it?" Jack asked.
"Why don't you open it and see?" I suggested and shifted him off my lap to the couch so he could sit between us.
Cassie placed the box on his lap and he slowly tore open the wrappings. Inside the box was a turtle. More precisely, a stuffed teenaged mutant ninja turtle. Raphael if I remembered correctly. Apparently the franchise was having resurgence and Jack had been thrilled about it.
He pulled it from the box and hugged it tightly. "Thank you Cathee," he said. For the first time in two weeks a glimmer of a smile touched his face. Maybe I should have gotten her over her two weeks ago.
There was more knocking at the door and Janet went to answer it. This time it was Teal'c and Sam.
"Is this a bad time?" Sam asked as she came into the room.
"No," I said. "I think we're okay at the moment."
Jack looked at her and Teal'c. "You bought birfday presents didn't you?" he asked.
"It is your day of your birth, Jack," Teal'c replied. "A time that is always a time of celebration. To know you are with us for another year."
I watched Jack ponder that. Translating that in his head. Better to have him as a two year old than not at all.
"And I brought pie," Sam said with a smile.
"Banana cream pie." Jack's eyes lit up. Even with tear track still drying on his cheeks, the light had returned to his eyes.
It was well past Jack's bedtime as I looked around the room. Teal'c was watching a movie on the television. Sam and Janet were talking quietly. Cassie was curled up on the other end of the couch sleeping.
Jack. Jack was sleeping with his head on my lap. His thumb was in his mouth and his arm wrapped around his new turtle. He was also wearing a kid sized jersey bearing the logo of the Colorado Avalanches. There was pizza and pie on his face.
But none of that mattered. All that mattered to me was the first sign of peace on his face in weeks. And for that, I'm grateful.
"Happy birthday, Jack," I whispered.