"The frog is missing two parts!!!"
This shocking realization pops up seemingly out of nowhere every few days. And each time, it comes with emotion as raw as the first time Ryan made that horrible discovery.
A few weeks ago, Ryan threw his favorite plastic frog, a rubber ducky, and some sort of toy dog out the window of the school bus on the way home. When the bus pulled up in front of my house, Ryan was sobbing and in great distress. The bus driver told me that he had thrown toys out the window at some point, but neither she nor her assistant knew where or when this had happened. I asked her to describe the route she had taken so I could trace it and perhaps track down the missing animals, but we hit a language barrier.
Miraculously, after much driving around, we found the duck and most of the frog. The duck was in one piece. The frog, which had been broken to begin with (it had a noise-making thingy, and when the non-replaceable battery started to die, making the frog whine nonstop, I eviscerated it, leaving a big hole in the bottom, which I patched with packing tape), but now it was more broken. The poor thing had been hit by cars and lost half an inch of its rear end - I think this section once housed the frog's speaker.
A stickler for completion, Ryan considered our search and rescue mission an utter failure. We hadn't found the dog, and the frog was now missing its "tail." He cried pitifully. I told him that's what he gets for throwing his toys out the window of a moving bus on a busy street.
Now, every few days, whether or not the plastic frog is anywhere near him, Ryan will cry, panicked, "The frog is missing two parts! The frog's tail is in the street! WE GOT TO FIND IT!" Once I helped him fix the frog by plugging its holes with green Play-Doh, but all Ryan saw was a broken frog with Play-Doh stuck to it; this didn't help.
The boy has a long memory. Early this summer, he brought some animals out to the back yard to play with, and he accidentally left behind a Lego cow. A few days later, I discovered the cow had been run over by a lawnmower. There were several pieces left, but not enough to make a whole cow.
Now, every few days, Ryan will wail, distraught, that "the white cow with black spots is missing," and we've "got to find it." I explain that the lawnmower ate it and that he should be more careful with his toys. He cries with the intensity of a fresh wound.
I don't know if Ryan's sense of time is typical of a young child or if it's more characteristic of a child on the spectrum. Maybe he's a grudge-holder like his mother - sometimes I'll find myself ruminating on a 15-years-past slight and I'll get almost as angry as if I had just been wronged again.
Maybe he's working through the concept of permanent loss. Two full years after Dragon Tales went off the air, Ryan is still asking to watch it and play its related computer games. I refuse to rent the series on DVD because then he'll think I can pull the old games out of the air and I'll never hear the end of it. I'm trying to use Dragon Tales as a lesson in death.
Perhaps the frog will become a lesson in permanent injury?