The OCD Monster was still quietly slithering in the pathways of his brain, but the fight was now on.
Although I used to be a travel writer, I took my most frightening journey only recently, with my family, without ever leaving our small Quebec village.
After my father died in 2012, my son was so shattered that he transformed from a regular, bright, happy-go-lucky, soccer-loving ten-year-old into a near-stranger dominated by bizarre rules of magical thinking all designed to bring his grandpa back to life.
For such an even-keeled kid, my husband and I were alarmed that losing his grandpa would plunge our son into an existential crisis. Unable to grasp the finality of death, a tidal wave of grief was forever smashing him down and he couldn’t find his way to the surface. But as winter turned to spring, I started noticing his grief easing up a little. He was no longer crying into his pillow at night and had started laughing again. Except, now he was doing something else that I found peculiar.
One evening I was sitting beside him in our living room while he seemed to be unconsciously tapping each elbow onto the back of the couch. Four taps of the left elbow, four taps of the right. A few tapless minutes would pass and then he’d start the routine again. Over the coming weeks, what we called “making things even” became more complex, seemingly full of complicated rules. One day he started turning his head as far as it would go over his shoulder, then he’d turn his head to the other side over the other shoulder. But it didn’t stop there. He’d go back and twist his head twice on the first side, then twice again on the other side. It looked like an exercise for old people. “Do the kids in school notice you doing that?” I asked him one day while he was building a Downton Abbey-esque estate on Minecraft.
“Yeah, sometimes,” he said, not looking up from my iPad.
“Don’t they find it weird?”
He shrugged. “They just think I’m stretching my neck.”