The story continues from part one.
It’s a funny thing about change: sometimes it wallops you and everything is different a minute later. And sometimes it steals up on you and before you know it your life has curved off in an unexpected direction.
With Cody it was both. A sudden bang and I felt like I had a new way of looking at the world. And then a bunch of little things that combined to turn my life in an unexpected direction.
But maybe it was always in me. It’s still pretty hard to fathom – my dreams had been about selling my company and finding some nice guy to settle down with. I wanted a companion. An equal.
But everything changed the day I saw Cody walking with wet pants up his driveway – it was like discovering some side of myself that I barely knew existed, the guy who wants to nurture and care for someone and whose every instinct is to protect, protect, protect.
The fact that I had these feelings about some 20 year old surfer kid who wets his pants left me kind of stunned and confused. I felt certain about my protective instinct but not what to do about it.
Cody’s diaper did the rest.
A Change of View
When Cody slipped out the back door of my house that night, I stood there surprised at what I had done. I had tried so hard not to scare the boy, to be kind and gentle. But the instinct to let Cody know I was aware of his protection was hardly, on the surface, the kind of thing you do if you’re trying not to freak someone out.
And yet, well, it didn’t. Because somehow my acknowledgement that he was wearing a diaper seemed to elicit the kind of response that all my nice words couldn’t quite achieve: his sudden tight hug showed me that the gentlest thing I could do was to say “yeah, I know, and it’s OK”.
I sure never anticipated that some 20 year old could get pretty misty eyed about it, and I have to admit I was pretty emotional myself.
And so there I was, feeling pretty astonished at what I had done, realizing that my little unexpected gesture had opened up something special between us, even if it was just for a moment.
And while I sort of floated in that feeling there was also something else that kept rolling through my mind. Because what I kept thinking was this:
The little guy needs a change.
That’s it – and on the face of it really simple and probably to a lot of people it’s not a big deal.
But to me, the idea that Cody needed a change seemed to bring a focus to the feelings of protection I had for the kid, and the confusion over what to do about it: it was as if I was given something specific and useful I might be able to do.
And maybe it would even be something more: because what went through my mind was that changing Cody might show how serious I was about this protective feeling I had. It might help him appreciate that he had someone around who didn’t judge him and who cared.
What Gramma Wants
When Cody had left I wandered out to find Joan. She was standing, coming to find me as well.
“Looks like we’re off,” she said with a laugh, gesturing towards their house next door.
“Only so much time with us older folks a 20 year old can take, I guess,” was my reply. “You know, Cody is a great kid.”
I’ll never forget the look in her eyes. She looked at me really carefully, almost searchingly, and then nodded.
“Yes, Cody is a great kid. He’s had a lot of knocks and I try my best with him. A grandmother can only do so much, you know.”
And she continued that searching look.
“I’m sure you do just fine, Joan,” I said. And she looked at me again and smiled, and gave a little shrug.
“Good night Josh, and thanks again,” she said before turning towards the gate to head home.
And I couldn’t help thinking as I lay in bed that night trying to process the events of the day: maybe it wasn’t reassurance she was looking for, but something else. And if I knew what that something else was I’d have offered it – because as much as I had all kinds of feelings about what had happened, there was a side of me that still couldn’t help thinking: well, he’s just some kid next door, and while it’s nice to be accepted, he’ll probably still just move on with life and that’s that.
The Research Project
Now, you might think I was disappointed that it was some time before I saw Cody again. The truth is I found myself relieved that I didn’t see him. I was busy with a few other things and maybe he was on a different shift at the skate shop where he worked.
I wasn’t sure how I’d approach it if I saw him and I was determined to be realistic: you don’t expect that some little moment over an ice cream sundae makes you a boy’s best friend. He probably had tons of friends, maybe even someone romantic in his life.
I was certain that what Cody meant to me wasn’t so much about Cody as it was me: he helped me to see a new side of myself which I’d have other ways to explore. He’d be the guy who helped me to see that I had a certain kind of capacity to be caring and protective.
So life went on for a few days with a gentle kind of hum. I was thoughtful and spent a lot of time writing in my journal at night. I wasn’t feeling any big anxiety and I wasn’t upset that the moment with Cody had been brief and might never have a follow-up. Everything happens for a reason, everything has its time, and sometimes you just need to be patient to see how it all unfolds.
But there WAS something. Something a little less calm. And it happened in the store one day – I was out picking up the usual household supplies when I found myself in the diaper aisle. Now, I wasn’t seeking it out or anything – I think the soda or something was down the same direction. Doesn’t matter – because for some reason I found myself stopping and looking at the shelves of diapers like they had foreign writing on them.
There were all kinds of sizes and brands, and there were all kinds of types – some for night or some for swaddling, some for walkers and some that looked like boxer shorts. There were diapers for boys and girls, national brands and store brands.
I remember staring at this big display of diapers – and at the side displays of wipes and creams and pacifiers and bottles. And as I scanned the shelves I remember thinking: “but where’s the kind with a 20-year old on the package?
It was a mystery to me. I grabbed the package with the oldest looking kid on it. I think it was a Pull-Up. And I read all about how it had breathable sides and was ‘just like underwear’ or whatever it said, and I looked carefully at the weight chart: 39 lbs plus, it said. I suspected that these were the kinds he was wearing under his jeans that night – more like thick underwear was what the package had you believe.
But I couldn’t help wondering whether something intended for a 40 pound boy would give enough protection for someone who was 110 pounds in a swim suit. (Which is what I guessed Cody probably was).
Just then, a store clerk came down the aisle.
“Miss, help me out here. I need to pick up diapers for an older boy. Um, say a teen. Which brand do you recommend.”
“You’ll need the youth diapers probably,” she said. “Next aisle.”
I nodded. It was if I had asked her which brand of laundry soap was on special. It occurred to me though that the question might have been a little odd – or if not odd, that if I had been buying the diapers for myself I’d have been embarrassed to ask.
In any case this set me off on a new round of product comparisons. Because while I guess I had known there was such a thing as ‘adult diapers’ I suppose I had assumed you bought them through the mail or got them at a physician’s office or something.
It surprised me to discover that they sold adult diapers in a retail store. But maybe I’d never thought about how many people might need them for medical reasons or whatever. I discovered all kinds of inserts and pads, pull-ons and then ‘maximum protection’ brands that showed a picture of a diaper with tapes. There was a ‘youth’ brand in smaller sizes that seemed to fit someone like Cody’s waist size and weight, and I made a little mental note of them.
My little ad hoc research project done for the day, I continued shopping for the rest of my household supplies and spent the day pondering.
By the Pool
Now, there’s that saying about best laid plans. And even though I had started to put together some plans – another dinner, maybe ask the neighbors over for a movie – well, it turned out that Cody seemed to have a plan of his own.
Every day before dinner I’d sit out back by the pool. Usually I’d just relax a little, have some lemonade, leaf through a magazine. It was my way to close off the day without really thinking and just enjoy my ‘semi-retirement’.
But about four days after the dinner with Cody and his gramma, my afternoon lounging time became – well, it became Cody time.
I have to say I don’t quite know how it started. A wave over the fence maybe and then he came through the gate and plopped himself down at the table beside me.
Now, I should say that this quickly became a daily routine. A wave over the fence and then there he’d be, sitting with me like we were old pals.
But there was something else: first, he seemed like a different person. The quiet shy boy of a few nights ago was now talkative and almost excited – he seemed to burst with energy. He’d talk about random stuff and I’d have trouble keeping up – the weather, the surf, some TV show, a movie.
And the second thing were his diapers: because it became pretty clear to me that he was still wearing them under his jeans or shorts, but that they were also a thicker kind.
I noticed it the first day he came by. I was sure I heard a little crinkle sound. And glancing over at him as he approached, there was a noticeable bulk in his shorts.
I decided not to say anything about it. I felt like I was going on one of those assumptions: he knows I know and I know he knows I know kind of things.
And besides – his energy was infectious. We’d end up laughing about some trivial thing, drinking lemonade together, and mostly me listening – and the more I learned about him the more I admired his sunny disposition, his bright eyes, and yet his almost innocent way of looking at things.
The visits weren’t long – a half hour here, an hour there. I didn’t entirely know what to make of it but somehow I was just letting all this stuff pour out of him. It was the highlight of my day.
The Diaper Check
On about the fifth day of Cody’s visits we were having another great conversation. He was telling me all about skate boards and some guy he worked with at the store. Once he’d exhausted the topic there was that little pause he usually got before he headed home for dinner or TV or whatever 20 year olds do at 5:00 at night.
Now, usually he just said something like “it was nice to see you” and was off. But that night he said something different.
“I’d better get going, I’m kinda soaked,” is what he said.
Then he looked up at me quickly. And then gave this lop-sided sort of smile.
Now, I probably should have felt surprised or disarmed. But I didn’t – it was like he had told me dinner was ready or the sky was blue.
I nodded and said “Yeah, you get home and get out of that wet one.”
He grinned like some little kid who had been told he was going to Disney, and then came over and gave me a quick hug before dashing off.
It may not seem like much but it meant a lot to me. And this continued for a few nights – him declaring himself wet, me nodding, and him scampering off.
Then, we missed a night or two. He had something to do with friends one night, and I had a business dinner another.
When we saw each other again it would prove to be a major turning point.
After the usual chat and catching up, I noticed him squirm a little in his chair and get slightly flush in his cheeks. I didn’t say or do anything right away, but after a minute instinct took over – much like that first night when I had patted his diapered bum.
At a break in the conversation I got up and stood behind him. Maybe he thought I was about to get some more lemonade and the hand on his shoulder was reassurance that I’d be back shortly. So I’m not sure if it was a surprise to him when I instead leaned down and with my other hand found the waist of his shorts and slid a finger along the inside.
It’s hard to describe what that moment was like. It happened so quickly and yet it like it was in slow motion. I felt the plastic waist of his diaper give way a little and crinkle as my fingers slid down slightly. I felt the soft padding of the diaper against my hand. And then I felt a moist warm feeling – I wouldn’t call it a wet sensation, but moist.
Removing my hand I patted his shoulder and said “Time for you to get changed Cody, you’re wet.”
He looked up at me and his eyes were like what you read about in a book – puppy dog eyes, bright, and glistening a little like he was close to crying. He didn’t smile or grin or anything like that, he just gave me those puppy dog eyes and nodded, a really gentle soft little nod before standing, giving me a hug, and scampering back home.
That first diaper check, it would turn out, gave us both the courage for what came next.