Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Laughter is the Best Medicine?:

OK, it's scenic.... so what.

 Not long ago in a galaxy pretty close to where I live, there was a quest for the greatest (closest) waterfalls in Western Pa. This time our intrepid explorers had back-up. Raine joined our expedition for two basic reasons 1) She's basically crazy, and 2) I promised to take her to our favorite smokehouse to pick up some smoked bacon. (It's pretty easy to bribe her) Once in the car and 60 miles from home I pretty much had her at my mercy. I mean, it cost me a pound and a half of bacon,  a side of smoked BBQ ribs and a pound of smoked beef dogs, but it was totally worth it.

What kind of bird is that?

  Because not too far away from the smokehouse is a place called McConnels Mill State Park. The park surrounds a stream that runs through a deep V shaped gorge with shed to house sized boulders thrown into it by some giant's baby. We drove down into the valley between two HUGE boulders, and over a covered bridge. Which was cool. Even though the mill and river looked interesting we couldn't stop. Because tucked into the south western corner of the park on a tributary stream was the object of our search with the cheery name of Hells Hollow Falls. If I didn't know the name I'd have never guessed it, because the walk along the trail was very serene and lovely. And totally wasted on Dude who was 20 feet ahead of us and moving at a brisk pace. His attitude seemed to be, 'Let's get there, snap the pics, and hit the road back to the games. Move it along people (us) let's put a little wiggle in that walk!'. Then once we'd gotten to the falls, down a wooden stairway that would make a mountain goat pause, he started acting really goofy, I guess to fool us into thinking he didn't think it was cool because that might make us stay longer. After ogling at the falls and getting over the temptation to put a harness on Dude so he could pull us back to the car we decided that the covered bridge/mill area was just too cool to pass up, so we headed back.

C'mon!
 There was only parking for about 4 cars down by the mill so we had to park up on the ridge and walk down. And I mean down. Four hundred or so feet to the bottom of the gorge.
  There's something about an old state park. They didn't want to 'adjust' the land, so the path down was made to follow the contours of the land rather than worry about the safety and comfort of the walkers. (I'm sure they built a scale model of the canyon wall, whipped some wet spaghetti at it, and wherever it stuck, that's where they built their 'path'.) But we made it down (Dave muttering under his breath the whole way) and we were right, it was very cool. The mill pond and spill, the mill itself, a little class II white-water and I was in Nikkon heaven. After a medium-while I sensed that I was losing my audience and decided to take a few more photos and wrap it up. Dude and I were boulder-hopping next to the stream when directly after I told him to stop he (naturally) took one more step, slipped and landed directly on his butt. He immediately cried out, 'Oh! My back! Someone get a cell phone! We've got to go to the Hospital building!' I was initially alarmed, but quickly calmed when I realised a couple of things. The first was, even though

We are soooo excited to be here
  he'd been yelling about his back, he had in fact landed on his butt. The second was he didn't seem to be partially paralyzed, or even limping as we climbed the bank to where Raine was waiting. (now, several days later, I have to tell you, there's not even a bruise) the entire 2 minute climb was accompanied by the melodramatic 'cockroach-death scene' of my youngest child. 'Oh, make the pain stop. Oh that's going to hurt for a while. Please make it stop.' By the time we'd rejoined Raine I'd almost fallen three times from laughing. (Yes, I know I'm going to Hell)
  When we'd got to where Raine was waiting, and I'd told her Dave's Sad Tale of Woe, she was, of course, concerned and immediately made 'mother-hen' noises at Dude. At this point my son's pitifulness increased to warp factor 10. 'Oh the pain! The pain! Make it stop! Make it stop!' and he dialed up an even more woebegone voice from somewhere in his repertoire. It looked like Raine was going to fall for it until I told her about the cell phone/hospital building comment. Then she gave him that look that only moms can do, the one that says they know you're shining them on. Having decided Dude probably didn't need to be Life-Flighted out of the gorge, we put our mountain goat shoes on to climb the steep (and I mean STEEP) path back to the car. (picture climbing a 15 story building, then take out half the steps and replace them with a dirt ramp covered with rocks and leaves and you've just about got it.)Raine and Dude have the same training regimen, which is to say, none. I'm in decent shape, and I was wearing a tank-top on chilly day, but I was sweating and a bit sore by the time we'd gotten to the top.
  Dave was holding his right butt cheek and moaning and groaning the entire climb, and that's where the trouble actually started. You see, he was in the lead, with me in the middle, and Raine bringing up the rear. Every time he'd say something pitiful, ' Oh the pain! The pain! Please God, make it stop!' or 'There could be internal bleeding, please seek immediate medical attention.' or 'Oh yeah! That hurts. There's real pain there.'. I'd start laughing, then Raine would ask me what he'd said. Then, when I'd told her, she'd start cracking up too. And every time she'd start laughing, she'd run out of breath and have to stop climbing, or grow gills for extra oxygen. The funniest thing though, was that no matter how endangered her life was she just couldn't stop asking me what he'd said and then accusing me of trying to give her a heart-attack when I complied. (we've decided that we're both evil people and will be roomies in hell) We reached the ridge, gave Dude some Tylenol (in case there was 'real pain' there) and started home. Driving down the Interstate Dave would randomly call out from the back seat about 'the pain' just to get me to laugh, and then start cracking up when I had. So, we'd seen some cool stuff, gotten some smokey goodness, and no one (despite protests to the contrary) had to be Life-Flighted, or defribrillated... all in all a very nice day. Surreal, but nice.

Btw, Hells Hollow was named by some early settlers because the wildcats that lived along the hollow would scream and 'sound like lost, damned souls'. Thought you might be wondering about that.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

That's a Big Faucet:

Who left the water running?
 There's a tendency sometimes to assume that just because you know the most about something/someone that you know everything there is to know. 'Experts' fall into this trap all the time, they've been right so many times that they don't think anyone can teach them anything more. Travelling down this path can lead to new discovery (insert embarrassment) at a sometimes startling speed. Take myself, for an example. In and among my various talents, along with an IQ that's sometimes embarrassing to talk about, (yes, I know I'm an underachiever, get over it, I have) I am a self-admitted Dude-expert. There is no one on this planet (I thought) that knows more about Dudeness than I. Well, it turns out there is someone that can teach me even more about Dude. And that person turns out to be David himself. Who'd a thunk it?
  One Saturday recently Raine was suffering from a migraine of epic proportions. Once I'd darkened the room and come back from the pharmacy with coma-inducing medication my effectiveness as a care-giver was pretty much shot. I know that migraines make a person incredibly sensitive to light and noise. So, having taken care of the light I decided the best thing I could do was get rid of the noise. So I grabbed Dude and headed for the door. Us being the two noisiest things in the house.
  A few days ago a friend of mine on Facebook asked if I had any waterfall pictures, and that got me wondering if there were any named waterfalls in the area, those being the easiest to find on the Internet. Come to find out there is one not too far away from here. It's called Buttermilk Falls. No idea why it's called that, because the water's clear and there isn't a dairy anywhere around, but it's an oddly pleasing name for a waterfall. Evidently many other people think so, because there are at least 3 other waterfalls in PA with the same name. Anyway, even though the sky was cloudy I decided to at least find the falls and check them out. Of course, being part of a bizarre Japanese genetic experiment I basically have my camera welded to my hand whenever I leave the house.

Buttermilk Falls. One of them anyway
 So, once again without any directions of any kind, (other than a quick look at MapQuest), Dave and I forged our way into the untracked wasteland that is Western Pennsylvania. Ok, actually we drove up a State Highway about 12 miles and found it right along the road between the edges of two towns. I'd like to tell you of the long, arduous journey by foot along the forest trail, but it was really only about 600 yards. Even Dave didn't complain about the walk. Actually the trail went through an old rock quarry that had been cut into the side of a very sharp, narrow rocky ravine it wandered a bit but stayed pretty close to the boulder strewn bank of the creek. This tended to add visions of my son's broken body lying on the rocks to my already flaming paranoia about Dave walking near water, but Dude was unfazed.
 Now understand, Dave is basically with me because Raine's head would explode if he were left at the house. I know for a fact that he has no interest in the outdoors (other than that's where all the open water is) his venue of choice is the floor in front of his TV. Maybe, if he's feeling especially 'outdoorsy' he'll ask me to open the windows so he can regale the neighborhood with his current babble. But parks, trails and other natural settings are definitely not his cup of tea. Or so I thought.
  Buttermilk Falls (the one I was at anyway) isn't really all that impressive a waterfall. It has a very nice semi-circular ledge, about a thirty foot drop, or plunge, and the undercut makes it possible to walk entirely behind the falls without getting wet. But it's autumn, so there's not much water falling over it, about a 2 foot wide stream at the crest. 

That's a big faucet!

 Once we'd crossed the little rise before the falls, the first thing I heard was 'Wow'. I turned to see Dave, mouth agape, staring at the falls. I chuckled a bit, and said, 'Pretty cool, huh?'. As I turned back to take another picture he said, 'That's a big faucet!'. From then on everywhere I walked, Dave had to go. All the time talking about 'someone forgot to turn off the faucet'. Climbing over rocks, passing underneath the cap rock to completely circle the plunge pool, even walking the rocks to cross back over the stream at the outlet.   He then, evidently, wanted to 'mountain goat' our way back down the gorge, climbing from rock to rock to follow the stream all the way down the valley. Now who's the wimp? You guessed it: Dad. There was no way I was going to go leaping from stone to stone with a camera in one hand and Dude's hand in the other. Call me a wuss, I don't care.
  As we walked back to the car (on the trail, thank you very much), Dave was turning his head from side to side, looking at all the rocks and trees and talking about them rather than his video games. When we got back to the 6 he actually seemed reluctant to go, taking one more look around and talking about the 'faucet' again. I was so stoked, I almost took off across country to see if I could find more 'falling water'. But lunch was to be had, and our patient had to be checked on. So after a stop at the Arches and a scenic ride we pulled up in front of the house. Dave, full of 'Royale with Cheese' and me, full of hope that I'd actually found something that my son enjoyed that might drag him away from his video zombie-ism.
  This hope (like many others) was quickly crushed. As I was getting out of the car I heard Dave say, 'That Raine better get out of bed. Gotta play the video games!' Yeah, good luck with that, kid. Luckily for Dude, Raine was feeling much better, and did indeed get out of bed and he did get to play his video game. But Dad still hopes that next time it'll be a little easier to drag his son from his virtual world..... Yeah, good luck with that kid.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Must!.... KiIl!.... Boy!:

I'll have to admit that there's one (slightly mean) benefit to raising David. I know it's not pretty, but I love watching people trying to understand just what the hell Dave is talking about. The checkout lady will ask him something like, "Going to have a good dinner tonight, huh?' and he'll be babbling along on one of his game/movie monologues while she tries to figure out just what the heck "I'll bet she gives great helmet" (Spaceballs) has to do with our evening meal, but the look of nearly offended confusion on her face was priceless. Or we'll be walking somewhere and he's sequentially quoting 3 movies and two games with some random phrases thrown in for good measure, and I'm responding to him as though we're actually having a conversation. Something like, Dude: I think my name is going to kill me. (I think that's from a 007 game) Dad: Considering we both have the same name, that's a very real possibility. Dude: The door is locked. You'll have to find another way in. Maybe you can try the kitchen. (Meet the Robinsons) Dad: Unless you have a key. Then you can go right in. Dude: The speech is over in 3 minutes. Snake, you must kill him before he finishes the speech. Snake! Snake! (Splinter Cell) Dad: 'Cause once he's done talking, he's outa here! Dude: GameStop on Tuesday!  Dad: Nice try, not happening. (he thought he could throw me) And as we're talking people are passing by on either side of us trying very hard not to upset the 'crazy people' or straining to understand just what the hell we're talking about. I'd like to help them (no I wouldn't) but I really don't have much of a clue myself. Besides which, I think it's funner if they don't know.
Almost every Friday Raine goes to visit her mother and Alayna goes to her Dad's, so Dave and I go to the bank, stop off to get something to eat, and then go home. Last Friday Alayna was still at the house when Dude and I were getting ready to go, so I offered to get her something to eat if she was still going to be home when I got back. (Good thing I did) As Dave and I were driving up the hill from the bank I happened to glance down and notice that I was really low on gas. So I thought, 'I'll get Wendy's, then my Chinese, and then I get some gas and go home. Turned out that was the exact wrong order. As I pulled into the Drive-thru lane at Wendy's the Bonnie sputtered a couple of times and died. This pissed some yuppie lady in an Escalade off so much that she couldn't back up to the speaker once she'd driven around me so she roared off after one half-hearted attempt. Dave, on the other hand, took one look at the idiot lights illuminating the dash and said, "The car's broke!" and started laughing. Not that 'I'm within arm's reach of my very large and muscular father and must therefore fear for my life' uncomfortable chuckle, but that 'This is the silliest thing I've ever witnessed and Dad would never kill me anyway' belly laugh. So in addition to being stuck in the middle of a Wendy's parking lot, my 16 (never to be 17) year old son is laughing his ass off at me. Loudly. It occurs to me (amidst thoughts of filicide) that Alayna is still at the house, and so is my lawnmower gas. So I grab the cell phone to make the call. I'm trying to get Alayna to understand what the problem is and ask her to bring me the gas with Dave being oh so helpful in the passenger seat. "The car's broke!, You're out of oil! hahahahah!". Then to top it all off a lady pulled in behind me and waited, ever so patiently (seriously) for the line (me) to move ahead. Dave is still cracking up, Alayna is asking where to deliver the gas, I'm waving my hand out of the window, and this nice older lady is peering through her windshield completely without a clue. Finally I finish the phone call, step out of the car and inform the clueless, 'You might as well go around, 'cause this thing's not going anywhere.'
  I'm pretty sure her husband (?) was just as scatterbrained as she was because after she pulled around to the microphone he got out of the passenger seat to help and then asked why I was pushing the Bonnie backwards but downhill across the parking lot. If I were him I'd be wondering about where the kid was getting the nitrous oxide. Because Dave laughed, semi-hysterically all the way across the parking lot. You sometimes meet the nicest people in a Wendy's parking lot, did you know that? There was a nice lady at the back of her SUV asking me if I needed any help with my car. I suspected her of being a travelling mechanic because she then rattled off a list, and the only thing she seemed not to have for vehicle emergencies was the one thing I needed. (mechanics always have to order the part I need for some reason) She was also a quick talker because this entire conversation happened as the Bonnie rolled slowly past the back of her truck. There are few things more embarrassing to a guy than to run out of gas in a public place..... unless you have an hysterically amused 16 year old autistic boy in the seat next to you. Then you get to find out what embarrassment is all about.
Somehow or another Dude managed to survive the incident, I immediately drove to the gas station (once again vowing to pay closer attention to the fuel gauge) and everyone got their food. Raine came home a couple of hours later and when she asked Dave how his day went he immediately started laughing and said, "The car's broke! Dad ran out of gas!!". Then he proceeded to laugh hysterically for the next 10 minutes. I'm telling ya, if any of y'all want to visit David you'd better do it quick, or you may miss your chance.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ahoy There!:

Our tour guide in front of the HMS Bounty

Continuing on our nautical theme, one week after our tour of LST 325 and after hearing about an actual War of 1812 ship on Lake Erie I bullied everyone into the car at an ungodly (for Saturday) hour and trekked northward. Actually everyone was kind of eager to go which disappointed me for some reason. The drive up to Erie PA was a lot shorter than we'd thought it would be, and nearly on schedule (normally just wishful thinking around us) we were at the Erie Maritime Museum... along with half of NW Pennsylvania and a sprinkling of NE Ohio. It seems that not only was the Niagara there (it's a training ship and not always home) but seven other ships were there to be toured and ogled at. The Tall Ships Erie festival was on and there was even a Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike (sort of). But the real movie stars were the ships. There was the actual ship used in the making of the Marlon Brando version of 'Mutiny on the Bounty', and the Flagship Niagara itself was used in 'Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl' as the HMS Interceptor. You know, the one Depp and Bloom stole after they faked stealing the other one..... or something like that. There were way WAY too many people there for us to actually consider touring one of the boats, but that didn't seem to matter to anyone. Just seeing that many 'Tall Ships' was experience enough. So we wandered the dock and Dude was loving it, I didn't hear GameStop mentioned all afternoon, instead I kept hearing pirate references and Spongebob Squarepants quotes. I love the kid, but there are only so many crabbypatty references that one man should be subject to, don't you think?  Oh, by the way, the Bounty is for sale (has been for years) and not only is it a working ship, but the cannon are real so it's also a handy platform to conquer any small island you might come across. (just something to keep in mind for that 401K money)

Flagship Niagara


After we'd walked around all of the ships we went inside to tour the museum and almost walked right into a rigging demonstration on a full sized yard and mast in the museum. The demonstrators were all in period (1812) costumes, and they made a lot of nautical noise for a while. None of which I really understood, and I've sailed. Dave seemed fascinated by the Fresnel lens demonstration. We finally decided that we weren't becoming line-slugs and there was no way they were going to let me make Dude walk the plank, so we packed up and wandered off to new adventures.

When you live in a new area there always seems to be a place
that everyone is shocked that you haven't been to yet. (in Orlando there were a bunch) I mean people here were genuinely surprised that I continued to be able to walk, talk and breath air, let alone show my face in public since I hadn't been to Presque Isle.  Presque Isle isn't actually an island, in French the word for peninsula is presque-isle , or literally, almost an island. (thus endeth the lesson). Now let me tell you something: Lake Erie is HUGE. For one reason or another I've been through every state in the lower 48 seen both oceans and the Gulf more times than I could count and I'm still stunned every time I stand on the shore of one of the Lakes. Erie is almost the smallest of the bunch but still 
Calm down Dad, there's a guard rail
awesomely large. Dave, of course is fascinated by open water, it moves by itself, and it's always changing. There's also the element that he gets to make his dad paranoid about him leaning over the water. I'm sure that's the funnest part. The dock on the bay passage was nicely guard-railed, but the walk out to the Point Lighthouse was frighteningly open. Besides which, there was a brisk wind blowing and David is a pretty skinny kid. But he managed not to get blown into the water or become a kid-kite and the view was spectacular. We continued around the road (there's only one road) to the other lighthouse on the 'Isle' and that's pretty much where the problems started. You see it's not only a working lighthouse, but a park residence. So the only way to actually see the house is to walk several hundred yards down and then along the beach to an opening between the dunes. Dave had been pretty cool up to this point, he's got problems with his legs so extended periods of walking aren't the easiest things in the world for him so a trip across the sand was definitely not among his favorite things in the world at that moment. Besides which, I never let him get close enough to the water to fear his dropping in. But the real problems came when I'd taken my pictures and it was time to walk back to the car. I think he was prepared to camp out on the beach, or move into the lighthouse at that point rather than walk back through the sand. I'm almost certain I heard "So this is what a chick feels like" somewhere in there. But by the time we'd gotten home all had been forgiven. Mostly through the application of bread sticks and the Endless Pasta Bowl at the Olive Garden on the way back.

You mean I've got to walk back?
 

Monday, September 6, 2010

The P-Day Invasion:

This is Dave's patented posed-picture goofy face.


Dude loves going into Pittsburgh. I should have said 'Dude LOVES going into Pittsburgh! Just about every time we're on the highway and there's a sign that says 'Pittsburgh-? miles' he leans forward in his seat and yells, 'Pittsburgh! 7 miles!' or 'Pittsburgh exit only' or just, 'Going to the Pittsburgh!'. I actually think it's because we normally go through tunnels when we go to or through Pitt, because we don't actually go into the city very often, and it's almost never to do something that Dave likes to do (There are no GameStops or Wendy's in Downtown Pitt), but the other week we went into Da'Burgh twice because we'd heard that the city was being invaded by, of all things, WWII. It was also, incidentally being invaded by the NFL in the persons of the Carolina Panthers, but it was pre-season and we didn't much care.

What we cared about was the LST 325, normally based in Evansville Indiana as a floating museum, but recently driven upriver to Pittsburgh for a week. This 327 ft long 50ft wide (I looked it up) ship sailed up the Ohio River. They had tracking on the ship during the transit, and we (Raine, Dude, and I) took off at dusk on Wed night when it looked like it was in the Stratton OH locks, thinking that there would be no way to hide a 300 foot long boat in a 900 foot wide river, but we were wrong. There are these things called trees, and it seems that quite a few of them grow along waterways (go figure) mostly right between the highway and the river. Dave was enthusiastically helping from the backseat. I don't think he actually looked for the boat, but he was right there the whole time to tell us that we hadn't found it. The next day (Thursday) we were pretty sure we couldn't miss the ship as it had tied up in Pittsburgh. By this time Dave was more than enthusiastic about going to see 'the boat'. Mostly, I think because we'd already turned off his game and put his shoes on, so it was obvious we weren't going to leave him at home.

Alayna is taking pictures for a Senior Project so all four of us jumped in the car and trooped to Pittsburgh with our DPS (Dude Positioning System) in full working order and volume. (still can't find the mute button) Since the Stillers (Steelers) were playing we had to park on the wrong side of the river and walk to the ship. We walked along the river, committed a minor misdemeanor by climbing around a fence, walking along the edge of a closed park, then around another fence to get to the walkway over the river. (the next walkway was 1/2 mile back the way we'd come) Unfortunately for my blood pressure, Dave was fascinated by the water. There's no railing on the river walk because people actually tie up their boats along both sides of the river. So I was forever catching Dave sneaking around behind me to walk over to the edge to look down at the water 2 feet below. Not wanting him to fall in (after all I didn't want to get my camera wet) I'd grab his arm and drag him to my other side. I think he thought this was a cool game. Or he just likes seeing me aggravated, he is my son after all.

So as we're headed back to the car, there Alayna and I are, clicking away, taking more pictures than a busload of Japanese tourists, and Raine is dropping further and further behind. Nothing unusual there, there's no real reason for her to keep up. Usually we bolt ahead, and while we're focusing and framing or whatever the hell photo-bugs do, Raine will catch up and pass us. The 'catching up' part happened with less and less frequency as we got closer to the car. At the same time I notice that Dave had developed some strange gravity disease. I'm pretty sure he did anyway, because the further we went along the more I felt like I was towing him. Through oatmeal. (perhaps there's some strange oatmeal universe he partially phases into, I don't know) Raine and Dave were acting like they were on a Trail of Tears/Bataan Death March combo pack and Layna and I just looked at each other and shrugged. We couldn't figure it out. I totalled it up in my head later and I figure we walked something like 6 miles in the two hours we were there. That could be either a Trail of Tears or a Death March. Not both. They're just... wussies I guess.

On a strange, but kinda cool Western Keystone note: Since Heinz Field sits right next to the Ohio/Alegheny river(s) I ran into a whole new type of tailgater. Or nautical nutjobs, as I like to call them. This friendly but fanatic group ties up, sometimes three or four houseboats deep, for about half a mile along the bank of the North Shore side of the river. They tie up their large (insert incredibly expensive) houseboats at the walk side, fire up their gennies, plug in their 42 inch plasma tv's (I counted 4) and watch the game.... on tv... 600 yards away from the stadium. Then, all boozed up they play bumper-boats all the way back to their home berth. The only guy I actually sort of understood was the one that was riding up and down the walkway on a little cooler/scooter. I so wanted to push him in the river and swipe that thing, but there were too many people around.... and Raine told me I couldn't have one unless she got to ride it back to the car... oh well, better luck next time.

Raine, Dave and I did go back Saturday when the boat was open. We walked all around the boat after waiting in a line that was twice as long as the (327 foot long) ship, past the really creepy statue of Mr. Rogers (he's from here, did you know that?). It was kind of a 'here the crap is, keep the line moving' kind of a tour, but it was actually pretty cool walking around just about the only working reminder of D-Day. There were 55 gallon drums instead of depth charges, and Raine did bug the guy in the crew galley trying to get him to serve us lunch (it was a long line), but all in all it was fun. The crew were knowledgeable and friendly, some of the local historical nuts brought their own vehicles (to assist in the invasion), one guy had just finished restoring a Vietnam-era PBR (Patrol Boat-River) the day before the LST passed and joined the trip. And once I fed everyone there were no (further) complaints.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Handicapped Parking:

There are times when you wonder if Dave lives in the same world as the rest of us. He has a tendency to babble irrelevant game-dialogue for hours at a time, he rarely pays any attention to where he is, what he's doing or anyone around him, he walks over, into or bounces off of anything or anyone in his path and he can't ever be counted on to get out of the way of anything coming at him, no matter what the size or speed.


Then there are times when he's more 'right here' than I am. We went to Giant Eagle (grocery store) the other day to get some babysitting cash (or ransom money, as I like to call it) for Alayna, who's been helping out quite a bit this summer. Once that was done, and having no reason to stalk 'Layne in the deodorant aisle, Dave and I wandered through the store backwards (ie: from Dairy to Produce instead of the other way around) and ended up walking toward the entry instead of the exit. As we approached the door Dude was pulling on my arm and telling me 'No exit!, You're going the wrong way!'. I, of course, paying no attention, was thinking about what to cook for dinner, and even further distracted by the cunningly placed Steelers/Penguins merchandise display by the tiny flower shop. I looked down at Dave trying to figure out what the problem was and actually walked within about 2 feet of the door before it occurred to me that it wasn't opening. Dave pulled me around the corner, saying, 'No exit. You're going out the wrong door.' and then as we turned the corner, ' Exit door! There it is!'. You've got to find the exit door.', with various repeats and revisions as we made the exit and walked toward the parking lot. I looked at Dave and said, ' You've got to watch me every minute don't you?'. To which he replied, 'Yeah, it's a problem.'. Which I thought was probably true and fairly ironic.

I suppose there are some people who might be embarrassed at being corrected by their (supposedly) handicapped offspring in a social setting, but I'm not one of them. Although we were getting some odd looks from people who witnessed the skinny little autistic boy leading the large, 'typical' man in a kind of reverse 'Of Mice and Men' fashion instructing him of the proper grocery store exit procedure, it didn't touch either one of us. We got into the car and drove home. Dave, once again in his world of Terminators, Superheroes, and things I'm not even sure what they are, and me, his bodyguard/chef/chauffeur and watchdog, each back in their proper roles and functions.

Raine has been brought up short by Dude on occasion as well. The other day we were getting ready to leave on some sort of hair emergency expedition. Dave takes about 30 seconds to put his shoes on and gets a bit impatient with us dragging our feet when it's obviously time to leave (which is something he didn't want to do in the first place) so I sometimes have him find my shoes or get a soda, or something to keep him busy while we're finishing up our preparations. This time it was shoes. Dude had already put on his black sneakers and had mistaken his white shoes for mine. Upon finding the proper footwear he threw them in the general direction of my feet and then impatiently sat on the love seat to wait for the old folks (us) to actually start moving toward the door. Raine walked into the room, looked at his feet and asked, " Didn't you have white shoes?". Not even looking at her, Dave immediately shot one hand out, pointed at my shoes (still without feet in them) and said in a disgusted tone, "Dad's shoes are right there!". He looked up at Raine and said, " Dad's got to get the shoes on and get going!" And so, with our marching orders in hand, that's exactly what we did. It's a good thing (sometimes) we've got Dude to keep us in line..... uh..... yeah....

Dave has a new Health Aid (I'm not sure why they're called that) this summer, her name is Kate. They seem to be getting along rather well, but she may be getting the idea that the only reason Dude likes her is because when she's here I'm not.

On a normal day David will spend most of his time sequestered with heroes, villans, mutants and occasionally come downstairs to watch a movie with me (when I show the good taste of picking something he likes). But with Kate he gets to pick the movie and evidently is downstairs sucking up the action on the big screen all the time. Somehow, over Alien or Spaceballs blaring through the speakers, he hears my car pull up to the house, (I evidently don't have to worry about my son's hearing) confirms it's me by peering through the decorated front door window, (or worry about his eyesight) and by the time I get into the house, all I hear of him is the clatter as he gallops up the steps to go back to his games. This bothered me just a little but I was coping pretty well until a certain recent event.
Normally when I get home from work, I come in to the house through the side door, to the basement landing, take off my work boots, then enter the living area of the house through the kitchen door. Now, high on the inside of the door there's a safety lock left over from when Dave was younger and we had to worry about him wandering out the door and down the street. This evidently distressed the neighbors who were unused to eight year old autistic children dropping in unnanounced. My distress was for another reason all together. Anyway, the other day I came home, took off my boots, walked up the three steps to the kitchen door, and almost became a Three Stooges skit by rapping my skull off the unexpectedly immovable door. This trauma must have led to the brain damage that caused me to forget the keys (still in my hand) that I could have easily used to open the front door, walk up stairs and dispatch my smart-aleck son. So I stood on the steps, knocking politely on my own (interior) door with one hand, and rubbed my cranium with the other. It took a couple of moments for Kate to realise what was happening, and a few more moments for her to figure out a: where the knocking was coming from, and b: how to unlock the door. When I asked her who had locked the damned thing, she said, 'I was wondering why Dave went to the kitchen earlier.'

Fortunately for Dude by the time I'd signed her time sheet and seen her to the door, the brain damage I'd suffered had resulted in temporary amnesia. It must have because I didn't immediately rush up the stairs and pummel him.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Kennywood's Open:

Although around Pittsburgh that's actually a phrase meaning 'your fly is open', this post has nothing to do with pants... or at least not very much. Last weekend it was time once again for my company's annual picnic to Kennywood. (which still doesn't have anything to do with Kenny Rodgers). Unlike last years trip, We woke up earlier, actually left (almost) on time, and made it to the park with (no matter what Raine says) a minimum of fuss, and in less than 2 hours this time. It turns out that taking the recommended rout to KW is NOT a plot by the local government to direct traffic through Homestead to drum up some local business, but actually a shorter ride to the park. Let's not say 'easy' or 'quick' because it's neither one of those, but we did make it to the park 45 minutes faster than we did last year. Also, the fact that the temperature was 10 degrees cooler this year also cut down the whining (a bit). Before I go further I have to comment on something: This year Raine's daughter Alayna and her friend Nettie decided to come to the park with us. Not wanting to be saddled with old-fogey expiration times, she followed us in her car. Knowing (and approving) that she's cautious about speeding I curbed (sorry, bad pun zone) my usual Andretti-like highway driving style. Only to have her cut off drivers twice to follow me into a lane instead of speeding up into the generous space I'd left her. The second time she looked up to see me freaking out in my rear view and laughed and had Nettie text Raine that it wasn't THAT close. I texted her back several stop lights later asking if she'd take her mom in her car to give me a break from the whining, but all that got me was smacked.

Dude was destined for some disappointment right off the bat, because the chairlift that he loved so much last year hadn't started operating yet. (it's ruled by PEN-DOT, more on that later) So we ended up taking a shuttle to the entrance with expectations of a cool chair ride on the way back to the car. We entered the park and immediately lost our teen-females, not to be seen again until free food was offered. Raine, Dude and I wandered for a bit fortified with hand-made corn dogs and Pepsi. Then Raine and I started discussing what we would do first and Dude piped up " Got to get to the Log-Jammer!" Raine used her Presidential veto powers to insert a bathroom break, although there was a minority opinion that after riding the flume ride no one would be able to tell the difference, and then off to the Log-Jammer we went.

After our refreshing spritzing we once again wandered the park aimlessly. Last year we'd skipped Riane's favorite ride, a wooden coaster called the Jackrabbit, because quite frankly it scared Dude to death the only time he'd ridden on it. It has a 'bunny hop' (not a pun, that's what it's called) in the middle of a drop that makes you think you're going to be flung out onto the tracks and run over by the cars, much to the delight of the screaming park-goers that had managed to hang on. David is never very happy waiting in line for anything but the aforementioned LogJammer but I'm not sure he realized just which ride we were actually on. Up to a point he had been really enjoying the ride, yelling to me that I had to put my arms in the air. Until we reached the curve just before the deadly drop. Then both his voice and his arms dropped a bit and he started looking a bit apprehensive. I put my arm around him as we dropped down the hill, and that must have done the trick because after the 'hop' he yelled 'This is sooo cool!'. Raine insists that this is now Dude's favorite ride, but I have my doubts.

I dragged everyone across the park to the Steel Phantom (my favorite KW coaster) and were whipped around in the last car and realized our corn dogs hadn't completely settled yet. Dave had been faithfully raising his arms and yelling for every drop on every ride, but at the bottom of the SP's second drop there's a really tight curve slightly to the right and back up the hill that compressed him almost down into his socks. He still loved every minute, but that many rides in such a short period of time really wiped us all out. Luckily for us it was just about time for us to head over and throw both trotters in the corporate trough.

I'm sure that's exactly the impression I gave to all my co-workers. But while I wasn't eating for two, I had to make several extra trips for Dude provisioning. After an almost drive-by dinner visitation by the teenage contingent we were actually deciding if we wanted to make our next ride our last before we went home. To no one's surprise Dave immediately voted for... you guessed it, the Log-Jammer. Since we were convinced that Dude wouldn't take us home if we didn't accede to his imperial demand we immediately got into line. Now it's a little known fact that the rear passenger on a flume ride is toast (so to speak) because the front of the boat is designed to dig into the water when the front passengers outweigh the back. Raine didn't care about the physics involved she just didn't want once again be the soak victim in our little fun-ride fantasy. So I became the sacrificial soak-ee while the other two sat up front and on the last hill I scooted and leaned as far forward as I could get to give Dude maximum splash-age. I'm glad I was wearing shorts, that way I wasn't wearing 50 pounds of soaked denim on the way out of the park. For some reason Raine was completely unsympathetic about my drenched condition, muttering something like, 'It's about time you got a turn', or something like that.

On our way out of the park we made our obligatory stop at the Fudge/Candy shop cunningly planted near the exit. (I sense a calorie conspiracy). Raine immediately chose 1/2 pound each of chocolate and vanilla, and I got two haystacks (coconut in white chocolate dipped in milk chocolate) that were nothing like the ones mom used to make (I still like mom's better. hint hint). Afterwards we proceeded to our anticipated date with the chairlift to our car. Now we get to it: As we walked up to the obviously operating lift there was a 'No Entry' sign at the gate. We found this confusing as there were people riding the lift down from the top of the hill. Talking to the obviously unhelpful and uninterested girls watching the ride gave us no comfort and damn little information. All we were told was that we were not allowed to enter and/or ride the lift and... well, that was it actually. Left to imagine Midwestern bigotry we were relegated with the rest of the drudges to the shuttle bus. Not to be made a liar to my son, and feeling rather clever, I asked Raine to drive the car to the bottom of the hill while Dude and I rode the lift back down. When we were about halfway down I asked Dave if he was ready to go home, thinking he would be experiencing game-withdrawals by this point. He answered immediately, "No! Got to ride the escalator!!" (chairlift). That made the little extra trouble and the fact that Raine somehow got lost on the way to the other end (it's 60 feet in the air on the side of the hill. How could you lose it?) all worth it. I'm not sure if he expected me to somehow know a secret way off, or he thought I was going to drop him through the sunroof of the car as it drove under us, but he wanted to make sure he got the full ride.

While Dude and I were dangling our tootsies above the firmament, Raine found out that PEN-DOT, who oversees the ride, has some strange rule about not having passengers going both directions at the same time. I mean there are evidently no rules about the 3 million potholes I slalom on the way to work so they've got time to micro-manage this chairlift. There are also some other strange rules about when or if the lift is even operated. We had just managed some lucky timing the last couple of times.

Monday, July 5, 2010

You Have 2 New Messages:

It's either a bridge, or a really long boat:
If someone had asked me (and no one did), 'Would you brave Fire, Flood, and Family to get your Dudeness back'. I'd have instantly said 'Yes' without a second thought. Now if you stretch the 'Fire' thing to include bad-tempered redheads, that's exactly what I did. The 'Flood' part you can see in the pic on the left. and that makes the 'Family' part the most dangerous of them all.


First there was my son Tim, who picked me up at the airport and nearly got lost twice on the way out. If not for the timely interventions of his room-mate Megan, we'd be circling the 'Ace of Clubs' shaped MCI (Mid Continent International) even still. Then he introduces me to his psychotic house cat 'Unit-two' (don't ask, I did and was still confused after they'd explained it twice) who was initially nice, but turned into Linda Blair when I tried to pick her up. Then there was his insidious plot to get me to return by introducing me to the Free State Grill's addictive concoction called 'Cheddar Ale Soup'. Something that should only be doled out by prescription and followed up by a 12 step rehab program. It's that good. On the way out of town the next day we stopped so Tim could renew his car registration. As anyone that has lived in Kansas knows, each letter is assigned a month of the year to renew, and June is the 'H' month. The 30th being the final day that procrastinator 'H's could register without a penalty. So naturally, that was the day my son renewed.


We spent some time talking to my mother when we reached the Homeland, and after Tim left I helped mom and dad get ready for the Farmer's Market. (Good Stuff: Enchilada Lady, mom thinks it's a little pricey, but I think they're really good) then agreed to run an errand with my mom. That errand, naturally enough ended with... You guessed it, registering her vehicles and also trying to do the same for Beth. (I'm sensing a genetic pattern here) Beth wins the Procrastinator of the Year award. She had 10 minutes to spare before fine,imprisonment and legal shame, because she hadn't signed something and I had to zip off to bring her down to the Courthouse from work.


Despite the fact that my family seems to enjoy sleeping on rocks (who ever heard of a stiff futon? and their mattresses were harder) I was looking forward to several days with them until they were to wend their way to the Northern Reaches (Minneapolis) to spend the 4th with PJ. I was prepared to enjoy it that is, until I ran into something that became a recurring theme. People wanting me to make DECISIONS! I tried to explain to everyone, (Tim, Mom, Dad, Beth, Chris, Shirley, Deb, et al) I wasn't there to disrupt anyone's life, I was there for a few days of vacation before I picked up Dude, and the only plan I had was to see as many people as possible, take a bunch of pictures, and be at the Airport Sunday morning in time for my flight. I didn't want to decide where anyone was going to eat, be, or do. It was a difficult battle, but I think I emerged victorious and annoyed some people in the bargain, so it was a win-win.


Points Deducted: No one either told, or reminded, me that Atchison is where the Verizon 'Can you hear me now?' Dude went to die. Absolutely no signal anywhere in the county. Every time I lamented this fact to anyone within earshot all I got was a knowing chuckle and a nod of the head and a look of 'Where you been boy, you don't know that?'. Luckily for me, BC had Verizon put up a temporary tower for some Catholic Teen conference. So as long as I was willing to put up with overly polite Catholic teens, I could at least check my messages and make a couple of calls before Campus Security got too curious, or the mosquitoes became too voracious. Monks must have thick skins, 'cause those things were vicious! I'm not kidding, when the sun went down, they came out with bibs on. So I would drag myself up to BC 3 or 4 times a day and even though Dave only witnessed the procedure for one day, he'd chime, "You have two new messages, please enter your password to retrieve your messages", and basically give me a hard time until he could get back to Brendan's XBox.


Soon it became the time both to be awaited and feared, rescuing the Dude from the clutches of the Evil Mad-Woman, or just picking up Dave from his mom (same thing). I was waiting in the parking lot of a QT when I heard "There he is!!!" and looked up to see my son dragging his mother by one hand down the sidewalk to get over to me. After the traditional unpleasantness that's inevitable whenever she and I are within the same state, Dude was deposited in the car, and we were ready to go. Dave babbling at the speed of sound (is that possible?) about 'Time to go to the airport.' 'Got to get to Pittsburgh.' and, of course, 'Time to go to the GameStop!!'. I don't even know if they have GameStops in Kansas! Dave's enthusiasm about going home was dimmed a bit when he found out that Brendan has several gaming systems hooked up. He was especially fond of the XBox 360 in the living room, and I had to check his bag when we left to make sure he wasn't trying to smuggle it out.
Bonus Points: My son Joe's kids were up for a visit at the same time, so I got to spend some time with them. We were all out on the front porch playing imagination games when their mom called out through the front door, "Are you being good?" To which (naturally) they all said, " Yes!" and I added, "Well, as good as Hoffman kids know how to be." Which was no more than the truth, and pretty funny besides. (picture from left to right: Dude, Evelyn, Berlin, and Little Joe)


This is just a sketch (possibly first installment) of what happened in the 5 days I was wandering Mein Vaterland. If I'd gone into more detail or tried to cover everything I'd be responsible for many keyboard impressions on foreheads. (caused by people falling asleep at their computers.) Might go into more detail later, but I kinda feel sorry for Raine, 'cause she had to hear the whole thing. And I was right there to shake her awake. Poor woman.



Sunday, June 13, 2010

Time on My Hands:


Pittsburgh Transformer

I remember saying once something like, 'A few days without Dude is a vacation', or something like that. Well, I'm way over that stage and it already seems like his exile should be over and I should be rescuing him from the Perils of the Midwest... or something. (too dramatic, you think?) But unfortunately, and by Court Order, I've got to wait another week before I can swipe him back. For some reason the thought of stealing him back sounds better to me than just saying I'm just going to be picking him up... lol.




Not that there won't be times after I've picked him up that I'll wonder why I went to the trouble. but mostly I'm more than happy to have him around.... mostly.




Father's day was spent taking Raine's son Dahntahn (that's downtown to those who don't speak Pittsburgh) to catch a bus back to Penn State and I saw this really cool Pittsburgh Transformer-like statue. The first two things that flashed through my mind were: 'Dave would REALLY like this' and 'I'd probably have to figure out some way to keep him from crawling around on it'. 'Cause there's no way that little knee high chain will keep him out. It seems that 'Arch' (no I didn't make that up) was created by California artist Glenn Kaino for the 250th anniversary celebration. It's 20 feet tall and looks like a Transformer made out of bridges and girders. Now this kind of thing makes sense to find in Pittsburgh. It's industrial, made out of bridges and is mostly black and gold. Unlike the full sized Fredric Remington-esque bronco buster statue in a Gym parking lot next to the bike trail. Not only would Dude not care about it, but what the hell is a cowboy statue doing in Pittsburgh? Next to a gym? The mind wobbles.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Count-Down Begins:

The Monster climbs up from the depths.....
So, it's that time of year again. In what has strangely become a yearly tradition (for the last two anyway) Dude is going to be gone for a month with his mother in Kansas City. In what has also become a yearly tradition, everyone here has to put up with me moping around for days before he even leaves.


David, on the other hand, was incredibly excited... to fly in an airplane, if nothing else. He's been babbling for the last week all about it to anyone who'll listen. It's sometimes difficult that Dave doesn't understand emotional things. He was babbling the other day on the way home from school about his trip 'tomorrow' all the time I'm trying to get a word in edgewise about how he wasn't leaving until Tuesday and then I did something that was doomed to turn out bad. I asked him if he would like it when I picked him up and brought him home. 'Noooo!,' he said. I'm pretty sure he just didn't understand the question, but it still hurt my feelings a bit. After I explained about how he'd be at his mom's for 4 weeks and then I'd come get him he seemed to come around to the plan, but I still moped about it a bit. (OK, more than a bit, but unobtrusively I'm sure) Dave, like most autistic children doesn't understand emotions. His or anyone elses. I don't mean to sound maudlin, but even a veteran (like me) can get caught feeling bad about something that Dave never intended, or even understood.

A couple of days later I was out walking the trail when Raine texted me that Dude had told her that he wanted me to pick him up at his moms in a couple of weeks and bring him home. Even knowing what I know about Dude not understanding the situation and also knowing that it was almost certainly prompted by Raine, that simple statement made me feel a lot better about the situation (and also raised warm and fuzzy thoughts about Raine)
I don't think I give Raine enough props (here or anywhere else) she's managed for most of the last ten years to adapt to Dude's world view and support me in ways that I'm not even sure I understand. What I do understand is this: When Dave leaves I .... well, I get kind of off center. She's been very indulgent of my semi-psychotic restless episodes, and even more than usually sensitive to my emotions. She's even voluntarilly left the Cave of Safety to be with me out in the Sun Scarred Waste Spaces... you know, outdoors. She didn't even get out the straightjacket once while I was trying to book David and my return tickets in adjoining seats online. Something that seemingly requires much yelling and a certain amount of cursing in at least 4 different languages. I'm sure what finally turned the trick was when I reached for my hockey stick and threatened to climb into the internet and take care of things personally.

He plays his games

to play his games

not for heroes

fortune or fame

He never loses,

He's not trying to win

Just sets them up, to play again.

Saving damsels is not his style

He's just content, to play a while

No good or evil, not friend or foe.

The last high score? He'll never know

Win or lose, it's all the same.

'Cause after all, it's just a game.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Are We There Yet?:

This is when you should know you're in the wrong place
Every couple of years, for one reason or another, Beaver County Special Olympics has to change where the games are held. Which means that every couple of years David and I end up at last years venue. This year was no exception. For the last couple of years, the SO has been held at the Beaver Valley Area High School. This year... well, look at the picture on the left.

I started out the day very proud of myself. In the normal course of things Dude and I show up either just as the SO pledge is being read, or (what's more likely) a few minutes after. This year, determined to break an embarrassing tradition Dave and I got up 2 hours early, showered, dressed and hit the road with an hour to spare. (mostly because the Games had been delayed to start at 10:00). There had been appeals by the organizers for people to car pool, and not to show up early because of an event at the school that wouldn't let out until 9:30 thus causing the rescheduling. I was thinking that appeal was more than normally effective as Dave and I pulled up to BVHS because there was nobody there. We wandered around an empty park just south of the school until a very nice (but directionally challenged) lady in a minivan pulled up and told us we were at the wrong school. I should have known to give this woman limited credence as she was there because she had dropped her buddy-volunteer daughter at the same wrong school. But not being from the area, and desperate to get to the correct place, I tried (manfully?) to follow her directions.

Let me explain something. Pittsburghers give directions that are lost in time. I've looked for places all over the country and you get used to getting directions from local landmarks. I've gotten to places by turning when I see a certain cow. (true Kansas reference) But inevitably Pitt-directions are all about where things used to be. So since I had no idea where Westinghouse used to be (because it closed 10 years before I moved here) I was in for a long ride to nowhere. After a few minutes of frantic searching I found the road she suggested (oh, that's where Westinghouse was!) and raced off into the great unknown. She evidently forgot to mention the turn-off so , after a hail-mary left turn, we ended up two towns down the road from almost where I wanted to be. Which was much better than ending up in Ohio, which was where I was headed. A call to Raine at work (yet another reason to thank Gitche Manitou [Great Spirit] for Raine) got me the town, and after three back-and-forths through the mile long village I finally asked for directions from a very nice convenience store lady and, one turn and 4 minutes later we finally made it.

It's often amazed me that everyone at the Olympics knows Dave, but this time it was a lifesaver. We were 40 minutes late and wandering around aimlessly when Mrs. Yarosz snagged us out of a crowd of about 300. This amazing woman pulled Dave's tag (with his times and events) out from a small drawstring pouch, and pointed us in the right direction. Figuring that his first event (Long Jump) was bagged because we were now 45 minutes late for it, we proceeded to try to find his second event. We were halfway across the field when we heard Dave's (and my) name booming through the PA speakers telling us they were holding Dude's first event until we could get there! Talk about Superstar Treatment! (Pgh Penguins Max Talbot reference) Two of Dave's former Aides were running the event and waited the entire heat for him to get there and jump. After picking up Dave's Bronze Medal (glad they waited) we had just enough time to get over to the 50 meter run for his next event.

I didn't know how seriously Dave is starting to take this medal thing. If you look at the picture, you'll notice half way through that Dave is running neck and neck with another boy. What you can't notice is that he started out 5 feet or so further to his left at the beginning of the race. As the race proceeded Dave drifted slowly over to his right. The closer they got to the finish line, the closer he got to the other kid. 10 feet or so to go and Dave had 1/2 step on his opponent and threw out a right arm-bar in front of the kid's chest to keep it that way. 3 strides later, 2 feet or so from the finish line and Dave pushed off with his right arm to propel himself across the line. Then he ran through the timer's line to find the medal table. Actually circling around several times to look for me (or the kid's vengeful parents, I'm not sure) all the while there's this tall lanky high-school kid trying to track him down so he could give his name to the medal-ladies. The timer was chuckling as he caught up to Dave saying, "I guess whatever it takes to win, huh?" Now if this had been that other Olympics the 2nd place kid's country would be screaming protests, but Dude didn't care. He sat in his winner's chair (as I backed off so angry parents wouldn't know who I was), got his gold medal, and was ready to go on to the next event.

Now in last years SO segment I lamented how the lady that runs the Soft Ball Toss has her own very rigid ideas on how to run her event. Unfortunately she was in charge yet again. So not only did Dave and I have our first break between events, but the event itself started 30 minutes late. (again) Luckily for us Dave had the 3rd heat, it was full, and they were running 4 heats at a time. So once we got started we were done in 10 minutes and we could pick up his silver medal and concentrate on more important things: Going home to games and our traditional post-game Wendy's lunch. Once again we had met scads of people that wanted to talk to Dave, and several who would talk to me. Dude got his medals, and his Bacon-cheeseburgers, and I went home with jaws hurting from smiling so much. All in all another typical, crazy, wonderful time at the Special Olympics. God! I love this job!

PS. I also got the first non-goofy-faced posed picture of Dude. So bonus points for me.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

And Then There Was....


   The other Friday I recieved notice from my son that 5 whole school days had gone by without a frowny face in sight and because of our agreement a trip to GameStop was in order. Now this can make Fridays kind of interesting (insert loud) because even though he knows that we don't go to GS until Saturday or Sunday (depending on which is Shopping Day) he gets really excited. When Dave gets excited his habits tend to become more intense. He doesn't do any more talking (he couldn't and still be able to breathe) but what he says is even more obscure and at a higher volume and speed. So we spent an interesting 15 minutes or so at the bank in the grocery store. Me trying to deposit my check and slide into my weekend relaxation routine with Dude, babbling at ever increasing volume and speed.
    Normally when I tell him to quiet down there is a brief (5-10 second) pause depending on my facial expresion and tone of voice, and then a resumption of the unending flow of game and movie quotes at a slightly lower decible level. Not Friday. No matter what I said (insert threatened) or how I said it, (insert psychotic mime imitation) there was no break. There was no pause. There was no lessening of volume. We concluded our financial arraingements, grabbed a couple of things from the store, waited in the checkout and left without a reduction in the speed or volume of his vocalisations. I was oh so seriously tempted at that point to make him walk home. There were several reasons for this A: Because I didn't have a rack to tie him to the roof, and B: There's a pass-through from the trunk through the back seat that I'm almost certain he could fit through to make his way back into the passenger compartment or at least allow his voice unobstructed access to my ear canal. But too many people had seen him with me so I had to take him home in the car.

    As we drove up to the house (still at full volume) I was having one of those moments that all parents of young or special needs kids have occasionally. Just a profound state of weariness that strikes briefly from time to time. A full body sensation of 'Man is this tough'. I leaned against the center console and, in a worn out sort of voice, said, "David, you're a big pain in the butt sometimes, ya know?" My son, who had seemingly been bucking for a gag/straightjacket combo, leaned toward me, laid his hand consolingly on my forearm, and with a mischevious grin and a chuckle in his voice said, "Yeah, I know."

   I now know the true meaning of the phrase 'gob-smacked'. There was a long moment when my mind went totally blank. It was a scene out of almost any comedy movie. I stared at Dude. Then out the windshield. Then back at Dude. Shaking my head I stepped out of the car and then just started laughing. I was still laughing as I opened his door and walked him to the curb and into the house. If my life is a comedy (and it mostly is) it's David that has all the timing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Control Issues

    I'm not exactly the stereotypical male. I cook, write poetry, rarely need directions, ask for directions when needed, and I even fill ice cube trays. But recently Dude has revealed that while I may not be the 'typical' man he's noticed some stereotypical tendencies.
    Dave and I have a game (more fun for me than him probably) where I call him downstairs for no reason. Sometimes just to get him to walk repeatedly down the stairs, (where he doesn't want to be) and sometimes just to wrestle or goof around. Either way we end up laughing and yelling and then he runs back upstairs to save the universe yelling 'NO!!' as I try to call him down yet again.
    The other day I was laying on the floor on my back looking like an accident victim, with my arms and legs spread when I called David down to mess around. I hollered his name a couple of times asking for help, and just laid there on the floor waiting for him to decend with the required assistance. He came down the stairs grumbling as I asked him once again for help. He immediately completed his decent to the ground floor, and walked in my direction. Then, with some evident disgust, leaned over, snatched the remote off of the floor and deposited it in my outstretched hand. Then he returned upstairs with something that sounded like, 'I just can't take it anymore'. I lay there on the floor laughing as Raine came back into the room. After I explained what had happened she said, ' Well, he must have figured that was what you were missing.' Et tu Brute'? I mean, I haven't requested to be buried with it or anything, but evidently the rest of the household thinks I have some (remote) Control Issues to work out.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Great Blizzard of Ought Ten:

Much like any typical kid there are a lot of things that Dave gets into that just baffle the hell out of me. Spongebob Squarepants, Ranch Dressing on Pizza Rolls, that sort of thing.
The central tennet in David's life is his Games. It's the one thing that he consistently enjoys. It's also allows me to have some measure of control over his behavior when I'm not physically present.(and believe me, those teachers need all the help they can get with this guy).
I'm no puppet master, and even with me right there to stand over him, Dude's no robot. He's got a mind of his own and he's not afraid to let me know all about it. I'm able to get him to do more than just about anybody else, but there are things that he lets me know in no uncertain terms that he just won't have anything to do with. One of these things is, evidently helping his father clean the sidewalks.
I'm sure most of you know the Pittsburgh area has been hit with a series of blizzards (2 in 4 days and 14 straight days of flurries) dropping a total of more than 3 feet of snow on an area that has a long history of ineptitude when it comes to clearing even normal amounts of snow off the city streets. Case in point: In the 6 days after the first storm I'd seen exactly one City of Aliquippa truck removing snow from the residential streets in my area. Granted that was at 10 am Saturday at the tail end of the big storm. But it went through the residential streets just one time and never hit any of the cross-streets. Unfortunately most of the residential streets are one-way, so if (like mine) yours points in the wrong direction you can't even get to the main road without sled dogs and a St. Bernard with a little cask of whiskey around his neck. So, along with everyone else on my block Raine and I spent most of Saturday afternoon digging our walks and rides out of the snow.
If snow shovelling were an event in Vancouver this year Raine and I would get the Gold Medal in the team competition. But where was our third member, you ask? Warm, high and dry in front of his reason for existing and saving us from the Minions of Evil (or enthusiastically joining them, it's hard to say) . When we were finished I asked (ok yelled at) David to unlock the side door so I could divest myself from my snow encrusted garmets without having to shovel out the living room. He came down (grumbling) and opened the door for me and peered out into the winter wonderland. He looked pretty impressed (with the snow, not my shovelling) so I asked him if he wanted to come outside and check it out. "NOOOO!" He said loudly slamming the door in my face and then he LOCKED IT!. After convincing him that I was kidding (through the closed and locked door) he finally let me in to de-popcicle myself.
Dave was pretty much in heaven for the next 6 days. Because of the continued snowfall classes were cancelled until Friday. Now they have something here that I'd never heard of until I arrived, it's called a 2 hour delay. What that means is when the roadcrews need an extra couple of hours to finish up what they should have been doing all night(or all week), or it's just too cold in the AM to endanger the kiddies delicate little tootsies, they cancell the first two hours of school. Two hour delays still technically count as school days and don't count against the State mandated days they have to get in before sometime in June, and allows the parents to get a couple extra hours of surgary cereal induced insanity. For me, it just totally screws up getting to work on time (Dave doesn't need cereal to induce madness). After 6 days in a row of total Game indulgence Dave was unwilling to admit that school might not have completely vanished from the Earth. The 2 hour delay on Friday was a cruel ploy by the School Board to make him think that his string of school-less days were to continue. But it was not so. That didn't keep him from telling me "School's closed today" in a very sincere voice even as I was loading him on the bus to send him to school whether it was closed or not. Strangely enough, he had a very good day at school, and then proceded to try to convince me that the amount of days didn't matter, he had a smiley for every school day that week, so that constituted a GameStop weekend. Got to admire his persistence. I mean, it didn't work. But you have to admire it all the same.