Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

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.