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.

 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.