Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Friday, November 11, 2011

Transportation Issued:

Like many parents I entrust my son to the vagaries of the public school transportation system. Unlike most parents, when something goes wrong there's no way for me to tell if the story I'm getting has any relation to what actually happened.
    Almost every District in our county sends their special needs kids to the same school, so the only thing we depend on from the local school district is transportation. Recently Randy, our usual bus driver had to take a leave for health reasons. So we had to deal with a series of substitutes. Somehow I was under the mistaken impression that the 'professionals' that drove the bus were just that. Professionals. Somehow these stalwarts of transportation have managed to wreck the bus twice in about 4 weeks. No injuries (that I know about) but it's made me a bit nervous about what was a nice steady routine that I thought I didn't have to think about anymore. It kicked me out of a rut, in other words, and we all know how disturbing that can be.
   I leave for work 45 minutes before the bus picks Dude up, so Raine has to deal with the grumpy bus lady and the whirlwind of substitute bus drivers while still suffering through her own caffeine deprivation every morning. Raine doesn't normally have a problem with this, because Randy, our transportation hero, knows he needs to be by the house before a certain time in the morning. I (usually) have just enough time to get home after work to be there to greet them. With subs you get sub-standard understanding, and timing, so there's been a bit of extra added aggravation for both of us not knowing when the bus is going to show up, or which of the Jerry Springer Show rejects we'll have to deal with when it does.
    Usually when something goes wrong New Horizon's Goddess of Reception, (I'm not being facetious, she's a wonder) Carol rings one of us up (in the correct order) and the problem is dealt with. But 'sub' is the root word of 'sub-standard' and the School District Nurse fit that bill to a tee. At 1:00 in the afternoon, I happened to be in the bathroom at work when my cell phone rang. Recognizing the prefix, but not the number (and having finished my business) I decided to answer the phone.  There was an unfamiliar voice on the line telling me that she's the 'Quippa School nurse and there's nothing to worry about, but there was an accident with the bus. Right away I'm thinking, 'Why do people say that? It just makes people worry.' Then it occurred to me. David wasn't due on a bus for 2 more hours, so whatever I shouldn't worry about actually happened six and a half hours earlier. Now I'm worried. Then she starts telling me about how the police where there, and the EMT's checked all the kids out, and how she went down and checked them out, and then how they were checked out by Ann, the NH nurse, and how wonderful everything was and the kids.. blah blah blah. Then she proceeded to tell me that she left 2 messages on MY HOME PHONE!!  It's the second day of the work-week, in the middle of the day and she's leaving messages at my home, despite the bushel of paperwork I have to do EVERY YEAR to tell everyone from the Principle to the gardener where I am at any given moment of the day. And completely disregarding the fact that my cell-phone number is on every third piece of paper that I fill out for the school.
     I've always been a bit conservative about the whole cell-phone thing. Not because I'm old-fashioned or anything, but because I figured it was just a way for people you probably don't want to talk to anyway to disturb you where ever you happened to be instead of just at home. Also, after dealing with a fatal case of 'phone-Alzheimers' (You've had it too. Remember when you were supposed to call your parents and tell them what you were doing?) for most of my life I was pretty sure that a cell-phone would negate my favorite 'I couldn't find a phone' excuse. Due to David's School's initial inflexibility about traditional gender roles I was yanked into the more-or-less modern age. No matter how many forms I filled out, when something happened they'd inevitably think 'Mom' and call Raine at work. Raine didn't mind being called, but not being any relation to Dude there were many things she just wasn't allowed to do. And when David came back from his mother there was much to do. And many calls. So Raine insisted that we get cell-phones so that the school could reach me where ever I happened to be....  Evidently only if  'where I happened to be' was at home.
  Why are educated people so stupid?
   So, knowing that the acoustics of a tiled industrial-sized bathroom are perfect for screaming maniacally (don't ask me how I know that) I was all set to start roasting her verbally when she said that she had finally called Ann and had gotten my cell number from her, and she hoped that was ok. Like she was breaking some bureaucratic rule to get a number that she should have already had. I have a difficult time berating people that actually seem to be trying... even if they are idiots. So I told her to keep the number in case it ever needed to be used again, and hung up.
    I walked back to my machine and stared at it for a few moments getting angrier and angrier at the situation, when I realised that being in the midst of tons of steel with crane access might not be the perfect time to go into a psychotic rage. So I talked to my boss and drove to Dude's school, because I already know that the highway is a perfect place for a psychotic break. That's where everybody does it.
   The people at Dude's school were understanding, if slightly puzzled, about my appearance and the fact that I was yanking my son out of the clutches of the Bus System. At least for that day. No one there seemed to know anything beyond the fact that the bus had been late, and some amorphous story about a 'crazy lady running a stop sign'. As we're walking out the door it occured to me that there needs to be something done about this 'crazy-stop-sign-running-lady' as that's the second time in around a month she's done damage to my harmony. Not to mention school property.
   David is a (mostly) wonderful kid, charming and cute and all that, but if you want information from him you don't already possess you are, as the Bard used to say, 'Shit out of luck.'  So, other than him laughing about the 'bus is broke!' and something about 'The hip is okay now!' (I checked, no bruise), I got nothing from the former tyke. Knowing that the kid bruises up like an over-ripe peach, I wasn't too worried after a quick inspection. And remembering how he needed 'to go to the hospital building' and 'There could be internal bleeding' after falling down on his butt. I was pretty sure he'd be yelling for Emergency Personell if he was in any sort of pain. Or if he thought it was funny.
    We stopped by a River Park on the way home, mostly so that I could finish calming down. I'm sure David had no idea what the big deal was. As far as he was concerned the only reason for me to come pick him up from school is so that I can get him Wendy's and then take him to his games an hour (or more) early. To ease my mind, Randy is once more at the helm and I haven't even seen the old grumpy dude that was driving the day of the 'wreck'. No lurid headlines in the paper, no 'film at 11' about the bumper-car busses we seem to have around here, but my mind will take some time to settle about the issue of transportation.
   Now, not only do we have Randy back, but the Grumpy Bus Lady has been replaced with the Nice, but not very talkitive, New Bus Lady. And the Crazy old Stop-Sign running Lady has evidently been run out of town, because there have been no further incidents, so far. I'm not actually getting my hopes up yet, she may just be out of town visiting relatives. And through it all not a bit of it has effected Dude one way or the other. The only time he likes the bus is when it brings him to the Land of the XBox 360, (home) Bumper Busses is just a fun game (that we don't play anymore), and Dad is still the guy that occasionally grabs him out of school, for no good reason, and takes him to get Bacon-Cheeseburgers. All is well in the Dude-verse.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Inmates Running the Asylum:

There are times when even Dude-Dads have to be gone from the Dudiverse for a time. Recently I had to hie back to the Homeland for my Father's funeral. This very sad occasion would have been even sadder except for one thing... My family is insane. The funeral home limo driver agrees. Don't get me wrong, there was solemnity and tears.. we just couldn't sustain it for very long. But that's a story for another day and another place.
  After I 'abandoned' the PA crowd things seemed to go along smoothly for a time, but trouble was brewing. Raine and 'Layna were doing a stellar job caring for David, but without a lifetime of dealing with Hoffman children they were ill equipped to understand the depths of deceit that they are capable of.
   Things went along very well for a few days until Raine, after a late night arguing across the ocean about internet availability, missed the bus and had to drive Dude to school. A place where they do not let him play video games, therefore it is a place he'd rather not go. For one reason or another Raine does not take David to, or pick him up from, school very often. So, while she has a basic idea of where the school is, it's not deeply ingrained enough in her memory to recall it acurately in times of stress. (Being an hour late for work and having to drive in the wrong direction to drop off a protesting autistic kid is one example of a time of stress) So while driving Dude up the (correct) road she kept asking him, 'David, is this the way to the school?'  To which he would ernestly reply, 'No.' The turn into the school is kind of tricky, and easy to miss because the school is actually part of a larger complex of mental health facilities and they don't list them individually. They also have recently PC'ed their name to the point where you can't tell that this is where they keep all the wackos. (I don't put a sign on my door either, so I can't complain) So as Raine comes up to the sign for Friendship Ridge (It's actually on Big Beaver Ridge, but I guess that wouldn't look good on a sign) and she asks David, 'Is this the turn?' Her DPS reply? 'No!' She takes the turn anyway and after topping a small rise in the road, and seeing the school ahead of them asks, 'Isn't that the school?' When Dude starts a story he sticks to it. The immediate reply? 'No!' Deciding to treat Dude like a GPS when it sends you to Bangladesh when you wanted to go to Sonic, (translation: She wanted to kick him in the butt to recalibrate him) Raine ignored David and pulled up to the front of the school and tried (operative word 'tried') to get David out of the car. He resisted saying 'No!' repeatedly. Once out of the car he did, however, take her to the correct door.
   Once the Portal of Education was breached Raine dragged a very reluctant Dude to the office to sign him in. Once he had been entered into the log, the secratary told Raine that David knew the way to his class and she should just follow him. Dude immediately took her out of the office and turned right toward the front door of the school. When Raine asked him if this was the way to his class he replied, 'No.' Much to his dismay Raine immediately turned around. This is where David's celebrity status worked against him. Not only did everyone know him, they also knew were he should be at any given time of the day. After being ratted out and escorted to his designated cell (Mrs. Yarosz's room) the prisoner was left to his fate. Raine's fate, however, was to be something a bit more agrivating than school.
   Teachers sometimes live in their own little academic world. They toil, removed from any direct feedback for their labors. So when the oprotunity presents itself to get some of that feedback it can blind them to the realities of the situation at times. Despite the fact that Raine was obviously very late to work and anxious to leave Mrs. Yarosz insisted on showing her around and telling her all the things that David was doing in school, how he gained or lost computer time, and possibly even what he was having for lunch the rest of the week. But even a tightly wound clock runs down eventually and Raine ducked out and raced to work.
   Now events could have stopped there and it still would have been considered a fairly interesting day. 'Interesting' does not begin to describe what happened next. I began getting hints of it the next day, some odd texts: Threats to dispatch my son, deprications thrown at his father, that sort of thing. But since Raine was being very careful not to tell me anything that might upset me, I really didn't know what was going on until I got home.
  I had to think for a while before writing this next part. Because while some funny-ish things happened, it wasn't funny. It was kind of frightening actually. More so because I wasn't there.

   Thursday night, about 15 hours after my father's funeral, while I was drooling on my sister's futon, Raine woke to a strange voice coming from 'Layne's bedroom. A strange male voice. Thinking rather fuzzily that strange male voices shouldn't be coming from her daughter's room at 3am she got out of bed and made it to the bedroom door just in time to see a form pass by on it's way to the head of the stairs illuminating its path by the light of a cell phone screen. 'What the hell are you doing here?!' Rain nearly screamed. The male voice she'd heard earlier answered with the calm of the nearly drunk, 'I came looking for Joe.' the form barely broke stride to answer, continuing to decend the stairs. 'Who the hell are you?!' Raine asked, her voice rising higher in both volume and pitch. The voice remained calm, but he paused on the steps for his answer, 'I asked for Joe, he said he was upstairs, but he's not here.' Then he began to decend again. 'Who said what? Who let you in here?'  The figure didn't pause this time, merely turned his light toward the couch 'He did.' He sounded almost betrayed as he reached the bottom of the stairs and opened the door, 'He said Joe was upstairs, but he wasn't.' He paused slightly, halfway out the door, 'Do you know where Joe lives?' There was only one response to that question at 3 in the morning, and Raine made it. 'Get the HELL OUT OF HERE!!' She yelled wildly. And without another word, he left, closing the door behind him. Raine quickly decended the
steps to re-lock and bolt the front door and then turned to the couch to see Dude sitting there, placidly watching the commotion.
  Being more scared than angry and knowing that she couldn't trust herself not to scream maniacaly into my son's face like an insulted fishwife, Raine showed an immense amount of restraint that I couldn't hope to duplicate in a similar situation. She took him up into our room, closed the door, went back downstairs and spent a terrified 4 hours awake waiting in case the mystery guest (or possibly even Joe) made a return appearance.
  It's always a bit disorienting to return home by plane. One moment you're in no responsibilities mode (or at least different responsibilities mode), and the next you're back to reality. I generally like a little time after I get home to detox and get into 'home/dad mode' but I was completely understanding, and more than a bit frightened Saturday morning when I heard most of this story on the way home from the airport. Dude was very carefully being very quiet in the back seat. It's like he somehow knew that a loooooong talk and a trip to the hardware store were in his future. It was almost uncanny. I, on the other hand, was wondering if  getting him to let me into the house all those times I'd locked myself out was such a good idea after all. I mean, I could have just waited 4 or 5 hours for Raine to come home, right?  I mean, what's a few hours of blizzard in shorts and a tank-top against home security?
   With the Warden back from his vacation, and after a visit to her sister's birthday party, Raine felt comfortable enough to catch up on the sleep she had missed the last couple of nights so she missed the Long Talk With the Boy (I feel so like Jed Clampett sometimes). After a trip to the hardware store and some minor mechanical miracles with power tools and wood shavings a semblance of security and what passes for normalcy around here decended on the Casa de Dude again.
   One thing I've learned while in Dudeworld... You never ask 'What else could happen?' because it probably will.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Ta Dah!!
Every year (so far) my company tries to urge some sort of family togetherness feeling... thing at the local amusement/theme park, Kennywood (still not affiliated with Kenny Rogers). This years was supposed to be at the end of July but frankly, they refused to A/C the whole park and as it was too hot for real human beings (those under 17 haven't been proven to actually be human, so they don't count) they decided to kick the whole thing back a month and try their luck with the end of August. Actually I don't know the reason, but that's the way it worked out. Now back home this would be a case of out of the frying pan, into the steam oven as July, especially toward the end of the month, may be hotter, but August in Kansas is typically the muggiest, steamiest, most miserable month of the year. August is when more people in Kansas plan a move to Antarctica than any other time of the year.  But in western PA, you actually get hints that Global Warming, while a great concern, might not actually send us into a post-apocalyptic, Mad Max universe this year.
  Well, this time their gamble paid off. Thanks to a hurricane named Irene bashing the hell out of the East Coast the Picnic Day was almost too perfect to call it Summer, temps in the mid-60's to low 70's, a light breeze and low humidity. I don't want to call my adopted people heartless, but not once did any of them express any regret that our perfect day came at the discomfort of New Yorkers and Philadelphians. Of course, Yinzers don't actually like anyone in those two cities, so I wasn't really expecting any apologies. (They hate Cleveland and Baltimore too, but that's mostly a football thing)
  So Picnic Day finally dawned, or at least we assume it did, because the Sun was well up by the time we saw it. Dave was excited to go and ride the coasters, but I think he's starting to get comfortable with the way Raine and I do things. He did still try to rush us out the door, but he didn't even blink when we had to turn around after about 5 miles to go back home and get the tickets. I was expecting some protest, or grumbling, or at least sighs and dirty looks from the backseat, but when I looked back Dude was calmly looking out the window, listening to his MP3 player, calm as a clam. I was almost disappointed, so I tempted fate and tried to determine if Dave actually knew where we were going. 'We've got to pick up something at home, okay Dude?' I asked/apologised, 'Then we're going to Kennywood.' He replied enthusiastically, 'Yeah! Ride the escalator (chairlift) to get to the park to ride the coasters!' Then he put the ear buds back in and kicked went back to looking out the window, bobbing his head in time with the music. (at least as far as I know)  He wasn't oblivious to our destination, just completely unfazed that, once again, there was a forgetful hitch in our plans.

  Eventually, tickets now in hand, we made it to the park. Unfortunately for David, they had just opened the top parking lot and the chairlift wasn't running yet. Actually, Pen-DOT owns and runs the chairlift so it's hard to tell why the lift wasn't running, but the state of PA roads give us grounds for speculations of incompetence. Thankfully the escalators were still operating from the second to the first level, so Dude did get to ride one of his favorite (but not the favorite) people movers to get to the Park.
   Dave knows that the only reason that Kennywood is open the rest of the year is to prepare for his eventual arrival. Or at least that's how it seems, because he walks right up to the gate as if he owns the place and is just there for his yearly inspection of the grounds. After the (now traditional) tug-of-war to keep him from wandering right through the gates and being carted off to whatever secret Gestapo room KW has for
 line-breakers, we entered the park to our now usual routine of bathroom then Logjammer. Raine decided this year that she wanted nothing to do with the slight dowsing you might expect from David's favorite ride, so it was decided in Executive Committee (Raine) that she would take the pictures while the 2 Dudes took the plunge... literally. I'm not sure what her problem was, it was 68 degrees, after all, and only a 10 mile an hour breeze. It's not like she was likely to catch pneumonia or anything. Isn't a favorite ride worth a little hypothermia? I mean, really.

Raise your hands!!
    Anyway, after our traditional first ride we were at something of a loss. Due to vicious re-scheduling of dinner-time, and a relatively early (for us) starting time we had 4 more hours to kill before dinner. Raine had 'next pick' and decided on an old carnival favorite called the Parachute ride. Dad's pick was that he would not be the third person on a two seat ride under a metal umbrella whirling around and up and down from a central pivot. So this time Dad took the pictures and Dude and Raine took the ride. Whenever we get on a ride or coaster Dave always says, 'Raise your hands! You have to raise your hands on the rides.' and then he extends his arms their full length until the ride does something that requires greater personal stability. The Parachute doesn't make any sudden motions, it just revolves around in a circle, so Dude spent the whole ride with his arms at full extent, and the right one spent most of the ride directly in front of Raine's face. I'm pretty sure that didn't do much to enhance her riding experience, but I didn't get to pay much attention as I was dealing with a precocious 4 (almost 5) year old girl whom I had never seen before, but was wondering what I was bringing to her birthday party. After informing her that my invitation had been lost in the mail and that I was probably working that day anyway, I somehow found myself promising that I would give her a present the very next time I saw her. I then spent the rest of the day paranoid that our paths would cross again.
  AB (American Bridge) had instituted a new and subtly devious scheme to get their money's worth out of the 'free' tickets they had given to us. Normally once each of us had filled up on free burgers and dogs we'd fly to the winds, either catching another couple of rides or just bolting out the front gate for home. But this year there was a raffle to be held at the end of the dinner, and not before, with one rule... you had to be present to win. Thus forcing longer social interaction and a definite lateness of bedtimes as most of the kids wouldn't let their parents take them home without the prerequisite extra rides, funnel cakes and cheaply made crap won at great expense on the Midway.
  Occasionally and unexpectedly I run across a fellow traveler of the Autistic Spaces, and since we don't have cool badges, mysterious passwords, or secret handshakes, or even hats, it's sometimes hard to tell who the players are without a program. My usual liaison with Corporate American Bridge is through a wonderful woman named Maudee, she's da' bomb when it comes to all the intricate corporate things that I know next to nothing about and have even less patience for. She's also willing (if there's time) to listen to my endless stories about Dude (harder than reading them.... Here, one mouse click and I'm gone... ). I worked at AB for some time before I learned that her son has a specific form of ASD, which I also know nothing about. She was also one of the organizers of the picnic which earned her bonus points in both my and David's books (even though this year we had veggie-burgers and NO cheese). She makes a special point every year to take some time during the dinner break to come over and talk to Dude and I, and this year was no exception. She spent several minutes talking to David. He was a bit uncomfortable with someone new, but she's knowledgeably patient and has no expectations of actual conversation. Which is a good thing when dealing with him.
  Something was actually going on during their conversation that I didn't even notice, but was brought to my attention by Bob, one of our maintenance guys. We were talking at lunch several days later when, out of the blue, he gave me a 'Not for nothing' that included him noticing that I was 'a wonderful dad'. I gave my usual, 'I think you're off your nut' response. (And for those of you who have said this to me, it's not false modesty, I truly have no fricken clue what you're talking about.) He went on to explain that he was watching us during our talk with Maudie and he noticed that whenever David got too uncomfortable, or nervous he would lean toward me and touch my arm, or my shoulder, and that would calm him down enough to continue the conversation. He went on to say that that calming effect combined with the fact that I always looked to see if he was okay, instead of getting annoyed or ignoring him, proved beyond a doubt that I was some sort of card-carrying Super-Dad. I was flattered, I was moved.... I still thought he was nuts. Observant, but nuts.
   After completely wasting our time hanging around for the raffle (Translation: we didn't win anything), we flung ourselves once again into the fray, hitting our favorite steel coaster, The Phantom's Revenge. Raine was unwilling to sit beside the Flailing Arms of Death that is my son on another two-seat ride, so she sat alone in the car behind us, giving her a greater opportunity to laugh at the antics of the two goofy Dudes she lives with. (We give her plenty of reasons for that) We even convinced her to ride with us on the Logjammer this time. I convinced her that I knew the secret of not getting wet on the ride... And hey, whaddaya know? It worked! Other than a small complaint about her butt getting wet from sitting in the boat she barely got a sprinkle from the actual ride.


   So, tired but happy we slunked (I just made that up) out the front gate. Our usual fudge-stop was full to the rafters and we were too tired to brave the teeming hoards, even for all the joys that concentrated chocolate can bring. We were destined for even more dissapointment as the chair lift still had tumbleweeds rolling through it because it had been abandoned so long. But we did get our own private bus to the upper lot which David tried to direct like a visiting Admiral on a battleship. 'Got to get to the Silver Car, to get the games!' and ' All aboard! This train will be leaving the station in 2 minutes. Please have your tickets ready for boarding.' I tried to tell Dude that this conveyance a bus, not a train, we didn't require tickets and we were, in fact, already aboard and moving but, once again, reality didn't seem to make any difference to him at all. After the traditional sideways 'how crazy is this kid?' glance the driver actually seemed to enjoy our conversation. I was sort of bummed that the lift wasn't working, but once we were in the car and headed back to The Games, David could have cared less. He was all: 'Going to the Pittsburgh for the tunnel!' and 'He gets to play the games, remember?' (As if I could ever forget.) One thing about Dave, when the moment's gone, no matter how enjoyable, it's gone. Time to move on to the next thing. So that's what we did, Raine and I to crash our tired, old bodies on the couch, and David to his Virtual Glory, helping a dog defeat the machinations of the Green Eyed Man. And with all our Heroes in their proper places, all was right with the world once again.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Tao of Travel:

The journey begins...
    I have (what I've been told is) a problem. I like driving too much. I'm a good driver and can (and have) driven almost everything with wheels, and some things without. Several of my professions have involved some long distance driving and for most of the last 20 or so years I've lived an average of a thousand miles away from my Homeland. So the bare fact that I enjoy driving is normally a plus. I'm not a sprinter on the highways, I'm a marathon runner. I honestly don't understand what the big deal is when I tell people I drive the entire 16 1/2 hours from Pitt to KC in a straight shot, or the 22 from Orlando to KC with a 2 hour nap. I'm in my own little Zen-zone while driving, I have found my place in the Tao (fundamental order of the universe) and even though time is passing, and I am passing through it, it does not touch me. Okay, I get lost in the moment.
The Stop sign to anywhere.
    Since she dislikes driving, most of the time Raine is totally prepared to take advantage of my tendency to jump into any vehicle and wander aimlessly about the countryside.  She'll endlessly send me on errands hither and yon, and have me play chauffeur any time she needs to go anywhere but work. I suspect that if I didn't leave for work and get home an hour before she did that I'd be taking her there too. She will even (upon occasion) admit that I'm her favorite travelling companion, as I'm fairly entertaining on long rides, I don't 'wig out' at every little problem, I'm rarely in a rush to get anywhere, and I almost never get lost, to the point that she claims that I have some sort of  'travel radar' in my head. (it was an aftermarket addition)  She has little complaint about my driving abilities, or willingness, she doesn't even mind coming along on one of my semi-famous Wanderjahrs (Vaunder-yar: German for: a year of wandering), even going so far as to volunteer to leave the comfort and safety of the Home Cave upon occasion. What she does take issue with is my tendency to forget to eat or stop for restroom breaks during these excursions. For some reason she (and Dude) believe that food and drink and access to the 'facilities' should be provided at regular intervals. Not only at home, but during road trips as well. In theory I have no problem with this concept. In practice.. let's just say things don't always work out that way.
   I generally look down my nose at people that blame their parents for everything, but this time I'm throwing my Father under the bus. It might have been either parent that gave me the genes that built me into a natural long-distance driver, but it was Dad that had the training. Dad had one rule on long trips: It takes more than one kid saying 'I gotta go potty!' to cause a pause in the trip. Every year he'd box up a smaller version of our stuff, cram it into a 22 foot trailer, jam 5 kids and 2 adults into a small series of large vehicles and flee the Heartland for someplace more interesting. Let's face it, after 11 1/2 months of staring at wheat, everybody could use some interesting. Unfortunately, Kansas is about 900 miles away from 'interesting', and since there is no way any human adult can stand to be trapped in a vehicle with 5 children for more than 8 hours at a time, that translated into almost 2 solid days of driving. If Dad would have stopped for every bouncing, cross-legged kid in the backseat it would have been winter before we'd even gotten out of the state. He even had a special torture for the kid who swore they didn't have to potty at the potty stop and then discovered a full bladder 10 minutes later. Let's just say it was against the codes of God, woman, the Geneva Convention and the Texas State Highway Patrol, and leave it at that. (for those that don't know, I have 4 sisters. The world may be a man's toilet, but girls are pickier about such things)
   Although most of our trips aren't nearly that long, there have been trips (nearly all according to some sources) when serious threats of bodily harm have disturbed my Zen-driving state from just about every angle of the car. I'll suddenly realize that I've heard 'So, what do you want for supper?' a number of times from the back seat, and I'll suddenly feel the bruises in my arm from being poked from the passenger seat for the last hour or so. Raine thinks I should be able to translate 'I'm starting to get a little hungry' into 'I'm about to go all Donner Party/Uruguayan Rugby Team (Alive) on your big ass unless you find me something tastier and possibly even served buffet style in the next 30 seconds.'  That just wasn't in the Yinzer phrasebook I got when I moved here. I'm not kidding, I got a T-shirt with all the phrases on it, and a link to a Yinzer-dialect site ( gave the T-shirt to my son Tim, who lives in Kansas... not going to do him much good there)
   Dude is just as subtle (I'm amazed I can use that word to describe him) about his gastronomic needs. The occasional, simple, 'The Wendy's store is open, remember?' or 'He needs to get the cheesburgers' is normally about as insistent as he gets. I try not to take it personally when they act like I've taken them off of 30 days bread and water when I finally turn into the parking lot for our next (possibly their last) meal.
Guardian Window Angel
   The thing is, no matter where we go, or how long it's been since his last meal, Dave always knows when we head toward home, or even where we should have turned if that's where we were headed. He's a regular DPS (Dude Positioning System). Doesn't matter if we've been someplace before or not, or how long ago the last time we were there, somehow he knows. I'll make a 'wrong' turn hundreds of miles away from home, and he'll gust a huge sigh, and then start blowing air between his teeth. That's how he shows me he's agitated without getting loud, which would get him in trouble. He'll use this technique when I'm not going to Pittsburgh, not headed toward any of the 20 GameStops he knows the locations of, or when I am headed for any of the 5 parks I regularly go to on random weekends. And after a couple of  'wrong' (by Dude standards) turns he'll amp up the action from the back seat. Oh, he'll pull out the whole autism scorecard then, right down the row of agitated repetitive patterns. He's devistated enough to regress to when he was 8 and still re-learning how to be human.... Right up until the point were Rain or I say, 'You want to give me the MP3 player?' Then the storm clouds part, the trumpets blow, the angels sing and a halo decends to grace and crown the head of my youngest child. The transformation itself is awe inspiring. I almost expect the animated God from Monty Python and the Holy Grail to look down and say, 'Hey! Give the kid a break!'
Headed home
   But most of the time we just get directions from our DPS. 'Turn right here.' or 'He's gotta get in the left lane here.' 'Turn right for Pittsburgh!' and we're always getting directions to the nearest (and dearest) GameStop (Power to the Players!). 'The restaraunt store is open, remember?' Uh, oh. Forgot about that food thing again, didn't you?  I'm sometimes not sure if he's convinced that my senility is sufficiently advanced that I've actually forgotten where we're going, or if he thinks I'm muddle-headed enough to just go to whichever destination I'm supplied. I mean, I'm kind of Zenned out when driving, but I'm not hypnotized or anything. 'Yes mahstah, I will take you to the Game store. Your robot slave will buy you bacon-cheeseburgers with extra catsup.'  Nice try, Dude. Not happening..... very often.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Trains, Not Planes or Automobiles:

I'm pretty well used to the idea that most of the things I'm interested in as diversions aren't universally popular in our house. Long drives, biking, walking trails, getting lost in the woods, taking pictures, and 99% of the shows on the Discovery/History channels. But it seems that even a broken clock is right twice a day, and sometimes that even happens on the right day.
   I know I'm repeating myself, but David's mom bailed when it came time for Dude's visit, and just to make it more interesting, she didn't call for the preceding 3 weeks, waiting until just 3 days before she was supposed to pick him up before informing me of her decision. After that unpleasant phone call there was 4 solid days of trying to explain to Dude why he wasn't taking a plane ride this year, and how it wasn't his fault.
   With 30 extra days of Dudeness this year I decided that we should have some sort of adventure-ish things to do on the weekends. I'm not sure why this seemed like Dude would think this was such a good idea, as his favorite adventures all revolve around his game console. But, undeterred, I plowed on. The one thing that Dave was really sad about was not getting to ride in a plane, which he absolutely loves. I got out of buying a rather expensive plane ticket to aimlessly circle the city, by telling him that we would go on a train ride for his birthday. He was unexpectedly excited about the idea. I was starting to feel pretty smart when he started talking about 'Taking the train to the plane'.  I think he was remembering the tram from the terminal to the gates at the Pittsburgh airport. Even when I told him that wasn't the train we were going on he still seemed pretty interested, so I let it lie.
  Our first expedition was a scouting trip to Oil Creek State Park, the birthplace of the entire petroleum industry and home to the Titusville and Oil Creek Rail Road. On the way we stopped in a Sheets and across the street at the local DMV was a strange flower garden. There were 14 or so flowers all made out of street signs. Raine immediately knew that a photo op would ensue. She was right. I tried to get Dude excited about the signs, but he just said, 'Yeah.' and turned up the MP3 player.
   We got to the park and did a little car-scouting (which pleased my two passengers no end as the didn't have to walk anywhere) until we found a short circle-trail along the creek and through a little bit of woods. Despite complaints to the contrary we did not walk the entire Appalachian Trail (2100 miles), we walked maybe a mile on a nearly completely flat trail.
  Something I've noticed about taking David (or Raine) on any walking path; He'll hang back so far that you're afraid you'll either lose him or have to take a nap waiting for him to catch up. Then, somehow, he seems to know when we've reached the halfway point and are actually heading back to the car. Then he'll be so far ahead of you it seems as if he's running ahead for help (help for him, or us we're never too sure about). We once walked along Slippery Rock Creek to Breakneck Falls in McConnell's Mill SP and he was taking soooo much time and being so very careful climbing over the rocks I started to feel sorry for him. But as soon as we turned around and headed for the car he was suddenly leaping from rock to rock with a grace that would put shame to a mountain goat. He reached the trail head while we were still 50 feet or so down the trail, despite being repeatedly called back to walk with us.
   With our scouting trip under our belts we set out the next weekend for Dude's favorite part. I was actually afraid to tell him where we were going for fear of what I'd have to explain if the train wasn't running for some reason or another. Luckily for me when we got to Titusville not only did we find the Titusville and Oil Creek Railroad right where they said it was, but the train was already there and waiting for us to board. Unfortunately it had to wait, as we had gotten there almost an hour early. Dave, knowing nothing of train schedules wanted to board immediately. 'There's the TRAIN! ALL ABOARD!' he yelled as he headed for the platform.  'Slow down, boy.' I said, grabbing him by the collar as he whisked by, 'First we have to buy the tickets.' I skipped over the part where we had to get lunch and wait an hour, but eventually we were standing out on the platform waiting (impatiently) for the conductor to allow us on board. Dave loves waiting in line (yeah, right) and with the train right there, 30 feet away, it was almost more than he could take. 'Tickets, please. Gotta get the tickets to get on the train. ALL ABOARD!'  Then he'd take off for the roped off portion of the platform. I got more than a few indulgent smiles as I continually had to corral Dude back into line.  We were finally allowed to board, and immediately ran to the back to get to the open car. But for some 'safety' reason we weren't allowed onto that car yet. The T&OCRR was very big on safety. We must have heard 25 times throughout the trip that they'd never had an 'safety accident' (whatever the hell that is) in their history.  The... I guess he was a porter, was talking over the conductor's safety speech, telling us 'what you really need to know' instead of what the guy was trying to tell us. I guess we really needed to know some of it, because he repeated the thing about crossing between the cars about 4 times. Dave immediately broke 2 of their safety rules by banging on the window to get me to open it, and then putting his arm on the window sill with his elbow sticking out of the car. This did not make the Nazi train porter guy very happy, but it was kind of funny watching him trying to get Dude to understand how large his transgression of the rules actually was. Dude ignored him like the 'King of the Rails' he is, I told the porter that I'd 'watch him like a hawk' and life continued on, as I suspected it would.
  Once we had reached the first stop we were allowed to herd into the open car. Now that sounds really glamorous until you realise that the 'Open Car' is just a hundred year old flatbed rail car with 2x12 railings, and that the railroad itself is a bit less than diligent about clearing the right-of-way of overhanging branches. It's evidently much easier to patrol the car and warn people not to hang over the side than actually clear the dangerous brush away from the tracks. Still, enough people were smacked with leaf filled branches at random intervals to cause me to doubt the effectiveness of their technique. The whole there-and-back ride took about 2 1/2 hours. It took David about 20 minutes to get over riding the flatcar like a hobo-tourist, and once I found him sitting on the floor the second time I took him back into the passenger car with Raine. (she lasted 10 minutes) I, however was in my element and stayed on the flatcar for most of the trip. After a while the Catholic Guilt started to kick in, it seemed as if I were the only one enjoying himself on this family outing. I re-entered the passenger car and found both my fellow travellers kicked back in the seats on opposite sides of the car, far from the miserable travel wretches I imagined I'd find.
   It's kind of a funny thing. In the old train cars, rather than turning the car toward the direction of travel, the seat backs were upholstered on both sides and slid to either the front or back of the seat. This meant that if no one was in the seat ahead of you, you could just push the seat back forward and suddenly you had a padded footstool in front of you. And this is how I found my travelling companions, stretched out on either side of the aisle, feet up, enjoying the scenery and the breeze blowing through the open windows. Dave looked up at me and said with a grin, 'This is soooo COOL!' It seems I was wasting perfectly good guilt on the two of them, so after a bit I went back out on the flatcar with conscience clear.
   After we'd all piled in the car and were headed home Raine nearly unhinged my jaw with the comment, 'Next time we need to go on a train with a steam engine.' Dave piped in with, 'Go on the steam train like the choo-choo!' (I'm not sure I could translate that, but it sounded like he agreed) So it seems that not only was I wasting guilt, I completely missed the opportunity to bask in some well deserved glory. I hate when that happens. My father used to say (and might still) that 'The sun will even smile on a dog's ass someday.'  Well, I am that dog's ass, and that day I was just basking in the rays. Now excuse me, I have to go talk to a man about a steam train.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Coolest Dad Ever (for 20 hours):

Couple more Birthdays and we're going to have to
call the fire department!

  David's mother is supposed to take him from the first of June until the first of July, which has always (4 times) sucked because I miss out on Dude's birthday and Father's day every (last 3) year. Dave was really bummed when I told him his mom wasn't coming to get him this year.... about missing out on two plane rides anyway. Right away he told me that the only way to assuage his remorse was to get a Nintendo DS3 for his birthday. Thinking about the extra cash I'd have from not having to buy 3 plane tickets (1 round trip, 1 one-way) and I said I'd look into it. Then I found out that a DS3 was roughly the same price as a one-way ticket to (or from) Kansas City, and started to wonder if I was actually making money on this deal, or not. But all this inevitably gave me the opportunity to become the Coolest Dad in the Known Universe (for roughly 20 hours).
That's right, believe it or not I was, for a time, The Coolest Dad in the Known Universe! Dude's latest (17th) birthday was the beginning of my brief reign as Coolest Dad. It all started the Saturday before with his very first train ride (next blog, sorry), which went over very well, but was long forgotten 2 days later when the Birthday dawned.
   Monday was a working day so I was gone before Dave woke up, but when I came home he was watching movies with Kate (Home Health Aide) who got talked (somehow) into coming back this year, even though she had to know what she was getting into. Dude was sitting almost primly on the couch waiting for me to come around the corner. As soon as he was certain I'd seen how well he was following living room etiquette he ruined the moment by bouncing up and telling me what a good boy he'd been all day. 'He gets good notes!' and 'It's the day for presents!' which kind of gave me a clue as to why he'd been 'such a good boy' all day. Using my ultra-sensitive Dad Powers (yeah, right) I had a hunch that I was feeling the gentle patter of bullshit raining down over me, but Kate informed me that, barring lunch, he had indeed been sitting in that very spot all day, calmly watching movies. He'd even allowed her to pick a few. (a grand concession from the Lord of All Media)

We'd like to thank you Lord, for these presents
we are about to recieve...

   Dave was so eager to show how good he could be he nearly killed us both by trying to help me walk across the room to sign Kate's time sheet. He tangled us together and nearly sent us into her lap, the only time that I've ever seen her frightened. Despite Dude's 'help', Kate managed to make it out the door unscathed, and even promised to see us again the next day. (glutton for punishment, or desperate for money? You make the call) After she was gone, David decided that the front door was a veritable bank vault to a man of my advanced age and decrepitude (is that really a word?) so he took it to himself to shut it, knocking my foot aside as it swept closed. I started wondering how much more evidence of his 'good boy' status I would be subject to, or could actually survive when he, in case (due to my advanced senility) I'd forgotten in the last 2 minutes, informed me 'He's (I've) been a good boy today!' and 'The games are at the GameStop, remember?'. And then, as if afraid to spoil the delicate mood he'd created (?), he immediately started up the steps to his Game Haven.
   What Dave didn't know is that his Dad had absolutely no clue as what to get him for his birthday. I'd gotten used to having the entire month without him around to plan his birthday celebration, and wasn't informed until too late that he wasn't going to his Mom's.  And with him here we'd been running around too much for me to actually plan or get anything. To put further pressure on me, Raine was texting me off and on all day, trying to find out what I was going to do for his Natal Day. She seemed to be under the delusion that because I am his father, that somehow granted me Birthday Omniscience. (poor foolish woman) I mean, can't we just make his Birthday a National Holiday? That way thousands of other people could figure out how to celebrate it, and I wouldn't have to make these important decisions. I couldn't even decide whether or not to have cake. I mean, Dude doesn't like cake, won't eat it, doesn't care about it one way or the other. But it is traditional, a symbol of the occasion and all that. My idea was to bake him a lasagna or a Mac&Cheese and put a candle on it. This idea was frowned on mightily by all the traditionalists in the crowd. Plans of punishments for such transgressions were leaked and I decided to drop the whole thing.
   As Dave was heading upstairs to play his X-box a tiny light of salvation gleamed in my brain. I had gotten him an X-box 360 for Christmas, but it had stopped working a week or so before, relegating him to the 'plain' X-box. In an unusual fit of responsible consumerism I'd actually purchased an extended warranty for it, so it was just waiting for me to find the receipt and take it back. I decided to start with that as more of a Birthday event than a present, and go from there. Basically floundering in a sea of no-ideas I was grasping a string and trying to pretend it was a rope.

Hiding the eyes is easier than wrapping the presents
    When Raine came home (with a cake and candles) we immediately headed to GameStop. Thinking that it would be cruel to leave Raine stuck in a car with Dude while I was in GS on his birthday, and thinking there was no way I was going to survive with him inside the store
 with me, I dropped the two of them off at the Wal-Mart next door. Dave almost ripped Raine's arm off literally dragging her up the ramp and into the store, saying ' Dad's got to go to the GameStop to get 10 games for the Birthday, remember?'. I went into GS, made the exchange with zero problems, and stepped back out without any games!   Knowing that my life could be in danger, I snuck into Wally-World, grabbed the secret present (inspired divinely, or by sheer panic, I'm still not sure), paid for it, deposited it in the trunk, went back into the store, and cooly wandered around to find Raine and Dude.

   I got a couple of strange looks from Raine when I announced that it was time to go home. (I'm certain she thought I'd bailed on the present) But Dude completely trusted that Dad wouldn't let him down on his Day of Days, and immediately started herding the two of us 'old folks' to the front door. I had some trouble convincing him that we wouldn't actually be allowed out the door (birthday or not) if we didn't pause somewhere near the front and pay someone in a blue smock for the few things in the cart. Once we'd paid the nice, but confused (she tried making sense of Dude's ramblings.. never a good idea for the uninitiated) lady at the counter and then we were hustled unceremoniously to the car.
   After many-mini cheeseburgers at Steak and Shake we finally were actually headed home when the Birthday Cake Debate began to rage once again. I repeated my doubts about the efficacy of bringing David something that he wouldn't eat anyway, when Raine underhandedly actually asked Dude what he wanted!  'Yes! Have to have the Birthday Cake for the Birthday to get the presents, remember?' So, due to Dude's slavery to tradition, I was stuck sucking down store bought buttercream icing, and not having any ice cream to hide the staleness of the cake (actually the cake was quite good).
    Dave waited patiently (upstairs) while Raine and I got things ready. When called, he came down to the living room and sat on the floor next to the coffee table, nearly vibrating with repressed excitement. Raine brought the cake in and set it on the table. We sang the traditional Birthday Song, and then Dave said, 'Blow out the candles and get the PRESENTS!' After the Mighty Wind blew all the candles out (3 tries-17 is a lot of candles!) we made him hide his eyes until the first box could be brought in. He nearly went crazy saying 'Xbox 360! It works! It works!' We almost had to tie him down to keep him from bolting up the stairs and trying it out right there.
The coolest present EVER!!
   We finally got him set for his next present, Raine brought it in and put it behind him on the floor. When Dave turned around and looked he was completely speechless for almost exactly 45 seconds, which is almost a conscious record, then he yelled 'COOL!!' and hugged the box. He turned and looked at both of us as if to ask if this was really his, then hugged the box again and tried vainly to defeat the packing tape to get it open. As I stepped over to help him open it up he was practically yelling, 'It's the CHAIR!! He's got the Chair!!' Ah, but not just any chair, it was one of those footless rocker chairs. Which are kind of cool, but this one had SPEAKERS in the headrest that could be hooked directly to his game to give him audio right next to his head, pounding stereo sound directly into his brain. As he caressed the chair box lovingly I heard him murmur, 'Thanks for the party, Dad, and the wonderful presents.' After prying him off the box and getting everything set up I had left one happy Dude playing his games.

I flew on those words all the next day. Repeating occasionally in an awe-struck voice, 'I'm the Coolest Dad in the Known Universe.' Even knowing my reign wouldn't be a long one didn't dim the feeling. I knew that
The Winna' and still Champeen!!
 sooner or later (13 seconds after returning home, probably) I'd have to tell him to turn the sound down and lose my 'Coolest Dad' status, but while I had it I revelled. Hell, I wanted T-shirts and mugs printed up. Moments like that don't come along all that often, and when they do, they're meant to be savored, and I savored that moment even after I got home from work and had to tell David to turn it down. Even the inevitable, 'So this is what a chick feels like.' couldn't cut the glow. Coolest Dad in the Known Universe... Nice title... Good job, if you can get it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bad Guys! /Language Barrier:

     The other day, David came home on the bus with something clipped to the collar of his shirt. He was very excited and nearly drove me to my knees running down the bus steps (I'm twice his size). While I was trying to clear the cobwebs and regaining my balance Dave was already bending my ear about being a deputy and trying to show me his collar. Attached to said collar was a gold colored, shield-shaped piece of plastic with the very official sounding, 'Official (see?) Junior Deputy-- Beaver County Sheriff's Office. I said, 'Wow! Junior Deputy, huh?' He replied, loudly and enthusiastically, 'Yes! He's (I'm) the new Deputy!'

'Very cool! Does that mean you're going to arrest somebody?' He kind of shocked me by saying, 'Yes! Gonna get them!'. 'Uhh, who are you going to arrest?' (no one's concience is completely clear) This made him pause for only a second. 'Gonna arrest the BAD GUYS!!' He then ran into the house, turning twice to show me his badge.
   Raine and Dude have had some 'issues' during the past couple of weeks, and Dave doesn't get this excited about much outside of his video games, so I thought I'd give Raine a kick and let her in on it. So I texted her at work to prime her for when she got home. When she arrived and went upstairs to the room David was playing his games as if nothing happened, and when she asked him about it, he couldn't even find the badge! Oh well, I guess he figured the only 'Bad Guy' he knew was the same one that provided the Wendy's and GameStop adventures and would probably have trouble doing that from 'Junior Jail'.

Bad Guys behind bars!

    It always amazes (and annoys) me  when people who ought to know better still expect Dude to act like a 'normal' teen. It's come up a couple of times in the last couple of weeks that David is cursing. Now I realize that some people have a problem with foul language, and for the most part I can respect that, and when it does happen that David has said a word or phrase out in public that isn't necessarily socially acceptable, I try to make certain that the 'offended' person hears me curbing his tendency to take the language to its Anglo-Saxon roots. Those aren't the people that bother me all that much, although I'd think they ought to grow up a bit. Especially the ones who I know don't do a damn thing when their own (much younger) typical children curse at them!
   But, be that as it may, the ones that really make me want to grab my rifle and start looking for a clock tower are the people that ought to know better. It's kind of ridiculous to expect social graces from a kid with ASD. The definition of autism as given by the National Library of Medicine: Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first 3 years of life, and affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills. Social and communication skills. Sounds like understanding 'apropriate language' to me. You'd think that people who deal with atypical kids every day for their job would at least have some idea of what they're dealing with, wouldn't you? But nooooo!
    I like to watch hockey,(don't worry, not as random as it sounds) and currently the Pittsburgh Penguins have a goaltender named Marc-Andre Fleury, who is from Sorel, Quebec, and grew up speaking only French. He didn't start learning English until he was somewhere around High School age. So basically, he learned English from a bunch of hockey players in a locker room. Let's just say that guys in a locker room use words in the course of normal conversation that would make little old ladies in tea rooms fall off their chairs. Now, other than the fact that he grew up in Canada, Fleury, or Flower as he's called, has no disabilities. He just grew up without learning the social stigma attached to these words. So if during an interview on National Television he occasionally blurts out a word that should have been bleeped, it's understandable. He has no idea what these words mean socially. (keep going, it'll make sense in a minute)
    Dave learned to speak from two sources. Only one of which was sometimes censored.  He's not 'talking', he's replaying the game/movie in his head, and it just happens to be coming out of his mouth. Sometimes his words sound relevant, but he doesn't actually understand what he's saying, let alone what you're saying to him most of the time. So if he says, "Man, I bet she gives great Helmet!", he's not speaking to the sexual proclivities of the checkout girl, he's reciting from Spaceballs. And it seems to mean that the woman was being particularly helpful. If, on the other hand, he says, 'Uhhh, I bet this is what a chick feels like!', he's not being a chauvinistic pig, he's just disappointed at being kept from doing whatever it was he wanted to do. And if, in the middle of class, he says, 'I think you need to KILL the son-of-a-bitch!'... okay, that's a new one that he's never used at home, so I'm not sure what it means. But somewhere in the activities of the class he's made a correlation to an event in one of his 3 teen/adult rated games. (remember he's 16 years old, Banjo Kazooie and Fairly Odd-Parents, just aren't going to do it forever)
    The last example was related to me by one of his former aides, Ashley. I'm not absolutely certain of the circumstances, but it seems that during a raucous time in a classroom some discussion was given about the discipline to be meted out to one of the other boys. Dude piped in with his (no doubt helpful, but thankfully ignored) advice, which was greeted by mixed horror and humor by the aides and teachers in the immediate area. Humor ultimately won out, and I wasn't immediately air-flighted in to wash his mouth out with soap. As a matter of fact, I didn't hear anything at all about it until Special Olympics, several weeks later.
This is Mrs Jacobs (I fervently hope I got the name right)
She's one of the 'Good Guys' and a SLJ  'kid wrangler'
I mistakenly left her off the last blog
Bad Blogger! No Donut!!!
    On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the bus-aide, or, as we like to call her, The Wacko Bus Nazi. (we really need to pare that down a bit) This is a woman who's been the helper on David's bus for most of the last 8 years. During that time she's been through somewhere between 7 and 10 bus drivers. I initially thought this was a mark of her dedication to needs of the special kids, and that there was a large turnover in bus-drivers. I've since learned that only one of those drivers retired and the rest just transferred to different routs to get away from her. She's complained about Dude's language a number of times, without reciting any examples (even by inference), but she always leaves the impression that she's morally offended for some reason.
   (Nixon voice) Let me make one thing perfectly clear, Dude is not a potty-mouth! Curse words mean NOTHING to David. David doesn't 'converse' in any significant way, about anything. Conversation is a process of verbal give and take. Dude has half of that. He's the reverse of the IRS, he's all give and no take.The words coming out of his mouth are put in there by some form of media, and ejected by some sort of random number generator built into his brain by French Canadian hockey players. (See? I told you it would tie together) Expecting an asocial kid to 'fit' into typical society makes about as much sense as me expecting random people off the street to fit into his world.... ain't gonna happen.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Semi-Sporting News:

15 minutes before the supposed starting time

It's once again the last Friday in April. Which means... it's way too late to exchange any of my Birthday presents. It's also the time we look forward to all year. Special Olympics Track and Fiend.. uh.. Field Day. This year, in an effort to negate the last 6 years in a row, I resolved to be there on time. So Dave and I woke up (which he was okay with) got dressed (not so much) and hit the road (even less enthused) almost an hour earlier than normal (for us). We even had time to stop and ready our sinews for battle with nourishment. (Sausage, egg and cheese McGriddles) And in an absolute fit of good luck I actually drove us to the right High School on the first try. We arrived at Western Beaver High (sounds like a large rodent on crack) and knew we were at the right place because this time there were parking attendants. They asked a dizzying array of questions (2) for someone who's McCoffee hadn't kicked in yet, but eventually we were parked very close to the building and proceeded directly to the field. Only to find there was no one in the stands. I was momentarilly confused. After all, there were parking attendants this time. And the event signs where all there And several School Busses dropping buddy-kids off, (who immediately retreated into the gym). Then I rounded the corner of the snack-barn and saw where all the people were. Lining up for coffee, and cocoa and other warm things. The windows were also sheltered from the wind and had an overhang to ward off the rain. So, paranoia appeased, we were at least fairly certain we were in the right place.

The first event.... as soon as anyone shows up
  It had been raining in the Pittsburgh area almost every day for 2 weeks. But Thursday had been almost cloud free, sunny and fairly warm. It was a tease. Friday morning dawned in the sense that it was no longer night, but that was the only clue that there was such a thing as a Sun, and it might still be spinning up there somewhere above the clouds. It was also about 38 degrees and sprinkling rain. At least it would have been called a sprinkle if it wasn't being driven by a 40 mile an hour wind. So naturally, the first time Dave and I are early and in the right place, it's the crappiest day on record and everyone else was late. And I don't mean just a little late, I mean almost the exact amount of time Dude and I have been late to all of these things. There's probably some sort of psychic-karma-payback thing going on there, but I didn't want to examine it too closely. . Of course, considering the sub-Arctic conditions we were lucky the stadium was perched on the top of the only completely tree-free hill in the area. Or in Pittsburgh, as far as I know. That way the wind had untrammelled access to our delicate parts. Dave and I stayed next to the buildings to cut the wind until everyone had assembled in the stands and somehow Mrs. Yarosz found us wandering around again, I swear that woman has Dude-radar, which I'm sure comes in handy considering how closely you have to watch him most of the time. So, we were badged and aknowledged and pretty much frozen, but ready to go.
   I watch a lot of Hockey, and I've played some, and hockey players are generally some of the most superstitious people around seeing 'omens' everywhere. Dave and I showing up early started to look more and more like the first in a series of bad 'sports-omens'. Naturally, just having a crappy day wasn't enough, the PA guy was having problems with his equipment, so all of his early announcements sounded like bad cell-phone calls. The pre-recorded National Anthem ended up sounding like a kid intermittently hitting the FF button on the remote,(or for us older folks, like someone was pounding on the turn-table). And the S-O oath, which everyone is supposed to repeat after the chosen athlete recites it into the microphone, was missing about half its content and kind of wandered off and died somewhere towards the end. I'm almost ready to bet that the Prayer was intoned in Swahili, because the only word anyone understood was 'Amen'. And just after everyone repeated 'Amen' ('cause, that's what you do) the rain and wind caused the Olympic Torch to go out. But, not to be deterred by all of these bad athletic omens, the games where kicked off.
    Dave is now in the 16+ group (I know, it freaks me out too) and that means adjustments. This does change some of the people he competes against, which allowed me to meet a whole new group of kids. Jeremy was still in Dude's group, calling us 'The two Daveys' so there were still some familiar faces, but several new ones or guys we hadn't seen in a while. Mostly, though, it has to do with the order in which he competes in his events, they were completely reversed. This could have gotten me totally unstuck, but this year I actually read all of the notes about S-O that were sent to me. It's amazing what you can learn that way.

   So, this year we dealt with the Soft Ball Toss Lady's 'organization' first, instead of right after lunch, and it seemed to go much smoother that way. Or my expectations of her event have been completely zeroed out, one of the two. Despite the biting wind and spits of rain everyone's attitude was pretty good, although the 3 (male) students assisting the SBT did completely miss when the competition actually started. But even though it was pretty obvious they were there for self-display purposes only, one of the adult assistants brought them around pretty quickly to doing their jobs. Dude placed 4th against some larger students, which I thought was pretty good, considering he was wearing a hoodie underneath a raincoat and with his ridiculously hambone wind-up. Normally, once we finish an event we would typically wander around, checking out the other events, allowing people to see the 'Rock Star' in their midst that is Dude, that sort of thing. Not this year. After a few very brief minutes of walking around Dave's all-weather outdoor father decided he'd had enough fresh air for a while and retreated back to the vehicle (call me a wuss, I don't care).

Dude and Jeremy recieving their accolades

    Most of the time I'm pretty well prepared to divert David during the lulls in whatever we happen to be doing. I either have a book, or an MP3 player to give him something to do while we're waiting around. But I don't usually need that at Special Olympics so I was stuck. The only thing I had in the car for him to look at was a Rand MacNally road atlas. For some strange reason or another that worked. He was fascinated by the different states, trying to pronounce some of the city names and gazing longingly (for some reason) at the map of Upstate New York. I pointed out where my mother was born (Niskayuna) and where Niagara and Lake Champlain were and he seemed pretty impressed. So impressed, in fact that he started bugging me about 'Going to New York' for the next 15 minutes.

   Soon, however it was time to brave the ice and snow (ok, wind and rain) and get back to the competition. It was just after 11:00 when we were once again huddled in the leeward side of a U-Haul truck when the spitting rain turned to actual rain. But the wind didn't change. And until then we just thought we knew what miserable was. There were 4 student-buddies huddled together bent over a table, umbrella turned to the wind speaking longingly and loudly about the hot showers they'd be taking when they got home. I was seriously thinking about ditching the whole thing when the PA guy got on and made the announcements that: The busses for the (obviously) wussie Brighton School had arrived and were ready for boarding. The events would attempt to continue, but that any parent that took their child home should inform the teacher before leaving, and that there would be a summit at noon at the announcer's tent. I assumed to decide whether to continue or cancel the rest of the events.

Ok, all you guys need to be on the line

   Just moments after this announcement was made a section of clouds came overhead and revealed that they were actually thin enough to expose that Sun-thing. The rain stopped, the sky turned blue-ish and the temperature raised about 10 degrees. It was either a reward for correct thinking, a break to give everyone enough hope to continue on, or yet another weather-tease. Dave decided during this time that if he were a good boy I'd have to take him to New York. I told him that he'd have to be the goodest boy on record, and also slip me the winning numbers to the Powerball.
   In any case it was time for the 50 meter run. Last year David had some interesting interpretation of sportsmanship during his run, arm-barring his next closest opponent to finish first. So I was kind of curious as to what he would do this year.

And they say 'cheaters never prosper'

   As they lined up to start the race, Dave looked down the row to make sure that everyone was correctly behind the line. He wasn't helping the starters or anything, it turned out he was checking so that he could cheat more easily. As the starter raised her hand to start the race Dude started shuffling forward, slowly and carefully. By the time the race was officially started he was about 3 feet in front of everyone else. He was so caught up in gaining the advantage that when the 'Go' was sounded it startled him into pausing and losing it, but he took off like a rocket. He hardly needed the extra help. Halfway through the race he was 15 or so feet ahead with an 'I'm such a good cheater' grin on his face. And by the end of the race he'd smoked the other guys by 20 or so feet and, once again ran around after the finish line looking for his medal. Once the
At least one of these 'Wranglers' is named Bob
but I have no idea which one.
gold was adorning the correct chest it was time to head over to the Standing Long Jump and the the two 'Kid Wranglers', who were back in charge of organizing things at the SLJ.
   I have to say that there was one benefit to the inclement weather. There was no dilly-dallying about any of the events. The 'buddies' were hustling the kids around the field and the events people were running the kids through like cattle at an auction. I'm almost certain that's the reason, and not David's 'Superstar' status, that as soon as we showed up to the SLJ 15 minutes early this year, instead of 45 minutes late like last year, that Jenny (I'm almost certain that's her name) and Ashley (who have both had Dave in their classrooms) immediately went over to the Wranglers and told them Dave was there for his heat. The guys instantly went through their paperwork looking for his name, but looked puzzled when they couldn't find it until I told them we were actually early this year. But Dude's heat was the first one they ran. Maybe he's a 'Superstar' after all?

Ashley's 'Put me in the Blog' pose

    While we were waiting for the Jumping to commence the adults all kind of gathered around and started the babbling that just wasn't pleasant (or possible) during the colder, rainier part of the day. I had my camera out, snapping a few random shots, when Ashley kind of dashed in front of me and jokingly posed and demanding, 'Take my picture and Post it in the Blog!' I laughed and facetiously protested, 'Again?' Then, not even noticing that I'd already taken her picture, she started telling me about how she loved reading the Blog, and she even made her mother read it! I was too flattered for words (Yeah, I know, who'd a thunk it?). Perhaps Dude isn't the only Superstar in the family? Then I realized that the Blog is about Dude, so basically I'm just writing about a Superstar....

And he sticks the landing!

  Dave was all business about the 50 meter run, but seems to take the other two events he does a little less seriously. He has these ridiculously ham-bone wind ups for each event that they're almost events in themselves. For the SLJ he squats very low, with his arms thrust out behind him. Then he comes up on his toes and thrusts his arms out to the side, then he sort of bounces on his toes for a second, swinging his arms back and forth underhanded. Then starts the whole thing over again. He does this two or three times (or until I tell him to quit fooling around) then he finally jumps, covering a distance of about 3-4 feet. If style points were awarded he'd even get a '10' from the Russian judge. All of that goofing around must have been effective, though. Because he took 1st place. After receiving the righteous acclaim of the victorious Dude decided it was time to get Wendy's, go home and get ready for our New York trip. I agreed with the home and lunch part of the equation, but since I hadn't as of yet been given the Powerball numbers the New York thing would have to wait. So now the medals are on the shelf (along with any Empire State plans) waiting for next year's crop to join them. Dude is, I think, waiting for Nike to call with a sponsorship offer, and Raine has come up with a clever idea to get out of taking David to New York. We just need to find someone's address in NY, a box big enough to fit Dude in, and a LOT of stamps....