Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

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.

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