Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Friday, November 23, 2012

Short Rant:

   I tend to write here about the bigger or funnier things in our lives. The adventures that we have, and the havoc that we (mostly him) cause. But the devil, as they say, is in the details. The day-to-day, everyday circus that is our lives. It's the constant loud quotes and babble, the imperfect potty-training, the daily struggles for understanding: Him trying to understand us, us trying to understand him, and everyone else trying to understand just what in the hell is going on.
    (Warning: Sudden segue' alert!)   One of my favorite Lucille Ball movies is 'Yours Mine and Ours' with Henry Fonda. If you want to know the plot, you'll have to look it up (1968 ver.). Basically all you need to know is; Man with 10 kids meets woman with 8 and then they have one together. As they're heading to the hospital for no. 19, Fonda explains 'Love' to Ball's eldest daughter...  Life isn't a love in, it's the dishes and the orthodontist and the shoe repairman and... ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: it isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts.
    If you adjust the content slightly (the going to bed part, particularly) the sentiment applies to Dudes as well. Not wanting to sound harsh (but hey.. it's my blog, so what the hell...), but this is the criteria that shows me the difference in the 'love' of his mother and the love he gets every silly, loud, aggravating, crazy, wonderful day from Raine. Like dough-boys in the trenches we're ill-prepared, but every time the whistle blows we still go over the trenches in the face of the withering fire of game and movie quotes. (Drama much?)
    On a regular basis I try not to deal with 2 state agencies, 2 county agencies, 2 schools, 1 school district, and the Federal Government (Your Tax Dollars at work to confuse the hell out of Everybody). Thankfully, not all on the same day... well almost never anyway. And I have to say, in my humble, yet all knowing opinion... that working for the government, any government makes you do strange and stupid things. Mostly just so some one person can't later say that you didn't do, whatever it was, for them... And then sue your ass off.
   A case in point. (Nice way of saying, I'm having a little rant now) David is technically part of the Cornell School District. He doesn't attend classes at Cornell School, he's never met any of the students or faculty in any official capacity. He's never been in the building, or even on school grounds. He's only technically a senior in this school he's never attended, he's autistic, physically handicapped and maintains a godlike indifference to the very existence of  the place. But at least twice a week I get automatic notices on my cell-phone from Cornell telling me about the doings of all of the activities that Dude doesn't participate in, at the school he doesn't actually attend. The comings and go-ings (never far enough) of the PTA, of which I'm not now, never been, nor likely to ever be a member. And sometimes, in the heat of the moment I guess, I even get VM messages about parenting classes and football rallies and I don't know  what all. Most are cleverly designed to reach my phone as I'm riding my cycle home and can't hear them. So I can't just ignore the call, I have to go to voice mail and delete them... (Okay... breathe...the Bad People can't hurt you now) But their greatest tribute to senseless bureaucracy is that about once or twice a month (depending on the phases of the moon, I guess) I get a letter. An actual paper, sent through the US Snail, letter. With a stamp and a post-mark, and everything, advising me how to get student loans! So that David can go to college.  Let's pause here, and have a Moment of Silence for the death of Common Sense... or any Sense at all, actually. I'm eagerly waiting for the notice that it's time to sign him up for the SAT's.
   Student loans? Really? If I weren't almost certain that this was just a case of 'he's 18, so he gets this stuff' I would be really REALLY pissed off. I mean, it kinda feels like someone is sending me this stuff, just so they can laugh at me. That would suck, but it can't really be true. Because if it were, then that would mean they were making fun of Dude, and then I would become an ever-expanding, radioactive, mushroom cloud of righteous  parental fury, laying down death and destruction throughout the entire Ohio River Valley. And let's face it. Nobody really wants that, do they? I hope not, it's very tiring.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Transitions:

The shirt says 'EASY'... he isn't
     I try to regularly write for the blog, but sometimes I'm stuck story-less for weeks because nothing happens! But, being who I am, when I don't have anything to occupy my mind, my mind occupies itself. I start drawing parallels between things that may or my not actually relate. And thus I find myself (and you), here.
     Dave is currently in the 'transition' stage for all his programs. Technically he's in the beginning stages of moving from juvenile (delinquent) to adult programs.Ms Antoniades (Anton-yet-ease) is the Special Ed supervisor at Dave's new school district and she told me it was time to start David's 'Transition'. This got me thinking about the word, and what it means, (Well that, and the fact that I had nothing else to write about.) so I looked it up.
Transition:
       noun
             1.    Movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to               another; ex: the transition from adolescence to adulthood. 

Evil little smile... 
Well, that certainly fits, and we started that process by visiting a handicapped 'labor camp'. Okay, it isn't actually a labor camp, it's a nice place where people with disabilities get to work at a job, earn money and generally feel productive. They never told me how much they get paid... probably afraid I'd apply. Ms. Anton-etc took us on the tour, and Dave really seemed sort-of interested, but generally unwilling to participate. Mostly, I think, because there was no game-controller involved. But he did seem to think it was cool that everyone else had a job. The staff seemed wonderful-ish and they all made certain I knew that no decision was final, and that I could change my mind at any time, but by the same token they were continually asking Dude if this was something he wanted to do. He always replied 'Yes' and that brightened everyone up until I explained that he would answer 'yes' if you asked him if he wanted to be a fire engine. I got the impression they thought I was impious or something. Ms A was really pushing for Dave to go to this particular program, in a nice, friendly way. She did make the mistake of trying to play to my sympathies (as if I have any), by waxing a bit poetic about how it would be a much shorter trip (4 miles) there than say.... New Horizon school, which is about 20 miles away. I interrupted her before she got too far. I told her I  understand that the school district is small, and that Dude is one of the only, if not the only child from the district going to NH, and that it was costing the District a bit more to keep him there. And that she should have started with that premise because Dave loves riding the bus (van), the only way he could like it more is if it went through Pittsburgh, picked up a couple of Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers and some Mac and Cheese before it turned completely around and took him to school. And that I would have to make my choice based on what I thought would be best for him, not the School District as a whole. (selfish I know, but hey, I'm Dude's dad. Let all those other parents dig for their own) They also have a more 'social' program that's even closer, just across the river in Cory (Coraopolis... yeah, I know. I can't figure out how they got 'Cory' out of that either), and also one or two more in the general area. I'm really not too sure what or where they were... her voice was kind of muffled and I missed the salient parts. So everyone left the tour either feeling unsatisfied (Ms. A and staff) or confused and only vaguely informed (yours truly)
    Not knowing what else to do I went back to my 'transition' definition:

              2.     Music
                            a.   a passage from one key to another; modulation
                            b.   a brief modulation; a modulation used in passing
                            c.    a sudden, unprepared modulation

   I'm not sure even I can stretch any kind of metaphor out of that one. Except for 'c' David is a series of sudden, unprepared modulations of random types, mostly vocal.
     So back to the definition I went:

             3.     a passage from one scene to another by sound effects, music, etc., as in a television program, theatrical production, or the like.

     Okay, this one I had a bit more luck with. We are definitely passing from one scene to another and Dude is a series of sounds and effects. Oh and he is a total theatrical production. (Oh! The Pain! The Pain! There could be internal bleeding!) But really, it didn't help me much, so I moved on.

       verb 
            4.      to make a transition: He had difficulty transitioning from enlisted man to officer.

     So far Dave isn't the one having difficulty with the 'transition'...(sorry, 'Transition', they always say it like it has a capital letter) so I was left pretty much to my own devices. I pick up trivia like a Sham-Wow! sucks soda through a carpet, so I entered the word into the aging database, rattled it around for a while, spun a prayer wheel, lit some incense, sacrificed a goat (well, lamb... it was a gyro) and waited for the results to come bubbling to the surface.
   The word itself is about movement. Physical, emotional, metaphysical, sight or sound. Moving on, moving along going around. Going from here to there, one thing or another. It's enough to make you tired just thinking about it.
Concentration...
   And then I thought about it again.  In physics, any time there's a radical change in vector, or direction, there's a brief instant when all motion stops. A breath, or a pause or a period of time, no matter how infinitesimal when all movement ceases and force must be applied to continue motion. I think Dave and I are at that moment in our 'transition'. Readying the turn, but still coasting down the old path on momentum.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Strange Attractants:

I don't think I've delved deeply enough into the fascination that women, including quite a few members of the banking community, have with Dude. Wherever we go, if there's a counter with a woman behind it, Dude is the man. Some attitude, facial expression, or possibly even some strange pheromone he gives off insidiously winds its way into the female brain, around the annoyance cluster, past the common sense center and worms its way directly into the mothering instinct lobe and kicks all the caring hormones into turbo boost. It's uncanny. I've seen it happen time and time again. No matter how world-weary or jaded the women behind the counter/desk are, three minutes and David has them firmly in his back pocket. If I could bottle this stuff (whatever it is) I'd have that Match.com dude out of business in a heartbeat. Antonio Banderas and Hugh Hefner could learn a thing or two about picking up women from Dude.
   A typical outing is something like this: Dave and I walk into the grocery store/bank/something with a counter, and he walks right up to the counter, (regardless of the presence of a line, or our place in it) leans one or both elbows on the counter and says something like, 'Hey babes! How's it going?' And then he just starts talking. Doesn't seem to matter what he's talking about. (Which is a good thing since sometimes I'm not sure he even knows what he's talking about. It could be movie quotes: 'Hmm I bet she gives great helmet!', (Spaceballs) or something from the thousands of movies and games that are stuck in his head and come pouring out of his mouth. The woman/women (numbers are no defense, apparently) stares at him a moment in confused admiration, glance at me for some sort of confirmation/reassurance, at which time I make my only contribution to... whatever Evil Scheme this is. I raise one eyebrow, and smile. That's it. After that he's on his own. I'm pretty sure he doesn't need even that, because within about 2 minutes he's done it again. Made them into Dude's Robot Slaves (pat. pend).
Would you buy a used car from this guy?
  Nearly every Friday Dave goes with me to the bank to deposit my check (such as it is). My particular bank has a partnership with my favorite local grocery chain and has branches in each one, with extended hours and they are open 7 days a week (not a commercial, just a set-up), so we can wander in there just about any time we want without rushing around. There is a teller there that's a special favorite of Dude's (or the other way around) named Leah. Leah is the epitome of the young, professional bank teller. Mid-twenties, bright, cheery, friendly, but professional. The first time they met, David saunters up to the counter, puts both hands on it and declares in a firm, loud voice, 'I'd like ten thousand dollars please!' For some reason this less than subtle extortion didn't mean a stern questioning from an overweight guard (there wasn't one anyway) or immediate expulsion from the premises. She laughed and smiled and said, 'I'm sure you would. And so would I!' She began her conversion to one of Dude's Robot Slaves at that moment and didn't even know it. Over the next few weeks the demand for 10 large was repeated every visit, with Leah becoming more besotted every time. My only comment? ' Dude, if this ever works, I'll buy you any game you want.' After a month, or so, the demand became 100K, which was somehow ten times as cute as the 10 grand had been. Then the very next week he strode up to the counter and said, ' I need the 20 million dollar Lotto Jackpot!' to which I immediately replied, 'Dude, if that works I'll buy you ALL the games you ever wanted.' Which was a bit hasty, come to think about it. I'm not sure 20 million would cover that.
   When we moved about 10 miles upriver I thought, sadly, that we'd seen the last of Leah. I know that for my Midwestern friends moving 10 miles does not always mean a change of branches, because that's still the closest bank. But here, moving 10 miles is like moving to another State. A far-away state, that still has strange-speaking Yinzers (Pittsburghers) in it.I've known people here that have retired less than a mile from the house they grew up in, and proud of it.  Everything changes, with a move of more than a couple miles, sometimes even blocks. You have to get new shops, restaurants, bars, mechanics, and banks. So I was almost certain we'd seen the last of Leah. Until we walked into our new branch the very next week and there she was! David didn't even blink. Silly Dad... Naturally she would be there. Wasn't that where he was going to be?  The power of the Dude-Call is not to be underestimated.
   In addition there are now two other women in that branch that are now Dude's Robot Slaves (pat.pend) and every time (infrequently) that I go in without David I'm grilled as to why I was allowed out without supervision. The interrogation continues until they are satisfied that I didn't A: Slip away without Dude-knowledge. B: Didn't somehow lose David in some sort of high-stakes poker game. Or, more importantly, C: Let some other Robot Slave care for him for any length of time.
  Every one of David's teachers has seemingly fallen under the same spell. (Hey, it could be magic, I don't know) When we first moved here Dude went to Raccoon Elementary School for a total of two months. After living with his mother for about a year and a half (flashback) he returned to the Dad-den and then went to a different school. Not that year, but at the third year's Special Olympics we were stopped by a cry of  'David! How are you doing?' This strange (to us) woman walked briskly up to us and started babbling like a fan to a Rockstar. It took several moments for me to ascertain that she had been David's teacher's aide at Raccoon and that she had just come over to tell us how much everyone loved him there and still talked about him, and just to check on him to see how he was doing. Dave, of course, ignored everything after acknowledging his Just Due as Robot Slave Overlord, leaving me to converse with this politely concerned woman whom I'd met maybe twice, three and a half years before. I managed not to sound too much like a moron, I thought, but she was giving me concerned looks as she walked away.
Let's go check on the Robot Slaves, Dad
   Now I've talked about the Pittsburgh medical community's fascination with Dude and the several dozen new Dude's Robot Slaves (pat.pend) left in his wake in the last few months. Well we finally made it to the Geneticist this month and not only did he charm the Genetic Councilor, but 2 interns, three desk nurses, the Intake woman (and those women are no-nonsense) and the wonderful geneticist, who has a heavy India accent and could barely understand what he was saying. (That's ok, I have problems with that sometimes and I taught him how to talk) He even charmed the phlebotomist, the vampires of the medical community! She actually cut in line ahead of her partner to take care of Dude. And all he was doing was talking about the stuffed frog display beside the nurses section. I think that's what he was doing anyway. We went back into the abattoir (just kidding) and Dave (who was being very good... with my help) started babbling away about going to GameStop, and being a good boy and an involved story about how we had to go to the Mall to ride the elevators to get to the store so we could make copies... of the elevators. (Yeah, that one's still keeping me up nights trying to figure out) He never answered any of her questions, except to say 'Yeah' twice when she asked about games and GameStop, respectively, and the only time he was ever quiet was the minute it took her to take his blood pressure... And she Loved It! by the end of the 1/2 hour bloodletting she was thanking David for coming in, and being a good boy and by the time we walked down the hall back to the waiting room I had to mentally add her to the (long) list of people I have to pay attention to so they don't snatch Dude while I'm not looking. The only problem with that list is I completely suck at remembering people's names the first (fifth) time I meet them. So the list is just basically a mental snapshot album with no captions... probably not very effective.
   I remember hearing a story about William 'Bud' Abbott and his partnership with Lou Costello. From 1935-1957, Bud was Lou's straight man, and he got a lot of flack for being the 'mean guy' to the child-like Costello for all of those 2+ decades. And even though he loved Lou like a brother, he hated being the 'straight' for every one of those 22 years. But when given the opportunity to start later with a new partner and very good reviews, Bud declined, saying, 'No one could ever live up to Lou.'
   And that's pretty much the way I think about our little comedy team. I may hate being the bad guy. I may be jealous for being the 'straight man' and wish I could get all the laughs.... but No one could ever live up to Dude. He's my partner.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Off to the Olympics:

Time to put the Game-Face on
   Now wait. Before you start saying, 'But the Olympic post is late this year!' (Okay, no one is probably going to say that) I have to tell you that this is the super-secret, undercover, double-naught spy version of the Olympic report. (not really, it just sounded cool) For those who follow such things, the Beaver Co. Special Olympics is normally held the last week of April/ first week of May at a Secret Location somewhere in Beaver County. At least it's secret to those of us that... occasionally, have trouble finding it. And so it was this year, and I actually found it this time. In the normal course of events I would, about a week or so later, post a story about 'how everything went', Dude-Dad version. This year, about the time I would normally be chronicling Dave's  athletic adventures I got a phone call from Ms. Neidbala, one of Dave's former teachers and the leader (make that ringleader) of their Olympic Expeditionary Force (I think she's actually Director of Special Olympics.. something-or-another for Beaver County). Somehow it occurred to her that it would be a good thing for Dave to go to the PA State Special Olympics, Thurs-Sunday next month at Penn State (150+ miles away), and would I please let him go? It seems that she'd been thinking of taking him for a couple of years and that he might, finally, be ready for the journey. (or she had sufficiently readied her Band of Ninjas for the peril... take your pick)
      While I admired her pluck, and her bravery in the face of almost certain peril (There could be peril...at least some) something made me pause for more than a moment. I told her I'd have to think about it, and I'd let her know, and hung up on her, probably rather rudely.
      As I was hesitating, I had to wonder why I was even hesitating. Dude would love it, he'd be with his buddies, the teachers and coaches would all be experience people. Most of them would know David or at least have heard about him (Rockstar: remember?) and would, no doubt be able to handle him. I mean they, or their clones handle Dude or more every day. And, as an extra bonus, there would be new elevators. Then it struck me. I had never, never allowed anyone I didn't personally know take David anywhere, ever. (I try not to imagine what happens at his mom's) The only person not directly related to him that I've even allowed to have him overnight is Raine. And she's the only one I have no qualms about him staying with. And this would be 4 days, hundreds (150) of miles away without any direct contact at all. He could be wreaking havoc across the countryside, and I'd never know. And besides, I'd miss him.
   And once I realized that the last point was the only one I had (other than the one under my hat), I knew I had to let him go. So after some consultation with my therapist (Raine) I called Melissa back and told her that Dude would be joining them this year, mumbled some appropriate niceties and hung up again, only slightly less rudely than the last time. And, after several weeks worth of paperwork (mostly received) there came The Day (cue: Dramatic Music). Raine happily (not really) volunteered to take Dude to the bus since it left about the time I got to work. So, other than getting him ready in the morning, I didn't even see him off.
   Raine and Dude getting to the school has been kind of problematic at times, so this time when they were gliding up the hill to Friendship Ridge, Raine asked David facetiously, 'Dave, is this the way to school?' The immediate reply? 'NOOOOO! NO!! No school!' Raine countered with, 'Dude, we have to go to the school to get on the bus to go to State College.' Dude can change direction quicker than a weather-vane in a tornado, 'Oh... Sorry! My Bad! My Bad!'   and as they got closer to the turn... 'Right here! Turn here for the bus to go to STATE COLLEGE!!!' I guess her DPS (Dude Positioning System) recalibrated... or at least recalculated. Anyway, Raine managed to corral a very exited Dude at least long enough to remember to get his bag in the Big White Tour Bus (told you he's a Rock Star) and got him on his way.
   So, there I was. Voluntarily Dudeless for the first time ever. (Visitation doesn't count-not voluntary) I spent the whole day absent-mindedly going about my business. That night, after intense discussion with my Spiritual Guru (Raine) I decided that I was going to hop the next motorcycle to State College and watch some Olympic glory. (Hey... I told you I'd miss him)
   After the longest motorcycle ride of my career, I finally made it to State College only to find out that I wasn't really wanted there... It wasn't the coaches. They were just confused (but pleased) that I showed up after I'd said I wasn't going to. Although I must have explained 6 times that I wasn't there because of them, or Dude, I was there because I couldn't not be there (yeah, I know, double negative. pththththth!), and that I was merely an observer. Nope, the one that tried to kick me out was my own dear, sweet son, David. (I'm changing my will) When told, 'Dad is here!' he replied, 'NOOOOOOOOOOO!' and took off.... After he was tracked-down, lasooed, hogtied, and returned, I explained, 'I'm not taking you anywhere! I just want to watch!' (Lo, how the mighty control-freak has fallen) then he proceeded to pretty much ignore me for the next 36 hours. You know, since I wasn't actually there.
...and you do the Hokey-Pokey...
   My first problem was finding Dude & Co. in the first place. My normal MO at Dude-events is to wander around until someone recognizes me (Dude) and then tells me what to do. There were thousands of kids there from hundreds of schools, and like a total dipshit I'd forgotten my contact sheet at home. So I wandered around Penn State for a little while, asked some information people (they didn't have any), then cruised on back over to the track to see if I could find anyone. Spotting some kids in yellow shirts with angry looking blue beavers on them (Beaver Co.) I stood on the ground in front of the bleachers, and looked the capable seeming young woman (coach) right in the eye until she politely asked, 'Is there something you need?' I facetiously replied, 'Yes, I need my son.' After a bit of confusion, all engendered by me, It was determined that: 1) I was David's father, and: 2) There was really nothing for me to do, because he'd already competed that day. It seems (and I totally approve) that there is no provision for parents or any other non-participants at the Games. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot going on... for the kids, just the kids, and just about no one but  the kids. So I got some phone numbers (just in case) and split to find a hotel.
   The coaches also had my number... and they used it. Turns out there was something I could do at SO... I could watch Dude have fun. There was a get-together for all the athletes where they played games, danced, won prizes and generally had a hell of a time. After finding a motel and the only cloud that was actually raining in PA. (Hail hurts at 60 on a bike) I made my way back to the Olympic Village (dorms). When I got there Dave was doing the Hokey-Pokey and had already worn out one 'coach' and was well on his way to out dancing a second. When Ms. Neidbala had finally had enough (and lost one pair of sunglasses. Which Dude gave back later), she tried to interest him in a game with about 20 other kids, a ball, and a parachute, but that didn't last very long. So, she succumbed to the inevitable and gave Dave her extra iPhone so she could take a break. Other than another (brief) dancing session, that's how Dude spent the rest of the evening,  perfectly contented with all his activities. I returned to my room, slightly jealous, but just about to explode with happiness at seeing David finally getting to be completely Dude, without Dads, or anyone else trying to contain him (much).
  The next day, much rested, and ready for battle I returned to the track. Dude's first event was the 50 meter dash, but it was going to be a while before it started. Jemma (the Dude-wrangler) had implemented a clever scheme. If Dude listened and was good for 45 minutes he could have the iPhone for 15... and it worked! But the time finally came for the 50 meter.
   Dave loves medals. Even so it's sometimes a surprise what he'll do to get one. So I was a bit nervous about the race, because State Special Olympics takes a dim view on some of his practices. But the race started without any troubles and Dude was off in a flash! The only one that was close to him was a big kid a couple of lanes over, but David wasn't going to lose this race! Now normally there's a line of parents/timekeepers/coaches/helpers at the finish line to help the kids know when to stop. At State no one but the officials were allowed on the field and they timed the race from trackside. So when David and the Big Kid (never caught his name) reached the finish line in a fever of competition, neither of them noticed it. Neither one was going to let the other win the race if they could help it. So on they tore past the finish line and around the corner with the two, seemingly fit, high-school volunteers racing after them vainly. By the time the first one had caught up to Dude, he'd actually already won another 50 meter race.
The Winna! and still Champeen!
  David, knowing he had won (twice) immediately ran for the podium to get his medal. The girl tried to tell him that he had to go to the tent to wait, but Dude would have none of it. He walked right up to the podium like he owned it, (he did) and disrupted the next group of contestants coming up for their medals. After much persuasion (and some yelling from Dad) Dave decided to wait in the tent for his due.
Hail to the King, baby..
   Finally the time of adulation had arrived. The volunteers led Dave and the rest out to the podium to get their medals. Everything was fine until Dude slipped in front of the two kids ahead of him in line to get to the top first. You see they come out in the order they'll stand, right to left, on the podium, so when Dave cut in front to assume his regal perch the fourth and second place kids had to walk around him on the fairly small podium. He could have cared less, standing there with his arms upraised accepting the adulation of the masses (in his own mind). There was a marine sergeant and some girls from some kind of Dairy sponsored beauty contest placing the medals, but like Napoleon, Dude had to crown himself. Instead of leaning over for the medal he took it from the young lady's hands and placed it around his own neck. Standing like a conquering hero, arms calmly folded, he waited through the obligatory pictures then returned to his followers. (coaches and team-mates)
I did what?
   The other event of the day, the Standing Long Jump didn't go as well. It was much later in the afternoon, everyone was a bit dehydrated despite quarts of water that were consumed, and it was hovering somewhere around the uncomfortable side of 90 degrees. Dave waited patiently in the tent until the event started and then took his place at the line. They gave him several jumps, but every time, just before he jumped, he would twitch his feet and his toes would just barely cross the line. Now, at the Locals this wouldn't be a problem, but the Judge was having none of it, and disqualified Dude from the competition. Now when this happens at the London Games there's film at 11, newspapers are sold in record numbers, YouTube videos abound, and the participant returns to his home country in shame to sell used cars, or toilet seats, or becomes a stadium hot dog vendor, never to be heard from again. Only to be mentioned with disgust every 4 years when his event is run again. At the State Olympics you get a 'Participation Ribbon'. Which is just a polite way of saying, 'You cheated, but you were here, so we're giving you this crappy ribbon.' Or at least that's what the look on Dave's face said when he received one after trying to stand on the top platform of the podium. He was not happy. He knew that he'd jumped farther than the other kid, so why wasn't he getting his nice, big, shiny medal? He was still out of sorts when he came to the gate, but I made a big fuss over him, telling him what a good job he did, and how cool this all was. I'm not sure I had much effect, but we hugged and he seemed in a better mood when we went back up into the stands.
  So that was it. The rest of the Team had already finished their events. Once Dude was done all that was left was to gather everything up and get ready to go back to the Village for a bit more frivolity before the closing ceremonies and bus ride home the next morning. Oh... and for Dude-Dad to fade into the sunset on his motorcycle. And so that's what I did, full of good, warm fuzzy feelings at seeing my son run rampant, for a time, in a situation totally geared for acceptance of who and what he was. A society for the Asocial. A little sad too, knowing he was leaving the next day for his 'Visitation' and I'd have to be the 'bad guy' when Dave got home from visiting his mother. Then I realized I was just feeling sorry for myself, and, unlike Dude, was missing a Wonderful Day of my own. So that's what I did, enjoyed the day, the ride, and the thought of  many Wonderful Days to come.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Good Boy at the Hospital:

Look into my eye! 
Over the Easter holiday Dave, Raine, and I were visiting Raine's mother at the hospital. She's nearly (if not over) 80 and sometimes her health is a bit chancy. Now Dude loves Raine's mom, and he'd never want any harm to come to her, but he's almost overjoyed to hear about any time she's admitted to the hospital. 'We have to go to the Hospital building and ride the elevators!' Is normally his response to hearing about the woman he calls grandma's latest health crisis.
   After the visiting part was over and the 'Raine spending time with mom' part had begun, Dave and I went for a walk outside. And as we were walking back down the hallway to the elevators a man passed us on the left and Dude made a funny sound. Dave generally walks around plugged into his 3DS and doesn't have any social shame anyway, so he often makes noises or says things that people can misinterpret and take offense to. So I turned to him to shush him and was shocked to see his face locked into a spastic rictus and as his whole body jerked several more times strange grunts were forced from him. Even though he'd never had one it took me only a moment to realize that he was in the midst of a seizure. With his back against the wall and his body spasming he turned toward me as best he could and with a heart-rending plea in his eyes, and tried to reach for me as his body betrayed him repeatedly. I immediately reached to him and lowered him gently to the floor. I cradled his head and quickly scanned him as he went into full Grand Mal, or tonic-clonic seizure.
   One of the few benefits of being me is that I am my own PA system. When I need to be heard, I will be, no matter the background noise. So when I yelled, 'I'm gonna need some help here!' the previously empty corridor became a beehive of activity in mere moments. The professionals shuttled me to the side (not knowing how useful I can be) and immediately began to have problems lowering the gurney, lifting him onto said gurney, and then getting the damn thing to stay up once they'd raised it again. I finally stepped in and helped the nurse at my end to secure the thing. Another nurse (what was she doing this entire time? No idea) asked me if Dave had ever had a seizure before and in the 5 seconds it took me to answer they somehow made Dude disappear. I looked down at my hand and had no memory at all of how the hell I'd managed to separate David from his DS3, but there it was. Right there in my hand.
   The next half hour was pretty much a blur of worry and intake paperwork and texting Raine to let her know that we wouldn't be returning to her mom's room anytime soon. I just barely made it into the secure area of the ER when I was snagged by the Dictator of Documentary Bureaucracy, at least I think that was her title.  I hate hospital paperwork. I know it's necessary, but all I wanted to do was run down the hallway and start rifling through rooms until I came up with a Dude. So while the (supposedly) nice lady was asking me insurance questions (at least I think that's what she was doing) I was craning my neck around and not really paying any attention to what she was asking. I think I got Dude's birthday wrong 3 times, and I pretty much know it better than my own. People ask me for his a lot more often than they ask for mine.
  Then the Cavalry came charging to the rescue in the form of Raine swooping down on the ER like a mother eagle. I heard her voice berating the ER reception lady from across the hall. 'What do you mean I can't go see him?' I heard in an angry, strident, but somehow familiar, tone, 'You'd better open this door, or I'm gonna break it down!'. Luckily for the receptionist I stepped out into the hallway and told the lady she'd better let her in before anyone found out if bullet-proof Plexiglas was also Raine-proof (she had chairs close at hand, and the will to use them).
   As I was explaining to Raine that we had to wait until after the initial Doctor-hovering to see Dude, a nurse walked up to us and said we could go see him. He was something of a minor mess. He'd been stripped to his skivvies and mostly covered with a blanket and was lolling around in a totally un-Dudelike state. If I hadn't seen post-seizure reaction before I'd have thought they'd sedated him to keep him quieter. (Which at times has been tempting, but I've never actually done it) Like most patients after a seizure Dave was pretty much... well stoned. Slurring his words and making even less sense than usual. He was in and out of it for a while, but he seemed less restless with me there holding his hand. So that's what I did for the next hour, or so While Raine finished off the paperwork woman. (I meant 'with the paperwork woman', I'm almost certain I meant 'with') After watching me with him while they administered an EKG, the ER nurses began to get some idea that it might be a good thing to have me around, so they insisted I attend all the tests.
  After a while, when Dude was recovered somewhat, the time came for 'the tests'. First up was a CAT scan of his brain. So they wheeled him out of the room, bed and all, and immediately rammed the corner into the door frame. Dave hollered out, 'Watch out! There's a door there!'. and then, as the nurse bumped the door again because she was laughing, 'Be careful! We don't want to go to the Emergency Room!'. Let's just say that her driving skills didn't improve. It's hard to double over with laughter and see where you're going at the same time, I guess.
Am I under arrest?
   I almost had to tackle Dude back down on the bed when we got to the elevator. You see, Dude is our elevator man, and he knows it's his job to push every button in the process. A little thing like being a patient lying on a gurney shouldn't affect that. When we eventually got to the imaging room and faced the CT scanner it was my job to hold my son still on the table with his head in the Doughnut of Destruction (Spaced Invaders) while keeping my hands out of the image. Yeah... good luck with that. That's something akin to trying to keep a caffeine-crazed ferret inside a box of cereal with a pair of chopsticks... behind your back. But somehow I seem to possess the skills required, (though I hope no one films my face while I do these things), and miraculously an image was acquired.   Now I never saw the images, and even though they said they were 'normal'  I imagine they looked something like a game controller next to a bowl of Mac&Cheese inside a skull. Next was the X-ray, and our travelling nurse stopped the x-ray tech on approach, nodded at me and said, 'Get him an apron, you want him in there.' I guess they figured I had spawned enough mutants without the help of radiation. After making Dude pose in front of the nuclear beam like a marionette without strings, we headed back to his room. On the way back down to the ER Dave performed yet another kamikaze move to hit the elevator buttons, but the nurse was now a veteran and she quickly shoved the gurney up next to the buttons in time to keep him from scrambling his egg on the floor. Buttons pushed by the Agent of the Elevator we descended back to the proper floor.
    When we were escorting the Rockstar's bed through the ER halls and back to his room I heard several of the nurses already talking about David in that awed, giggly tone of someone who's been hit with a cute-ray set on 'Oh My Gosh!'. I don't mean to sound petulant, but I'm sure there weren't this many women thinking I was this cute when I was 17. Certainly not when I was lying half-naked on a gurney, or possibly even when lying all-naked anywhere. Anyway, despite his father's jealousy Dude's hospital visit seemed to be going well.
   After a few more tests, some consultations, much spinning of prayer wheels, and, for all I know, a flip of a coin. It was Determined (by some office drone at Tri-State Pediatric, David's GP) that Dude had the ill-considered bad taste to have his 'event' at the wrong hospital (so much for the good-luck factor). So we were advised to go back home, wait for him to have another seizure, and then take him to a more fitting hospital (one that they had an association with). Needless to say the anxious large man with the long hair (me) was not pleased. So not pleased in fact that he flat refused to go home and insisted on a transfer to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh within the hour. And so it was to be.
  Dave loved the ambulance ride. He especially loved to tell the guy driving how to get someplace Dave had never been before. They made the mistake of mounting their GPS where Dude could see it, and he called out directions the entire 20 minute trip. With a double dose of directional assistance we made it safely to the ER at CHP (Lots of anacronyms in this one). Which was exactly where the officious oaf from Tri-State wanted us to end up (after another seizure for cripe's sake) but it was also exactly where I wanted to be. Children's has the best group of doctors in the area and I wanted a part of that focused on my son.
So let's tally up and see what has been done so far:
1 X-ray
1 CAT scan
2 EKG's (one at each hospital)
3 Doctors
2 X-ray techs
7 Nurses (now under Dude's Evil Spell. pat.pend)
And 1 officious  oaf (is there any other kind?) from Tri-State Ped.
   Results?
None... Zero, zip, zilch, nothing, nada, bupkiss. Other than affording Dave the opportunity annoy a couple of  EMT's and to turn several more nurses into robot-slaves, the whole evening was a bust. Except for the fact that Dude was now in the system. That's where the real results would come from... or so I thought. In the ensuing 3 weeks we added a cardiologist, 2 more EKG's (machine/Dude interface malfunction) a neurologist, an EEG (and technician), an MRI (and tech) and a veritable gaggle of giggling nurses to the list. And next month we go see a Geneticist, presumably to tell me what kind of mutant my son is. (The Cardiologist didn't like when I said that) Actually to check for Fragile X, as a possible cause for his autism, and ARVD, a genetic heart condition that runs in my family. The Grand Sum Total of the last 2 months watching every twitch of my son expecting him to explode? Or, more realistically, to seize? Imagine if you will, the entire medical community of Pittsburgh shrugging their collective shoulders. I'm starting to think Dude staged the whole thing just to get to ride new elevators....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Into Each Life a Little Mucus Must Fall:

Look what they made me, Dad!
One of the worries about dealing with a non-communicative child is the difficulty in discerning how ill they are at any given moment. Then again sometimes information can come in startling ways. And in, what seems at the time, a wealth of over-information.
   A few months ago, Dude had a bit of a cough for a couple of days, but wasn't showing any more symptoms than that until one afternoon while we were both alone in the house. David was upstairs preparing to battle (or do) Evil depending on his mood and the game he was playing. I was downstairs, on the couch reading a book, when I heard him take a break from his Gaming to attend to the necessities of nature. Since no one else was in the house I clearly heard him start his business and with the slight smile of one who spent many extra years teaching his son to go when he needed to instead of just when told, I went back to my book.  There were no sound producing electronic devices or people in the house so there were no distractions to block the sound that I heard next.
   'My dick is bleeding!'
   My head snapped up from my book and my keen, analytical mind caused my mouth to say, 'What the fu....?' Trying to convince myself I hadn't heard what I knew I'd heard, I ran up the stairs to find David, business unfinished looking from me to his male appendage, almost as if he wanted me to 'fix it', like it was a broken controller or something. 'What did you say?' I demanded as I entered the little room. He looked  from himself to me and back to himself almost nervously. I suddenly realized that perhaps he thought that he was in trouble for using 'the D-word'.  I curbed my frustration (I've had a bit of practice with that) and asked him again, only sounding a little (ok, maybe more than a little) anxious, 'What did you say?'
It Burned!!
  He looked back up at me and said in a clear, but untroubled voice, 'My dick is bleeding.' Two quick strides and a downward glance assured me that, in fact, it was not bleeding. Despite his insistence of urinary exsanguination there seemed to be nothing wrong with either the appendage, or the steady stream of urine-colored urine falling into the bowl. 'It's burned.' he explained matter-of-factly as he finished up what he was doing and settled his clothing to something more suitable for public viewing, then walked past me to the other room to continue battling/doing Evil.
   It suddenly dawned on me what was likely going on. Dude is something of a Drama King. (no telling where he got that.... shut up Lorraine!) Nothing 'hurts' with Dave, it 'bleeds'. He'll stub a toe or drop something on a finger or even get a mosquito bite and immediately yell out, 'It BLEEDS!' So the Dude-dad brain should have translated 'My dick is bleeding!' to 'Father, I don't wish to alarm you, but I'm experiencing a certain discomfort in my genital area.'  With 2 ex-wives, 4 pregnancies, 4 sisters, and uncountable Aunts and female cousins in my experience, I've had dealings with, or heard about, just about everything that can happen to the urinary tract in graphic (and sometimes embarrassing) detail. So it occurred to me that my son might have some sort of urinary infection. Either that, or my son's generative member actually was on fire, I just couldn't see the flames.
   Trusting in the homeopathic remedies that have served generations of pregnant women so well, I started him on a regimen of cranberry juice and extra water and cut out what little caffeine he might have had. Within hours, seemingly, he was doing much better, and I didn't hear anything more about 'bleeding', but his cough continued through the Holiday.
    One sure sign that David isn't feeling well is when he doesn't eat. Especially when the meal consists of something with cheese, sauce, gravy, or pasta. (The perfect Dude-meal would consist of all of these elements and have the ability to be dipped in ketchup and ranch dressing) (Thankfully, modern gastronomic science has yet to develop such a thing) Since Thanksgiving is the gravy-est, most sauce laden holiday on the map, with cheese and ranch dressing thrown in and left-overs with pasta, it's nearly a perfect fit. So when Dude ignored his high-piled plate and didn't even touch the warm, freshly buttered rolls, I knew we were in trouble.
   Generally Dave is so healthy it could almost make you sick. When he does come down with the occasional cold a little extra sleep sets him to rights within a day or so. And so it seemed this time. Other than the fact that his cough didn't abate, despite cold medicines, and he was still only eating once a day, he didn't seem to be run-down or listless, but he just didn't get any better.
   Once the holiday weekend was over we decided to take Dave to the doctor. Somehow it was Raine's turn. I made the call, got the appointment, but I was bundled firmly off to work and Raine was the one who kept it. For one reason or another Dude has a lot of experience in Doctor's offices. He usually hates going to the doc's office, hospital (except for elevators!), care center, et al, so I distractedly went about my work and glanced at my phone every 10 minutes expecting to have to drop everything and rush to Beaver (it's really a town, and that really is its name) after a call from the Sheriffs Office Hostage Negotiation Unit to un-barricade my son from the Medical Center where he was running rampant. I'd show up and there'd be helicopters and news anchors swarming overhead and a crowd of people gawking behind caution tape with Japanese tourists snapping pictures of the carnage. Okay, so maybe I was a little paranoid... and very imaginative.
   When the call came it was Raine and not only did I not have to rush to rescue the public from the ravages of my offspring, but he was almost wonderful at the doctor's office. (the little weasel!) He charmed the front desk ladies with some witty and familiar banter: 'Hi babes! We're at the doctor's office to see the doctor.' And then when they walked him back to the examining room he reached up to flip the little colored indicator flags near the door. 'Not that one,' The nurse stopped him, 'it's the yellow one.' 'Yep, it's the Yellow one!' he said, merrily and flipped the appropriate flag. The doctor came in later, as doctors do, and started the examination. Dave was cheery and co-operative and more energetic than he had been for days. Everything seemed fine until the doc listened to his chest. 'Oh yeah, that's not good.' she murmured in a cheery tone, then moved her stethoscope, 'Yep, definitely not good.'  Dude could have cared less about the diagnosis, he was quiet while she listened to his chest, and then continued babbling once she sat back up.
   Raine was still anxious about Dude, despite the fact that like a car taken to a mechanic, he didn't seem to have a thing wrong with him. The doctor said admiringly, 'Look at him, you'd never know that he was a sick little boy, would you?' 'How sick?' Raine asked as the doctor looked down David's (for once quiet) throat, "Oh, yeah," she said, sounding as if she were announcing a birthday, "It's like a river running back there."
Feeling fine, and ready to go!
     So the diagnosis was something like: Aspirant pneumonia (that's walking pneumonia for us old-folks) caused by a sinus infection/virus. Now traditionally (Back in the olden-days, you know, when I was young) this was countered by a month-long regimen of antibiotics, strange smelling pee (don't ask), several days to two weeks of bed-rest, and a lingering addiction to prescription Robitussin (with codeine, Woo!Hoo!) Now it's a Z-pack and truck the kid back to the work camp (school). I would have felt more apprehensive about this except after the first dose Dave had seemingly returned completely to normal... Dude-normal that is. Which filled me full of wonder at the advances in medicine, but at the same time made me wonder why we'd gotten him treated. (Man that kid has a LOT of energy!)
  Of course the successful treatment of his ailment meant that he felt fine while Raine and I struggled through the cold that caused his pneumonia that, once he no longer needed it, he generously gave to us. I know there are benefits to having children. I may not be sure what all of them are, but I know that good physical and mental health aren't anywhere on the list.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Who is It?:

For one reason or another David hasn't had his very own-this is mine-no one else comes in without permission-room for some time. Due to the small size of the house we were living in he had to share a bedroom and all his precious games and gaming things were in our room with the bulk of his toys consigned to the dining/computer room and the basement. So when we moved to the Island, into a house with 5 bedrooms Dave was in what you might call... well... heaven really. Not only did he get his very own room, but it was on a completely different floor than Dad and Raine's room and no longer above the living room so he didn't have to be particularly quiet while Dad and Raine were watching TV downstairs. With bed (which he didn't really care about), bookcase, (also no interest), dresser (ditto) TV (getting better), 360 (yes!), and games (Ah! there we go!) all installed he promptly shut the door and ignored us for the next several hours.
  In the next couple of days it seemed to take an inordinate amount of time for Dude to start down the stairs whenever we called him. Either for meals or to take something else up to his room he just wouldn't respond as quickly as we thought he should. He also seemed to be having a bit of trouble getting the door to open to let him out of the room. I checked the door, and it did appear to stick a bit. But, since it wasn't an emergency, and the door did work, I just had too much to do at the time to bother with, or think much more about it. And for one reason or another neither Raine or I ever went into his room while he was already ensconced before the Altar of Microsoft (Xbox) for the next several days.
   One day, about a week or so later, when it started to get a bit colder, and things calmed down just a little bit Rain had Dave come down and help her take some things up to his room. They made two or three trips together and then Raine took some time to get a couple of things settled and left him to his games. Possibly 30 seconds after she returned downstairs she turned right around and took some extra blankets (still getting used to the steam heating) up to David's room. 

   Raine (unlike me) has a very natural and refined sense of propriety. She won't just open a door to a child's bedroom, she always announces she's entering. She also possesses a double set of fairly long, natural fingernails that she uses (with either hand) in rapid staccato fashion against the center panel of the door instead of knocking. On a solid panel door in a mostly empty house with hardwood floors this tends to sound like a veteran secretary from the 40's running an old Underwood manual typewriter to its absolute limit of speed. It's not loud, but it can't possibly be ignored. Not even by my son when he's deep in the throes of Video-Zombie-ism to the point where he doesn't even stop for Mac and Cheese. (now that's some serious gaming)
   I have the great, Good Luck to witness some of the interactions between these two. It's wonderful to see, but sometimes I'm not too sure which one of us she wants to throttle more. Dave, for aggravating the crap out of her or: Me, for laughing my butt off about it. Sometimes I don't think she knows either. Our continued survival might be due to the fact that she can't take out both of us at once.
   So Raine, with the kind of propriety I can't hope to imitate, stood at Dave's door, armload of blankets in one hand and doing her imitation of Arnold Schwartzenegger's Uzi with the other. (there were veterans down the street ducking for cover and screaming for an evac) When she hears through the door, 'Who iiis it?' in that sing-song tone you'd hear from the mom on old black and white sitcoms. Raine laughed abruptly and responded in a slightly different tone, 'Who is it? Who do you think it is? I was just up here 20 seconds ago!' Then I heard the door rattle. 'David Richard! You open this door!' Dude responded in the same tone he used
 earlier, 'Just a mi-nute, I'll be right the-ere.' I heard a rattle, then the door opening, and my son's cheery voice greeting my mate, 'Hi Raine, how are you today?' She responded (rather grumpily I thought) 'If you don't watch out I'm going to show you how I am!'  I'm pretty sure if she hadn't been so aggravated she'd have found it just as funny as I did. Well, fairly sure anyway. At any rate, the door eventually opened, the blankets were delivered, the bed made and Raine returned to the Adult section of the pool.
   She walked through the door to the living room, where I was assembling something in a manly fashion (I'm fairly certain it was shower shelves, but it could have been a missile launcher, not sure) when she grumbled her way around the couch to stand, arms akimbo, directly in front of my mother's favorite son (no choice, she only had one) and said in that amused/aggravated tone that I hear so often (for some unknown reason), 'That son of yours... ' I looked up at her and said, 'Yes, dear?' But there must have been something about my look that she didn't like because she next said in a just aggravated tone, 'Oh... you're not going to be any help!'
  'But dear....!' I said in my best just-trying-to-help voice. But she wouldn't listen for some reason. I mean, I had the proper concerned look on my face and used the 'I'm trying to help' voice and everything. She walked off grumbling to herself, which I'm almost certain is a sign of some sort of burgeoning mental problem (probably called Two-Dude-itis). I chuckled to myself for a couple of minutes, continuing to build some sort of  'object of mass destruction', or towel rack, can't really remember which, and thought no more about the whole incident.
   I was reminded that true sympathy is a gift beyond measure. Or at least it would have saved me from a couple of  'I tried to tell you's. A couple of days later I decided (for some strange reason) to actually enter the Dude Den unannounced. I don't remember the reason I went in there, but I do know that it wasn't my first trip to the Den since Raine's troubles a few days before. It was, however, the first time I'd been up there when Dave had his headphones on. Every other time he'd hear me clomping up the steps and I'd hear a faint 'Uh oh' (which I thought was probably appropriate) and then he would meet me at the door with a 'Hi, Dad! How're you doing?'. (Politeness should have tipped me off right away, but like I said, I was busy) But with his headphones on he couldn't hear the gentle 'clomp-clomp' of my feet as I made my way up the stairs. Let's face it, with his headphones on he probably wouldn't have heard the Crack of Doom. So having made my way upstairs with Ninja-like stealth (with steel-toed boots on), and being the autocratic barbarian that I am, I immediately tried walking straight through Dave's door. As my skull rebounded off the suddenly impenetrable barrier I was immediately and forcefully reminded of an earlier incident where my son had humorously (?) locked a door that I thought was open. This time however, the brain damage didn't seem as bad, or at least the amnesia didn't set in as quickly as last time, because Dave and I immediately had a talk (I talked, he listened... mostly) about free access of the lease holder to any and all non-rent paying areas of the household. I'm not sure whether or not he actually listened to me, but I now have untrammeled access to my son's room. Which comes in particularly handy when I've got to hunt him down for bath-times.  None of the 15 interior doors in the house is safe from being closed (sometimes forcefully), and probably never will be, but at least I don't have to poke them with a stick before I sling them open.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Biker-Dude!:


First day... Yes, that's snow.

    Toward the end of February I bought the very first motorcycle that I've ever owned.  I'd ridden bikes before but they were always someone else's. Naturally I picked a day with traditional biking weather to pick it up.(yes, that's snow) It was 29 degrees with 40mph winds and snow. Doesn't that just make you think, 'Today would be a good day to get a motorcycle'? 
   When David first saw the bike he was very enthusiastic about it. Saying, ' We need to get on the motorcycle and go fast!' I tried telling him it was waaay too cold to even go slow on a bike, but I don't think he was listening. He got up very close to the bike and began patting the rear seat saying, 'This is Dude's seat. To get on and ride like a roller-coaster!' Now I really didn't think that was a good idea. I hadn't even ridden a bike in about a decade so I was less than enthusiastic about the 'roller-coaster' description of a ride on one. What I wanted at that point was a slower, more granny-version of an idyllic riding experience, preferably on empty country roads lined with pillows and mattresses. So I explained to David that dad would have to get some seat-time on the bike before Dude could get to ride on it with him. Once again, as it has so many times before, the distraction of going to play his games saved me from trying to convince my stubborn (genetic? You tell me) son that he couldn't do something he really wanted to do. Thinking myself rather clever, I went into the house, sat down, and contentedly watched a hockey game. Little understanding the determination of a stubborn Dude... Even being one didn't help.

  A couple of weeks later March became unseasonably warm and I started riding my bike to and from work every day, parking out in front of the house to wait for Dude's bus, or pulling up just after they'd stopped. Every time the bike was parked when he got off, he'd circle it and flutter around it until I'd practically have to drag him inside. All the time talking about how 'we had to go fast!' on the motorcycle. And if I was sitting on it, or had pulled up while they were waiting he just hopped off the bus and tried to climb right up on the bike behind me, knowing that the only reason I showed up was to give him his long-promised ride. Again and again I had to disappoint him. Even though I was ready to give him a ride, I had had a problem with the helmet that I'd ordered and was waiting for a better version to return.

Father Biker gives the Virago a shot of the Holy

   Just at the end of March I was wandering around and saw this huge, great old, down at the heels church and stopped by to take some pictures. As I was wandering around I started talking to one of the priests and he invited me to the next weeks 'Blessing of the Bikes'. By their definition I had been an 'Inactive Catholic' for a few... decades, but I thought, 'Hey, I'll take all the help I can get.' So, the next Sunday I was back in the parking lot with about 30 other people and bikes, getting the Virago blessed and may have inadvertently been blessed myself. But no Holy Water actually came into contact with my skin so I walked away uninjured.
  Later that same week I decided that I was blessed enough (That stuff wears off quicker on some people), practiced enough, and crazy enough to take my son for his first-ever motorcycle ride. Not being quite crazy enough to take him out on the open road I decided to just putt around the neighborhood to see how he'd do. I barely had the words 'You want to go for a ride?', out of my mouth before he started climbing on. Surprisingly, I didn't even have to tell him where to sit or put his feet, the kid was a natural from the get-go. (Oh crap! I'm in trouble) After getting his hands in the right position on my chest and some minimal instruction we were ready to go. I should say, I was finally ready to go, Dude had been ready for a couple of weeks at that point.
    I couldn't explain to him the dangers, and that was exactly my problem. To ride fairly-safely Dude had to either be cognizant of the dangers involved, or at least amenable to instruction. And since David has absolutely no concept of danger and is only minimally reliable about listening/remembering instructions, I was continually beset with flashes of him seeing something 'cool' and suddenly attempting to dart off the bike. No matter what his level of success, if he tried something like that at speed we were both in deep doo-doo (shit). So after much dithering I finally decided to try it when I could just cancel the experiment if it went bad, rather than having to do it in an emergency and then finding out that it was a monumentally bad idea.
   As we putted away from the curb, Dave, who's face was right next to my ear, (bad spot for my continued good aural health) started shouting 'This is soooo cool!' and when, after a short 1st gear ride hadn't exposed any hidden dangers (like an ejection system in the passenger pad), I rolled the bike into 2nd and heard, 'We're going sooo fast!' And I'm thinking, 'If you think this is fast, we're in good shape.' The whole ride went very smoothly. With only an occasional reminder to 'hold on tight'. He sat behind me, glued to my back and chattering away happily the entire time. Of course he did tell one lady, who was walking on the sidewalk, 'Get out of the way! We're coming through on the motorcycle!' (we were not at that time, or any other, riding on the sidewalk) Every time we started off it was, 'Woah! here we go!' To David, this wasn't a parade, this was a race! We never broke 15 mph the whole time, but to him it was Daytona, the Macao Gran Prix, and the Superbike series all rolled into one. When I pulled on to our block about 15 minutes later he said, 'Uh oh!'. And when I had to tell him the ride was over?  'This must be what a chick feels like.' And I replied; 'I've never taken Raine for a ride, so I wouldn't know.'  This attempt at levity did not raise the despondent spirits of my offspring. But the promise of another ride in the near future perked him right up.

The Biker-Dude!

   The next ride turned out to be the next day, actually. Dave and I were at home together and I had a couple of errands to run. Emboldened by the success of the previous day (and not wanting the instructions to wear off) I decided to make a Dude-trip out of it rather than wait for Raine to get home. So we bundled up appropriately and made our way out to the bike and into the great unknown. First stop: Coraopolis (called 'Cory' for some Pittsburgian reason I have yet to fathom), the town right across the bridge, to pick up my check, and then on to Moon, (pronounced moon) to deposit it, and then back to the house (I was keeping that part to myself. Not wanting to know 'what a chick feels like' throughout the ride)
  Dave did look kind of goofy wearing gloves, dark goggles and a skull-adorned helmet (only one size too big) with tennis shoes and a hoodie, but I'm sure he didn't care. I know he didn't care because he walked right into the AB office and right up to the receptionist, past the person she was talking to. (Bikers and Dudes don't have any use for manners. Biker-Dudes even more so) After charming the pants off (and my check out of) Pat we went right back out to the bike and another 'grand' adventure. After another short ride and further display of charm (I'm not kidding, women love Dude. If I had his kind of charm when I was single... I'd still be single) at the bank we deposited our vast sums of cash.
    Dave has one teller who he always walks up to and says, 'I'll need 10,000 dollars, please!' If that ever works I've promised to buy him all the games he wants. Which will probably add up to more than 10K, so that may not have been such a good idea. We took the slightly longer way to Cory, slower and more scenic with less traffic, and stopped for some 'road food'. Now when I drove 18 wheelers, this normally consisted of a Pepsi and whatever fossilized hot dog facsimile that happened to be left on the nuclear rollers. Dude, however, has a much finer pallet than his dad. He requires something with cheese and ketchup that may have actually once at least seen a cow, served with a fine, carbonated beverage.

    While waiting for our McBurgers Dude looked every inch the seasoned biker on his way to Sturgis, just in from the road. At every stop David waited patiently for me to remove his helmet and secure it to the bike, then pushed his shaded goggles up his forehead to rest on an under-armor type helmet liner that I'd given him to wear, and kept his gloves on. After our stops he pulled the goggles back down over his eyes and waited for me to perch the helmet back on his head so we could continue. But on the road (street) he was a non-stop yammering limpet mine sewn onto my back. I'm not complaining, minus the talking that's exactly what I requested, and he only smacked the helmet into my head a couple of times during the trip. That, and having arrived home in the same two pieces we left in made it, in my eyes, a successful trip. Dude loved the ride, but was hoping for more of a 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maitenance' type of trip (without the maintenance part), so while the trip was fine, the relatively quick return was somewhat less so.


This is why I keep the key in my pocket
   To commemorate his very first ride I decided to take some pictures of him on the bike. After getting my camera I told Dave to climb up on the bike. He immediately sat in the driver's saddle and announced, 'I'm a DRIVER NOW!'. Luckily for me I'd put the key in my pocket or I'd probably have been chasing him down the street. You'll notice in the picture that his hands are on the grips, his feet on the pegs with his toes on the controls. I did not show him this, or pose him in any fashion. This is just one of those things that Biker-Dudes know. I'm in sooo much trouble.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Father of the Felon:

I use this picture a lot on this blog... wonder why that is.
You know those stories that start out, 'If only he had known what was in store for him...' Today was one of those kind of days. We've been a bit slow at work, so I've been helping out in the maintenance department and taking my breaks back in the maintenance room, sitting at the maintenance desk. Pretty boring, actually.  When my phone rang during break, I looked to see if New Horizon came up on my screen and when it didn't I let it go to voice mail. Turns out I should have taken the call.
  Several minutes later I listened to my VM and it was Tammy, Dave's speech therapist. The message went something like this: Hi Mr. Hoffman (my oldest is 29 and I'm still not used to people calling me that) this is Tammy, David's speech therapist. Don't panic (Oh God! what has he done now?) but I had my iPad in Mrs. Yarozs' room yesterday and when we went to look for it today it was gone. (Oh, crap) Now, I wouldn't be calling, but (and there's always a 'but') when we asked the room, David said that it was 'at home'. I don't know if he has it, but I know how much he loves it. So if you could look for that, and let me know, I'd really appreciate it. Oh and Dave said that you've moved to a new house, so if you could, please send a couple of pictures of it to school with him. We were going to make a story book on the iPad. (if my son hadn't stolen it, you mean). Thank you.
   Unwilling to actually believe that my son was a high-tech thief, I called back at noon and left a response on her VM: Hi Tammy, this is Dave, I'm pretty sure he was talking about my tablet or 'Layne's iPod, but I'll take a look for you when I get home and let you know either way. (Hubris: The pride that goeth before the fall)
  Several hours later I arrived home and, in no special hurry, eventually made it up into my son's bedroom to search for ill gotten gains. A quick scan of the room didn't turn up anything, and quick look under the bed and on his shelves was equally fruitful. Dude, generally has no self-induced property awareness, or guilt, so it never occurred to me to be any more thorough than that. Smugly satisfied that either Tammy was a bit absent-minded or one of those 'other parents' children' had done the deed I went out on the front porch to wait for Dude's bus.
I just got a new iPad!
   Dave came home in his usual good mood, and I got him off the bus, and we walked up the stairs to the house. He seemed just a bit too eager to get into the house and upstairs, and that tripped my Dude-dad Ninja senses. He didn't come into the front room to take off his shoes, or try to get me to read his (5th and Game inducing) Good Note. He just started up the stairs to his room.
   "David." I said in a quiet, but solemn tone. "Where is the iPad?"
   (Please don't say it!) (but he did) 'Upstairs in the bedroom.' He stated cheerily. (Oh Crap!)
   "Show me."
  Desperately clinging to the hope that he was talking about Alayna's bedroom and her iPod, I followed him up the stairs and unfortunately directly into his room and the third drawer down in his dresser. (Double crap with a crap chaser!) After a long talk about what 'not yours' means and what would happen if he ever again returned home with any of Steven Jobs or Bill Gate's products that he didn't actually own I went downstairs to retrieve my cell phone to eat a generous helping of crow. (Maybe if I apologise 14 times and make the last hundred yards on my belly I won't have to explain to Raine why I need the number of a really good (and cheap) bail-bondsman)
    I called Tammy, (introducing myself as the father of the felon) and apologised profusely for doubting her assessment of my son's illegal activities, and promised the return of her electronics Monday by Dude-post (his backpack). She was very nice and forgiving, telling me that it was okay, and that David should be spared any paternally generated doom, because when asked, he told her right where the thing was. I told her that I'd even been tempted (It's an iPad, man!) to tell her that: No, I hadn't found an iPad, never even seen one, wouldn't know it if I saw it, didn't even believe they'd ever been invented. She laughed, as if I was kidding, and assured me that Dave was in no trouble at school, hinting that that should mean he shouldn't be in trouble at home. I assured her that David would (probably) survive the weekend, and at any rate her iPad would be at the school on Monday morning, and then we hung up.
Picture to be used on milk carton
Just in case.
   I then called Raine to give her and her co-workers something to laugh about. Increasing the chances of Dude's survival by letting as many people as possible know my motive if he should happen to mysteriously turn up missing sometime over the weekend. By the time Raine came home she had developed an interesting theory. She thought, because Tammy had offered to put pictures of Dude's house on the iPad, that David, knowing that the tablet will also take pictures misunderstood and brought the thing home to take pictures with. This theory made a lot of sense to me. It also put the blame for my son's larceny directly back on Tammy's shoulders, and made a certain amount of Dude-sense... if you ignored the fact that he hid the damned thing in his dresser. We're still trying to come up with an official story that won't land Dude behind bars.... unless they're the ones I put on his windows to keep him from slipping out to cat-burgle the neighborhood.