Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

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


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.