Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

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.