Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

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 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.


  1. what a wonderful story ... made me teary eyed!

  2. Thank you... You big softie! lol I am sooo gonna tell my sister on you!

  3. Aaawwwwww! But I don't think I would have the composure to even let him get on the bus! Good for you, your a better dad than I am (well mom) you get it.

  4. When it came down to it, I'm not really sure I had a vote.... Dave loved it though. Gold medal, people bowing to his nearly every whim... Hey, wait.... how do I sign up for some of that? Sorry it took so long to reply. Summer's a busy time for us and we're still wading through the morass of the healthcare system.