Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Elevator Blues:

David is dissatisfied with the amount of elevators currently available in the Greater Pittsburgh Metro Area. Or, at the least, he's dissatisfied with his father's unwillingness to take him to every single one of Milo Otis' Pittsburghian brainchildren. So, despite the fact that we still haven't emptied all the boxes from our last move. (sorting the basement is low on the priority list) And despite the fact that the 'new' has yet to rub off of the New House thing, Dude is fully prepared to tell all and sundry that we're moving to Las Vegas, Kansas City, Chicago, and New York City, in no discernible order, and at the first available opportunity.
   Our Easter trip to the Homeland was very dissatisfying in this regard, since we didn't even take a plane, or ride any of the airport's elevators. (He really likes the glass elevator at the Pittsburgh Airport) And my hometown has about 4 buildings (not counting the college) that even have working elevators in them. So he was waaaaay out of luck there. David was very disappointed in his progenitor but still agreed to let him chauffeur him back to his games. 'We have to get back to the Pittsburgh. He has to go to the mall and the elevators!'  So I wasn't too surprised when he regaled Alexis all Summer with tales of moving to Vegas or Chicago. To which we always replied, 'We'll see.' No, the shocker came when I received a note from School asking, 'Is Alexis from Chicago? And is David moving there?' To which I replied: 'Not unless I can
find a box big enough to send him in.'  Okay, I didn't really send that. But it was awfully tempting. I sent them a note back stating that, while we were moving, we would not be leaving the confines of Beaver County, and that Dave would indeed be in the classroom come Monday morning as scheduled. The only upside to this is that since we've moved he's changed bus ladies and hasn't yet invited the new ones to Vegas. And the old ones don't know where we live, so I don't have to worry about transporting 2 extra people on our non-existent journey to Sin City. That's a load off my mind.
    We will not, repeat, NOT be moving to Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, or Timbuktu.... We will not be traveling to far Tibet to ride the Everest Elevator in the Yeti Shopping Mall and Sherpa Funpark. Hell, we wouldn't even be going to the second floor of the local library.
    The other day Dude and I were grocery shopping after a successful GameStop run. It had been a couple of weeks since he had qualified for a Smiley-Face game and he was quite excited about the whole thing, as a matter of fact he had been creeping me out all morning. Our stairway is enclosed from the living room, with a one-step landing at the bottom. David would periodically lurk (there's no other word for it) just off the landing on the first step, exposing only half his body and one eye to the room. I would occasionally catch a shadow of movement out of the corner of my eye and, slightly startled, would turn to see a familiar hazel orb peering around the corner. I'd roll my eyes and say, 'Not yet David.' and the eye would disappear with a grumble sounding suspiciously like, 'Uhhh, This is what a chick must feel like.' as his footsteps faded upstairs.
    We were nearly finished with our resupply when we were stopped by the mother of one of Alayna's friends. We rarely actually meet, but she's a nice, if somewhat absent-minded lady. Mostly she can't remember our names. I usually let that slide, because half the time I'll be damned if I can remember hers. (My lack of name memory is legendary. I once asked a new acquaintance 3 times in an hour what his name was.... Yep, you guessed it, it was Dave.) As I said, she's a nice woman, but really not prepared for the verbal onslaught that ensued as soon as she started trying to talk to Dave. He immediately broke in with our (?) plan to go to Chicagovegasnewkansascitystan and pillage all the elevators there, and then regaled her with a detailed account about how he qualified for a new game and how he was going to parlay his current 'good boy' status into a dazzling array of Christmas Points and basically corner the market on XBox and 3DS games. Through this whole barrage Linda (I learned her name after I got home) got what I call 'The Look'. It's that ubiquitous combination of facial expression and body posture that comes over people when they first enter Dudeworld. Its symptoms follow: A slightly hunched position, with head cocked slightly to one side, as if listening for some small noise, (which is definitely not Dude), a politely puzzled expression and
frequent furrowed-brow glances in my direction. I used to try hard to ignore 'The Look', I found it more than vaguely insulting, now I hardly notice it at all except to supply a random (but mostly helpful) translation occasionally.
     After a time I noticed Linda's glances becoming a bit more brow-furrowed and more frequent as well. I dipped into the stream of non-stop sound that is my youngest son and supplied, 'He's been on a Vegas/Chicago kick for a while. I guess there just aren't enough elevators in Pittsburgh.' Dave, who I sometimes can't get to pay any attention to what I say without risking an aneurysm or vocal cord blow-out, heard my soft-ish statement over the sound of his own voice (no mean feat) and broke in, 'YES! He's going to Chicago to ALL the elevators with the Christmas Points and Super Mario II for the XBox 360!' And while we were trying to puzzle that one out, 'He gets ALL the Christmas Points for the System (3DS) and the Xbox with Kinect games! Then he goes to the Kansas City next summer to the Airport and the Hotels with the elevators!'
     Okay, I've dealt with David for nearly 2 decades and I was having a problem sorting this one out into something coherent. Linda had absolutely no chance at all. I almost felt sorry for her as she stumbled through her farewell and started moving slowly off in the opposite direction she'd been headed when she found us. 'Bye!' Dave said cheerily, taking no notice of the wreck he'd made of this woman's psyche, 'See you next summer at the Kansas City!' I'm pretty sure she wasn't mumbling to herself when she left, but I can't really be  completely certain. Although I am sure that when we went past the next aisle, where she was pretending to look at paper plates, she did a reasonably good imitation of someone who'd never seen either of us before in her life. Nobody, not even me, is that absent-minded. But Dudes don't care about that sort of thing, so we just continued our Imperial Progress to the checkout and then back to the Dudelair.
   A couple of days later I made something I call Cheaters Lasagna or Short-cut Lasagna, it's a quicker way to get really good lasagna before you actually expire from hunger. Considering Dude's pasta/cheese/sauce dependency it's actually his perfect food, and he loves Lasagna in all it's many and varied forms. Also, with lasagna you get garlic bread, which is a big bonus.
    Now, to my family, meals are as much a social occasion as a chance to refuel, so as often as not the actual eating of the food is drawn out by many interruptions for conversation. David doesn't seem to need to pause in his feeding for talking so he can get it done a lot quicker than the family average. For his meals at home David likes to sit in the dining room, and since the rest of us are TV junkies he's usually sitting in there by himself. He's not isolated or anything, there's a huge entryway between the living and dining rooms and he's only sitting in clear view about 15 feet away from me, he just likes to sit at the table. Well on Lasagna Night
we had more than the usual compliment of eaters in the house and virtually every space in the living room was taken up so I took my food to the dining room and set up shop.
     Shortly after I sat down Dude said something that ended with, '...and he needs to know the Password.' To which I immediately replied, with a steamy, cheesy forkful in my hand, 'The password is Lasagna!' Without a pause Dave returned with , 'Lasagna! Password correct.' Then after a slight pause, to check with the Central Database I assume, 'Password accepted. Table access granted.' Which was a huge relief for me, as I had nowhere else to eat my dinner. Thankfully, when eating with David, one need not hold up any part of a conversation, so I could concentrate on the wonderful food I'd prepared (no kidding, it really was) while Dude, without the need to breathe, (I haven't yet found his gills, but I'm sure he has them) carried both sides and the middle of about 4 different conversations at the same time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Moving Day (Week, Month):

Moving 'Day'... Yeah, right. Remember your last move. Now think about it again. Now dredge up those repressed nightmares and think about it one more time. Did it take one day? No, it fucking well didn't. 4 months of looking at listings. 3 months of viewing houses. 6 weeks of scrambling for stuff and waiting on the title company. 4 days of packing and 2, count 'em, 2 days of shuttling all your stuff from one house to another, then 3 more days going back for the crap you forgot or couldn't fit in any of the other trips. And then months getting everything 'just the way you want it'. Ben Franklin once said, 'Two removes equal one fire.' I can relate. I know he was talking about all the stuff you got rid of because you either; A: Decided you didn't need anymore. B: Found that secret stash of broken crap that you thought you might one day fix, but now have decided to throw away. Or C: Didn't know what the hell you were doing with, or couldn't remember buying in the first place. Or D: Couldn't figure out how you got all this stuff into one house and started flinging crap out the windows for the buzzards to pick over. (Okay, Ben may not have meant 'D') What I'm talking about is the bare fact that I was more than ready to spray lighter fluid over the house, flick a match at it, and then start all over in the new place, and not tell any of my old stuff the new address in case there were any survivors.
    The main problem with that is that you always think of an exception. 'Oh, we can't live without...' whatever it is. Motorcycle, cat, car, TV,... youngest child, it doesn't matter. As soon as you allow one exception to the flames it just opens the door for something else, and then something else, until the only things that seem to actually get throw away end up being your own stuff.
     Dude has been excited about the move, and since we've started making exceptions to the bonfire plan I suppose he's coming with us. Of course he's been telling everyone at school and on the bus that we're going to the 'New house in Chicago'. A clever attempt to save the ruins of his 'Trip to Chicago' plan that he's been trying to gain support for all summer. I've been to Chicago, and it's a wonderful place. I have relatives that have lived there all their lives, and they love it. They seem to like me too, but I'm pretty sure they don't like me well enough to invite us to come live with them. They couldn't afford the GameStop bill.
    So we were doing it the oooooold fashioned way. Planning on years of debt just so we could decide whether or not we could poke holes in the walls to put up our Penguins pictures. (The NHL team, not the bird). David was very excited. It's sometimes difficult to tell why exactly he gets excited, or what he's excited about, being as the new house wasn't coming with a GameFly membership, or a lifetime supply of Mac&Cheese. He seemed to be especially interested in us filling boxes and what we were putting in them. When we explained that we were packing all our stuff so that we could take it to the new house, he made some noises of approval and went about his business. We went back to asking each other, 'Where the hell did this come from?' and diligently writing a description on each box. Even though we knew there was no way we'd ever figure out what was in them without ripping them open anyway. After thinking it over for a time David came to the startling (to us) conclusion that when we said that we were boxing up 'our' stuff, and since we didn't immediately start in his room (where all the really important stuff was) that we weren't intending on taking any of his stuff with us.
   He began hovering around the edges of where ever Raine or I were packing. Which was sometimes difficult because we were rarely in the same room. This seriously cut into his game-time, but he persevered and continued to hover at the edges of our packing.
     After we had packed up enough stuff to start cursing at boxes, but still too early to get a truck, I decided to shuttle everything out to the garage one afternoon right after David came home. So he and I started
carrying boxes out to the garage. He was a really big help, and seemed to be all about getting stuff out of the house and pre-staging it in our outbuilding. He didn't seem at all concerned with the fact that Raine soon wouldn't have any room to park. In fact, the more room we used up the more he seemed to like it. Although for the next couple of days he kept heading for the garage to get into the car instead of heading the curb where it was actually parked.
    After about an hour there were no more filled boxes, so I told Dave that was it and headed for the front room to check... important TV stuff. Dude followed me into the living room and as I started to sit down he said, 'He needs to pack the system and the TV!' I tried to tell him that we weren't actually moving anything yet, just getting ready. He really didn't seem satisfied with the answer, but Dad's butt had already made contact with couch and he knew that was the end, so he grumbled his way back upstairs and that was that.  Or so I thought.
   Dude was very enthusiastic about the move for the next couple of days. Very. Enthusiastic. He had his nose in nearly every box that was packed and he'd cruise periodically through the house to make sure he hadn't missed any. It was almost like a kind of reverse-Christmas. By that I mean, we weren't shopping for new stuff, we were taking stuff we already owned and putting them in boxes, taping them up and took them out of the house, instead of the reverse. But that didn't curb Dude's enthusiasm one bit. I was extolling his excitement to Raine one evening when David was walking through the room, so I said, "Dude! You all ready to move?" Dude doesn't do facetious. He immediately grabbed a DVD rack and started heading for the door.
'Whoa, whoa, whoa!!!' I quickly said, holding out a hand to stop him.'It's not time to load yet.' He got his stubborn look on his face, and took another step with the rack. 'The truck's not even going to be here for 2 more days.'
    'He has to get the System and the Games, and the movies on the truck!' He said, not backing down one bit. Sometimes there's no arguing with a Dude (big or little), so I let him take the racks out to the garage and then back to his room and games he went, with a smile on his face. Just one step closer to 'his' new house and room.
    I've moved several times in my career and one thing has always amazed me. How many 'helpful' people suddenly have 'things' come up when the day actually comes to be helpful. If all the people I've helped move suddenly showed up to one of mine the whole thing would take 15 minutes and I wouldn't have to pick up so much as a toothpick. As it stands it was Yours Truly and Raine's son ended up doing all of the heavy lifting on Sunday, (except for the 4 hour 'lunch' his father took him to) and 'Layne's boyfriend helped me on Tuesday (Monday was paper signing day) and we very nearly stuffed a 24 foot truck. Alexis (my niece) was golden. Not only did she take several loads over to the house with her pickup, but she kept Dude interested and busy once he came home.
   FINALLY it was time for Dude to pack up all the stuff in his room and nothing else mattered but getting that stuff out of the house at once. So he and Alexis immediately brought his boxes out into the garage staging area once they were done packing. Dave doesn't do 'staging areas'. He brought the box with some of his games in it (they wouldn't all fit in one box he could carry. I'm not sure they'd all fit in a box I could carry) and immediately walked out into the alley and started up the ramp into the truck.
     Alexis and Robert stopped him before he could make it all the way up the ramp, telling him it wasn't time for that box to go into the truck yet. He stopped on the ramp, looking stubborn (I think I've seen that face before... in the mirror) and said, 'He has to get the games and the systems into the truck. So they can go to the new house... in Vegas!' (He's been pushing a move to Vegas for a couple of months) (Ain't happening) The two 'meanies' told David to bring the box back into the garage until it was time for them to be loaded. He somehow managed to look both stubborn and dejected as he brought the box back down the ramp and into the garage. I was draining a bottle of water and didn't say anything. Dude put the box down in the middle of the floor and hovered over it, hands fluttering, facing the truck, looking pitiful. It was obvious to me that he was going nowhere until that particular box was safely in the truck.
   'Dude.' I said, once I'd finished my water. 'Why don't you put that box in the truck?' My two other 'minions' (Okay, so I've seen Despicable Me too many times) stared at me with betrayed dumbfounded looks on their faces. I shrugged. 'It was time to put the box in the truck.' Dave didn't wait for any explanation, he lifted the box so quickly I thought it was going to end up in the attic, and the garage doesn't even have an attic. He clomped quickly up the ramp and disappeared into the truck. Some soft banging ensued and the truck, all 12,000 pounds of it, rocked gently for a few moments while he put the box, just so... 3 or 4 times by the sound of it. He emerged with a huge grin on his face and bolted back down the ramp so quickly his knees buckled when he got to the bottom. He then sped back into the house, without waiting for Alexis, to go and get more boxes... his boxes. Then we got back to loading the less important stuff in the truck.
   Then came the moment we all (Dude) were waiting for. The ride in the truck. Robert, Dude, and I all climbed up into the cab, Dude babbling the entire time 'He has to get into the truck to go to the new house, in Vegas!' So off to the new house (still not in Vegas) and as the sky darkened we unloaded several decades worth of 'valuables' into the house. This was to take several hours and much back-bending labor. Since David won't have anything to do with any sentence that starts with or contains the word 'labor' in it and since I'm no rookie with moving or Dudes I immediately sent him to his new, if empty room with his 3DS xl and a carry-case full of games. Soon though, he had bed, dresser, clothes, shelves, systems and games delivered to his room (as any potentate in his new castle would) and all was (basically) right with the (his) world.
   I know there are people somewhere that actually buckle down and organize everything just the way it goes almost before the last box is off the truck. I'm not one of those people,  I don't know any of these people, and I really think they're in need of an exorcism or at least some intense therapy... Thorazine therapy. We got the basics all sorted out, clothes and furniture mostly in the proper rooms, crap we weren't so worried about jammed in the basement and the backyard shed.
    Perhaps not so strangely, the kitchen was mostly sorted out and the couch, the big TV and BluRay were set up in the front room in time for the all important Pizza Delivery. But even several weeks later we're still leaving huge mounds of boxes every Thursday for the garbage men, and still haven't put anything up on the walls yet. So it was a couple of weeks in before I could take advantage of the built-in shelves on either side of the fireplace to actually retire a couple of DVD racks into Dude's room.
    'Dude,' I stopped him as he was whipping through the front room, 'do you want some shelves for your games?' (Silly dad, any question with 'games', the answer is yes) 'Yes!' he exclaimed (see? I told you) 'He needs some shelves for the games!' He immediately grabbed the small tower shelf out of my hands and started lugging it up the steps. This from the kid who treats lugging the cat litter like being sentenced to the Chain Gang even though they weigh about the same. He made his grunting way up the stairs and then we heard things being slid and transferred around upstairs. I waited a few moments for him to come back down, and when he didn't immediately reappear I yelled up the steps, 'Dude!' 'Who is it?' Came the reply. I rolled my eyes, 'Do you want the shelves that go with that, or what?' I don't know who his Special Effects people are, but they're good. Dude magically appeared in front of me, saying excitedly, 'Yes! He needs the shelves for the games and DVD's!' I tried not to show how impressed I was with his FX people, 'I think you need 4 shelves with that, right?'  'YES! He needs the 4 shelves to hold the games for the system!' I reached into the appropriate box (it was still on the floor in the front room) gave him the shelves and, poof! he disappeared again. I've got to hire those people for my next party.
    I sat back down on the couch while Raine looked at me suspiciously. She quirked an eyebrow at me. 'You know, with those shelves,' she pointed at the wall, 'we really don't need those 4 towers.'
   'I know.' I said blandly.
   'Dude could use those shelves for his games and actually put books on his bookshelves.'
   'Probably could.' I said in the same tone.
   She looked at me with a certain amount of amused disgust, 'You're terrible, you know that?'
   'I know.' I said, using the same bland tone.
   I waited a certain arbitrary amount of time before 'DUDE!' thundered through the house again. (We did have the house structurally inspected before we moved in)
   Whenever anyone interrupts David by calling him out of his room he acts just like one of those grumpy Lab Guys in the movies. You know, the ones that act as if even the end of the world isn't important enough to interrupt their vital research. He grumps and scowls, and complains then opens his door and asks something
like 'What is it?' in a grumpy voice.
    'You want more shelves for your Games?' 'YES!!' The grumpy-ness magically disappeared. 'He needs more shelves for the Games and the Movies!!' Once again he materialized in front of me. 'Now he'll have more room for more movies and games!' He snatched the tower out of my hands and grunted his way up the stairs again, giving himself advice the whole time. 'Be Careful.' 'Don't scrape the walls.' and 'Don't drop the shelves taking them up to your room.' All spoken with barely suppressed excitement, and an almost exact recital of the advice I'd given him on the first trip. I think he set an Olympic Record in the Snatch and Carry in the DVD rack Division. It wasn't very long before he was back down the stairs saying 'He needs the FOUR shelves for the rack so he can hold the movies and games!' He found me at the bottom of the stairs, holding said shelves out for his retrieval. He then, once again, whisked himself up to the second floor, not to be seen until the next morning.
    One new thing with the new house: We're trying a new policy. It's called the Let Dude Organize his own Room Policy. I put a couple of the big things where I want them, but I never touched those towers once I'd handed them to David. This may have been something of a mistake. So far I've seen them in 4 different places in a 10x12 room with a bed, dresser, long low bookshelf and a 3x3x4 foot oak storage box in it. At least he hasn't asked me to move his dresser out into the hallway... yet.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Happy Hallow-Where the Hell Are You-een:

Halloween is a wonderful time for kids. And I, behind this linebacker-like facade, am a really big kid. A really big kid with theater experience. When Dave was about 5 and we were staying with them, I helped my nieces (Alexis-11, Kirbi-8, and Alyssa-5) with their holiday attire, bouncing around like a Broadway costumer on opening night. I also dressed David up like a pirate, complete with head-rag, gold hoop earring (plastic), genuine-fake scar and eye patch. (No sword, no parrot, no way) The eye patch ended up on his forehead, the earring didn’t make it much past the front door, and the head rag needed constant re-adjustment, but we had a blast. Due to his medications, or his own inclination, David never developed a taste for candy. What he did develop a taste for was walking up to random strangers’ doors and being given stuff. Also, there was that brief glimpse of what lay behind all those mysterious doors. Not to mention that the doors themselves hold a certain fascination for David anyway. My sister lived in a small pocket-suburb of ranch-style and duplex homes in northern St. Joe and Dude tried to drag me up every sidewalk in the subdivision. He didn’t know, or care, that only the houses with lights on were giving stuff out. He’d say, “Next Dad!” and haul me down the street,  nearly pulling my arm out of the socket trying to get up to the next house, lit or not. But as I said, it was a wonderful time, weather in the Heartland had co-operated for once with a balmy, clear night. Semi-supervised groups of kids were drifting around laughing, talking too loud, exchanging ‘treat-intel’ and dashing off for the next goodie-grab. Adults traded slightly embarrassed, but beatific smiles and small shrugs at their antics. Small annoyances broke in occasionally, but not anything you’d remember looking back on it, unless you were the one participating in the annoying act. But sooner or later Trick-or-Treat ends and it’s time for kids to gather like dragons in caves and gloat over their hoards. Dave didn't care what happened to the candy, so I took what I wanted and parceled the rest out. Eventually even sugar-buzzed kids go to sleep and, after turning out the last of the lights, I sat out on the front porch and thought to myself, ‘This was a good day.’
            Unfortunately certain aspects of that day would come back to haunt me like Marley’s ghost for the next year or so. And I’m not talking about bellyaches either. David took it into his head that walking up to people’s houses was just naturally part of any day, not just the ones you wear a costume for. And since, except for Halloween, he’d never been to a house that he didn't have an open invitation to just walk into, that was just what he did. At arbitrary intervals, just to check ‘ole Dad’s blood pressure, David would slip out of
the house, wander down the street pick a house at random, and walk right in. The first time this happened was about 2 weeks after All Hallows Eve, I looked around after fixing our lunch to find myself Dude-less. It doesn't take long to search a duplex, even with a basement and attached garage but I’m sure I set the record. After re-checking 3 times that I hadn't somehow missed him I still hadn't used more than 10 minutes of panic-induced terror, and I still had plenty more to burn.
            You see, with an atypical child you have all the agony that any other parent would feel upon discovering that your 5 year old is suddenly missing, with the added dimension that even if his disappearance is innocuous he’ll never be able to give anyone even the slight information a regular kindergartner could be expected to give. In most cases the child can’t even tell anyone that this biker/hippy looking guy actually is his father. So mostly you’re banking on random chance to bring the two of you back together, and in a town of 80,000 those chances aren't good. To add to even that level of terror, Dave has absolutely no sense of personal danger. Puppies, kittens, speeding cars or alligators, it’s all the same to him.
            I called the police (they were to learn to love me) while testing the limits of Anne’s cordless phone, to inform them of my plight and the danger to the public at large if anything had happened to my son, but was not able to wait around for the pre-Amber alert wheels of justice to start turning and started to stalk the streets. It’s normally very quiet in the ‘Burbs during the day, while most of the people are off to work and the kids are in school. The birds are tweeting and the crickets chirp their little songs. But I have a voice that can (and does) cause windows to ring and small to medium sized objects to fall off shelves 20 feet away, and I had the volume cranked to ‘11’, frantically calling Dave’s name while looking under every shrub and car and into every back yard and porch in the neighborhood. Actually it couldn't have been 15 minutes or so before the first car arrived and found me 2 blocks away from the house calling Dave’s name and madly scouring the area
Just after the first cops pulled away from me to search the surrounding neighborhoods a dainty lady in her 70’s opened her side door and asked, “Are you looking for a little boy?” I spun on her and almost screamed “Yes! Do you have one?” I must have looked a sight, because she took a quick step back and brought the open door further between us at a speed I wouldn't have assumed she still possessed. Peeking around the left hip of her print dress was a set of hazel eyes I was very familiar with. He didn’t seem to be concerned with his inevitable destruction. He didn't even try to hide behind the door! As soon as he saw me he cheerily said, ‘Dad!’ like ‘where have you been?’ he rudely pushed past the nice older lady whose house
he had invaded, and strolled down the walk directly to me. In the midst of that relief rush that cools the sternum and loosens the neck muscles I vaguely heard the woman’s story. It sounded something like this: She had been sitting down to her morning tea and newspaper at her kitchen table when her side-door opens and in strolls this 5 year old boy. (many Midwesterners don’t even know where their door-keys are, let alone actually use them)  He looked nothing like any of her grandchildren, (and a good thing too, I think they lived in N Carolina and that’s a long walk) but he immediately sits down at her kitchen table and begins reciting lines from Winnie the Pooh, and The Legend of Zelda, treating her like an old friend who should have been expecting  a visit.
As she’s wrapping up her story, and I’m just about to interrupt and ask why she didn’t call the police, the two cops pull up to inform me that a woman had reported a strange child in her kitchen. (Why she didn’t call animal control, I’ll never know) Many embarrassed explanations, assertions of gratitude, several ‘Oh, it was nothing’s and a lecture by two cops who watched too many Andy Griffith episodes growing up followed in rapid succession. After the dust had settled I walked David back to the house, sternly lecturing him on why causing heart palpitations to his custodial parent is never a good idea. I often get the idea that to Dude I sound like one of those parents in a Peanuts cartoon… ‘Whaaa wahh, wuh whaaa waah waaaa.’ Upon reaching the house I did not pass go, I did not collect $200, I immediately dragged my youngest offspring to the nearest hardware store to look into and purchase items to secure the little Papillon to his own personal Devil’s Island. There followed many manly things done with power tools and screwdrivers to upgrade his prison to ‘Supermax’ status. Despite the added security the bloodhounds had to be called out 2 more times in the next 7 months, culminating in an exciting trip around two corners and across an incredibly busy and dangerous 4 lane state highway, just rife with dump trucks semis and impatient drivers, to get to his favorite convenience store. Luckily the attendants recognized David and called the cops. Who, by this time, also recognized him from a brief description and called me immediately. I was already out canvassing the neighborhood, but didn’t think he’d ever go that way. As soon as I heard, I bolted out of the subdivision and was nearly run over twice trying to get across the highway.  And, if I wasn’t terrified enough, the counter-lady describing her horror at watching him cross that deadly road would have done it. David’s fate would have been sealed, except that I had a flash-back of two incidents, one from my own childhood and the second from my oldest child.
One afternoon when I was about 5 or 6 my sister, Deb (one year younger) and I were following mom around the block while she was knocking on doors and bothering other women for some church thing
or another, when my sister needed to use the bathroom. Due to some Midwestern etiquette that I’m still not certain about, it was decided that I take her to our bathroom and return. Since we were only two houses away, mom watched us walk down the alley and turn into the correct yard, but unfortunately underestimated the speed of our return, mostly due to the fact that although the sun was still out, the inside of the house was getting dark, and that, evidently, had the power to dry up my sister’s bladder almost at once. Unknowing, Mom allowed herself to be briefly invited into her friend’s house. When my sister and I returned, mom was gone. After what seemed like an interminable amount of time (to a 6 year old) and unwilling to return to an empty, dark house, it seemed to me that the only logical thing to do was to drag my sister 10 winding blocks to the grocery store my father managed downtown. (I was 6, I’m not sure actual logic was involved) Without one wrong turn we arrived at the store, only to find out that my father had been called away. It seems his children were missing. The events of the rest of that evening are, thankfully, a repressed memory which I have no interest in calling back.
The incident with my daughter Heather occurred the very first time, after she had become mobile, that I was allowed to watch her unsupervised. She was just about 18 months old, and we lived in a mobile home near the small Coke bottling plant (then closed) my grandmother owned in the middle of the residential part of town. I was lying on the couch reading in that almost-dozing state when you can’t tell if you’re awake or asleep, when I noticed the quiet. David may be the noisiest of my children, but none of them have ever been quiet unless something was up. Sometimes they even make noise while they’re sleeping. Thinking that perhaps she had taken an impromptu nap, I went in her room to put her in bed, but when I got in there… no baby. Even a three bedroom mobile home only takes so long to search. Once again, no baby. I checked the doors, certain that I’d locked them both but finding that thought was slightly incorrect. The front door had not been secured. I frantically searched the ¼ block square trailer park, even looking under the trailers to no avail. Knowing I was a dead man, and that no one would ever trust me with their offspring again (and admitting that they probably shouldn’t. I didn’t even trust me with my offspring), I walked back into my house to call the police and make public what I already knew; that I was a bad parent. Just as I picked the phone up off the breakfast bar I heard a giggle and a WAM! That sounded suspiciously like Heather giggling as she took a wooden spoon to the bottom of a pan. I quickly scanned the area but didn’t see her. Not knowing if the sounds were just a figment of a desperate and guilty conscience I waited breathlessly for more noise knowing that having my genes make it impossible to remain quiet for long. I was so focused on listening for my daughter I almost dropped the phone when it started shrieking from being off the hook for so long. More of the suspicious giggling ensued, so I followed the sound to its source under the sink and when I
opened the cabinet door I saw the brightest blue eyes under that familiar cap of white-blond hair, look up at me like, ‘Oh! Aren’t you so clever to have found me!’ She showed me her wooden spoon then proceeded to whale the tar out of the bottom of the baking pan she had in her other hand, giggling the whole while. Where was this noise during my paranoid scouring of the mobile home? My legs decided to take a vacation at this point and the next sound I heard was my butt hitting the linoleum of the kitchen floor. I’m sure it puzzled my first wife when I bought a box of cabinet locks and installed them in the kitchen that weekend,
but luckily for me the local news did a segment on Child Safety in the Home, so I didn’t have to admit to a thing.

So you see, my children have long made a habit of scaring the crap out of me. The only consolation is that it seems to be genetic. And I can hope that it will be passed on to allow the next generation to engender my revenge. Still, that’s no consolation at all when you’re trying to decide whether it’s worse to call the cops or the mother of your child to report your son missing, or if you should just ease on over the border into Mexico. I know it’s about 1200 miles due south of Atchison but you don’t know how tempted I was.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

It's a Miracle!!!:

 Dave was not feeling well for a couple of days. He had an upset stomach, and a slight fever. It slowed him to the point that he didn't even want to finish his Mac&Cheese for lunch! We had appointments to look at houses, and I needed to get some Imodium and Tylenol into him just about as quickly as it could be done. We immediately repaired to the nearest alchemist and dosed the hell (and hopefully diarrhea) out of Dude. Watchful and careful, and sniffing the air continuously, we continued on our merry (?) way.
   I may have mentioned that one of David's obsessions is doors. If doors are standing open, they must be shut. If doors are shut they must be opened. If you have just traveled through a door into a house/building/garage/barn/outhouse it must not only be closed, but locked firmly behind you. (or just in front of you, if you're not quick enough to get through it with him.) He is the unofficial doorman to the world. I've lost count of the times that he's rudely brushed by me to politely hold a door for someone else, 'Right this way sir/ma'am, come on in!' , only to let the door close in my face so that he could get the next one. There are only 2 exceptions to this rule, and only one of them is absolute. The doors in our house are protected from Dude-molestation by dint of Dad's irritation. Translation: he (mostly) doesn't mess with the doors of the house because he knows it will get him yelled at. The absolute exception to the politeness rule is (as you may have guessed) elevator doors. Woe be on he or she (or even 5 year old girl) who tries to stain the sanctity of the Holy Elevator while Dude is in residence. He has peremptorily ordered little girls, old women, men and entire families to halt before they get into his elevator.
    He has ranged far and wide in his pursuit of doors. Literally. This is a longer story for another time, but while staying with my sister Anne, over one school year, to be her big, ugly, hippy-nanny, search teams had to be called on several occasions (and the cops twice) when he decided to go 'walkabout' to find new doors.  So, taking Dude on a house-hunting expedition is a lot like taking a fox on a hen-house tour. With similar results.
    Real estate agents have a new system that both Dude and I think is really neat. They each have what amounts to a garage-door opener that they point at a little safe looped and locked over a doorknob and a little drawer falls out of the bottom of it with the keys inside it. I merely thought it was a cool and clever way to get to see a house without having to go through another agent to get a key. Dude was fascinated. He leaned all the way over to get a close look at the process and the technology until he was actually hindering the agent's ability to see just what the hell she was doing. We had 4 houses to look at that day and Dude was certain that each one of them was our (his) new house. Hell, for all I know, perhaps he thought all of them were his new houses to be used on a rotating basis. Since they obviously (but mysteriously) weren't the doors to our current house, they didn't fall under the 'leave the doors alone' ban. 4 houses, 5-10 doors apiece and none of them were safe. He locked us diligently into every house we entered, tested every door, every jam, every cabinet, and everybody's patience.
    But if you looked you could see that halfway through each house he started to slow down, be a little quieter. Doors weren't slamming quite so loudly. He was staying a bit closer to me and by the end of each 'visit' he was just that much quieter during the trip to the next house. After the fourth there was a suspicious amount of silence from the back seat. After repeated answers of 'I'm fine' to our concerned queries began to sound more than a bit tired and forced we turned into the parking lot that leads to our most-frequented McDonald's.
    If I were still a practicing Catholic I'd call the Pope and put this down as one of the Miracles proving Ronald McDonald's sainthood, or at least Ray Kroc's.
    As soon as we turned the corner enough for him to make out the 'Golden Arches' a transformation came over my son, just as he was at Death's door. 'I'M FEELING MUCH BETTER NOW!' came rocketing out of the back seat. We all chuckled, thinking how cute it was. But we were unaware of the true extent of Dude's (now-former) plight. 'I... I think I can start feeling my fingers now.' he continued in a tremolos voice. 'Yes! And I can feel my legs again' As we made the turn to go around the building to get to the drive-thru line: 'IT'S A MIRACLE! I can walk again!!'  At which point I almost creamed the little arch sign at the entrance with the car. We were all cracking up so much I almost couldn't order the meal that would (supposedly) actually cure my son. But we got it done, and went home with our bag(s) full of miracles (cheeseburgers).
     I hate to say it, but we must have ordered our miracle off the Dollar Menu, because not only did Dude only eat one cheeseburger and some fries, leaving another burger and nuggets, but he immediately dragged himself upstairs and, along with just about everyone else, took a nap through the rest of the afternoon. But I'm sure that he'll be terrorizing doors and potential elevator passengers soon enough. And I'll just have to remember the, not quite, miraculous healing powers of the Mighty


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Not a Good Day:

Sign for my lower back... Think about it
I wasn't going to post this... ever. It's taken me almost a year to write it. I've given it up about 8 times, but I keep coming back after a few weeks and writing a little more. I've only even told the story to a couple of people. One of those people referenced this story the other day, and it brought me back to finish it. And now that it's finished (more or less) I guess it's time to let it go.

   Lest anyone think that all is sweetness and light and gummy bears  in the Dude-verse I drop this little gummy bear on the screen(no one eats gummy bears here). I wasn't ever going to post this, but, now that I have, I'd like to premise it by saying, most of what happened was all my fault. Mea Maxima Culpa, to dredge up some handy Lapsed-Catholic Latin. Whether I post it or not, it's going to be tough to write, and possibly tougher to read. But needs must drive the wagon, so to speak. And today needs must drive the keyboard.

    This year (2012) hasn't been a good one. I mean some pretty good things happened, but in the balance scales of coolness, this year sucked more often than not. Most especially, the time from April on seems to be stacking up weights on the sucky side of the scales. Dude's seizure, Raine's mom's protracted hospital-shuffle and death, her (divorced) father dying a few months later, Dude's medical excursions, and lack of a home-health aide for a crucial week drained both Raine and my vacation and work time to the point where both of us where getting the 'long-face' from our superiors at work. You know, the one they show you right before they tell you the front door is now only an exit. Raine's siblings, other than one step-sister (yay Irene!) had taken on the aspects of hapless hippies when dealing with anything to do with her mother's estate, increasing her stress and drawing out her mourning for her lost parent.

   When a plane crashes, a building falls, a ship sinks or some other disaster happens, the public wants a 'smoking gun'. One simple cause that will neatly tie everything up in a bow and explain its entirety in a 3 minute news bite. Investigators know that this very rarely, or never, happens. it's always a series of innocuous-seeming events, tied together in perfect order, that lead to perfect chaos. Someone doesn't tighten a particular nut, someone steps away from a silent radio for a smoke, someone leans down to pick something up off a floor. Taken separately none of these things would cause any problem, in fact they happen every day, hundreds of times a day and nothing bad ever happens. But strung together in the right order at the right (or wrong) time and very bad things happen.
   So into this bad-year mix, throw in a 'perfect storm' of seemingly innocuous events (some of them actually good things) coming together in exactly 'perfect' order, and the result is, near disaster. Or at least a very Sad Time in Dudeville. And possibly a YouTube video, that I'm afraid to check for.

The Set-Up:
    David turned 18 that year:  While it doesn't mean what it would in a 'typical' teen it still has some meaning in the Dude-verse. He's showing more signs that his delayed-puberty is past the 'delayed' stage. Physically, he's showing more body hair, and he's shot up in height from about 5'-2" to about 5'-8". Psychologically he's become a bit more stubborn and less amenable to control.With some shadows of 'typical' teen-age behavior. And this is to be expected. But he was small for so long it's an adjustment that had been put off for 4 years seemingly crammed into as many months. Months when we were distracted (understandably) by other things. In other words, the timing sucks.
  Dave recently went to State Special Olympics: This is not a bad thing. This is a good, good thing. The problem stems from the fact that he was with people who A: Didn't know him. B: Had other kids to watch. and C: Couldn't effectively discipline David's behaviors during the trip, because of unfamiliarity, State Laws, and the fact that the whole thing was set up to be permissive to the kids.
   Visitation with his mother: Once again, not necessarily a bad thing, but right on the heels of his SO trip (he came home from one and left for the other the same afternoon) without any time to adjust and she's way too permissive in allowing Dave to 'do just what he wants to do' and treat people how he wants to treat them.
    Unusually Permissive Dad: When Dave got home I was so stoked with the memory of how happy he was in a group of his peers, just being Dude that I allowed quite a few seemingly minor things to slip that I wouldn't normally let him get away with.
     Busted: Dave got busted breaking a series of house rules all on the same day. Taking things from 'Layne's room, insubordination to the Health-Aide, bathroom training and two or three others. They didn't all happen on that day. But through spectacular timing they all came to light within about a 45 minute period. Partially because I'd finally pulled my head out of my ass and started paying attention to what was going on.

   So after returning all the stuff he took, and losing, one after another, GameStop trip, his 3DS and the and being put in the corner for 5 minutes, Dave was pissed. I mean really pissed. But, then again, so was I, and stubborn too. (So is he, but I've been stubborn longer) Come Hell or high water I was going to go on the errand that I wanted to go on before all of this foolery started, and that was that. (stubborn? me? nah!) We all piled in the car and went to Lowe's to look for, if I remember correctly, shelves for my clothes. Didn't turn out to be such a good idea. Like any kid, Dude will try to get away with more things in public than at home. Especially if he's in an agitated or excited state.
controller to his 360, and his Game Boy,
    At Lowe's Dave snubbed Raine and then pushed past her in the aisle. She immediately did what we usually do in these situations. Took him aside and talked to him about it in a firm but low voice. Dave ignored her and showed some anger; Pulling away, hissing air, and quoting games with an angry voice. So then it was Dad's turn. I pulled him aside again, and promised to take him to where we could more privately have out our differences and that he probably wouldn't like the results. (ie: Take him out to the parking lot to swat him on the butt) This quieted him down a bit, but he was still seething on our way to Ikea (those shelves must have been awfully important) and when we got ready to cross the lot into the store, I told him if he didn't cut it out, he'd be standing in the corner again once we'd gotten home. I'm pretty sure that was the straw... you know, the one that pretty much prevents us from ever returning to Ikea. (Not that they said that, or I'd weep if it happened, but that's the feeling that I got.)
     As soon as we'd cleared the front doors, David shouted, 'I'm taking the elevator!' and took off. I rushed after him yelling for him to stop, and trying to keep him from mowing down the scattering populace. We accidentally cornered a young couple with baby and stroller in the very tiny, four foot square, Ikea elevator. I'm pretty sure they'd just come from the floor above, but had been unable to exit because of the bull-rush of my son into that small space. Dave and I glared at each other during the short ride with him repeating 'NO!' and 'I HATE parents!' every time I tried to speak to him.(which I'd never heard from him before) He also tried an entirely new tack, 'I QUIT!' By which I took to mean that he wished to cease his employment as my son. I'd like to be able to say that I tried calming him down and spoke to him in a soft, calm voice, not physically invading his personal space. But what actually happened was that I made irritated comments and tried to contain him in one corner of the elevator to prevent him from running into the baby's stroller. I do vaguely remember hearing a small trembling voice telling me that the second floor opened the opposite door than the one we'd come into, meaning the door that I had my son cornered against was about to open. Just about then the elevator reached the second floor and Dave shot out the door and into the room displays.
     I just managed to catch him at the edge of one of the displays and the IKEA portion of our WWF tour ensued. I was no longer interested in the damned shelves, I just wanted to get the hell out of the store without wearing handcuffs or having to abandon my son to the mercies of the Dutch furniture elves that inhabit IKEA every night. I kept trying to coerce and/or drag David to the steps, but he wasn't having any of it, and for a short, skinny kid: Man, is he strong! I'm also strong, but I was trying no to hurt him. He had no such compunctions in the opposite direction, he just wanted to get the hell away from me. What followed was a blur of wresting Dudes until I finally had to grab him by one ankle and drag him over to the stairs, where I put him next to the railing at the top step and sat down between him and the rest of the floor, breathing heavily.
  If all this weren't bad enough, 2 older men walked up behind us and started berating me about my actions.  And under 'normal' circumstances they wouldn't have been wrong, one of us did, indeed need help, it just wasn't the one they thought. I was sore, tired, pissed, embarrassed and my feelings were hurt AND I was sitting at the top of Ikea's steps, after having a very public wrestling match with my son, trying to catch my breath. Not a good combination when you're being a belligerent, self-righteous idiot around me.
  The 2 guys were voicing their concern, and despite my overdose of adrenalin I quite calmly (I thought) told them, ' You don't understand what's going on. He's autistic, we're having a problem. Just back off a little bit.' That pretty much used up my entire supply of patience and understanding for the day. When the older guy actually stepped up closer and called up some righteous anger, telling me that he 'knows what he saw' and 'understood what he needed to' and that I was some sort of inhuman monster-ish thing who'd just tried to throw his child down the steps (wtf?), I'd had enough. I didn't move an inch, or turn my head, but my voice dropped an octave and there was (I heard later) a definite growl to it. 'Mr., I don't give a fuck who you are, or what the fuck you think you're doing. You don't know what the hell you're talking about, so back the fuck off!' Then, when I turned my head and glared at the offending moron, (who was oblivious) his buddy saw something in my face that didn't bode well for the retired whatever-he-was, and grabbed his shoulder to pull him back away from me. 'I've called the police!' #2 guy said nervously, probably as some sort of protective talisman for his buddy, 'They're already on their way!' As soon as they'd backed up 4 or 5 feet away from me, I could have cared less what they'd done, would do, or even who they did it to. 'Good', I said, calming down, 'Just stay the hell away from me.'
    When I looked back the other way there was a knot of yellow shirts on the landing below us. 'Oh good,' I muttered to myself, 'The Moron Patrol just arrived.' By the offended faces of several people in the group, and they were 10 feet away and 6 feet below me, perhaps 'muttered' isn't the right word to use. The manager, who was still trying hard to finish puberty, walked up several steps and was at least smart enough to try to keep things calm, but still too young to actually pull it off. We had invaded his Sacred Halls and Caused a Ruckus, but I give him credit. He was trying to suppress his inner Barney Fife for all he was worth. You could see him almost trembling with the effort. Well, he was trembling with something anyway. I never so much as threatened him with a dirty look but, after things had calmed down a bit, when I stood up he took 2 quick steps down the stairway. I honestly do forget most of the time how intimidating I can appear physically.
   At any rate, the Hitler Youth actually did help a bit. Mostly by getting Thing1 and Thing2 off my back. He scurried them off with a couple of yellow shirts to the office to take their 'statements' and wait for the cops. Then (still from several feet away) he asked me what was needed to get things 'settled down'. He never actually kicked us out of the store, but it was pretty obvious that was exactly what he wanted. Since that was precisely what I wanted too, we had no further problems.
   I finally got Dave back into the elevator (about 8 feet away from the steps) and down to the first floor. Raine, who had been at the bottom of the steps, caught up with us and I asked her to get the car and bring it around to the door, but as soon as we were within the entry way Dude took off, like a shot, out the doors and into the parking lot. And now we get to add abject terror to my emotional stew of that afternoon. I ran after him, screaming for him to stop and praying (no atheists in foxholes) that no one would hit him. Myself, I wasn't worried about at all, cars tend to bounce off of me. (I've been hit 3 times, so far the cars are losing) After chasing him around for a bit I finally got him cornered by one arm on either side of him, against the wall of the building. FINALLY, I started trying to calm him down and disrupt his emotional spiral. I then felt a light touch on my arm. I looked to see a small, entirely un-freaked woman in an IKEA shirt who told me, I'm a special needs para, is there anything I can do to help. Drowning men grasping ropes could have learned a couple of things from me at that point. I immediately and enthusiastically agreed, and we both started trying to calm Dude down.
   As I was the primary focus of his anger, I slowly backed myself out of the situation, leaving her (unfortunately I never got her name) to continue unhindered. Just about the time we'd finally got him back in the car, the cop showed up. Hoping that I was on an upward trend in helpful people (but afraid I wasn't) I walked up to the cop. Who, when everyone pointed in my direction, turned to get my story, and I laid it out for him, making no excuses for the whole thing leading from a series of wrong decisions on my part. I didn't leave out the fact that I'd treated the moron twins badly (well meaning? I don't know. Idiots? Oh yeah), or the reasons that I did it. I then waited for the inevitable lecture. I was fully prepared to take a bunch of crap from some officious jerk who had the position to remonstrate me, but who actually didn't know crap about what he was talking about.
   Let me explain a bit. For most of my life I've been around 5' 10", 250-ish pounds, 50" chest, long blond hair (shoulder length or longer) I have certain gaps in my dentition and I own and wear a 3/4 length trenchcoat, or anything else I damned well please. I seem to startle people that don't know me (and some that do) by being polite. I've been 'queried' by 7 or 9 different jurisdictions of law enforcement personnel on more than two dozen different occasions for the dumbest of reasons.  I've been questioned because I was: taking pictures around (flying) planes, wearing a trenchcoat (on a rainy day), white guy in the wrong neighborhood, for looking out from under an umbrella (once again, raining), stopping to help a guy that collapsed on the side of the road, helping a guy who'd flipped his car, (c'mon, I'm not the Hulk), once for saying 'Hi' to a bike rider passing by my (stopped) car at an intersection, twice for being a long-haired white guy in the 'wrong' neighborhood, and three times for giving a black guy a ride. (I was the only one questioned). Then there was my all time favorite: A Mississippi State Trooper once offered to shoot my earring out. I declined the sharpshooting demo, thank you very much. So I've had some run-ins with some officious jerks hiding behind badges. Don't get me wrong, I've met some really good cops, but mostly it's the other kind that want to 'talk' to me.
   But somebody's got to eventually win the Lotto, right? Well, that day I won the Robinson Township PA Good Cop Lotto. And I didn't even have to buy a ticket. Officer Bryant was calm and encouraging as he listened to my story, and I started to get the feeling that thing were, if not looking up, at least not about to get any worse. He listened to my entire story, and then assured me, after informing me that he too had an autistic son, that he completely understood that sometimes the things we have to do for our children can look very bad to the uninitiated. He would view the security tape, and take statements, but that it was unlikely things would go any further than that. To say I was relieved is an understatement in line with Paul Tibbets saying, 'I dropped the bomb, and it went off.' Even knowing that I still had Dude issues to deal with when I got home didn't soften the relief I felt.
   I knew we'd have trouble when we got there. David was calmer, but still pissed. He still wanted to 'quit' me, and I was almost ready to let him. Since he didn't have any electronics left, and giving them back to him would have been about the third worst idea I'd had that day, even though it'd be easier on the two big kids. Knowing that he needed some kind of outlet, I took him for a walk. He didn't really want to go with me, but I took him anyway. We walked the 2 blocks to a big, open, but completely fenced-in park, and I just let him go wherever he wanted. Once he figured out that every time he headed for one of the gates I'd be there to cut him off, he sat on the grass, in the shade of a small WWII memorial at the front of the park. So I sat on the memorial steps and waited.  Two hard-headed Dutchmen, each trying to wait the other out. He was waiting for me to get tired of this and just go home I think. I was waiting for him to calm down enough to talk to. The nearly irresistible force and the nearly immovable object. But this time, the immovable brought a book.
   I kept reading while I waited and we both sulked for a good 45 minutes or so, then, when I saw Dude's head poke out from behind the memorial and stay there, I started talking to him. Telling him about what was wrong with what happened that day. Both in what he and I had done. He had his lip stuck out the whole time, and there were a couple of 'NOOOO's thrown in there, but I just kept talking calmly and then I started telling him what he had to do to start getting his 'prisoner privileges' back. Once I said the phrase 'Getting
stuff back' his ears pricked up, and his whole attitude began to change. I had to, gently but firmly, step on a couple of demands for 'stuff right now!' and honestly told him that it would be a good, long while before we saw the inside of a GameStop again. He would have to work hard, and get all his stuff back first and then I would tell him when we started earning GS points again. I could tell he thought it sucked, and quite frankly, I agreed, but by the time we walked back to the house we were once again metaphorically stumbling forward instead of looking back, and by the time we'd gotten to the house he had started getting enthused about working for his electronics as he went to his room to read his books.
   I sat down on the couch and Raine watched me silently. I was on the verge of tears. I should have felt something different. I should have had a sense of accomplishment for turning a bad situation around. I could
have been angry with myself for letting it happen in the first place. Embarrassment, chagrin, shame.... something other than what I felt. Sad. Not for myself. I was sad that David can't just be David all the time. I mean, I do feel sorry for myself sometimes because I'm the one that's got to step in with the heavy hand, but that's no big deal. The only way I ever have any negative reaction about my son's 'condition' is when I regret that he'll never just be able to be himself all the time.
  I had to be pretty tough the next couple of weeks until he understood that I actually meant what I said.  We've had some good days, and some bad ones. Nothing to the tune of what happened that day, though. We even put on disguises and went back to IKEA... 6 months later. Well, no disguises, but we did go back. I did eventually go on Youtube and type in 'Long haired man wrestles boy at IKEA'... nothing came up.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Race Strategy:

It's a great day for battle!
     It's that time of year again when our intrepid adventurers embark onto the field of honor to do... uh... honorable battle, to win....uh... honor! Or, to break with tradition and make an actual coherent statement; it's Special Olympics time again!
    Because the weather cooperated (for once) and Raine needed the car to do last minute baby shower things (not that everything we do has to be last minute, it just seems to work out that way most of the time) Dave and I geared up and rode the motorcycle to WBHS (Western Beaver High School) for the festivities. If you've read any of these things you might remember that we've had the occasional problem with showing up on time (like every time) or had problems with the weather, (also every time) but this trip both time and the environment were seemingly cooperating. We even had time for a burrito break (we needed energy, I was told) When that much is going right, something's got to give, so I guess I should have foreseen a problem with the parking people. What the lady wanted me to do was drive my 482.8 pound 7 1/4 foot long (I looked it up) bike into the field with the 4 wheeled conveyances and rest it, on the soft earth with its 2 square inch kickstand pad. That's a recipe for a hernia. As anyone who's tried to sit on a 4 legged chair in the backyard knows, as soon as the weight hits the legs it's gonna sink. Not wanting to come back after the competition to find my motorcycle laying on its side like an old dog, I objected. After a brief discussion on weight displacement
theory we were allowed to park on the asphalt.
Olympic Biker-Dude!
    Dude and I were packing our gear into the saddlebags when one of the guys from his class named Mitch showed up. Mitch is more severely autistic than Dave is and has a harder time making himself understood, but he and I get along pretty well, and he remembers me every year. This year it wasn't difficult to understand what he was trying to convey. He liked the bike. He kept tapping the seat, grunting, and then making the ASL (American Sign Language) sign for 'mother' (who was right behind him) and smiling at me. Dude was having none of it. The Virago is his bike (never mind who holds the paper and pays the insurance) most especially the passenger pad was his seat, and it would not be sullied by the touch of another. Even a classmate. Raine doesn't like riding the bike so we haven't had that particular battle yet.  Anyway, I was trying to keep Dude from confronting Mitch over ownership of the pillion seat when Mamma Mitch showed up (I really, really suck at remembering names) and explained that Mitch absolutely loved motorcycles... from the ground. It seems that his uncle has a Harley and Mitch absolutely will not ride it, but loves checking it out when it's not running. Dude seemed to take this into account and we were able to go our separate ways without any further hints of mayhem.

We're never letting Ashley out.
 We made our way up to the grandstands looking for Ms. Yarosz. Okay, that's a lie. I never actually expect to find Ms Y, I just wander around looking like I'm searching until she finds Dude. I'm pretty sure he's got a GPS tracking dot implanted somewhere that allows her to track him anywhere in the world. And I'm ok with that. 'Cause there's no way that I can find one teacher-needle in a whole teeming stack of teacher-needles mixed up in a stadium full of students, buddies and parents. Although this year, in a stunning feat of planning and forethought, Ms Y had actually sent his event card and lunch ticket in an envelope the night before.  Dave's former aide, Ashley, found us (see? it always works) and in a blur asked me to help her out with her camera, which was the same as mine, but didn't have the cool lens like mine did, and she was jealous. I took a quick second to search through the barrage, and told her I'd find her later. We continued on looking for Ms Y, mostly to rub her nose in the fact that we (after 12 years of trying) had actually made it to the stands before she did. We found out (from the aide who, once again, found us) we'd made it a whole year before she did, because she was sick and didn't even go this year. Oh well... at least the aide found us, which is a good thing, because I'd never even met her before. (Hint: When walking around large groups of people, don't look for anyone, just walk with a Rockstar and everyone will find you.)
   There was some confusion about Dave's first event. He's normally in the Soft Ball Toss, the 50 meter run, and the Standing Long Jump. Has been for the last decade. Having no idea of the true destructive power of my son, someone decided he should throw an 18 pound steel weight around, probably because a softball just doesn't have enough potential for excessive damage. We were already over at the SBT when I finallylooked at his competition tag and saw 'shotput' instead of 'soft(ie:safer)ball'. I immediately dragged my son back to the grandstand area and tried to get this 'typo' corrected, only to find out that it was no typo. So I took David to the exact opposite side of the event so that he could hurl cannonballs around and scatter the (hopefully) fleeing populace.
Dave had a high heat number and while we were waiting one of the event helpers, after seeing David's card, insisted on telling us how he'd won every 100 meter run he'd ever entered when he was participating in Special Olympics. Then he asked me if I wanted to know his strategy, I politely replied that I did. He said that at first he would lag behind, letting his competition become a bit overconfident, and then he would blaze right past all of them in the last 10 meters or so. I told him that was a very good strategy, but at the time Dude didn't seem all that impressed. After quite a bit of wait, it was finally time for his heat. They were giving each kid 2 warm-up throws and 2 tries for the medal.
    There are two things you need to know about Dude. 1: Because of his underdeveloped right thumb he ends up doing many things with his left hand, but David is actually right-handed. 2: Because of his genetic make-up David is an incorrigible ham-bone. (stop laughing Raine!)  So when it came time to hurl the 'Sphere of Death' (shotput) he naturally cradled it in his right hand and let it go. I was slightly ahead of him (but well out of the line of fire) and on his left side. When he made his throw, it turned his body and he saw me
Is this going to make the cover?
with my camera taking his picture. Naturally the next throw was with his left hand... I guess so I could get his good side. That throw wasn't quite as good as the one before and with the coordinator guy encouraging him to throw further and better he once again cradled the shotput in his right hand and let fly. After the throw he once again spies his photobug dad shooting him in profile, and for the last throw he just couldn't stand it, and once again tried a left-handed (but facing the camera) shot. He ended up with a Silver Medal... with one of the right-handed shots, and I ended up with a series of pictures so I guess it worked out for both of us (mostly for him).
    Next up was the 50 meter run. But along the way I had to try to look for Ashley to, I thought, teach her about her camera. Once again travelling with a rockstar worked out for me, and she found us. 'Cause she wasn't where she said she was going to be, and there was no way I was going to be able to find her. Turns out she just wanted one setting explained and once I did that (with Dude tugging me toward the track, 'Got to run the race and get the medal!) I let him drag me over to the 'Almost ready to start waiting to get into the line to start the race' line. There was a nice young girl there left alone to the tender mercies of quite a few more parents than I usually see 'buddying' an event. Oh... and they had no mercy. They badgered her about starting times, heats, kids and who knows what-all else until the poor girl was completely frazzled.
Notice him eyeing the Starting Lady, and her, eyeing him.
  When it was Dave's turn to wait to start I walked about 40 meters down the track to set up my shots. David has had some... interesting notions about the starting and running of races in the past, so when the starter-lady saw who was in the last lane she changed sides to be better able to keep an eye on the little cheater. She got him back behind the starting line (twice) and finally she could start the race. Now, normally, when the races start Dude is off like a shot, but this time he was behind almost everyone after 10 meters. After that it was like he pushed the nitro button and he flew by just about everyone in the next 30. I began to smell a rat (or a ringer) when he looked down the line at the 40 meter mark, saw that he was in the lead, and started grinning. He (as usual) ran right through the finish line and
Turbo Boost activated!
started running around looking for his medal, yelling, 'Yay!! I'm the winner!! That's right! We're number one! All others are number two or lower'  Darting this way and that, making it almost impossible to get a hold of him. He knows that he's got to wait for the timer to get his name and take him over to the table, but he's also torn by his desire to get that gold colored beauty around his neck, so he ends up running in large circles until I, or the timer, grab him.
I got this!

     We finally got him corralled and over toward the line of chairs they have for the runners. The theory is that one woman sits the contestants down in the order in which they finished and then the other lady hands out the medals in that order. It's a wonderful system... until Dude gets involved. He was in no way prepared to wait for his heat's turn to sit in the 'Thrones of Victory' and immediately tried to roust the winner of the last heat out of 'his' chair. I grabbed him by the shoulder and distracted him for the time it took the 'medal lady' to hand out the awards. The 'sitting lady' immediately called his name, and like the conquering hero that he was, he strutted over to his chair and sat down.
    He waited (fairly) patiently for the 'medal lady' to place his accolade around his neck, but once she had and while she was placing the, no doubt lesser, awards on the others he leaned back in his chair like an old campaigner, kicked one leg over the other and said loudly enough to be heard in that chaos, 'Want to know MY strategy? Come on up and I'll tell you all about it!' I almost dropped my camera I was laughing so hard
Want to hear my winning strategy?
. He had heard every word the guy over at the shot-put had said, and decided to try it out for himself. And it worked, the little shit!
  We made our way over to the Standing Long Jump, Mrs Jacobs, at least I still think that's her name, (I hope so, anyway, that's what I called her)  is Ashley's aunt, so we had another visit from her while we were there, and yet another blatant attempt to get me to post her picture here.(what can I say? I'm a soft touch) Due to Dude's Superstar status, as soon as it was recognized that he was in their midst they immediately started asking around for the other members of his heat, and once they were all rounded up they started the show.
   At the SLJ this year they had this older gentleman helping out, and it wasn't fair. He was totally having more fun than the kids. And they were having a blast. This guy coached each kid, counting them down and coaching them to help them with their jumps, and he was just having too much fun, swinging his arms on the count and encouraging each one to do their best. Dude wasn't sure what to make of this guy, but he was enjoying the 'show'. He was so mesmerizing that Dude completely forgot his usual ham-bone warm ups before his first two jumps. But he couldn't deny himself totally, for the last jump he squatted very low, his arms jet-planed behind him and then he shot up and out into the air and almost out-jumped his ability to land. But unfortunately (sort of) he went way up but not way
Ready for take-off!
out, and ended up taking the Silver medal. But he did manage to hold the landing in a goofy sort of way. Kind of making up for the lack of theatrics in the first two jumps.
   So another Special Olympics was in the books. David and I returned to the Virago, we geared up, and headed home, making kind of an Olympic record, as the round-trip was the furthest we'd ever ridden the bike together. He had been so good at the Games, and also had obtained the requisite smileys during the week, so we stopped at GameStop on the way home and got him a game worthy of his Medal winning status.
    While we were at the Games, I'd offered a couple of times to hold his medals while he competed. Dude would not be parted with his hardware for love nor money. Once we got home, however, he immediately shucked his medals off and headed for the shelf. I tried to slow him down, 'Hang on, man. What are you doing?' He looked at me like I'd just arrived from another planet. 'You take the medals home and they go on the shelf.' Knowing how proud he'd been of them all day, I tried again,  'Uh, don't you want to show them to Raine?' 'No.' he calmly replied, 'Medals go on the shelf when you get home, remember?' As if I'd forgotten in the last 12 seconds. Evidently if Raine wanted to see his medals she'd either have to look on the shelf, or be at home to fete him in the oldest 'Conquering Hero' fashion. I shook my head. 'Dude, put the medals on the table and go play your game.' He placed the hardware on the coffee table with a doubtful expression on his face. But the lure of a new game was too much for him, and he went. When Raine got home later, he came down to show them and seemed all proud again. And then he put them on the shelf with all the other ones. I think he just wanted to make sure that the two 'old folks' didn't forget where medals go when you get home.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Time Was:

   On a recent return to the Homeland, I saw this old clock on the wall at my Aunt Barb's house. A CocaCola promotional item from the office of my maternal Grandmother. It has a lot of memories for the both of us, and we talked about it quite extensively during my visit. I was thinking about that conversation after I returned home and it brought to mind this story, and reminded me of the effect it had on my life.
My grandmother owned and ran a small CocaCola bottling plant in my hometown. I used to love to go there. As I was growing up  myself and my only two sisters at the time ( I got two more later) lived about 4 blocks away and during the summer we would visit quite often. And, as long as we didn't get in the way of the workers, (I'm sure we never did) we pretty much had the run of the place. In her office there was an old (but not antique) commemorative pendulum clock hanging from the wall facing her desk. We were all forbidden to touch the clock. Mostly because we all loved it, and we were a bit rambunctious. For some reason the fact that the front face of it was actually a glass door that opened, and a pendulum that actually moved fascinated us. In a world of electronic clocks this one had style.  We begged and begged but were never allowed to do more than stare at it from over the back of the chair that faced grandma's desk. Until that fateful day when we were finally old enough (or had driven her crazy enough) that she would finally allow one of us, and only once every visit, to wind the clock one turn and gently push the brass weight at the bottom of the shaft. My mother was horrified. Probably because she knew she would be held responsible for any damage done. And, frankly, we were capable of quite a bit of damage. I heard Grandma tell her that the clock was broken anyway, and there wasn't much more we could do to it. And truly, it would only run for about 3 or 5 minutes before it stopped completely again. But since our attention span was measured in microseconds this was an eternity of time to us and we were well satisfied. Mom still fussed a bit every time, certain that her mother had no real idea of the damage we were capable of, and that the only suitable playground for us lay in the more industrial areas of the warehouse portions of the plant. Where we had, it is true, once disabled the industrial elevator 3 different times in the same day. But, despite the odds against it, the clock took no further damage.
   I still (these many years later) remember how proud I was to be able to finally open the door, take out the heavy key and wind that clock, and how incredibly jealous I was when it wasn't my turn and I had to stand to the side and let one of my sisters do it. I  remember the feel of the bob as I, ever so gently, pushed it to get the motion started and I can also still hear the stately, hushed tick-tock that would vibrate out of it for the few minutes it would run until it stopped.
   I don't remember the reason (I was only about 8 or 10 at the time) but one day I was at the Coke Plant without my sisters or my mother. So, actually, I was on my own, as my grandmother had a great many admirable traits, but maternal instinct wasn't one of them (and she had 10 kids). I'd like to think that as a very independent woman herself, she liked to encourage that trait in others. But I'm almost forced to admit that, to her, children just weren't that interesting as people, conversation-wise anyway. So I was basically on my
The Coke Plant. Many MANY moons later
own and, having once again explored the dim, dark secrets of the Bottling Plant, I was quietly (for the most part) sitting across from her in her office just looking around the place. My mother's family had been bottling soda in that building for over 100 years and quite a bit of that history was just gathering dust around that office. I really was trying to be good but then, as now, when there's a question in my head it's like an itch. If I don't ask it, it just keeps growing more and more itchy until I let it out. So, even though I was potentially submitting myself for one of my grandmother's famous sarcastic tongue-lashings, I just had to ask the question, it was getting too 'itchy' to be ignored.
'Grandma.' I said cautiously.
'Yes?' she answered, sounding mildly irritated at being interrupted.
I took a quick breath, 'I thought I heard you tell Mom the clock didn't work?'
She looked up from whatever she was doing and raised her eyebrow. 'It doesn't. Hasn't worked for more than a few minutes at a time in years.You kids just love winding it, so I let you do it.' She looked at me with a bit of curiosity for a moment, and then back down to her paperwork. Even then, I knew that time to a child is more than a little fluid, and entirely subjective, but I knew it had been longer than a few minutes since I had wound the clock. I ran it through my head: I started out in the office, and wound the clock, then I had wandered all over the Plant, grubbed around in the storerooms upstairs, and generally been nosy as hell in the back office/storage room and then had been (mostly) quiet in the office for a while. But I still had no idea whether it had been more than 15 minutes. I twitched and fidgeted for a few seconds paranoid that the noise would stop before I could ask the question.
'Grandma?' I asked timidly.
'Yes?' Her voice had a bit of an edge to it now.
'If it doesn't work, why is it still ticking?' Thinking about it now, it would have been at least an hour, or at least 20 times longer than it normally ran.
She looked up. Furled her brow and cocked an ear at the clock. She could see the pendulum gently moving and we could just hear it ticking over the ambient sounds of the building. 'Huh,' She said, then looked at me and gave me a wry smile.'Guess that'll teach me.' She then (much more quickly and accurately than I) estimated the amount of time, and then said, 'What did you do to make it work?' I shrugged. 'Well, if it's going to work, it might as well show the right time!'  She said, managing to sound enthusiastic and matter-of-fact at the same time.
She then instructed me in what to do, and supervised my gentle adjustment of the hands while I was standing backwards on an armchair. Amazingly, after I'd sat back down we had a bit of a conversation, mostly centered on the clock. I tried to explain, in my limited fashion, why I liked it so much, and she may even have told me that it was a promotional item, and not quite as antique as it appeared. About the time that our conversation was starting to peter out (perhaps 15 or so minutes)  the pendulum stopped moving. We both stared at it for a few seconds, but not even a hasty push of the bob or a turn of the winding key would get it moving again. I'm not even sure if it ever worked after that until almost 40 years later when my Aunt Barb had it repaired.
   I was disappointed. But not entirely, or even mostly, because 'The Special Coke Clock' quit working. Ours is a large family, and even as the oldest grandchild, it's pretty easy to get lost in the mix. So the time I had spent talking one-on-one with my grandmother was, in my fanciful mind, kind of a small magical moment, seemingly engendered by the movement of the pendulum of that special timepiece. Its silence seemed to signal the end of that special time. My grandmother misinterpreting my despondency, said, 'It's okay. It kept time for that little while, we should just be glad that it worked for that long.' I'm certain she didn't mean to say anything profound. It was just one of those off hand comments that aren't meant to be
important, but for some reason strike a cord in someone. For some reason, probably because it had nothing to do with the reason I was sad, I actually thought about it and completely unintentionally it had a profound effect on my life. Especially 30 or so years later after I'd all but forgotten the phrase, but still tried to maintain the attitude.
    For most of my life, with varying degrees of success, I've tried to be happy that things worked or went well, and not get too wrapped up with disappointment when they didn't, just deal with it and move on. That became especially helpful when Dude came along. I definitely needed that attitude to get through raising him up. (or him raising me up. Jury's still out on that one) We are excited when things work out or work well. And when they don't, we don't focus on the fact that good things aren't happening, we just deal with the problem and move on. We try to be happy that the clock keeps time for the time it keeps it. We're very Cheeseburger-Zen about life around here.