Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment