Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Minister of Propaganda:

 David has a disturbing tendency to have a minor chest or sinus cold slide right into pneumonia without much advanced warning. So the other day, after 3 days of coughing and sniffles I cancelled his bus ride and took him directly to the clinic at his Dr.'s office. During the exam, he informed the doctor that he was more than healthy enough to go to Las Vegas. The Dr. smiled and said, 'Oh, that's quite a trip!' She then looked at me expectantly. I looked back at her with an indulgent smile on my face and told her to ask him where his money was for the trip. When she did, Dave reached around my hip, pointed directly at the right cheek of my butt and said, 'It's right here in the Dads'es wallet!' she laughed when I said, 'Yup, if three bucks will get us to Vegas, we're all set.' That part never seems to get through Dude's force-field of denial.
       After a precautionary prescription, and since the clinic is close to his school, and despite much vehement protesting, I took him to class. As we walked through the hallways, me with only a vague idea of where we were going, one of the Staff stopped us in the hall to talk about the Talent Show. He asked, 'Did you have any idea that he was that good and talented?' I replied that I did know how well he could sing, but about the xylophone, I had absolutely no clue. We both talked for a few moments about how wonderful the whole thing was (especially Dave's part), and then he pointed the way to Dave's room and we were off again.
      Mrs. Yarosz, as always, seemed delighted but confused to see us (we get that a lot) and soon enough Dude was in his seat (mostly) and Mrs. Y and I had a few moments to talk. With our usual conversation about Dave's attitude and actions (both sometimes borderline) and both of us gushing about how well he didin the Talent Show, she brought the subject up about Dude's upcoming trip to Vegas. Dave heard this, and said, 'Yes! He's going to the Vegas to get ALL the elevators!' For more than a year, David has insisted repeatedly that he's going to Vegas. As this dire need to travel to Sin City is ignored, thwarted, or put-off, he changes who's actually taking him, but it always works out that Dad, or Raine, or Alexis, or mom, grandma, the grocery clerk,   somebody is going to the Nevada Desert with Dude in tow. I assured Mrs. Yarosz that we had no actual plans of heading that far west, and after a few more minutes we said goodbye and I started to leave.
Susan photoshopped this for Dude... I'm never letting him
see it
      As I walked down the hall I was greeted by a rather fit looking younger man who introduce himself as Chris McCabe, Dave's phys-ed teacher, saying, 'You know that son of yours is a real character.' I replied, dryly, 'You'll forgive me if this isn't shocking news.' and then we laughed. Now when I went to school all my phys-ed teachers where either semi-retired nuns, (10 years of Catholic school) or ex-football coaches that looked like Frank Sutton, the Sergeant from Gomer Pyle, or possibly Bulldog Bob Brown, the wrestler from the 60's and 70's. So the concept of a fit phys-ed teacher is always startling to me for some reason. Chris and I don't talk very often, but when we do he always tries to make sure that we're going to the Track and Field event for the Special Olympics. I assured him that we wouldn't miss it for the world. He then brought up how excited Dave was to be going to Vegas over Summer
Plotting..... something.
Vacation. I closed my eyes and shook my head. Once again I had to dash someones hopes for 'the poor homeless waif' that is my son. I put on another (hopefully not fake looking) smile and told him in an amused voice that we were definitely not going to Vegas that summer. His response kind of startled me.
       He immediately called to a teacher across the intersecting hallways and told her in a loud voice, 'David's not going to Vegas!' 'What?' she immediately started toward us, and with no small amount of grief in her voice, 'He's not going to Vegas?' He then yelled (sort of) to Tammy, Dave's Speech Therapist (oh yeah, he can talk. Thanks Tammy!) 'David's not going to Vegas this year!' Soon I was nearly surrounded by about 6 teachers, some of them leading students, all nattering about Dave's cancelled (?) trip plans. And since we were in the intersection of two hallways we soon had a traffic jam going. They all seemed to be very sad that Dude couldn't go, but the startling thing (to me) was that they all believed that he was going in the first place. I was beginning to become alarmed and not a little afraid for my safety if they started blaming me for the lack of slot machines in David's future and became a vicious, torch wielding, pitchfork carrying mob. I tried to play the whole thing off by telling them that he's not even interested in gambling. 'He's just heard somewhere that Vegas has more elevators per capita than any other city in the States. It's kind of like Mecca to a Muslim.' I tried desperately, laughing, 'He prays to Vegas 5 times a day. Bowing to the West.' But they were having none of it. Chris even suggested, mostly facetiously, that they should gather funds somehow and make Vegas into a Field trip for Dude. I had to get out of this Dude-induced haze and back to the merely surreal world I generally live in. I made some awkward goodbyes and stumbled off down the hall.
     Halfway down, and about a third of the way to my desperate escape attempt, I ran into Ashley. When she seemingly only wanted to talk about how wonderful David's performance was in the Talent Show I began to relax. Chiding myself for my Sin City Paranoia I was kind of blindsided when she asked about... you guessed it, David's Vegas Excursion and Grand Elevator Tour!  I laughed (that was getting harder to do) and told her that probably wasn't going to happen. Then Jill, whose room we were standing across the hallway from, walked over and said, 'What? Dave's not going to Vegas?' but she
And now, cult members....
was smiling when she said it, so that was okay. After some more talking about other things, not Vegas-related,(future post) I continued my escape, as the mornings announcements started over the speakers. I honestly and completely believed that the Headline Announcement would be: Dave's not going to Vegas, everyone!  And prepared to sprint down the halls with my finger over my lip, shouting, 'Leper! Outcast! Unclean!' in fine old biblical tradition. Hey. I was getting a bit frantic, I'll admit.
     I finally made it out and to the car without being stoned as a heretic by completely ignoring anyone's attempts at conversation and drove off in a mad dash. Although I may have waved at someone who was actually talking to someone behind me. After I calmed down a bit it hit me that my son was becoming a little Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda guy from WWII. (Hey, we're German and I'm kind of a history nut) He'd somehow convinced everyone in the school that he was going to Las Vegas, and that I was taking him there. I mean, they believed it! It was like a little Cult of Dude-Vegas! I could only see this as an attempt to force my hand, and make me take him to the Mecca of the Elevators, and then to TAKE OVER THE WORLD!!  That's when I realized that I hadn't really calmed down at all. Because, even though we are of German decent, we've never been Nazis, and if we ever did try to take over the world, it'd be more like a Pinkie and the Brain episode.

You make the call which of us is which. It's tougher than you might think.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Show That Never Ends:

Welcome back my friends
 to the show that never ends.
We're so glad you could attend.
Come inside, come inside...          (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer)
Earlier this year I received a note from Jill Mosura, one of Dave's former teachers. I had forgotten, or never knew that she was also the music teacher for the school. I'm sure she has a better title than that, but that's what we called them when I was in school, so that's what I call her. The day before I received the official request from the school her note arrived in Dude's book. She practically begged me to allow David to participate in this years Talent Show. I wondered why she was so intensely seeking my permission, but put it down to trying to break a new idea into my well meaning, but absent-minded head. Thinking that mere insistence would break through the adamantine-like bones of my skull...foolish woman.
    That being said, I didn't have the heart to turn down her request. The next day, when the form arrived I actually filled it out immediately and returned it the day after. They should be impressed. I have official, Fill This Out or We'll Find You and It Won't Be Nice, forms from the Federal Government that sit on my desk for months before I finally get around to filling them out.Or even opening them up... (Why yes, Your Honor, send me to Leavenworth, it's right near my hometown.)
    I didn't think much more about it, other than some formless plan about not scheduling anything on the second Wednesday in April. But, since I don't actually have a schedule, that didn't prove too hard a task. So, having done all I could do at that point, I promptly forgot all about it. Hey, I figured if she was that insistent I'd probably get a note or something, hopefully before the event actually took place. But my willful ignorance was not to last. About 2 weeks before the Big Show I got another note. For some not-explained reason it seems my offspring was going to be fitted for a tuxedo. I tried to imagine my gangly son in a penguin-suit and came up empty. Signing the permission slip, I dropped back into my fog of ignorance. Okay, in my own defense, my motorcycle had recently been consigned to the shop because of a bad replacement part and I was in the midst of trying to make 3 jobs in completely different areas go into 2 cars and at the same time convince my bosses that I was well worth the trouble for showing up over an hour late every day for 4 weeks. So far, they're buying it.
   So, despite the occasional stray thought wondering what the hell Dave was going to do in the talent show in a tuxedo, I had to relegate the Talent Show to the back burner of my brain...that's one crowded burner, let me tell you. As a side note; After agreeing to the Talent Show, Mrs. Yarosz, his current teacher, called me and practically begged me to allow Dude to go to the Prom citing all sorts of spurious reasons. Like how he loves music and is always dancing when he hears it, and how he would love to go too, and how much fun he would have. As if these arguments would sway me... To teach her a lesson about expecting such permissiveness from me on a regular basis, I didn't send in the permission slip until the last possible day. Can't let these teachers push you around.

Jill, setting up the show
 Sometime, about a week before the show, I received another note from the school asking me how many tickets we wanted. After some bad math (I asked for one for Dude... doh!) this also was returned swiftly and the tickets (including Dude's) were forwarded back. I immediately put them somewhere I couldn't forget them. This was nearly a grave mistake. As I've stated before, I have the 'Oh! There it is!' filing system, so finding things I'd put 'where I'd never forget them' is sometimes a hit-or-miss thing. Mostly miss. But for once I had placed it by the coffee maker, so the envelope was seen every damned day. We had our tickets with us when we drove Dude to the Show. And even if nothing else went right, that made our evening right there.
    I dropped David off at the sign in table on time, for a wonder, and Ashley (David's former teacher's aide) almost scowled at me and asked me sharply, 'Where's your camera?' I intelligently responded, 'Uhhh... It's in the car?' We were 45 minutes early, for cripe's sake!  'Good', she said, nodding sharply, 'You're gonna need it.' Okaaaaaay. It's not like it isn't nearly always welded to my hand anyway. She then looked up at me (she's kinda short) and grinned impishly and said, 'You're going to be so proud of him!' and then, before she could explain that, she was gone. I stood for a moment, completely dumbfounded. Ashley has known me for a few years, and I never thought I gave her the impression that I was anything but proud (annoyed, irritated) of my son. I shook that off and went back out to the car to wait with Raine for Alexis and the start of the show.
     In due course they both arrived and the three of us found a seat near the lady guarding the video camera and waited for the show. Now, because Dude is, well... Dude, everyone who works or helps out at the school knows him, and by extension me, who basically has no clue who they are. I used to be embarrassed about my lack of name-memory, but now it's kind of a distinction. Just call me The Lord of the What's His Name. I was stopped on the way to our seats by 2 of the nameless rabble repeating the same strange mantra: 'You're going to be sooooo proud of him.' Either Dude was going to do something spectacular, or I had gained the reputation as a heartless bastard. The outlet polls were mixed. Even the guy sitting in the row behind us with his wife and small child, when he found out who my son was, said, 'They've been working really hard for weeks.' then the inevitable addition, 'You're going to be so proud of him.'
     As we were waiting for the show to start I found myself standing rather awkwardly next to the camera-lady while Raine and Alex were sitting with that nervous boredom that has graced every theater before every show in the history of mankind. I'd swear on a stack of  programs this high that I'd never seen this woman before in my life, but she tapped me on the shoulder as I was taking a picture of the sparkly ribbon decoration on the central light fixture. She said, 'There he is, look!' I looked where she was pointing and between the curtain and the wall, about 30 feet away, was a dim figure in a tux peering out into the audience. Before I could get my camera (and brain) into action someone had hooked him back into the darkness and closed the curtain.
     'You're David's dad, aren't you?' she asked after. I nodded. 'I tried to let you know when I first saw him,
but it was just too quick.' We both chuckled for a moment. She looked earnestly at me, 'You're going to be so proud of him.' Then she smiled at my puzzled expression then turned away to check her equipment. Just about the time I'd shaken off my stupor the lights went down and Dave, carrying something I couldn't see that looked like sticks, came across the floor from the stage left wing and stood in front of something I couldn't see through the crowd, at the end of the center aisle. He looked like the friggin 'Mad Conductor'. He was dressed in a well-fitting classic tux. White shirt, red cummerbund and bow tie, and his neck-length hair was gelled to within an inch of its life. he then raised his arms in a victory 'V' over his head and froze, holding beaters (sticks with wooden balls on the ends) in his hands, waiting for... something.
     An instrumental version of 'Sweet Child of Mine' started in the background and still David waited, arms extended. Then, when I was about ready to crack from the tension, he started playing a xylophone!! And it sounded good! He leaned into the music that he was producing from that simplest of keyboards and played it, not like some kid with a Playschool tin toy with a plastic beater, but double handed, beaters in each making music come out of that collection of old bones. I've been called a fair singer, but other than one noodle on the piano and a
ham-handed version of the main riff of 'Stray Cat Strut' (don't ask) I couldn't play a tune on anything to save my life. I was impressed. After he finished and accepted the accolades of the crowd like a true conquering Caesar, he then started pushing the instrument up the aisle. Only stopping twice on the way up to bow and say, 'Yeah! That's it!' Then taking a left, stopping to hug a teacher-person and me before stopping once again, in front of the curtain obscuring the hallway, to encourage the crowd to praise
him further before performing another sweeping bow. The usher-teacher-lady and I shoved him through the curtain before he could begin his own cult right then and there.
    True to prediction, I felt pretty damn proud of my offspring. I still didn't understand why they'd made such a great big deal out of it, but if I'd been wearing a hat... it would have needed adjustment from the head-swelling. Turns out I didn't know what the hell I was talking about.
    I went back to sit down with Raine and Alexis, we were all chattering softly but excitedly about Dave's performance. I said something to the tune of, 'Well, that was it.' and Raine showed me a familiar name in the last act of the show. Damn . Don't get me wrong, I love being around these kids. They give me a lift I can't quite explain. But... school shows are school shows. If it's not your child on the stage it feels like something that should be banned by the Geneva Convention as cruel and inhuman torture. The rest of the show, other than a student piano solo that was quite good, was just about what I expected it to be. a series of stilted skits narrated by an adult to keep things moving, and prevent us from being dragged down to the 9th circle of theater hell. I mean, the kids were great and really had fun, but there's only so much you can do with 'The Day the Crayons Went on Strike' and the original short story for the song 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon' (and now that song is rushing through my head, Thanks Jill) Really, it was cute and fun and the kids did a wonderful job, I was just impatient for the Rock Star to take the stage again. 
    Finally the final act was getting ready to start. I got excited when I saw Dave come out from the wings
again, but all he did was sit in a seat in the front row. I wondered about that for a second, but the lights went down and the curtain opened to a group of about 20 kids sitting on stools on Choir risers. The opening bars of 'Imagine' by John Lennon started, a version I'd never heard before, sung by a woman. The kids all started to 'sing' the song silently in ASL (American Sign Language). I was pretty impressed, and not a little moved. My own fluency in Sign is restricted to what was taught to me by my 6 year old step-daughter. So, basically, I could tell someone to sit down, and that they're talking too much. These kids were the Rhode's Scholars of Sign Language compared to me.
     Then just before the final verse, it happened. Dave stood up in front of a microphone and started sing with the recording. Dave and I used to sing together all the time. But for a while he's gotten goofy about it, and we don't do it so much anymore. When he does sing it's usually with earbuds in, so he sounds kind of flat and loud. But that night he sounded clear and on pitch. He was varying his tone and inflection, really getting into the song and I was... Well let's just say it's hard to tell if your camera is in focus with tears rolling down your cheeks. Don't know why, it just works out that way. I moved across the back of the first section of seats and tried to get a clearer view. I got a better view, but the crying eye thing kind of negated any clarity. I even sang along softly for a bit, but there seemed to be some sort of amphibian living in my throat.  I may even have gotten yelled at for being in someone else's way, but I didn't even notice, or really care. Dave continued to sing and I continued to be just awestruck listening to that clear, tenor voice.

You may say I'm a dreamer,
But I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you will join us,
And the world will live as one.

    The crowd went nuts. I damned near broke my camera when I started clapping before I remembered it was still in my hand. I was laughing and crying and didn't give a damn. As David once again made his way down the aisle to the hall-curtain I grabbed him in a big hug and said, 'You did GREAT!!' To which he humbly replied, 'Yeah! It was good! Now we've got to go to the Las Vegas!' then we had to hustle him
through the curtain so he could make his way backstage for the curtain-call. I was still standing in the cross-aisle so when it was David's turn to bow I was standing right behind the nice guy and his family, so my bellow of DUUUUUUUUUUDE!!!!! scared the crap out of them, but didn't actually knock any hats off any heads, no matter what the rumors say.
     Alexis and I went 'backstage' (classrooms behind the cafeteria) and retrieved my offspring, and while Alex took Dude to the car I went hunting for Ms Masura to tell her she was awesome and wonderful and that I was willing to be her undying slave, acceding to any and every request for my or David's presence at any school function she would be willing to name...ever. She told me that he originally wasn't going to be in that skit, but he sang so well to the song when they were practicing it, that they had to get him in there somehow. I praised her good judgement.
     Things are pretty much back to normal around here. Dave just playing his games and waiting for his agent to call him with the new booking at some Vegas floor-show. Just typical stuff, really.