Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Take Me Out to the Ballgame:

Instead of a picnic this year, my company gave us all tickets to a Pirate game. Dude was excited to go to the game. I have no idea why... once he saw that giant scoreboard he never actually watched the game.
    At the beginning of the Summer, one of the 4 or so things David was looking forward to was our annual trip to Kennywood. Of course one of those things was also our trip to Las Vegas, which somehow got delayed until next Summer. (It always gets switched to next summer...every year) Due to the switch in divisions in my company, (Manufacturing was phased out and I transferred to Dock and Transfer, although my duties remained essentially the same) I was uncertain there would even be a company picnic this year. It turns out that D&T does things a bit differently and they were offering tickets to a Pittsburgh Pirates game instead of our usual roller coaster tour. This could be a problem, I thought.
    You see, I don't care about baseball. I don't mean I hate it, that would mean I cared in a negative way. I could just give a damn whether or not it actually exists as a professional sport. I have been to literally hundreds of Pro games. When I was younger my father was the manager of a grocery store and he received complimentary suite tickets to games all the time. So I averaged about 5 or 6 games a summer. I loved watching the game. I would even bet (a whole dollar!) with my Aunt from Chicago which city would come out better at the end of the season. But the year the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in the Strike Year of 1985, that was the last professional baseball game I had seen in its entirety. It isn't important why. It just was. So Dude didn't exactly grow up in a baseball culture.

  So while I could imagine that he would like to watch a game at the stadium, I couldn't be absolutely sure that he would be willing to substitute watching a game he barely knew for The Land Where Dude is King and Rollercoaster Game Park. I was such a chicken about it, I actually waited for David to say, 'We have to get to the Kennywood in the Summer Vacation!' before I had the guts to tell him we weren't actually going this year. 'What!?' Uh oh. 'How about we go to a Pirate's game instead?' That actually sparked some interest. 'Pirates Game!?' He seemed to mull it over for a few seconds. 'Yeah! We can go to the Pirate's game at the stadium! In the Pittsburgh! And the tunnels!!' And then he went careening off through the house yelling about going to a Pirate's game while I stood there, stunned. I didn't even have time to tell him there were no tunnels between us and PNC Park. Then I thought about his reaction. Well, cool, I thought, wonder if that'll work for the Vegas thing too? No such luck, you foolish man. Vegas is not a sport... it's an elevator Mecca and he wants to worship there at least, (but not limited to), once before he dies.
     He didn't completely give up on Kennywood, but another reminder of the joys of baseball kept him pretty much in check. With Dave (given his immediate ancestry) it's not always certain whether his persistent insistence of things he's been denied is because of his autism, or his... genetic predilections, shall we say. Does he really not understand the cause/effect of 'you can't have this, but I'll give you that', or is he just trying to wear down the great, granite rock that is his father's stubbornness? I mean, does he just not understand that the Vegas trip he dreams of has very little possibility of actually happening? Or is he just trying to out-stubborn his old man into spending hundreds of his hard-earned dollars on what is basically a chance for him to ride new and strange elevators?
     Be that as it may, Dave was graciously indifferent to the fact that Alexis, Raine, and I were going to the game with him. And had no interest at all in who the Pirates were actually playing (Colorado Rockies), although I have to admit, I didn't much care about that second one either. But without the other team, there wouldn't be a game, and without me he wouldn't be getting in... 'cause I had the tickets. Mostly. Actually, in fine Dude-Dad tradition I left the 4 tickets and the oh so cool $25 vouchers on my desk when we first left the house. Luckily Raine is a veteran of such situations and asked the question before we left town. So after a quick circle back to the house we were on our way to the game! Dude, another wily vet of the antics of his old man, didn't even bat an eye during the unplanned (but predictable) return to the hacienda.
      I sometimes wonder if my family here knows how often I 'wing it' when it comes to things I've never
done before. Other than some quick internet research on a very uninformative information site I had absolutely no idea of the protocol of a Pittsburgh baseball game.  Firstly, I had only a vague notion about the parking thing. Don't get me wrong, I've been parking cars since I was 11 years old, but had no idea how close to the stadium I could park and not have to buy a whole set of tires when it came time to leave.  Other than the small dumpster full of cash I had to give the parking attendant, that part was pretty easy. We parked within about 2 blocks of the place and made our babbling (some more than others) way to the gates.
     Now I was all set to walk up to the gates like all the other baseball slobs and trudge my weary way to my seat. Two things got in the way of that. 1) We were going to a set of suites named after two of the years that the Pirates had won the World Series, so technically we didn't actually have 'seats' despite what it said on the tickets. 2) As a temporary member of the baseball watching elite we didn't need to mix with the 'rabble' in order to reach our designated viewing area. I can claim no credit for this insight. Raine was the one that found out (by cleverly asking one of the gate people) that we had passed the glass door that gave us direct access to our exclusive elevators that took us right up to our level, about 150 feet away from our suite. Of course I nearly had to tackle Dave to keep him from firstly, crashing his way right through the gates we weren't even going to use. And, secondly, to keep him from bowling several well-dressed patrons to the floor trying to get on our (his) exclusive elevators. Also there was nearly a wrestling match when the (very nice) lady tried to give him his complimentary poster. As primary servant to the King of Baseball, I intercepted the delivery and handed it to His Majesty.
   People just don't seem to understand that when Dave is in an elevator it is his elevator. He is the captain of that particular ship until it docks on the proper floor. Well, this time Captain Elevator had a pilot. That may have been only the second time his whole life that he had to deal with an operator. He adjusted quickly though, giving his orders to 'Take us to the floor with the Game!' So, in fact, David had no clue where we were going. The Captain also preferred a small crew, telling the 6 or 8 people behind us, 'This elevator is full! (there were only 4 people on it and even with me there we were well under the weight limit) 'You'll have to wait for the next car. This elevator is temporarily out of service.' The thing is, every time he does this he uses his 'Official Voice' and for just a second these people pause and look at me as if to ask if this young man might actually have the authority to deny them access. I, of course, am usually no help at all. And in that moment he turns to the attendant, 'We need to get to the top floor to watch the Games!' Understandably puzzled the operator turns her eyes to 'oh so helpful' me while the other patrons use this distraction to sneak onto Dave's elevator. Through minutes of intense Internet research (and the fact that I had the tickets) I was able to tell the nice woman that we were going to the club level. And she made it so.
 When we got there we walked straight through the suite and stopped on the top step of the seats. Dave looked awestruck as he looked out onto the field. I said, 'What do you think, Dude? Is this cool, or what?' 'Yeah! this is cool!' We were both so caught up in the whole thing that I'm pretty sure we got in the way of at least half a dozen, probably very nice people, trying to get through. After my stranger-apology time was all used up we easily found some seats and the 4 of us sat down.
     Now that doesn't sound epic enough. What really happened was that David fell in Love. Love with a capital 'L'. As soon as he turned to his left to walk to his seat he came face to face and at eye level with the entire glory that is the Jumbotron at PNC park. Once his eyes met this shining wonder of technology he was hooked and didn't look back. He also didn't look at the field for the rest of the game. For the next 3 hours or so he was communing with his god and the rest of us just didn't exist. His Chief Servant (me) was immediately dispatched to return with hot dogs, chips, and soda, or possibly (to Dude) they just appeared in front of him magically. Because hot dogs are just part of a ball game. Besides which, he had a Jumbotron to watch, I'm fine, leave me alone.
     I tried to interest him in the actual game, actually being played, right in front of him. But I'm guessing that didn't exist to him either. Because, other than the occasional, and unenthusiastic, 'Yeah.' he absolutely refused to turn his head the 45 degrees it would have taking for him to have actually seen it. Actually, I know
for a fact that he was absolutely mesmerized, because he wore his complimentary Pirates hat the entire game. Pretty much matching the total time he's voluntarily worn a hat his entire life.
     Each of the rest of us took off one at a time to do something to help the team pay for some of those players. I think between the three of us we funded the mascot for about...20 minutes or maybe even a whole half hour. I was kind of feeling guilty about leaving him out there in his complimentary Pirates hat, out in the sun. David never noticed I was gone until I put another hot dog and Sprite in front of him. 'Hot dog? That's the perfect food, Dad!' He grabbed the dog, shifted back in his seat and continued to watch the game... The Jumbotron Game. I'm just glad he didn't ask me for the remote.
    Well the game finally ended and we casually made our way back to the elevators. Dave, on the other hand was wired like a cheap time-bomb. He practically dragged me to the elevators and I almost had to corral him to save the unsuspecting elevator riding public while we were waiting and then riding the thing. Once we were out, he was still so excited that I risked our lives crossing the street to avoid the heavier crowd on the Park side. For some reason at that moment I was actually 'designated leader' (it's never happened before) and Raine and Alex followed us
through traffic across the street. And then complained to 'Our Glorious Leader about the dangers of Jaywalking. I don't remember an election, or anything. I didn't lead a revolution or participate in a coup I don't even remember ever wanting to be the leader. I think I must have gotten elected using Florida voting machines, or something.
  Although there was an aborted attempt at rushing the elevators of a parking garage we weren't even parked in, Dave finally calmed down about the time we got to the car. (I guess I was demoted from Glorious Leader to Nondescript Chauffeur)  He wouldn't take his hat off all the way home, or even once we'd gotten home. He took off his shoes, Raine's Pirates jersey and disappeared into his room babbling about how 'Next week we get the Baseball Game for the 360!' I'm pretty sure that his hat went the way of his Olympic medals once he'd gotten to his room, because I haven't seen it since.
   Although we enjoyed going to the park, Raine, Alexis and I have pretty much come to the conclusion that Baseball will never supplant Hockey as the dominant sport in the house. As a matter of fact, Alex has dubbed it 'The most mind-numbingly boring game in the Universe.' But we were all (sort of) ready to watch a game occasionally in deference to Dude's new found enthusiasm for the game. Turns out we didn't have a thing to worry about. Evidently 'Wide-Screen TV' is a euphemism once one has enrolled in the Church of Jumbotron. Dave had no interest at all in watching The Game on a mere 46 inches of diagonal plasma. Oh how can we keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?

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