Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Helicopter Parent:

     A bit of a rant. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
    One day I got a phone call from a number that I didn't recognize. Like most people I know, I just let it go to see if they would leave a message. They did, so I figured it was someone I knew. When I listened to the VM I became confused all over again. The message was from my ex-Brother in Law and he asked me to call my ex-Father in Law and gave me a number. I was pretty sure if something had happened to what's-her-name I'd have been contacted by someone with a bad tie and a shiny badge, since I would be high on the suspect list. I was also wondering about the double-blind James Bond, Superspy contact routine, so I called Les, wondering what the hell it could be.
     I finally got a hold of him to ask what was going on. I haven't consistently  kept track of Les and Imogene over the last 14 years, but we do talk and we've never had any problems. There were times when they seemed to get along better with me than with their own daughter. We're not friends, but we're friendly. We talked for a while, exchanging pleasantries, then we finally got to the point. He was very apologetic about it, but he requested that I not say bad things about Ellie in my blog and on FaceBook. I quickly reviewed the last few comments I'd made about the Psycho Redhead and didn't come up with anything, so I told Les I didn't know what he was talking about.
     It seems that she had found out about my blog through some of her relatives that I regularly notify, and had taken offense at something I'd written. Like... all of it, I guess. He didn't know any particulars, but for some reason it had prompted my ex-wife to harangue her mother about all sorts of things, all which boiled down to the fact that Imogene didn't immediately buy a voodoo doll with my face and start sticking pins in it, or burn it in effigy after the divorce. I had no idea how she thought this was going to deter me from mentioning her in my blog (which is all I do, most of the time). I told Les that I was sorry they were catching hell, but I thought I'd been pretty mild about the whole thing and, since I only randomly mentioned her anyway, I probably wouldn't change much. He said he understood, and to do what I could, and after a little more catch-up we each went about the rest of our day.
     Even though I wasn't the one that raised the psychotic bitch that actually caused the problem, I like Les, and I felt kind of bad about him catching third-hand hell stemming from something I'd written.  I  was also kind of curious about what I might have said that set her off. I'll admit it was at least partly due to possibly wanting to do it again. Like Richard Pryor in Stir Crazy I was looking for that one word that would set the bull off. Anyway, I reviewed the blog and re-read some of the stories. I did mention things that happened several times. But, other than a few mentions, I really haven't let my feelings about her known to the Blogisphere. Even though the first sentence in the paragraph may give it away, I'm sure it was a secret before that. No. Really... top secret stuff.
     She'll probably never get it, but it isn't about her. Ever since she said, 'What about me having a life?' she pretty much lost any of the privileges that go along with Dudedom. That seems to be the biggest thing she doesn't grasp. To expect that we're going to slog through the everyday crap and be happy when she skims the cream whenever it suits her to do so, borders on insane. Of course she's at the far border of insane, so whatever is beyond insane she's almost there. I mean, why does she even care what I say? We've been divorced for 15 years and living 1000 miles away from each other for almost all of that time. She didn't seem to care what I said when we were married, but now she's all insulted by some stuff I wrote in a blog that about 100 people read. I think the time would be better spent asking me questions about our son. But that's just me.
   Case in point:For the second time in 12 years, Ellie showed up this year for Thanksgiving with a
minimum of communication. Okay, no problem. Knew she was coming, didn't know what day, what time, what flight. Also, no problem. She called Wednesday night and let me know they were in, and we discussed what time we'd meet for the Great Dude Hand-off. And that's it. I don't really care most of the time if she likes to feel that she's in charge because the reality is, she really doesn't even get to vote. So when we met the next day I just left Dave in the car and went to talk to her first. We established where they were staying, how long they were going to have Dude and when and where we would meet for the Dude Recovery Phase. That done, I waved David out of the car. He was very happy to see her, and she seemed the same. I gave them some info, a charger, a little advice, and when there were no questions, got the hell out of there.
     The next evening found me in the same parking lot, (nearly in the same slot) and a reverse of the day before with Dave being very happy to see me and giving me hugs. I waited for her to say her goodbyes, explained that there might be a Dude Roadtrip sometime in the future and I would contact her should that happen so she and Dude could get together, even though I had no obligation to do so. Her husband thanked me and she said, 'That would be nice.' in a polite, but skeptical tone. I assured her that we had never been back to the Homeland without contacting her. She looked like she would rather argue the point than thank me for the gesture. Rather than play 'The Justification Game' by reassuring her further I just turned to Dude and said, 'C'mon Dude, let's go home!' 'Yes!' was the quick reply 'He has to go to home and play the Games!' And so, without a backward glance, we did just that.
     And, just like that, we got on with our Dudeness like she was never there. One the way home I called the hacienda to gauge dinner preferences and, with almost rookie carelessness mentioned out loud the word 'McDonald's'. From the passenger side of the vehicle came a soft, 'I could use some McDonald's' I said into the phone wryly, 'I guess we're going to McDonald's'. 'Yes! With the chicken nuggets and the ranch'. And that pretty much ended any debate on what we were having for dinner. So situation normal. The radar blip that is occasionally Ellie put into the rear view of our lives and fading fast behind us until the next time she 'blips' up.
     Here's the difference and the problem. I have three older children from a previous marriage. Through geographical differences there was a number of years when I was unable to be around them as much as I wanted. I did what I could, when I could and never thought it was enough. I never tried to act like it was enough either. I let them all know that I knew just exactly who was doing all the raising where they were concerned. And, therefore, who was still in charge even when I was around. I didn't feel I had the 'chops'. I hadn't put in the time to throw my weight around, as it were.
     I know it's only my opinion, not a natural law or anything, but that's exactly how I feel about Ellie. I have no jealousy about the fact that David always seems to get excited to see her. He lives in the eternal 'now' where bad things just don't accumulate. I just don't think she's earned it. She certainly hasn't earned the right to tell me what to do where Dave is concerned. It baffles me that time after
time she's set him aside, put herself first, abandoned him, whined and winged her way out of any of the inconvenient obligations where her son is concerned and she still wants to drop in and drive the team like some sort of out of town parenting consultant. I know I'm an easy going guy, but that's pushing it a bit far.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Norman Rockwell Never Met My Son:

 It's nearing the Holiday season again, and while I have some extra time this year (Alayna's taking over Thanksgiving this time) I find myself reminiscing about Holidays past.
     Somewhere there are Christmases that look exactly like Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover. Family all gathered around a table. All smiles and gleaming faces, looking as if presents were the furthest thing on their mind. Just happy to be in the circle of their family's love... We've never even met any of these people.
   Minor case in point; Our tree is nearly nude for the first two feet from the floor. There are no dangly ornaments hanging from the lower branches, no delicate stars or glass bulbs, no tinsel or popcorn strings grace the bottom two layers of our artificial pine. Only solid, sturdy, well secured decorations (you know, the 'ugly' ones) are brave enough to fly at the lower altitudes. It's not Dude's tendency to root under the lower branches with alarming regularity and appalling lack of concern for consequences that causes this. Dexter, our resident mountain lion, refuses to admit that he's no longer an 18 ounce ball of fluff instead of the 15 pound rampaging predator that he's become. He doesn't climb the tree when we're home, although I have had the crap startled out of me when I came home unexpectedly and found an ornament that looked suspiciously like my cat's head peering at me from out of the false pine needles. He has no shame, however, in batting at any 'interesting' ornament any time that strikes his fancy. So we make a concession to the eccentricities of a member of the house, and the bottom branches stay lonely and under the couch is periodically swept for ornaments. The addition of roasted feline to the Holiday Menu is only (mostly) mentioned in jest.
   El Gato Diablo (The Cat Devil) is not the only threat to our Sacred Tannenbaum. I think my son has landshark DNA. I mean it. The kid who only comes downstairs under threat of imminent dehydration or possible cheese assault, spends the last 3 weeks before Christmas circling the tree like a Great White around a whale carcass at ever decreasing intervals until he's nearly constantly downstairs and has to be threatened with grievous bodily harm (also at decreasing intervals and increasing intensity) to get him out of the room. But like a mosquito when you're trying to get to sleep that won't quit coming back with that sonic whine that keeps fading in and out, every time we thought we could get back to whatever it was that we were doing (watching hockey) he'd traipse through the space between the ottoman and the TV. (Also, incidentally, between us and the TV) He'd circle the tree for the umpteenth time and start saying 'He's getting the Pokemon 'X' Version for Christmas!' Or; 'He's got the Christmas points to get the games!'
    And so we would stumble on towards the Big Day, pretty much as we always do, trying to hide the (hopefully) cool gifts from each other, shooing Dave and the cat away from the tree, re-setting any
wayward decorations that happen to have been mysteriously displaced and plotting the demise of the smoked ham my company gives me before every Christmas.
    Thanksgiving, on the other hand, is pretty much a non-holiday for Dude. Other than the extra days off and the predominance of things covered with tasty sauces and gravies, he could mostly care less. Everyone else takes the rest of the day as a time to visit with family, argue about how crappy the Lions played, and why do they always get the T-game? David is above it all. He wanders through the room occasionally to get a drink of water, or molest the cat as he meanders. Oh, he says he's all about the holiday, but I think he's just all about the mashed potatoes... Oh, that and Thanksgiving heralds the start of the Christmas points season. The most important season of them all.
     Just for a lark I once asked him, 'How many Christmas Points do you have, anyway?' He quickly (and very enthusiastically) replied, Two hundred forty three thousand and seventy eight!' I was stunned at the precision of this rather large number. Since I was in charge of Christmas Point distribution and did not remember that many slipping through my fingers I asked, 'Who have you been stealing Christmas Points from?' His reply was, shall we say...snippy. 'NO! ALL the Christmas Points are mine!!' By his tone and the amount he had expressed I had to assume that by 'ALL' Christmas points he meant every Christmas Point available to every child in the Free World to date. And I'm sure interest on all these points was accruing daily at roughly the same speed at which my bank account was draining. As I sat trying to translate such a huge number of points into an actual dollar amount, Dude happily spun and trundled back up the stairs to calculate how much his hoard of games and movies would be increased. Since his totals seemed to be spinning up like a gas pump filling a Hummer there seemed to be no limit to the increase. (at least in his mind)
     Now the only thing New Years means to Dude is that he only has 1 or 2 more days before he has to go back to prison..., I mean. He spends New Years Eve and day cramming as much game and video goodness into his system as he can stand. He does like watching the ball drop, but he doesn't make it a point to be there to see it. One year he did come down to tell us about the fireworks that a neighbor was shooting off. 'What is all that noise? He heard bombs going off!' But once we pointed out the window and he saw the fireworks he was over it and went back upstairs. Mystery solved, Dad. I need to get back to saving the world, one Megabyte at a time. Evidently if there wasn't actually a full on incursion of mercenaries, he couldn't be bothered.
   It goes without saying that MLK day, Easter, Memorial Day and Labor Day only have significance as it pertains to an extra day of weekend gaming. Snow Days are just as revered in his mind, and for the same reason. He is sometimes almost impressed with Independence Day...but once the explosions are over it's just a day that Dad is home to mess up his perfect gaming Summer.
    To Dude, the real Holidays are his Birthday, when he gets to go to State Special Olympics and when he and I go back to the Midwest. (But only when it involves a plane ride or a hotel stay) Included in that would be anytime he gets to ride new elevators or when, like recently, I have to replace one of his gaming systems. Times like that he's not sure that the banks are going to be open. is a National Holiday, isn't it?
   I have to admit. We don't do the whole 'Over the Top' Holiday thing. We do the Christmas decorating, but we're more interested in our decorations than what the whole neighborhood can see. Thanksgiving is more about me making way too much food for the few people we invite over. So mostly it's just like a regular meal with more food and a few extra people. It's not the 'Gather a small village worth of people from the far corners of the Earth and feed them like fieldhands' kind of a thing I had growing up with my enormous family.
     All in all Dave is pretty cool with that. Paring the Holidays down to their essential basics... Food and Stuff for David. What else could the Holidays be for?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Sound and the Fury:

       People sometimes ask me, 'Isn't raising David more difficult than you thought it would be?' I, of course, have to answer 'Yes, but I'm more difficult than he thought I would be, so it evens out.' I suppose that my stumble through plan of making life choices has led to this any number of times. I guess I really started my training when I was a Freshman in High School.
   Toward the last third of the school year Maur Hill would have what was kind of laughingly called the 'Senior Play'. I say 'laughingly' because the seniors, for the most part, seem to have better things to do with their waning time in school than spend endless hours in a theater practicing for a play. I can't imagine what they'd rather be doing with their last few weeks of fairly unsupervised under-adult time. (that's a lie. I know exactly what they'd rather be doing). At any rate, the other classes tended to outnumber the seniors by about 3 to 1. And, since Theater Geek is actually one word in the high school vocabulary they're always looking for more audience victims... uh, actors for their plays.
     So what I was doing was minding my own business, just trying to get out of the building before anyone noticed I was leaving. I passed the theater doors and I saw a notice for auditions for Inherit the Wind, and recognizing the name of the director from an education program I'd participated in before my IQ/psych exam determined that; No, I wasn't an idiot, I was an antisocial underachiever and bored to tears by school, long before Bart Simpson made that cool. I decided to slip in and say hello' to Stacy (the director) and check out the whole audition... thing, in a completely non-participatory kind of way. But what I didn't count on was, A: While she remembered that she knew me, she had no idea from where or when, even though it had been less than a year ago. and B:The fact that friendly people can talk me into almost anything. So, you got it, I ended up auditioning. With strict instructions to her that I would only accept a minor, perhaps even non-speaking role. Best case scenario; A character with no lines that dies off stage before the first curtain.
     You have to understand, this was before I realized that the strange things that happened to me weren't aberrations, they were just the beginnings of a lifetime of the slightly bizarre as the living embodiment of the 'Chinese Curse'. So, instead of just talking for a bit with someone I kind of knew, or cruising through a nothing part and having to point out to family members where to look for me onstage, I got the lead... and so much more. It was work. It was a LOT of work. In addition to my regular school work, there were late night rehearsals, contentious cast members, and loads of extra time with Stacy and Dipshit the Self-Righteous (the idiot co-lead) to work on lines and characterization. If that weren't enough I was also helping out with set, props, lighting and publicity. Because just doing one thing you have no idea about just isn't enough for some people, they need five or six things they have no clue about. Yes... that would be me.
    That's pretty much the same with Dude. 'Let's have a baby' or at least 'Let's have some Sweaty Naked Fun Time' has so far turned into 20 years of nearly constant wonder and aggravation. Sometimes equal measures of both.
  I work in a steel fabrication shop with hammers, air-impact wrenches, train horns, industrial
equipment, sledge hammers striking steel, the shrieking of metal as it's being cut in the saw and sometimes, something large, heavy and metallic striking the floor. It's basically louder than Quasimodo's bell tower. I leave all that to the rushing of air past my ears at 70 mph to get home. When I get home I have 10 minutes with the house to myself, no TV or stereo, just me and the (mostly quiet) cat. It's quiet enough that the electric clock in the next room is sometimes annoyingly loud.Then for the next hour and a half  after that, I'm directly below 'Game Central'. I've long ago learned how to tune the babble, bangs, yells, twitters, tweets, bings and bongs into background noise. But every once in a while something happens that tweaks me out of my 'anti-Dudenoise' Zen.
     The other day I was sitting at my computer goofing off when a loud buzzing sound vibrated through the floor directly above my head. It was LOUD. It startled me, but I resolved not to find out what the hell it was. I had recently seen a vid that someone had posted to FaceBook that involved a vibrator flying through the air (please don't ask) and that's the first thing that came to mind. (Because it's my mind and it doesn't work like a regular one) Couple of things wrong with that snap-theory: Firstly, it would be just.... weird and creepy and make me go Eeeeeeeew!. Secondly I'm the one that gets the mail, and I'd have noticed if he'd gotten a narrow, plain brown wrapper package, and I'd have remembered. Even so, I wasn't brave enough to go up and actually find out what was making the noise. It happened again when we happened to have a movie paused and Alexis reminded me that his game controller has a vibrating function and he leaves it on the floor sometimes because he likes to watch it vibrate across the floor. And we already know he likes freaking me out. So, there you go.
     One other time I was coming out of the bathroom, muttering to myself about forgetting something and then I heard this from behind Dude's closed door. 'You know what we're going to do now? We're going to put you on the bus, and that bus is going to take you to the place. Then you're going to get out of that bus and we're going to put you up against that wall... And then we're going to BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT! You understand?' ......... I said softly, 'Damn Dude. That's a bit harsh just for forgetting your watch in the bedroom.' I looked around for any bus-driver looking people ready to whisk me away. 'Well, I won't be doing that again, that's for damned sure.' I muttered as I went in the bedroom for my watch. Thankfully the Death Squad didn't know where my room was and I was spared.
My jersey, not his.
   Once again in the upstairs hallway, Dave was getting dressed to go shopping with me but had left his sleeping shirt on with the rest of the clothes that I had laid out for him. I immediately sent him back into his room to change his shirt to the one I'd laid out. It was a hockey jersey style shirt with a 'Rotten Rebels' logo. As he closed the door (he always closes the door) I heard him yell, 'Yes! We're going to play hockey in my room!' As I turned away to go downstairs I said, 'Well, that certainly explains some of the racket coming out of your room.
   Even the simple act of going through a door can become a major drama. 'No! Wrong door! Exit only!' Which, I will admit, is advice I've actually needed more than once. But you can't explain anything to him. The sign on the other doors saying, 'Please use other doors after ____ o'clock.' Means nothing to him. He doesn't care that you forgot a cart and it's a 32 mile walk around to the correct door. 'Exit only. When you see this sign, it means that this door is only to be used for exiting the building.' Thank you, Captain obvious, but using means I don't have to hire a native guide to get around the 600 people in line and then mount an arctic expedition to get to the car in the parking lot.
     So... More difficult? Yes. In ways that I never could nor even now predict. But also, incredibly rewarding in ways that I never could have predicted as well. So... like I said, it kind of evens out.