Back in the Swim of Things (#102)

“Suit on!” said Charlie at 6.07pm. He had just finished an early McDonald’s take-out fries and burger dinner. The school nurse called at 10am to tell me about the same incident Charlie had had on his way into his classroom. I heard nothing more all day (no news is good news?) and found a giggly boy at his afterschool program, where I shook hands with a young man who often sits beside Charlie. While I was on the phone with Comcast (and learned my “unconnectivity” was due not to them but to my wireless device), Charlie dragged his mattress to the floor and was trying to pull it back to his old bedroom. He was only wearing his shirt and then (still on the phone) I gave him a shower (meanwhile, the shirt disappeared and has yet to be found). He asked for the “burger fries Mac-Donalls” with conviction.

Family swim hours at our town’s pool do not start until 7.30pm so there was an hour and a half between us and “ocean!” (an indoor pool can really look good after overheated school days). Charlie insisted on spending it in the front yard, checking out the neighbor’s driveway, puddles, and the wet hood of the black car. “Mom still has to eat dinner,” I explained and then, “honey, you gotta come inside so Mom can put on her swimsuit.” He did and we left at 7pm.

The pool is five minutes from our house so I drove very slowly and parked with great care. “Charlie!” We were greeted by Miriam (who was once an aide in one of Charlie’s classes) and Colleen (whose day job is at a center for developmentally disabled adults). They let Charlie go in early, while the swim team was still practicing, and I stood on the side to watch poetry in the water. Charlie’s arms are so much stronger and he propelled himself up and down a lane on his back, his face assuming an enviable bliss to be back in the water. P1010026
I did a bunch of laps in the next lane, relaxing even as I exerted my arms in the cool blue, one eye on Charlie who–when a middle-school-aged girl dropped a lavender fun noodle into the water–made a beeline for it and drifted about the deep end like the fish he is.

Last year, we swam almost everyday in the indoor pool; it is why I am a semi-decent swimmer and why we know Miriam and Colleen pretty well. We started going for Charlie–for exercise in the long winter months–but I’m glad myself to get in the water and feel myself buoyant, lifted by something else–a lot of water.

Back home, Charlie had a snack and listened to his favorite songs–“Let’s Get Together,” “Grand Old Duke of York”–on his iPod. When he could not find his cherished Daddy’s blue blanket, he went to the basement and tried to climb into the dryer. “It’s upstairs” I said, as Charlie got hold of his old bike and said “bike stairs,” and accepted my response to leave it in the basement. He stayed up until Jim came home past 10pm and fell sleep on our bed, two Wiggles DVDs tucked under his head, just in time for Jim and I to watch Nightline’s special on adults with autism.

Yes, Charlie is practically as tall as me: He is 8 and I am 36. Yes, I still take him with me to the ladies’ room. (“I’m going to start teaching him to go in the men’s room on his own,” said Jim at the commercial break to Nightline; “I’ll be standing outside the door and yelling instructions in,” I said.) Yes, Jim got Charlie a new bike with 24-inch wheels on Thursday. Yes, it’s a rare thing for Charlie to speak in a complete and comprehensible sentence on his own, but that is why we are here to translate. Yes, Charlie taught me how to swim.

My first post was on the first swim Charlie and I had in the outdoor pool at the start of summer and it does seem fitting for me to celebrate my reaching the 102nd mark of this blog with our first swim in the indoor pool, and with a wish that, after many more hundreds of days, Charlie and I and Jim too will be swimming there together, after we’ve all put in a good day at our jobs.

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