Rock, Roll, Fly (#255)

We were driving–as we have done for almost a year–to Charlie’s Thursday verbal behavior session on one of those Rte 66-ish highways that are clogged with every possible chain and discount store and restaurant. Though the morning had dawned overcast and humid and Charlie (contrary to yesterday‘s sunny, smiling picture) had burrowed his face and the front of his body into the couch under his blanket before groggily dragging himself out to board the bus, he had (another) very fine day at school.
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The CD player was belting out an operatic duet featuring a certain young diva and an Italian tenor when the car shook.

Then a pause.

Then hoooooooooowwwwwwwwwwlllllllllllllll. Knock, rattle of some plastic item in the trunk, and I rolled the car into a warehouse parking lot.

I didn’t say anything as I beheld Charlie, breathing hard, eyes frantic. He tore off his fleece hat and tossed it into the front seat.

“So we should still go to see Miss Cindy?”

“Yesssz!” Half-sob.

I backed up and we got back on the road, Charlie–who has been wearing that hat pulled down over his eyes all winter–looking out the window, pupils big. I drove with one eye and most of my mind in the backseat with Charlie: Was it the multiple McDonalds? The little amusement park, rides wrapped in blue tarps? The missing blow-up King Kong on a car dealership roof? Was the hat that Charlie seems to need to pull down over his head making him too hot on a 50-degree-plus March day?


Charlie’s session with Miss Cindy was full of talking–148 mands–and he was altogether giggly at the start. It was dark when we went home down the same old highway. Just as we passed The Spot there rang out from the back seat:

“Hi! Hii. Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi!”

“Hi!” I smiled and, in honor of the warmer, spring-like air, switched the CD to a last summer’s “happy music.”

After an “interesting” Monday, it has been a happy week for Charlie and so for all three of us. I have spent the past two mornings in the library of my old university. For my research on classics and disability, I have been studying the plays of the ancient Greek dramatist, Sophocles. I found all the books I could need on the third floor and carried them down to the basement C floor, where there is a sort of atrium reading area, with shiney desks and, as the morning progressed, increasing sunlight.

Sophocles wrote tragedies—Oedipus Turannos, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus, Ajax, Trojan Women, Philoctetes, to name a few of the eleven that are extant. The word “tragedy” means some catastrophe, something awful and dire to us today. The matter is somewhat more complicated among the ancient Greeks. Aristotle in his Poetics notes that, in the tragedies with the best plots, philia–friendship, love, affection–and pathos–suffering–occur along with a recognition.

Love, suffering, and recognizing or “coming to know again”: Witnessing the suffering of those dear to one, and trying to understand it not from my own mindset, but from Charlie’s different one: It is a formula for many a day in Autismland.
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After dinner, Charlie wanted to look at the photos on the computer. He has difficulty coordinating his hands with what his eyes track and asked again and again “I want ferris wheel Blake” or “I want Portia doggy” so I clicked to certain photos. Then I put the arrow over the picture file Charlie requested and his hand over the mouse: “You can do it!”

Click click. Click click. For the first time, Charlie opened several of the photos on his own. “I want ferris wheel Daddy” he said solemnly. “I don’t think we have one of that,” I said. “Bedtime’s coming up, anyways.” Charlie looked at me and then back at the screen and clicked and clicked and clicked and stared. There on the screen was a photo of Jim and Charlie on the Paraglider, a ferris wheel-like ride—Jim tells me it’s the closest thing to feeling you can fly.

It’s a ride in the old amusement park we had passed this afternoon.

I suspect the Paraglider was parked in a horizontal position, most un-ferris-wheel-like and perhaps–most likely?–all wrong to Charlie who, though enwrapped in polarfleece, smelled the coming of summer. And remembered, and wanted, the feeling of flying next to Dad, with Mom waiting back there on the ground.

Comments
3 Responses to “Rock, Roll, Fly (#255)”
  1. gretchen says:

    Eureka! Beautiful detective work mom! What a great feeling to decipher what Charlie was thinking.

    Henry also likes to look at photos. What purpose do you think it serves for them? To help organize and categorize their memories? Or, just like for us, the photos help remember a fun time. Maybe it’s as simple as that?

    (I don’t think Henry talks about the PEOPLE in the photos as much as Charlie does, though. He talks more about himself “you were riding in a boat.”)

  2. Eileen says:

    Great job with the computer mouse! That means a lot more computer programs for him to learn with. Yay! I am so glad that Charlie is having better days. May they keep on comin’!!!

  3. Wade Rankin says:

    Thanks for helping us recognize the difference between tragedy and wonder. Fly on Charlie!

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