You Coming? Or Am I Going? (#300)

After Friday‘s stomach flu leading to an unexpectedly quiet Saturday, Charlie woke up at his usual time on Sunday and seemed extra-alert as he looked out of the windows of our house and, later, of the black car as we drove to “Tar-gett.” He was not interested in eating and moved more slowly than usual around the house; Jim went to his office to write with the promise of “I’ll come home for a bike ride, pal.”
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Charlie wanted “wemonade” but, since Target did not have any, we stopped at Krauszer’s and he walked into our house smiling, drink in his hand, and settled himself by the front window. I was in the kitchen when a rubber ball was pitched from the couch into the dining room. I then heard four soft knocks and saw the lemonade flying. Charlie had snapped and I ran to put a pillow under his head, he yelped and cried and I did my best to say little and soon he was mopping up the floor with paper towels.

“Daddy coming home,” half-moaned Charlie, resettling himself in his lookout position on the couch.

“Yes, he’s coming home soon for a bike ride!” I said.

“Bike ride!” said Charlie, his voice stronger.

“Yeah, and everything’ll be fine,” I said, as softly as I could. “You’ve got a lot to handle, Gong Gong and Po Po went back to California on the airplane yesterday. And Spring Break is almost over and you get to take the red schoolbus to school tomorrow.”

“School-buss,” said Charlie smoothly. “Go school.”

Charlie also talks about “go home” when he is away from home (in the car, for instance), just as he talks about “go school” when he is at home. And certainly “school” and “home” are two major poles of his existence, as exemplified in the calendar of “yalllow house” ‘s that Charlie has been crossing off on the April 2006 calendar our Lovaas consultant made to help him count off the days of his two-week-long Spring Break. His actual school is in a large white building, but the red schoolbus/minivan is what stands out in Charlie’s lexicon.

Because, perhaps, the red schoolbus–like our black car–is the vehicle transporting Charlie in one direction or another. And while it is very clear in his speech (and perhaps his mind) that he is going to school or coming home, the rest of us use those words indiscriminately: “Time to go home! Let’s go to school. Are you coming to school tomorrow? Come on, let’s go!”

Whether you’re coming or going depends on the position of the speaker; indeed, the Mandarin lai and the ancient Greek erchomai mean both “come” and “go.”

It’s a matter of perspective.


My students in my classical Greek class can only groan when I have to break the bad news about the word for “coming” being the same as that for going and I suspect Charlie is equally exasperated when he says “stairs” and Jim and I look at him with an expression of “huh????”.

Which end is up?

“Stairs” is what Charlie says for both “downstairs” and “upstairs.” The difficulty in interpreting his word “stairs” is that its meaning depends on a combination of elements, namely whether

1) Charlie is upstairs and wants us (downstairs) to come upstairs;
2) Charlie is upstairs and wants us (upstairs) to go downstairs;
3) Charlie is downstairs and wants us (downstairs) to go upstairs (and get him something);
4) Charlie is downstairs and wants us (upstairs) to come downstairs;
5) Charlie is upstairs or downstairs and wants us (on the same floor) to go away.

That is, it depends on where he is relative to where we are and also to what Charlie wants that determines the meaning of “stairs.”
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That is, in Autismland, “downstairs” and “upstairs” can mean the same thing just as “give means take.” It all depends on where you are standing.

Paradox!!??!

The hard part for me is figuring out how to mediate–go between–travel–between Charlie’s perspective and my own. Things might be a bit easier–“snaps” might happen less frequently–if there were always a red schoolbus to transport Charlie and his intentions from there to here.

So I guess one underlying goal of Charlie’s education is to teach him to do the traveling–the mediating–the moving–himself. Charlie’s capactity for handling his own transportation is glimpsed in his ever-developing bike-riding skills. Charlie ran to get his glasses and his own and his dad’s helmets soon as Jim came home. Charlie ran excitedly about our front yard as Jim hauled the bikes out from the backyard shed; Charlie readily leapt onto his bike (click here for a Quicktime movie).

Charlie and Jim biked for an hour and a half before heading–coming, going–home.

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Comments
4 Responses to “You Coming? Or Am I Going? (#300)”
  1. mom-nos says:

    I’m reminded of the Del Vikings’ song Come Go With Me: “Come, come, come, come; Come into my heart; Tell me, darlin’, we will never part; I need you, darlin’,
    So come go with me.”

    I guess sometimes it doesn’t really matter if we’re coming or we’re going, as long as we’re moving in the same direction.

  2. liz says:

    You write so beautifully, my dear. I’m always in awe.

    I’d love to meet you all in person at some point. We were actually close — in Manhattan Weds afternoon thru Friday morning, but the schedule was not my own.

    We probably will be back in NYC in the fall.

  3. Eileen says:

    Coming or Going…it doesn’t matter with bike riding skills like Charlie. He is truly amazing!

    My husband and I are signed up for the Ride4Autism. I just found out that my sister and her 9 year old son also signed up. So, we hope to see you on race day. I am sure Charlie will be way ahead of me.

  4. Wade Rankin says:

    I think Charlie is one step ahead of most of us. He knows whether he is coming or going.

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