Tower of Fear, Here We Come! (#382)

This is Charlie’s routine when he goes to the beach.
Soon as we hit the sand, it’s “sandohs off” and then “s’irt off,” with the shirt being handed to Jim.

And then he’s off, Jim hustling after him with the boogie board and me with the beach bag, towels, extra, clothes, suntan lotion, camera, etc., etc..

Charlie runs for the water. (He appears to be past the days of stomping on other kids’ sandcastles for the sensory delight of all that sand under his toes.) He runs in and you can see his shoulders shiver and his face burst out into absolute, pure, joy. Then he heads into the waves and, Jim after him, before you know it Charlie is swimming (face in, legs kicking) farther out than anyone else in the ocean, and the waves were big today.

Charlie first wet his feet in the ocean when he was a few months old and it was only last summer that Jim was able to teach him to duck his head and “go under!” a cresting wave. Even with his back turned to the waves, Charlie seems to sense them coming, sometimes turning around just in time to “go under!” or to put out his hands, relax his body, and ride smack in the very crest of the wave.

He is a natural in that ocean.

On dry land, though, Charlie’s worries returned, as evinced in the form of repetitive speech: “Fish fries! Fish fries! Fish fries!” We had to sit in traffic as a drawbridge was up to let a boat pass; I found the take-out menu for a fish place and, every time Charlie said “fish fries!”, I had him point to those words on the menu. That helped Charlie get through the wait and then, everyone fed and happy, we drove down to another Jersey shore town, where there is a boardwalk with all manner of rides (including the Tower of Fear, a mega-sized frog-hopper), fried food, and beer-ponging college students. Then Charlie’s refrain became “ferris wheel! ferris wheel! ferris wheel!” and his tone grew increasingly anxious when we had to drive past a gigantic ferris wheel (behind a car with an Autism Awareness magnet) to find a parking place.

We parked and Charlie held his dad’s hand on the ride, which gives a good view of the ocean. Charlie requested to do the Giant Slide and Jim and I—remembering past times when Charlie went down and then ran up into a down-coming kid—were vigilant.
“Ferris wheel,” said Charlie as walked back to the car. “Ferris wheel. Ferris wheel ferris wheel ferris wheel ferris wheel….” and down he went towards the pavement.

Jim was holding his left hand and I grabbed Charlie’s right and there was gnashing of teeth, howling, twisting, anger, for two minutes total. Then, with some soft crying, Charlie stood up and walked. “Let’s go look at the ocean,” said Jim.

Charlie did the routine but acceded to Jim’s requests not to swim, as the lifeguards were gone. Back in the car, Charlie rubbed at the sand on his feet and look at some fireworks.

“Next summer, we’ll do the Tower of Fear,” said Jim when we were back on the road. “I’ll do it with Charlie.” And, after we were back home and Charlie had showered off the sand and fallen asleep under his blue blanket, Jim and I noted how just being on a ride–that Giant Slide—that a younger Charlie used to do can bring back the tantrumming behaviors of that younger Charlie.

Who needs a slide when you’re a boy who can stand up (or under) the big waves, or plan on riding the Tower of Fear?

3 Responses to “Tower of Fear, Here We Come! (#382)”
  1. Mothersvox says:

    I love seeing your life at the beach! It’s so inspiring. You, Jim and Charlie know how to live life so artfully! So fully! Happy swimming to all of you.

  2. Kassiane says:

    I went to the beach today too!

    Hydrotherapy. And missing the ocean. Like Charlie I learned a lot of swimming in the ocean, fearless. Not even living near one.

    I can’t say enough how much I enjoy reading about Charlie. He makes me happy. And it’s cool to see the similarities between autistics who are superficially so different.

  3. What if there were a school for autistic kids at the beach! Something to wish for…….

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