Merboy (#410)

The waves were big and burly and brackish, and very warm. Charlie’s face had been somber all day through breakfast, a hilly bike ride, the purchase of a new bike helmet, “g’een salads” for lunch in the car. But I could see the corners of his mouth turning up into a smile as he took off his sandals and walked across the hot sand at the beach.
Charlie swims at least as well as his same-aged peers in the ocean. I might go so far as to say that Charlie is “indistingishable” from a typical, non-autistic 9-year-old boy in the ocean except that—while Charlie can stand beside other surfer-dude attired boys and face waves with the reckless abandon of, well, 9-year-old boys who like French fries and this movie, Charlie does stand out.

Because he is a better swimmer than the average child his age—Charlie swims out as far as he can, Jim right behind, to where the only swimmers are all old enough to swim during Adult Swim. Charlie has no fashion sense; he wears whatever swimsuit he found on his shelf and has no interest in having some cool design on his rashguard (not that Charlie wears one). Charlie goes to the ocean to do one thing, to swim in the ocean, sometimes with the boogie board strapped to his wrist. But while other 9-year-old boys are striking Endless Summer type surfer poses and seeking the perfect ride, Charlie swims, face in the water, kicking and bending back over on his back.

Many a time I spotted a huge wave rising a feet above Charlie’s ahead and a few feet behind him; just as the wave was about to come creashing down, Charlie casually turned his head, saw the wave, and put his face into the water. The wave crested and crashed down with him in it.
I was watching on the sand after working my way through all that water to where Charlie and Jim were swimming, floating up in a cresting wave, and wiping out. Charlie does not wipe out; he does not (as I do) worry about getting salt water in his eyes. He senses an oncoming wave not (as I do) from seeing it, but from, I think, feeling the total movement of the water around him.

“We’re going to do that someday,” Jim said after watching two people parasailing.

“You and Charlie,” I said. “I’ll take pictures.”

“But you’re right above the water and it touches down out in the ocean……” Jim started to say and then ran back into the ocean, where Charlie was swimming out to sea.
I am very limited when it comes to swimming in the ocean. I wear contact lenses and salt water and sand in my eyes can mean that I cannot see anything. When I sight a big wave coming near me, I do not do what Charlie does—align his head and body so that he is in the movement of the wave—I tense and brace myself, and have, more than a few times, gotten smashed onto the sand. I am more able in the ocean than I used to be since I learned how to swim three years ago, as a result of needing to chase Charlie around the swimming pool. But I am, indeed, “handicapped” in the world of the ocean.

Not so Charlie. He is perhaps at his ablest—in his element—in the ocean. It is I who need supports, adjustments, accommodations and sometimes just plain help, if I am to function at a barely decent level. It is I who have an “aquatic disability.”

Charlie, the kingfish, at home in the ocean, is one merboy.

2 Responses to “Merboy (#410)”
  1. tara says:

    Charlie is amazing. Littleman shares Charlie’s love of the ocean and seems impervious to the cold water!

  2. Charlie has taught me to love the water—I used to not get in at all. Did you and Littleman get to the beach yesterday?

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