Personal, Political, & Thankful (#521)

It was a great day in Autismland—-Charlie’s best Thanksgiving ever.
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In his navy blue blazer with gold buttons (just like Jim’s) and a red golf shirt (not like Jim’s), Charlie walked, dapper and lean, into Thanksgiving dinner. For the past years we have been going out with Jim’s relatives: While this has meant no worries about putting together the turkey, the stuffing, the sides, the sauce, the pies, it has meant plenty of worry regarding keeping Charlie from grabbing the panoply of non-gluten-free casein-free food items laid out on the buffet table, from swiping a drink from someone else’s soda, or from knocking over a glass filled with ice cubes and drink when he was bored as dinner drew to a close.

I came armed with a bag packed with a game, a coloring book, markers, extra clothes, a book, and some gluten-free brownies, and only the last item was taken out (I suppose you could say I also brought my parents; my dad and Charlie looked like a natural pair as they made their way together to the buffet). Rather than just bringing Charlie foods he might like (for fear of the aforementioned “attack on the buffet table”), he made several trips with us to choose what he wanted. As a result of which, most diners had to settle for smoked salmon, as Charlie ate a good many shiney pink “smokeless” pieces (which resembled nothing so much as the fish on sushi). He had vegetables and roast potatoes and, courtesy of my dad, some turkey, with requests to me for sips of a special “brown drink” soda. It was the sixth birthday of another little boy and Charlie smiled and burst into song, and was duly delighted to see his brownies appear on his plate (with a dash of sprinkles from the desert table).

Charlie could not stop running at home so the furniture danced; he took out his space shuttle puzzle, carefully put together the lower left-hand corner with the swirl star-system, and arrayed the puzzle box and lid, a new small green squishy ball, and the tag from the ball in careful formation. “Puzzle!” Charlie looked at me with bright eyes; I noted that one piece was missing from the star-swirl; Charlie reached for my hand and opened it, as if to see if I were hiding the missing piece. “I don’t have it,” I said. “I doan haveit!” laughed Charlie who was funning me: When I next looked, the piece was soon in its place in the puzzle.

It was one fine holiday with our boy Charlie in Autismland, with family and food aplenty.

And it was one sad and awful day in Autismland. Because 12-year-old Ulysses Stable died early on Wednesday, November 23rd, in the bathtub in the Bronx apartment where he lived with his father, and it is his father, Jose Noble, who is alleged to have killed him. Because 5-year-old Daryl Gosein drowned in a canal near a relative’s house in Florida this Thanksgiving afternoon.

Some might prefer not to speak of things so sad, so terrible, on a holiday, and especially on one when Charlie did so very well—-as if “those kinds of things” do not, cannot, touch us. But one of those strange, or rather astounding, side-effects of living in Autismland is the kind of connection you feel to any autistic child and person, to any family with an autistic child. Socio-economic background, race, religion, nationality, political party leanings, language, are swept away because there is this one common “thing” we all care about:

Autism.

Just as it often seems to me that Charlie has no filter, or only a very thin one, for processing external stimuli—-he is so immediately affected by sounds, by food, by the presence of other people whom he has a strong emotional tie too—-so do I feel that any news containing the “a” word strikes me straight under the skin, gets down into the gut. Perhaps in Autismland, it is not just that the personal is the political, but that everything is personal, that the politics of Autismland are fully lived and breathed and felt as part of our own story, as, indeed, our autobiography. And when the story in the news is about an autistic person being harmed, being killed, dying, it is as if a small something of our own self chokes and withers.

And then I hear the restless babble-mumbles of Charlie, too excited from his day to get to sleep before midnight, and think about the things we will do tomorrow and am glad and grateful and, yes, thankful that Charlie is safely tucked in his own bed with Daddy’s blue blanket and the new green squishy ball.

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Comments
One Response to “Personal, Political, & Thankful (#521)”
  1. enna_id says:

    Beautiful post. Hurray for Charlie and your family!

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