It’s a Beautiful Life (or, Who Woulda Thunk?)
When I started blogging in this space, I wrote that finding out that your child has autism is like the end of a love affair, and the start of a new, beautiful relationship. Being now a couple more years into that relationship, I still think the same. Indeed, I think it even more.
If you had told me that Jim and I would one day be loading a two-man kayak onto the roof of our stationwagon and driving down the Garden State Parkway to the beach where we vacation in August, I would have done the equivalent of pshawing you.
For one thing, being so wrapped up in Charlie's educational and school needs, I would have said that kayaking seemed a bit of an extraneous concern, a luxury, to contemplate. We should (I thought then) be devoting our every waking moment to teaching Charlie to read, to bringing him to play and social skills groups, to developing his communication and speech skills. Kayaking could wait. Further, as the beach is Charlie's most favorite place, a day's visit used to stoke extreme anxiety in him, often exhibited in the car on the way home. In previous years, Jim and I decided that day trips just weren't worth it.
But yesterday, Sunday, there we were driving down the Parkway with our just-last-week-purchased used kayak bungee corded to the roof of the car. Charlie was so eager to go that he had woken up at 6.30a.; I awoke to find containers of leftovers nicely arrayed on the kitchen counter (while everything was open, most were untouched: Charlie has become a much more picky eater since he stopped taking Risperdal in June). He waited very patiently for Jim and me to get ourselves going. We got bagels, Jim dragged out the kayak and he and I (mostly Jim, that is) turned it over and lifted it onto the roof of the car. The drive to the beach was fast and peaceful, with Charlie occasionally singing along to whatever was playing on his iPod, and the sky gorgeously blue and bright. By a quarter to 1pm, Jim and Charlie were out on the water and I was happily set up in the back of the black car.
Weekend ocean trips to kayak and swim, with Charlie trying to go out as far as two wet-suited surfers and, when we called him gently, turning around with a certain grin on his face; sushi at the little restaurant whose owner/chef called out "two California rolls!" even before we walked in the door (Charlie endeared himself to the family who runs the restaurant when, back in August, he stood quietly at the counter waiting for those two California rolls for almost an hour as the chef had a huge party order to fill and numerous customers filed in and out and made it clear, they weren't the sort of people who had to wait for sushi); a long and peaceful trip home due to traffic on the Parkway and despite the battery on Charlie's iPod conking out: Who woulda thunk?
And all with a boy whose "behavior problems" far exceed those of any child at his middle school, including the nervous adolescents waiting in the school's main office outside the Assistant Principal's door?
Sort of like this headline about a study cited in the September 20th Daily Mail: How mum and dad's [difficult and confrontational] behaviour can get their children branded troublemakers at school.
Yes, who would have thought, thunk, that?
It's not only a beautiful relationship that Jim and I have with Charlie. It's been a beautiful journey with our lovely boy. However rocky the road, however much mud gets on our shoes and dust in our eyes, we just keep on walking, together with Charlie.
(Or maybe I should say, swimming alongside our Kingfish boy.)