Beach Walkers

Charlie at the beach on a beautiful Saturday (10 April 10) It's looking like 2010 is going to go down as the year in which the beach became not a vacation for us, but a habit. Indeed, a weekly habit: Saturday we went to the beach where we've vacationed almost every year since Jim and I met in 1994. We've been going to the beach almost every weekend since this past January; during Charlie's recent Spring Break, we went a couple of times. We used to never go in the "off season" as Charlie had such a tremendously difficult time transitioning to and from the beach. But he seems to be handling this much, much better.

The other reason we never visited the beach in the fall, winter and spring was that Charlie could not be dissuaded from jumping into water that was of a more polar bear sort of temperature. Even though he did put on his swimsuit Saturday morning, and though he did pack his boogie board in the trunk of the white car, he didn't make any effort to get into the waves. And, while he asked Jim and me to bring the boogie board to the beach, and while we responded "nah," he didn't get upset at all; a couple of weeks ago, he was not very happy when he had the board on the sand a few weeks ago and couldn't go in. I wondered yet again if there's something going on whereby Charlie asks, asks and asks for something that he's really wanted in the past but he's really testing us and doesn't (necessarily) want whatever he's asking for. Indeed, he'd kind of rather not have whatever he's asking for, but can't stop himself from asking.

It was just around 60 degrees fahrenheit Saturday, nowhere near as warm as it was last Easter weekend (and certainly not as warm as it was earlier this week). Charlie got into the car "avec winters" and then took off his fleece jacket and gloves in the car and threw them in the trunk. It was breezy down at the beach but he said "no" to wearing the jacket, and a very firm "no" when I said I'd carry it in my bag.

Charlie in short sleeves on a cool April day at the beach

Our walk on the beach had been cut short last weekend when Charlie spotted a small dog running on the sand without a leash. Just as we were walking onto the sand we spotted a woman with a brown Scotch terrier walking in the same direction. Charlie hung back and then walked on, most cautiously. By the time we were on the sand the woman and the terrier were already turning around.

So we had the beach all to ourselves.

Charlie and Jim walking on the beach at low tide

It was low tide and we were able to walk much farther out than we ever had.

Charlie and Jim walking on the beach (we had it all to ourselves!) 

Walking on the beach during low tide

End of the line (I mean beach)

We went as far as there was sand and then Charlie led the way back, over flora and fauna.

Charlie walking back through some beach flora and fauna 

And over the foliage.

Charlie making his way back on the beach

I spied a little turtle.

A little turtle on the beach

We were warmed by the sun, so that Charlie's t-shirt and swimsuit didn't seem a bad idea at all.

Charlie enjoying the warm sun at the beach on 10 april 10

We got takeout at a diner and drove to another beach.

Charlie ran back and forth with a pleased smile. 

Charlie exulting on the beach (before two dogs appeared)

And then we heard "up, Dad!" and Charlie was running to Jim on seeing two medium-sized dogs running onto the beach. Jim obliged by piggy-backing him, Charlie watching the dogs with wide, wary eyes. Once he got down he ran to the parking lot and ran the length of it, noisily. I ran after him; Charlie ran back to the car. I was thinking he'd run into it for security but then he turned and did another fast trot in the lot before getting into the car and buckling up.

Jim and I exchanged looks to remind each other of Charlie feeling the lag about such an abrupt end to his day at the beach. 

Charlie was cheerful all the way home, singing and humming from time to time. (I also really think it had good for Charlie to do those two fast runs in the parking lot, as if he knew he needed to run out his fears and being upset) We went for a walk; we used the computer; Charlie wanted another bike ride as the sun was setting. We went for a short ride around our town to check things out and then Charlie asked for another walk. And then, after attempting to go to bed, another walk under the stars.

Besides being the year of becoming regulars at the beach, 2010 looks like it's also going to go down as the year of walking with Charlie.

7 Responses to “Beach Walkers”
  1. feebee says:

    Jim’s back ok?

  2. emma says:

    Sounds like a lovely day, the beach looks great!!
    It’s good steady progress, the transitioning to and from the beach and no longer always wanting to jump in the sea, these things seem to sneak up on you over time, and all of a sudden you realise the change (at least I do:)).
    Wariness of dogs, I can kind of understand that, it may be hard to decipher a friendly bark from an aggressive one, dogs seem unpredictable. Dimitri too is fascinated/fearful of dogs although his reaction is different.

  3. Louise says:

    How long can Jim do “up”s? We had to give it up when Jake was about nine. Charlie is almost bigger than Jim is!
    In the past, you’ve reported that Chalie gets over-attached to certain behaviors. The pleasant experience can turn into an obsession. Is there a chance that this may be happening with his walks? He is demanding them with increasing frequency.
    Also, is there any physical activity that Charlie can do whenever he wants to, all by himself? This would give him some control over his own internal state, without having to rely on the presence of other people. (You have made it clear that you love walking with him. You’ll go with him as often as he asks. But it can also be very calming for him to sense that he can control his own demand for physical activity.)

  4. Barbara says:

    As emma said, there is a lot more to deciding about a dog than most people assume. All dogs are not alike.
    I, too, commend Jim for staying sturdy enough to carry Charlie. Must be impossible to know when Charlie will leave a particular behavior behind.

  5. Regina says:

    The beach looks really gorgeous and it sounds like a very “beachy” kind of day.
    Jim’s lucky to have an intact back; even if I wanted to, I have a damaged disk and could not piggyback my close-to-grown daughter because it would put me out of commission. We had a transition period where she wanted to, and I was still game to try but at some point I had to say – no can do…it would injure my back. I think realizing that I could not do vs. I would not do was helpful to both of us, and my daughter seemed to process that. Anyway, not a statement to your decisions – just reflecting. I work out to try and keep up but at some point age puts its finger down and says, “done with that, I think”, so I have to project ahead as we are “older” parents.
    That turtle is cool; never seen one here and am guessing those would not be indigenous to our coast, although depending on the tide we can see other creatures and occasionally sea lions.

  6. Mothersvox says:

    A beautiful account of a beautiful day! Love hearing about your beach days!

  7. autismvox says:

    I told Jim that I didn’t think a piggy back was a great idea, considering the sciatica he had two years ago but he insisted—I actually think Charlie could have managed without. An unintended discovery was that Charlie is much lighter than he was several months and a year plus ago. I don’t think piggy backs will become a habit!
    That said, physical activity and exercise seem to have become such. Charlie really likes to get outside and move and he can’t do those on his own, obviously, beyond our quite small front yard.
    Everything that Charlie finds pleasant becomes an obsession. I don’t care to say much that “that’s autism for you,” but preferred things often do become obsessions with Charlie. The trick is in getting him to vary things–different routes for instance (we did take one different route on Saturday). Just recently we got a big NO about walking and the walks definitely play a role in soothing Charlie when overwrought.
    On the other hand, am grateful for having an iPhone. Often on walks Charlie wants to be left alone, as much as that’s possible. One can email while walking……
    I’ve also noted that Charlie can be very fearful around a small dog and ok with a large one. The good thing is, he has learned that a dog on a leash is not going to have as random movements as one without. Not sure what he would do in a place like Athens with so many dogs on the streets!
    @Mary Carr, thanks for noting that, especially about “trying to annoy us into refusing her.” Lots of Charlie’s anxiety does seem wrapped up in anticipation, to the point that when he actually gets something, he sometimes doesn’t seem to care about getting it at all. And sometimes, he’s even to exhausted from all the ‘drama’ to enjoy it.

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