Under the Big Dipper

Charlie back at the supermarket Wednesday got off to a very early start with Charlie waking up at 3.30am. He put on his shoes for a walk and I followed him out into the street. It was quiet, so quiet that the clanks and whirrs of a passing freight train suggested it was right next to us, rather than several blocks over. 

To our surprise, Charlie took himself back to bed and even went back to sleep around 5.30am. But Jim and I both figured something must have been up for him to wake at 3.30am. He was very anxious when he woke again around 7.45. The 3.30am walk had been very pleasant, but Charlie got extremely upset in the car on the way to school and struggled mightily the rest of the morning. 

Things were much better by the afternoon and, on coming home, Charlie requested a bike ride. Jim was only to happy to ride off with him (though he then had to rush rush rush off to get to New York for a meeting).  When they returned, rough start be d***d, I decided to be a little ambitious and drove Charlie over the Pulaski Skyway to Jersey City. Since Charlie's been little, I've had a mantra somewhat like

Take a sad song and make it better

in my head. Tough beginning with Charlie, or just a tough day, period, but we still have to try to make something about the day better. Or at least, not so hopeless-feeling.

At my college, Charlie waited in front of the building where I used to have my office, while I xeroxed a Latin quiz and chatted with a colleague. Then he and I walked across the campus (it's not a large campus) to pick up an order of summer rolls from a Vietnamese restaurant. Charlie held the bag as we walked back and during a brief stop in an administrator's office. He ate in the car, we got home, he went to hang out in his room.

Suddenly it became very quiet upstairs and then I heard sounds of bathroom plumbing in operation (the shower, too), leading me to suspect that stomach trouble had had something to do not only with the unhappy morning, but Charlie's very, very early wake-up. 

Charlie came downstairs and wanted his socks and off we went on a our habitual neighborhood walk, only it turned out not to be as habitual as usual.

As we crossed the grassy field that's usually the last phase of the walk, I noted a group of kids roughly Charlie's age playing softball. As we neared them (and I directed Charlie to walk around the game), I saw that some of the players had Down Syndrome, and, while Charlie ran across the field, I asked one of the adults, was this a special league?

"It's Special Olympics," was the answer. After which I'm sure I annoyed the one man by asking a number of questions: if they played in the field regularly, when, where else, how could I find out more?. I was told I could go to see a woman on the other side of the players to get an email address, but Charlie was almost across the field and I had to run off. I made a mental note about the park where the group plays and plann to take Charlie there next week, even just to watch.

I caught up with Charlie. He turned his head over his shoulder and I followed the direction of his eyes, towards another street, and not towards our house. "Walk?" I asked and "yes" said Charlie. And off we went on a long walk to the tune of 4 1/2 miles. I was very happy to be on this walkand Charlie seemed so, too, now breaking into a sprint and pumping his arms. We'd all enjoyed these long walks in the fall and Jim and I had been disappointed when snow and cold, and the fact that Charlie had to pass the house of Nemesis Dog to go on the long walk, had cut them short. But (with a little help from Jim on a bike ride) Charlie had learned that he can take a different street to end up on the long walk and that's what he did Wednesday.

It was a beautiful evening, sunny and just a bit cool and with lots of other walkers and runners and bikers out.

We got home and Charlie asked to get in the car and since he'd requested the lovely long walk I said sure. Maybe because I was tired I drove us into the parking lot of a large grocery store. It's not one that we used to go to a lot, mostly because they don't sell sushi, Charlie's longtime favorite. Consequently, though, we have no history of incidents with brownie boxes or anything else at this particular store.

I wrote up a short shopping list on a piece of paper and read it to Charlie in the car and again after he'd gotten a shopping basket in the store: Watermelon (he chose the biggest container), apples, Saltines (someone had placed a small display of Juicy Juice right in front of these and Charlie puzzled over how to get around it to find the familiar box). We went to the self check-out line and while I weighed the apples, Charlie went to get a soda.

Then we went home and that was that.

Ok, almost: Some eating (of course) of the bought items, computer using, and one more walk, with Jim when he came home.

Charlie on a long walk on a lovely April day 

As Charlie and I had crossed the field on our first walk of Wednesday around 4.10am, I had looked up and saw the Big Dipper, each star perfectly clear to see and seeming very oddly close, as if they might just drop down a little and touch the trees. I thought about how those stars have shone and been seen by how many people before us walking in the quiet field, by people all over the world, and of how many more will still see them in time to come. 

Thinking that, it seemed that somehow things would be all right. 

Wednesday this didn't happen immediately. But by the time the Big Dipper had appeared in the sky again, things indeed were and are.

3 Responses to “Under the Big Dipper”
  1. Rhi says:

    Special Olympics is amazing! Our National games for Special Olympics are about to start on Monday here in Australia!
    I got to carry the SO flame 🙂
    The next world games are being held in Athens, Greece!

  2. emma says:

    Lovely post.

  3. Jill says:

    That would be so cool if Charlie would play softball with the Special Olympics kids. Down Syndrome kids are usually much more gregarious than kids with autism but who knows? Since they’re also usually more forgiving of differences than typical kids it might work for Charlie.
    Has he played with other kids before?
    I also think it’s great that he actually waits for you while you make copies or whatever you need to do. A couple of my former students ran like rabbits the second you took your eyes off them. One kid had a liking for disrobing completely (except for socks and sneakers) and running through the Catholic girls school that was behind the autism school where I used to teach. Catching him wasn’t easy, as he used to bare his teeth and snap.

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