Mercury Rising; Magnificent Ride
So with the mercury rising up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit or certainly feeling like it, plus it being nice and humid besides hot, Charlie handled a day off from school—very well. And we didn't even go to the ocean.
Actually, it was better that we didn't go to the beach, having done so on both Saturday and Sunday. As you may have guessed, Charlie adores the beach and loves loves loves to swim in the ocean. He's long had trouble balancing that love with the reality that he can't always be at the beach swimming in the waves; for years, we avoided going to the ocean except for our annual 'two weeks in August' at the rented beach house, as Charlie's agony at leaving the beach was intense. Getting Charlie off the beach was like tearing a part of himself from himself and he wept all the way home so sadly anybody's heart would be broken. He's learned to modulate his feelings as he's gotten older, but I suspect Charlie, knowingly or not, tries to create routines—rituals—like riding the ferris wheel, to help himself handle being sad and knowing he'll miss the waves.
Indeed, though Charlie enjoyed our stormy (as in the weather, not anyone's behavior) trip last Monday, he didn't want to stay for long. He even seemed a little puzzled to find himself at the beach on a Monday. Too, he gets a total workout when he swims these days but doesn't realize that he's over-tiring himself, or that he ought to moderate his activities.
Monday Charlie did get a total workout (as did Jim and me, though we went halves with him), with one nice new twist. Charlie woke at 8am and he and I went right out for a walk—a good thing, as it was probably already nearing 90 degrees then. He and Jim did a morning bike ride, after which Charlie pulled a watermelon out of the refrigerator, placed it on a cutting board, and told me 'cut.' He proceeded to eat a very large bowl.
And then it was time for a little adventure.
We loaded (well, Jim did the lifting) up the bikes on our spiffy new bike rack and drove out to where there's farms, green acres, and pretty green rolling hills (yes, we were still in New Jersey), to a quite picturesque little town. A couple of years ago, a friend had invited us out there to ride bikes with her sons and some friends, for a birthday party. We had driven out to the town one or two times since, but hadn't brought the bikes out there till yesterday.
Charlie issued a number of no's in the car, with a couple of all done's for good measure. But soon as we parked the car by an old train station, he got right out, called for his helmet, and sped off down the dirt road with Jim behind him. Charlie was 'magnificent' (quoting Jim) on the ride. It was certainly extremely hot but there were plenty of trees and shade the whole way. The return trip was partially uphill and Charlie was as game as ever (i.e., as fast as ever).
We made sure Charlie was sitting in the car with the air-conditioning on at full blast as Jim and I put away the bikes (and Jim was duly shepherded to sit in there too, while I tightened the straps). A stop at the now-favorite Mexican fast food place for burritos left Charlie happy and chatty on the trip back. Once home, we'd just put away the bikes and I was putting together some things for his lunch when Charlie asked for a walk.
I always make sure to bring a water bottle and certainly on a day when the evening air was heavy and thick. Insects chirped rhythmically overhead and we ran into only a few dog-walkers and power-walkers who were walking a little less intensely. Charlie himself kept up a good pace though he didn't, as he often does, run—wisely, as it was hot.
As we rounded a corner on a residential street, I sighted a group of a dozen or so kids around Charlie's age walking in front of us. Some had scooters, some had backpacks and headphones. They were clearly in a loose group and they were dawdling, laughing, doing wheelies. Charlie was walking at the same fast pace and I could tell we would overtake the group. The next thing I knew some of them turned around on hearing Charlie's voice (saying sounds that weren't complete words). Then he broke into a run, I followed (I'm regaining my old cross country runner shape thanks to all this conditioning with my coach), and the kids literally scattered, some of them issuing mock screams (I think they were mock) and squeals and jumping onto neighbors' lawns.
We were soon past them and then I could heard the giggles and the rest. Charlie remained in high spirits and I thought a moment and got into what Jim would call 'Dr. Chew' mode and, turning round to the kids, said 'hi,' light and friendly. And wondered if the time is at hand to contact a few local school districts and make inquiries about their character education programs, and does it include a unit on individuals on the autism spectrum, especially teenagers and adults?
I didn't feel mad or bad—the kids' reaction, and actions, seemed a little ridiculous and over-the-top—this wasn't a heckling situation, but a reminder that Charlie often does things that are rather readily misinterpreted and simply not understood. We go through enough to understand why Charlie does what he does and to explain it to ourselves and each other. Parents of so to speak 'typical' kids are most likely not going to know how to explain Charlie; who knows if those kids might even bring up their, ahem, 'encounter' with Charlie and me to their parents.
And if they could have seen Charlie on his bike, pedaling at full speed up a hilly dirt road in 99 degree weather—-well, if they had been walking in front of Charlie, they might have jumped out of the way too.
He is really fast.