*unedited sorry for the typos y’all”
Yesterday I found him on the roof again. I thought I had everything locked. I thought I had everything Aiden proofed. as I scoured the house for him to no avail I began my third run around the house to see if any doors or windows were left open and i found none. This time, my heart wasn’t racing, I was concerned but not nervous. I remember thinking “everything is closed he is somewhere in here” remembering that he never closes doors behind him. I called his name in an almost screaming voice and I heard the faint moan of his reply. but where was he? The faint sound seemed to be coming from somewhere outside. Relieved that he was not in the neighbor’s house again changing their channels I walked outside and around the side of the house into our back yard and as I rounded the corner I heard his familiar squeal and I as I looked up I saw him standing there on the roof staring at me without an inkling of fear in his eye. I still wasn’t scared. I didn’t freak out. My heart immediately went into problem solution mode. I told Him to “Sit” as I showed the sign for sit and he complied. I ran to the garage and found the ladder and raced to the back yard. As I fumbled to lengthen the ladder the neighbor behind us asked “do you need some help?!” “Yeah, I think I do” I said calmly as my silent son sat in a closed stance over me sucking his thumb unaware of the trouble he was causing. My neighbor just as calm as I coaxed him down and I thanked him and the situation was resolved without a tear, without a heightened heart rate and without incident. This wasn’t the first time, you see, I have been through so many close calls with this boy I have learned the art of not freaking out. Either that or I have been so scared so many times that its normal and I just don’t notice it anymore.
There comes a point in autism parenting where you switch from freaking out about everything to freaking out about nothing. Or maybe it’s not that you aren’t freaking out anymore. Maybe it’s that you are so used to the abnormal that when something so outlandish happens you almost expect it.
Today I awoke with a startle wondering where Aiden was. I ran about the house until i heard him playing in the dvds in the basement with that familiar sound of dvd boxes opening and closing. I breathed a sigh of relief as I laid back in bed with one eye open trying to forget the long sleepless night. After about an hour passed of getting up to check and laying back down I gathered my things and my wallet and marched out the door to grab a coffee for my husband and I. With Aiden in tow i knew this wouldn’t be easy and as we pulled up i noted my favorite barista walking out to her car and feeling sad that we had missed her. She always knows how to make me feel so comfortable with Aiden often taking an extra moment to wait for him to order his water and sometimes, when there is no line, put my debit card in the card reader to pay often pulling it out too soon and having to reinsert it two to three times to get a solid transaction.
I remembered on my way home that a local city was having a city wide garage sale and i love those. I texted my husband and said ” hey hunny… GUESS WHAT?! CITY GARAGE SALE!” “ok” he replied. Knowing my husband that meant “im in”. I walked in the house holding my Iced Mocha and his Caramel iced coffee and Aiden followed and ran immediately to his bed to lay on his old faded Minion blanket and we planned out our day. as we sat searching for Facebook events for something that looked promising i looked over and saw aiden edging toward the window he grabbed my coffee and slid open the screen and I knew what he was planning I frantically screamed, “NO, AIDEN! NO!” and lunged at him grabbing my coffee from his hands before it went flying out the window. I looked over at my husband who was still sitting in bed with a shocked look in his eye and all i could say was, “See, I told ya he was fast” “No Joke” he replied.
It took us forty-five minute to get out of the house as we packed a bottle of water and searched for complete pairs of shoes and extra clothes for the water gun fight we were anticipating. I loaded his restraint wheel chair, the backpack and his noise cancelling headphones and we were off.
We weren’t even out of our subdivision before he pinched Caleb in the leg leaving Caleb in tears saying, “I hate that he does that all day!” I looked at Aiden and said, “No. Thats not nice. Be nice to caleb. Aiden say, ‘I’m sorry Caleb'” “I sowy caweb” he said through little giggles knowing what he did was wrong and thinking it was funny. “It’s not funny Aiden!” i said. “Not funny.” he replied in a flat tone still quite proud of himself.
as we drove on down the road i was starting to get frustrated. David said its hot and opened the window just a crack and within a quarter-mile of the window being open i looked back and screamed and before i could catch him he was throwing papers and objects out the window. David frantic,switched lanes almost hitting the car next to us and despite the car horns we made it to a side street safely and took everything from the back seat and put it in the trunk for safe keeping. “I need one of those stickers” he said as he eased his way back into the driver’s seat setting the child lock for the window controls. I just sat staring out the side window blank until I found my voice stable enough to say, “this is why I’m so tired when you get home from work. This is every moment and its frustrating” as i slipped into the back seat to keep the other children separate from Aiden. for the remainder of our garage sailing experience i sat there protecting my children from Aiden. There were times he would lay his oversized head on my shoulder and I would rest my head on his and for a moment we would connect. I would kiss his head and say “I love you baby. You are a good boy” and it’s these quiet moments that keep me going on days like today and in situations like this.
After garage sailing we headed out to our second destination about an hour away from our home. There was this capture the flag event which included sqirting the other team with squirt guns. We had to partake in this. It sounded too fun to miss. we arrived at our destination with no further incident and took out the wheelchair and strapped him in and off we went carrying our squirt guns and shooting people as we walked around town. Aiden road knees to his chest and thumb in his mouth silent as all of this transpired around him. But the laughs from my children were priceless as they randomly shot people whether they were on the team or not. We stopped at the home base for the pink team and an all out war ensued as the orage team stormed the patio of the bar. It was the funnest thing I had ever seen in all my life. but as i sat off to the side with aiden wishing i could be a part of everything a man walked past and looked at aiden and said, “hey little man I have three of these guns keep one and its yours!” I was so touched by the mans kindness and even the mere fact that he saw us that when aiden chose the gun with the green trigger a single tear fell down my face and I couldn’t even thank him. I smiled at him and pushed it down and pretended to laugh at everyone as they continued shooting one another until I found myself really laughing.
Finally, I just couldnt take it anymore. I grabbed aidens gun and ran into the middle of both teams and just started shooting at random people. I laughed and ducked behind concrete walls and laughed and laughed just like i used to. Now as i sit here im reminded about a line from the book The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver “It felt so good to laugh she was afraid next she would cry”. As I stood there gun in hand shooting I saw Aiden out of the corner of my eye strapped in a chair looking at pictures on my husbands Iphone and it was then that i realized that he didnt care what was going on around him. What difference does it make to him if im standing on the sidelines with him watching life happen or actually living life ten feet away? In the scheme of things it really makes no difference. And for one moment I forgot about Autism, i forgot about my job on the psychiatric unit, I forgot that I was a parent, I forgot about all the weight on my shoulders.
So I guess today in the midst of that squirt gun fight I found a moment of freedom. I let myself go and set it down. Its moments like this that I’m reminded that theres so much of me that has been lost on this journey and its time that I start to take it back. Its time that i take that long ride with my favorite song on repeat turned up as loud as it can go. Its time that I take a moment and write that poem, put on those headphones once the kids are asleep and close my eyes and go back to college where everything was at my fingertips before autism took all of it away. Because just because the world around me is crazy doesnt mean that my soul needs to be. I need to find reality again.