Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Excuse me...that's my son you're talking about.

I can see it very clearly. I'm pushing a shopping cart through a store. In the cart rides Matthew, my 4 year old son with autism. He's making the sounds he makes and occasionally letting go with a blood curdling scream of joy (most of the time it's happy screams). He's happy, but we do what we can to keep him somewhere below an F-16 on full afterburner. Its not that I'm worried he'll ruin 10 seconds of someone's shopping's that I worry what I'll do if someone says anything cross, or gives me a look that can't be taken in any other way.
You see, I'm always in full blown autism dad alert mode....just waiting for some parent with "perfect" kids to trip on the wire and have the autism awareness grenade that is me explode and rip them into tiny, self-righteous bits right in the middle of Target.

Which brings me to our trip to the grocery store yesterday evening.

Same scenario as before. Matthew is in the cart. I'm pushing. My wife and daughter have the list and are leading the way.

Matthew lets out a couple of happy screams as we peruse the outer regions of the produce section. No biggie. There's a lot of people there and everyone is focused on getting in and getting out.

I decide we need bananas. The banana area is crowded, so I leave the cart, and Matthew, with my wife and head in.

Just as I reached the bananas, I heard Matthew squeal again.

And wouldn't you know it...someone tripped on the wire.

I heard "Christ there goes that kid screaming again".

This comment was made by a 40ish male grocery store worker, to his coworker, who stood about 10 feet away (so it was said loud enough for everyone around him to hear).
I was behind him, so I saw his coworker roll his eyes and nod his head in agreement.

I calmly bagged my bananas and turned to face the guy.

"Excuse me....the little boy you're complaining about? That's my son. He has autism. He's 4 and doesn't speak. He gets excited and screams sometimes. He's not throwing a's just what he does."

He had the look of someone who just got caught talking small smack about someone else's kid.

He threw in a few "I'm sorrys" and a "he's not as loud as some of the kids in here" as I spoke.

I ended up giving a very nutshell explanation of autism to the guy.

I wasn't angry with him. He was quick to apologize and listened to what I had to say. I patted him on the shoulder as I walked away and said "I hear it all the time". Looking back, I hope he took that as, "I hear my son scream all the time" and not "I hear people complain about my son all the time". I may clarify if I ever see him again.

I might have been that guy in my former life. Hell, I know I've been that guy. Maybe I wasn't so open with my complaints, but I'd get annoyed when I saw or heard a kid going bonkers in public.

Not anymore. I give the courtesy to others, and I sometimes foolishly expect to receive it.

This was a minor thing, and I reacted accordingly I believe.

So that's that. The trip wire isn't as sensitive as I thought it was...

But it will always be there, waiting for the next person to step on it. How hard they step determines how hard the grenade explodes.

- Posted from my phone. I know...phones are amazing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Six years ago...

Six years ago today, in a hotel room in Washington DC, my (then) girlfriend said yes.

She agreed to marry me.

I had planned on asking her at the Lincoln Memorial or the Washington Monument....but when we arrived in DC, it was raining harder than I'd literally ever seen it rain (except maybe in Guam once). So I proposed in the room.
Minutes later, again literally, it stopped raining and we were able to go walk around. I always jump the gun in times like this.

This is her, just about an hour or so after agreeing to a lifetime with me. She looks remarkably calm.

Angelica and I....and Abe. I'm sweating bullets in the humidity (but I've got a little pattern going, which was nice) Dig those shorts too by the way.

While we had only been dating for about a year, our friendship goes way way back....

to the third grade in fact. 

That's me on the left in the very cool 70's (because it WAS the 70's) Giants shirt. My friend and future wife is in the back row, upper right with a white headband. Isn't she cute?

We weren't just classmates. We were friends. I was a shy, nice kid. So was she. Around the 4th or 5th grade, we both developed (some might say) an infatuation with The Beatles. It was this common interest that I think really cemented a life long friendship. To this day I act like I know more about The Beatles than she does but really, I'm a dunce compared to her insight on the subject. 

I remember going to see The Police in concert when I was in the 7th grade. I also remember an argument I had with a classmate over Sting. I had made the comment that Sting was the drummer for The Police. This was long before the internet...I just thought, "how could the drummer not have the coolest name ever? He's the drummer! He's GOTTA be Sting". Of course I know now that "Sting" is the lead singer and bassist.

On one of our first dates, over 20 years later, she brings this conversation up. She called me on it. I felt really bad because I remembered the "discussion" from years ago....I just didn't remember it was her who I'd made an utter fool of myself to. Once again, her musical knowledge trumped mine.

Our high school years are kind of interesting. I don't remember her, she doesn't remember me. Although, I might add my graduation partner was her best friend, and her graduation partner was one of my best friends. 

And that was that.

I attended our 10 year HS reunion in 1999. I was in the Air Force at the time. I spot her from across the way and run over and give her a big hug. She was beautiful. The sweet little girl I had grown up with was a woman, and holy smokes would I have asked her out on the spot, but it wasn't meant to be at that time. It was genuinely nice to see her and was one of the highlights of the reunion for me. 

And once again, that was that.

About 5 years later, I get an e mail. It's from Angelica. She had the gall to act like I might not remember her. She's very unassuming, which is one of the things I absolutely love about her. 

In the e mail she told me how she was doing and asked how things had been for me. I remembered seeing her at our reunion and what a vision she was. Once again, it wasn't meant to be...but it was wonderful to hear from my friend.

Life is funny. Within a few short months, my life had been thrown completely for a loop. I was sharing a spare bedroom in my parents house with my toddler daughter. I was now living in the same town as my old friend Angelica. I e mailed her and asked for her number. I called her. We met for a milkshake and fries.

And the rest is history.

She is a wonderful wife, a great mother not only to Matthew, our son with autism, but to Karen our daughter. 

She has supported and encouraged me like no one else before and I would truly be lost without her.

This is the whole family last weekend. 

And that's that.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Tag Team

My wife and I are going on a lunch/movie date today. We've hired a babysitter (Matthew's therapist from the center where he spends most of his day). We have 5 hours very carefully blocked out.
She arrives, we leave 15 minutes later, which gives us 40 minutes to get to the theater, etc.
The last movie we saw in a theater was Hot Tub Time Machine (circa spring break 2010) by the way.

This isn't the topic of this entry, just thought I'd mention it!

Tag Team. It's not just for wrestling anymore.

10 months out of the year, my wife is an elementary school teacher.

10 months out of the year I'm a full time college student.

My wife makes a nice living. She's been teaching for around 14 years and she earns every dime. I don't make any dimes going to school.

I earn my keep by getting good grades and making sure the kids get where they need to be when they need to be there. That's not always easy. Hell it's rarely easy.

What helps us keep from going completely bonkers is that we take turns (this mainly revolves around Matthew, our 4 year old with autism).

If my wife spent the previous night trying to find the exact spongebob episode that he insists must be played (downstairs at 3am I must add) then I know that tonight it's my turn if he pulls the stunt again.

My wife doesn't need to tell or ask me (most of the time!) It's just how we do things.
Yesterday my wife got to go to a small concert in town with her mom and her sisters. A rare and well deserved treat. I stayed home with the kids.

Tag. I'm it.

This morning, I don't even know when, she came downstairs with him and let me sleep in.

Tag. You're it.

I wake up around 645 (for me that's sleeping in) and take over with Matthew. Mostly at this time of the morning it consists of keeping him happy and non screamy. My wife is 10 feet away catching a few needed winks on the couch.

Tag. I'm it.

And that's how we do it. It's not a perfect system and either one of us carries a larger load at times... but we're always within arm's reach of each other.

For a hug.

For a pat on the rear.

For a tag.

- Posted from my phone. I know...phones are amazing.