We go for a walk…I paraphrase Michael Corleone…

To start,  please, imagine a long string of expletives muttered under my breath as I stomp back home leading a screeching J, and maneuvering a rather large, heavy, and full wheeled trash can.


OK, so here goes the Michael Corleone paraphrasing: Just when I thought we could go out again, I have to pull him back again.

There we were, two happy pedestrians taking the trash on a for-now sunny day, and out of nowhere came the famous “he’s on a shock collar” German Shepherd.  The loud, sharp squeal and the sudden tensing of muscles (even though the dog was about 100 yards away) made me turn, mutter and paraphrase with enough alacrity to belie my chronic joint pain and difficulty in moving.

The change in direction and acceleration had to be achieved while checking for vehicles (those two STOP signs and one speed limit are doing nothing to help matters with the shitty driving around here,) and guiding J towards our garage while soothing his nerves.

We waited a few minutes.  I took this time to text the landlord and tell him what was going on.  He responded to me with the same concern and interest that he responded to all you lovely readers when you texted him on the same subject.  (HUH?  I didn’t text your landlord, crazy middle-aged mother of J who is on The Spectrum…oh…wait…I SEE!!!!  Ha ha ha…I get it…he didn’t reply because we didn’t text him…get it, get it…go on with your soapbox performance for today.)

J had been happy.  Seriously happy!  He was wearing his new Panama hat, the sun was shining, the breeze was warm and lovely.  Suddenly we were back in the garage and he kept shuffling his feet, looking anxiously at the street where the dog had been.

We ventured out once more.  In J’s hand was our gas bill, crumpled.  He ironed it out hurriedly on top of the trash can lid so I wouldn’t be upset.  I told him that didn’t matter.  We just checked for the stamp, that it hadn’t been torn, and I returned it to him so he could put in the mailbox.

We looked around, saw no dogs, and back we went.  Of course, by this point J is just super vigilant.  Any bark from a distance, garage door opening, sudden step makes him look over his shoulder.  We deposit the trash in the dumpster, look before crossing and head to the mail room.

As we go along I remind J that I have his back.  I will do whatever it takes to help him if he’s anxious.  I will wait, or I will walk faster.  I will take out our dreaded iPhone and (with my too-big fingers and thumbs) shoot off an angry text at the parties in charge of the rules being followed.  I will stand between him and dogs, cars, wild horses…you name it.

I feel his arm and shoulder begin to relax, and we stop at the corner to check for traffic.  “Look left.  No cars.  Look right…” His shoulder and arm tense and he grips me…there is not ONE dog…there are now TWO.  What are these people doing?  Lying in wait?  Did the first guy call and say to his buddy “hey, the freaks are out…bring your German Shepherd out, too?”  I take a deep breath, tell J to walk and not look.

He walks.  He tries not to look.  He fails miserably.  We speed up and make it back to our garage (with J frantically hitting the remote’s button so that it starts to open, closes, starts to open again, and I ask him to take a deep breath and relax because we’re on the concrete of our driveway, and that’s a sanctuary.)

J’s heart is racing.  He looks at me as the garage door closes and we finally find ourselves separated from the world of dogs.  I tell him it’s time for Wii, and he nods.  He takes off his Panama hat, and hangs it in the hallway.  He gets his step stool, and he turns on all the necessary equipment while I change my shoes.

By the time The Monkees are halfway through I’m a Believer, J has relaxed.  He smiles at me, says HAPPY, and then I LOVE YOU.  I smile, say HAPPY and I LOVE YOU, TOO.  I add “I have your back, buddy…I will protect you.”  He lets go of the step stool and, still running, hugs me.  We are actually running while hugging, and this makes us both laugh…

It is, in the great scheme of things, a rather fantastic moment.  J laughs heartily as I lip-sync to Huey Lewis and The NewsDo You Believe in Love? (I’m always The News…doing all the eeehoooohs and such…)

As we make lunch I ponder what people think this is like for him.  I know the property manager told me (with much fanfare) that she used to volunteer with kids who have Autism.  I also know that she, too, has let her dog rove around leash-less.  I know she addresses people not picking up after their dogs, but I also know she never tells them that the lease states dogs have to be on leashes. I know, heaven help me, that I come across as an annoying whiner who thinks her kid’s rights override the rights of the other tenants.  I can hear her saying “the lady in unit such-and-such complained that…”  If the issue had been addressed as “the terms of your lease state that…” this wouldn’t be such an issue; because it is “the lady that lives in unit such-and-such” it becomes sour grapes from a hag who gets disability checks for her son.

I decide to let it go.  Well, not really.  I decide that I have documented it, and I will use this when it’s time to break our lease to move away.  Not in a combative manner, but in a “hey, there’s this that I have expressed concerns about, and hasn’t been addressed” manner.

The moment that was bad is gone.  The moment that sucked is over.

It doesn’t mean it wasn’t bad for J, or that it won’t suck when it happens again.


The return of Julia Sugarbaker…-

Where do I start?

I love dogs.  I am, by natural inclination, a dog person.  I am such a dog person that, as James Thurber said, “all felines can tell this at a glance – a sharp, vindictive glance.”

It follows, regrettably, that my adult life has been spent wishing I could have a dog (even an assistance dog for J, which would be SO helpful) and having to fend them off while dealing with J’s dog-related anxiety issues.

As I have commented in the past, there is a leash law in effect in our county.  Our community also requires that dogs are kept on leashes.  It has become increasingly obvious that people flout this rule on a daily basis.

We have the guy four doors up the street from ours.  He regularly opens his patio doors and allows his two rambunctious dogs to run freely over the lawn in back of the units.  There is the young professional couple who plays Nerf ball catch with their energetic Jack Russell Terrier.  There are the three guys who have two German Shepherd puppies and one small dog that they allow out sans leash.  There are the girls who open their patio doors to let their little yip-yip dogs run around and do their business, and there’s the big black Labrador.  There are others…but these few are the closest ones to what I like to refer to as J’s vicinity.

You might (or might not) remember the sudden appearance of a rather large St. Bernard that sent J climbing on top of his mother.  I don’t want to exaggerate, but that dog had the same friendly disposition as Cujo, and it was loud.  Outings, after that moment, became more difficult because J looks for a leash when he sees a dog, and not seeing a leash means the dog could decide to run.    Regardless of how significantly bigger than the average dog J is, his eidetic memory (and his Autism) always go back to that memory of the One Dog and the One Owner, and the memory of the One Dog and the One Owner affects his opinion of all other dogs and owners.

Yes, J is prejudiced.  No, I don’t like prejudice, but this is a prejudice that, sadly, I cannot temper more than I already have.  Believe me, friends, I try.  I am the person who asks J to make eye contact, take deep breaths, and TRUST ME.  I have even tried doing it in the same way that Marlon Brando does it in Don Juan de Marco when he’s negotiating with Johnny Depp to not jump.  J buys it…to a certain point.  The smaller the dog, the greater the fear.  Maybe, and I’ve argued this before, it’s the high-pitched, insistent barking that these rather small creatures are capable of…like Joe Pesci throwing his weight around in movies

Let me set the scene for yesterday: every day, right before we exercise, I open the garage door so that J can breathe some fresh air, see the state of the weather, and maybe take a turn outside.  We usually take a walk after exercising, but this sets a nice tone for him.  J sits on the step that leads into the garage as he puts his shoes on, and I talk to him about how nice/rainy/windy/warm/cold the day is.  So it was in the midst of this that, like in a movie dream sequence, FOUR dogs run from two different directions to meet about 50 yards from where we’re sitting.  Chasing the black Labrador is a girl who looks alarmed because there are two German Shepherds and one nondescript small breed about to meet her dog in the middle of the parking lot.  The impression I got, from the human reactions to this sudden convergence of unleashed dogs, was that a dogfight about to ensue.

J let out a high-pitched squeal that sent me running to the switch for the garage door.  No one out there noticed this because, as usual, they were focused on the social interaction at hand.  I asked J to do his yoga breathing, and I went to look at the scene developing in the parking lot and green areas through the front door’s window.  I expected to see something different from what greeted my eyes: all the owners and all the dogs were happily chatting away.  They looked like they were about to break into song.  Another dog owner came out, and there was her little canine…cavorting with the rest.

I picked up the phone and dialed the landlord’s number.  I left a rather angry message.  “This is Mrs. So-and-So from such and such address and I’d like to know if there is no longer a rule about keeping dogs on leashes when they are in common areas.”

Did he return your call?  He didn’t return mine either.  That is how little concern this man feels for anything I say “hey, this shit is screwed up.”  You’d think that we haven’t been paying an exorbitant amount of money in rent to live in his property for the past five years.  (I think we’ve put his daughter through an Ivy League college…or we’ve bought him a rather nice luxury vehicle with all the bells and whistles, plus the insurance and maintenance…)

J and I exercised, and then -after checking the landscape for any more dogs- we ventured outside.  All the cars that had been out there at the time of the dog convention were gone, and it was a fairly safe moment to step out.  I say fairly safe because people here drive like crap, too fast, distracted by their cellphones, there are no sidewalks or crosswalks, and I told the landlord about this in March (after a neighbor almost ran us over…see entry of March 17 or 18 for more details.)  He promised at the time he’d put up signs; then he said he had the signs; then he said he was about to put them up in the coming week and…

But I digress…

In spite of the imminent danger posed by dogs and humans, we made it to the mailbox unscathed.  I know people think we walk like little old ladies.  This is because we stop and look both ways before crossing (an effective method if no one dashes by at high speed and not looking,) and because we wait clear out of the way if we see a vehicle approaching.  I don’t care what people think because the most important thing is that J stays safe, and it’s my job to keep that a priority.

When we got to the mailbox, lo and behold, there goes my reputation for being socially adept: we ran into the property manager.  This young lady is always Instagram ready; she has a lazy smile and a certain way of draping herself over bannisters, tables, chairs, etc. while a tenant talks to her that is reminiscent of how my cats act while I try to tell them to not barf on the furniture.  It is rather evident, from the way she smiles and looks at her interlocutor, that she is bored to death with the interaction, and she thinks it’s beneath her.

The same girl who had the sun-shiniest smile EVER when she trilled OH HI! at me was positively deflated by the time I was done. I didn’t curse. I didn’t raise my voice. I was wearing my sunglasses but I can guarantee you she KNEW the look in my eyes when she said “oh, well…that guy has shock collars.”

And then, ladies and gentlemen, there she was…my inner Julia Sugarbaker.


I shook my head NO.  I then proceeded to explain to her, in as kind a tone as I was capable of mustering, that a shock collar and a leash are NOT the same thing, and that I can reason with her, with each and every neighbor, but reasoning with J is a little harder.  I granted her that THEY are not responsible for J’s genetic makeup, or for the resulting shortcomings in his intellectual and emotional capacity, but there is no law that restricts J walking freely (which he doesn’t do because he is ALWAYS supervised.)  The dog owners’ rights, I told her, to let their canines run around freely are curtailed by an agreement made with the property management company, and with the government agency that regulates dog licensing.

On the way home (after J anxiously looked over his shoulder when he heard the young lady’s jingling key chain…it sounded like dog tags,) I realized that I am probably the biggest asshole in the neighborhood.

I can totally live with that.

A little less commitment to SIB…

I continue to channel my inner Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey (in the latter one’s case, I skip the part where she’s killed,) and I observe J closely.  It seems to be working.  I think, indeed, he is having issues digesting something, but until I start reducing and/or eliminating certain items from his daily diet I will not be able to properly ascertain which of them is doing what.  So, as in SCIENCE!!!!, I have to take my time…

Yesterday was a fine day.  When I say fine I’m not talking just about the weather.  Yesterday J was fine.  Not great.  Not good.  He was fine.  When the opportunity arose to hit himself, he didn’t seem as into it as he had in the past.  The same is true for this morning.

Granted, at 5 a.m.he came into our room asking for bandaids, but he hadn’t taken his brace off, and he hadn’t been hitting himself.  After that I could hear him cooing and giggling over the baby monitor (yes, we have one of those up there, too,) and he stayed in his room until a little after 8 a.m.

There hasn’t been any overwhelming anxiety today.  It has been there, lightly hovering over things, like fog over the river.  It hasn’t, however, taken over and commanded control.  It’s not so much an ingrown toenail as it is a small shard of nail that one has to go back and clip when one has a chance…it’s felt, but it’s not digging into any flesh.

Today being Election Day (the day we have all been waiting for…like that appointment for a colonoscopy, or going to the dentist) we are at home while Dada is working.  We voted on Friday.  J went with us.  He cannot vote, but he was there nonetheless, a part of our process because, after all, we are his voice in this as in other matters.  Today we are basically ignoring the news (I’ve posted a lot of baby animals and music on Facebook because people need to realize that there are other things out there, and not all are stressful,) and we will get through the day as we usually do.  The fate of the Free World will resolve itself, and we have done our bit…damn the torpedoes…

Two things about yesterday: I asked J if he would let me use the stethoscope to listen to his tummy.  He hesitated, but then relented.  The gurgling wasn’t alarming, but -of course- it was there because our digestive systems are like The Journey to the Center of the Earth…cavernous, noisy in unexpected and expected ways, mysterious…  I then put the stethoscope on him and allowed him to listen.  When he heard his heart he raised an eyebrow and smiled as if he’d just heard from an old friend.  It was pretty cool to see him react to that, to linger while he listened first to his own, and then to mine.

Second thing: the dogs have become an issue.  No leashes are being used by a significant amount of pet owners.  I am assuming the logic is “my pet is so well-trained,” but we can no longer go out with impunity.  I used to be able to tell J “look, the owner has control of the dog with a leash.”  Now I am usually in the middle of trying to distract J from noticing, and then scrambling to get him home.

Interestingly enough, we got a newsletter from the property management office yesterday.  It talked about people not picking up after their pets, and talked about fees charged if the pet and owner were reported.  I had looked at the lease, and nothing in it indicates anymore that animals must be on leashes.  There is a county leash law, but if the management office doesn’t enforce it, the truth is I would accomplish very little by complaining.  The actual property manager owns the St. Bernard that ran out of a unit and scared the crap out of J a few months ago.  I have heard that said dog even went missing for a while because it escaped the confines of her townhouse.  I have called the office in the past, and that has had the effect of NOTHING.

What makes me sad about this is that J is indoors 95% of the time now.  That is when we are home.  I can no longer say “let’s go for a walk” and expect success, or a lack of anxiety. We can take him elsewhere, and we do, but this is -for some really strange reason- very much a “leave your dog in the car while you shop,” and a “take your dog everywhere” town.  I have nothing against dogs, and I feel uncomfortable complaining about this when I know how very little empathy there is among the neighbors here.  These are, after all, the people who -because they used to see me sitting on a rock with a book  in my hand all the time- subscribed me to Us Magazine for a laugh.

We are, as I said, basically confined to the great indoors.  I open the garage door and we step out on our driveway, but we will inevitably witness a sudden presence of dogs that come out (curiously enough) as soon as J is out there.  I don’t know if people are just dicks, or if our timing sucks.  We don’t do this at the same time every day, and we don’t check the mail or take the trash at the same time every day.  They just seem to suddenly appear when we’re out there.

OK, on to the rest of the day.  Off I go…  We are doing better.  Let’s see if we can keep it up, and improve on it…


That’s how we learn…

Yesterday evening, I sent Dada and TGG on one errand while J (who would have been horribly bored elsewhere) and I went to Target.  The flight plan was the same as usual: make sure the seatbelt straps in the cart are not tangled, lift the red flap to “close” the seating area of the basket, and off to do the long circuit of the store.

We walked around the Men’s section to look at lounge pants, and J couldn’t find anything he wanted.  We moved on to the movies, and J made sure everything was properly lined up, stacked in the right stack, and -of course- as his reward for all this labor he chose Goof Troop Volume I for purchase.  I had promised him Super Mario Kart for his Wii so we made sure they had it available, and then I set off to find a friendly Electronics employee to get it for us.  All was well, and J was happy, but then Bullseye walked out of the stock room and straight towards us….

Poor Bullseye!  I am sure when this person got hired to wear this costume they weren’t told “some day a tall, strapping young man wearing a newsboy cap, a thumb immobilizer, and six-hundred bandaids will react to your enthusiastic appearance as if you were wearing the garments of the Grim Reaper himself.”  Not ten yards stood between us, and J started squealing (OK…it was more like screeching) and backing away as if Bullseye was about to pounce on him.

When J was very young we took him to Knott’s Berry Farm, and he was totally fine with Snoopy coming up to him at Camp Snoopy.  He posed happily, squeezed Snoopy’s nose (and was informed by the human within to NOT TOUCH) and that was that.  He was seven at the time…you’d think that’s the core memory in his database…

Well, no…not exactly…

Seven years ago, TGG was The Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz in high school.  He was FANTASTIC!  He had the costume, the hair, the growl, the makeup…  J LOVED watching the show, listening to the songs, watching Dorothy, The Tin Man, The Scarecrow and The Cowardly Lion prancing around the theater to get back to the stage and arrive at Oz.  It was an amazing experience.  J was thrilled to hear something familiar under all that fake fur and paint.  After the show came the meet-and-greet, and the whole audience was out and about saying hello to Munchkins, witches, flying monkeys, the Lollipop Guild and the brave quartet that had traipsed around on its way to see the Wizard…

“Hey, J!  HI!,” said the Lion…and the screeching, screaming and backing away started in earnest.  That thing, we’re sure he thought, had swallowed his brother…  Dada took J with him to calm him down, TGG finished his meet-and-greet, got cleaned up and then came out to prove he was alive, well, and in one piece…

Yesterday I found myself trying to get Bullseye (who probably couldn’t hear anything other than J’s screaming) to back away without feeling offended.  “AUTISM!  HE DOESN’T KNOW YOU’RE A HUMAN!!!” I said this while trying to keep J from bolting, people from staring and our friendly Electronics employee from calling security.  Bullseye got the picture, and skedaddled.  J, however, was shaken enough by the appearance of the mascot to cling to me while looking around, wondering if Bullseye was just waiting to jump out from behind a display to scare him.

It is move-in weekend at the college so there are a lot of people out and about shopping for things their kids need for the dorms.  I am sure that we cut quite a figure walking surreptitiously and looking around every corner to determine if the person clad in fake fur, and an oversized dog’s head was around.  J would motion for me to go ahead of him to reconnoiter, and I obliged because I didn’t really want a repeat of the squealing and screaming.

I caught sight of Bullseye in the distance a couple of times; the closest we got was about thirty feet, but I managed to steer J away from the path of the poor (underpaid, I’m sure) employee dressed in what amounts to a very pretty sauna to engage with customers.  After about fifteen minutes of this, I saw Dada and TGG in the distance, and waved vigorously for them to join us.  When they came closer I explained what had happened, and we formed a ring around J, moving towards the registers in what can only be compared to rescuing the world’s biggest pop star from a horde of fans chasing after him/her.  I have no doubt that people who didn’t know what was happening questioned our sanity before going back to their shopping.

Suffice it to say we’re never taking J to Disneyland, Disney World or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…  If he couldn’t take a little trip to the Natural History Museum in D.C. without thinking the animals were about to start moving, he won’t be able to deal with Goofy and all Seven Dwarves approaching him.  I would really hate for him to be afraid of Donald Duck, Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger…  The princesses are another story…seeing those live would be a thrill, but the other stuff???  Too traumatic for him.

I’d like to state clearly that I feel very guilty about whatever emotional distress the poor employee in the Bullseye suit felt when J reacted as he did.  The kid (it might’ve been a girl, but I’m not sure) was just doing a job and trying to earn a living, and J reacted like J reacts to these things.  I had a talk with him later, and I can tell he isn’t buying the whole “it’s just a person in there, you know” argument.  In his mind there is no way he can, unless he sees them getting dressed, that someone would get into The Cowardly Lion, Bullseye or any other character, voluntarily.  There HAS to be some sort of devouring of people happening…

As I say when he encounters dogs and reacts in a negative way: he has to learn.  How I will get around him learning about the inner workings of a mascot?  I have no idea…but I’ll figure it out somehow.

Finding a happy medium…

Three weeks in, J is doing well with less med.  Whatever glitches we faced somewhere in the middle of that initial period have been addressed and resolved.  J feels good, and is responding well to all that we have put in place to make his life a little less overwhelming.  That is: J is starting to realize that we cannot always remove that which bothers him, and he is tempering his response and letting us do as much as we can…and, might I add, this comes with a THANK YOU attached at the end.

Let me illustrate, please.  This morning as we left for school, a neighbor’s dog (and I am supposing this is because they think of their dog as yet another human in the household and trust its training) walked into our path at maybe 5 to 10 yards from where we were walking.  The dog, I’d like to point out, was off-leash which is a no-no according to the lease we all sign.  The dog showed restraint, but it was because another neighbor was walking her two dogs about 30 yards from where this elegant canine stopped in its tracks.  So you could say that between J, that dog and the two other dogs, I was getting ready to navigate into a branch of the Bermuda Triangle.

My plan had been to walk straight down the street to visit the new house and show J how close they are to being done (but more on that in a moment,) but the first, leash-free dog stood in the path of our progress and, furthermore, appeared to J rather threatening.  I can guarantee you this dog was not in any way aggressive, but his excellent posture and elegant stance looked to J like that of Alpha, the leader of Muntz’s pack of dogs in Up,


and in a flash he was retreating and squealing rather loudly…you know what squeal I mean…the dolphin squeal that indicates danger, Will Robinson better than any robot’s pre-programmed voice could.

I turned around and calmly re-directed him to the other street and apologized for the whole thing.  I explained that the dog wasn’t supposed to be off-leash and that he was right to be concerned.  THANK YOU!  Well, I said, I wanted to make sure you knew that I understand you worry and don’t like dogs that pop out of nowhere when you’re least expecting them.  THANK YOU!  So we will walk this way, and I will let the manager know that the neighbors are letting their dog walk without a leash, and I will make sure that I keep an eye out a little better so this doesn’t happen again.  THANK YOU!

He kept his cool from then on, but didn’t really want to sing his Bus Song until we were nearly at the corner.  Instead, we walked arm in arm, with me stepping forward to make sure that no dogs would appear from behind the buildings when we walked down the stairs towards the parallel street below us.

I know that J’s traumas and fears are not the neighbors’ problem.  I know that not all dogs are going to bounce towards J in either a friendly or unfriendly manner, and that people don’t have to refrain from owning dogs just because our kid is afraid of them.  I also know, however, that one of the points I’ve been stressing for J is that “the dog is on a leash, and the owner has control of it” when he’s been overreacting to any canine within fifty feet of us.  This has worked.  Once J identifies the leash and the owner acknowledges that the dog is tethered to them, J relaxes. A lovely, purebred, well-trained, large dog doing what to J appears like an abracadabra act of apparition dismantles my logic and slowly disassembles J’s trust.

As it turns out, this dog lives in the same row of houses where we will be living in a few weeks.  Right now, this dog is in the way between here and there, and when we move it will not be as much of an issue because we will have another outlet towards the corner where the bus picks up and drops off J.  The issue is not the dog, the issue is the unleashed part of it…I want J to have his own dog, and -if and when this happens- the dog and J will both be trained so that the leash is only used outside the confines of home, but I understand that a dog will allow instinct to override training if the mix of elements is right, and I don’t want J to not want to go outside because two neighbors (there’s another one across the way) don’t keep their dogs on leashes for walks and for taking them to the dog play ground.

I know that I am responsible for helping J work through his fear of dogs, and I AM doing that.  I’m trying to build trust in us as the people who will serve as a shield between him and the canine population that flourishes around him (and -believe me- we are quite the shield at Farmers’ Market,) but I also need to teach him that rules apply to all and that the rule is that dogs have to be on leashes when walking around the neighborhood.  Dogs that are off-leash are stray bullets waiting to hit something, and J understands that a dog on the loose is a dog he doesn’t believe will respond when called.  At Farmers’ Market the policy is that “well-behaved dogs are allowed if the owner has them on a leash” and yet we hear the occasional canine face-off taking place in the midst of the crowd.  J knows that we locate the dogs, announce them to him and explain how we will be navigating around them and (with a THANK YOU!) he lets us do what must be done to help him figure this fear of his out…

We’re just not yet to that “happy medium” spot…not quite…no…not quite…

Dashing through the clover is not quite like tip-toeing through the tulips…

Every dog in the neighborhood seems to be out this morning.  J got the key and my sandals, and asked me to go for his walk.  We were ALMOST to where we turn back when we saw a yellow dog with no leash, it was directly in our path.  Then came the first “dolphin squeal” and I decided it was time to heed J’s desire to turn back.  No sooner did we do the 180 than we saw two large dogs bounding out of a townhouse on our right and up the hill.  I could see they were chained to a post, but J -seeing through the eyes of irrational fear- squealed once for each dog and increased his speed.

Now would have been a good time for him to let me steer him away, but having learned the lesson that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points, J was bound and determined to go in as straight a line as could be, dolphin-squealing in my ear all the way.

We made it home in one piece.  One sweaty, out-of-breath, ringing-in-the-ears piece, but one piece nonetheless.  With the same promptitude and dexterity shown by the natives of foreign lands in the Indiana Jones movies, we set up the plants and barrier that separates J from the rest of the world when he’s on the deck.  You wouldn’t known we’d been out there if you’d not seen us scooting up the stairs and across the lawn while hearing the squeals my darling J was issuing.  For a few minutes J was limping, but then I realized it was that he had a pebble in his shoe.  If he had twisted an ankle, there would our Wii run and our walks go…petering out to nothingness until he recovered.

Memo to me, buy a periscope with a high-powered lens…check for dogs before even considering stepping outside.  (To paraphrase Indiana Jones:  Dogs!  Why did it have to be dogs??)  This is what I get for mildly complaining that perhaps life has become too quiet or that things are boring…me and my big mouth.

All in all, aside from the appearance of canines, our day had been going well.  We cleaned bathrooms, did laundry and organized the recycling.  We did our Wii run and some stretches.  We made chicken nuggets and french fries for lunch, and we practiced saying KETCHUP and RANCH as we poured a bit of each for J to dunk his fries and chicken in…of course, J says KAYSHUP and WANCH, but that’s the way it goes.  At least he can now ask for both things when we take him out to eat.

Our trays of PECS have grown and we have such an abundance of things we can now resort to that I feel a lot more comfortable about the reduction in medication.  When J was having his behavioral issues, one of the things we all found most frustrating was that we didn’t seem to understand each other.  J seemed to want that which we didn’t have or couldn’t figure out what it was, and we seemed to be at a loss for how to bridge that gap.  A lot of time was spent trying to “translate” J’s frustration into movements, items, words that didn’t seem to quite fit.  I feel equipped now…I think now we can use ASL, the PECS and what we learned about re-directing him to better manage this transition.  Am I being unrealistic?  Maybe, but I’m going to try everything I can think of to help J adjust and succeed.

Now, if we could just schedule this appointment, all would be smooth sailing.  Oh, yeah, that’s right…the appointment has been scheduled since March?  For 4 P.M. on Tuesday…except this morning (while every significant sound was being drowned by washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner and J singing) the doctor’s office left a message.  Please contact us about re-scheduling at either 10 a.m. or 1:30 P.M. on the same day.  I didn’t hear the phone, but -as I went to update the grocery list that I’ve been working on all week- I saw there was an e-mail from the doctor’s office.  I called my husband and asked him to pretty please call and make arrangements as I was up to my hips with things to do.  He called me back and said: I’ve arranged for one-thirty.

After the failed walk, I came home to find another e-mail.  Your appointment has been scheduled for ten a.m.  I am trying to be patient, but there’s a lot hinging on this appointment, and it’s on the same day as J’s summer program starts.  Is it too much to ask that we arrange for this smoothly????  Apparently…we are now waiting for another call to clarify what seemed to be pretty cut and dried in March.  Sigh…

So, here we are, waiting the forty-five minutes left until J’s bath-time.  His mop of hair needs a trim as it is now falling over his eyes and, cute though he looks when he whips it back in one single sophisticated movement, it’s not particularly comfortable for him.  The goatee he has decided to grow is still little more than concentrated scruff on his chin, but he is quite insistent when he asks for a shave in covering that spot with his fingers.  So be it…I think a seventeen year-old knows how much facial hair he wants to sport.  (I just thought of another thing I need from the store!)

Once J’s taken his bath, I intend to take him out for another walk.  I am sure -I am hopeful- that the dogs will be indoors by then.  Tomorrow is the day when we do our shopping with TGG so J and I will work on our grocery list with PECS later.  There’s always something to do around here…

For now, J is outside listening to Nina Simone, who has been his musical companion for the past few days.  Oh, Peter Gabriel, Katy Perry and such sneak in there, but I think the other day’s cloudburst has given him a new appreciation for Ms. Simone’s interpretation of Here Comes the Sun.  I have to admit, it’s quite comforting…




Snow White and the J-man…

Early this morning, J insisted on several very specific things: that TGG’s car be parked in the garage and Dada’s car be left with easy access to the road, and that we not dilly-dally.  The board stated, quite clearly, that we had places to go and things to do.  This kid has a future as a tour guide, a drill instructor or a schedule compliance manager.  We made it to the Farmers’ Market before nine in the morning.  The only thing J didn’t like about our early arrival was the presence of the early-morning contingent of the Twilight Bark; dogs in every size and degree of furriness surrounded him…Indiana Jones took the wall-to-wall snakes in the Well of Souls with a little more composure.

We navigated.  We successfully navigated in spite of the sudden appearance, here and there, of canines of every size.  Oddly enough, it was the dachshund (low to the ground and concealed my a sea of human legs) that gave him most pause.  The West Highland Terrier startled J, but we found a safe and dog-less area where we could observe the “enemy” without a blind spot.

Our mission was accomplished: big, luscious, juicy organic tomatoes were purchased; Havarti was acquired (last week we’d been denied this pleasure by our late arrival,) and FINALLY a beekeeper was selling his wares.  A few more steps and we got bread and a cinnamon roll from the stand-alone bakery.  All this, thank you, before even nine-thirty in the morning.

The library was next.  The librarian now recognizes J and smiles at him quite kindly.  He seldom borrows anything, but he stands happily in front of the VHS tapes that he can’t watch at home, but which remind him of his youth.  I know…to us it was yesterday, to him it was many appliances (and much technology) ago.  As he approaches the desk at the end of our visit, he has the same happily nostalgic look that old men have when they run into the first pretty girl they kissed…there is no longing, but the memory still pleases them.

Cheese doesn’t wait patiently in the car so we drove home and dropped our purchases off.  The plan for the morning included the Farmers’ Market, the library, taking our recycling to the bins at the mall, going to the movies and then having some lunch.  Car loaded up with plastic and cardboard (which reduce our trash to virtually nothing!,) we headed out to the movies.  I had signed to J “Snow White” and he was excited at the prospect; the schedule, thank goodness, was being followed to the letter…

A voice floated from the backseat of the van, rising over the music being piped through the speakers.  “What did he say?,” my husband asked me.  It’s not that he doesn’t understand J; we have simply reached that age where our hearing isn’t what it used to be, especially when it has to compete with Pink Floyd.  The expanding hum of the music made me wonder if Id’ heard right, so I turned to J and asked: “what was that, J???”  GOING TO GET FOOD?????  He said that, yes, spontaneously and with the lilt of the question mark at the end.  J, sitting in the back of the van and aware of the general plan, had decided to float a change in order.

A parent who has never experienced the languor of an autistic child who seems uninvested in the world around him/her cannot possibly imagine how good that GOING TO GET FOOD????? felt.  It is inevitable that we will be humorous about it, that one of us will say “gee, J, it was so much easier to stick to a schedule when you didn’t say anything!”  The charm and novelty of J’s newfound desire to make himself heard and understood isn’t wearing off.  Sometimes we think it might, but, nah, not happening.  Rather than lunch, my friends, we stopped for breakfast, and J happily ordered a Number 3 with a soda, enthusiastically pointing to the Coca Cola sign.  Yes, we let him have his soda…he’s done for the day.  J then ate his biscuit sandwich with egg, cheese and bacon by deconstructing it and using a fork, that is a good day right there.

We went to the movies and watched Snow White and The Huntsman.  This is the first “grown-up” movie J has gone to see at the theater.  By “grown-up” I mean not animated in any way.  It is perfectly suited for his age group, but we’d never risked taking him for fear he would be bored and there would go the significant amount of money going to the movies means these days.  Even when the popcorn had been consumed (before we reached the half-way point in the movie,) J sat and watched.  He had smiled at the previews of Katy Perry’s concert movie; he had enjoyed the trailer for Pixar’s Brave.  When the movie started, J watched with a smile; perhaps it was Charlize Theron’s gorgeous face or perhaps it was Kristen Stewart beautiful eyes, but J was happy and interested.  He loved the dwarves…I think he recognized Bob Hoskins’ voice from Roger Rabbit because he sat up and squinted at the screen.  He loves the special effects.  He enjoyed the music.  We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen!!!!

Our trip to the movies was successful, and as we walked out of the theater J stood looking at Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman appreciatively.  “Oh, yeah, we’ll come to see that, J!,” Dada said.  Then my husband leaned over and said “do you think he now wonders when we’ll bring him to a movie with boobs in it???”   I couldn’t help laughing.  I’m sure the thought crossed J’s mind when Kristen Stewart’s dress drooped from her shoulders, and I could almost hear him thinking “turn around, turn around, turn around, please, please, please!!!!” when Charlize Theron took her robe off to walk into a tub.  Alas, he was foiled this time…but, like with any normal seventeen year-0ld, this state won’t last for long.

J is happy.  J has seen a whole new world open to him at the movie theater.  I could take him to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I think that would ruin the experience for him…he’s not ready for movies about “old people,” he wants to watch what his friends at school, his age-group is watching.

TGG will be so relieved!  They can now go gaze lovingly at Anne Hathaway together.  And they can have some popcorn, too…one is never so grown-up that one can skip popcorn.