Friday, February 24, 2012

Cheeseburgers, literally speaking

Living with a literal thinker can lead to some interesting situations.

Sam was looking forward to a night out at a local restaurant with cheeseburgers as the main event. Anxious to be on his way he surmised the only thing stopping him from getting his cheeseburger was Erika. The solution was simple. Erika had to go. And now.

Sam approached Erika saying, "Goodbye Erika." He took her hand tried to direct her to the door. But Erika was busy giving me an update of the afternoon's progress. Again he said, "Goodbye Erika." This was quickly followed by another "GoodBYE Erika."

Erika still didn't leave. Finally pulling out all the stops, he resorted to eye contact. Sticking his face in hers he said emphatically, "Goodbye Erika!" He tried again to pull her toward the door.

"Hang on Sam. We are almost done." I said as we wrapped up our conversation. Erika headed to the family room to collect her things. Sam watched her, clearly concerned. Any direction except the door was the wrong direction.  Anxiously he said, "Mommy!! Goodbye Erika!!"

"Do you want Erika to go?" I asked. "Yes!" he replied with enthusiasm. Without thinking I said, "Well then, go say goodbye to Erika, bring her to the door and kick her out."

With a plan in place he ran up to to Erika. Showing how well he could take direction, he lead her by the hand to the door and said, "Goodbye Erika!"

And then with an extra big smile, he opened the door and kicked her.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

There's a teenager under all that autism

Sam opens the refrigerator and pulls out a half-gallon of juice, plopping it dramatically onto the counter. He waits patiently, craning his neck for my attention. 

He brings the bottle ever so slowly towards his mouth, smirking as he continues to wait for a reaction. Seeing none, he ups the ante by making loud noises and drinks from the bottle. A game of wills, he trumps by grossing me out.

“Get a cup.” I finally say in a monotone voice. Sam laughs in delight. He grabs a cup, plunks it down and abandons it. Again he slowly raises the bottle back to his mouth, now barely containing his laughter.

“GET A CUP.” I say more firmly.

He grabs the cup, pours juice into it and leaves it, taking another quick swig from the bottle. He spits some of the juice out as he sputters in laughter.

“GET-A-CUP.”  I say more emphatically as I start to rise. Satisfied, he dances around the kitchen with the bottle.


Just as I reach him, Sam swings the bottle high out of reach, over his head. Around and around he dances while mocking in a high-pitched, singsong falsetto: “Get a cu-up, get a cu-up, get a cup-up.” Turning his lower lip downward, he pauses dramatically adding, “Mommy is sad. So sad.” He wrings his hands by his eyes and punctuates, “Waa, waa, waa.”

I sigh. I shake my head. 

Mission accomplished, he glows triumphant, hands me the bottle and leaves. I hear “waa, waa, waa” in between his laughter as he pounds up the stairs.

With Sam safely out of sight, I smile. I restore order and briefly wonder what heights he might achieve if I could only redirect that teenage attitude.

President, I think.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Runner

In another life he might have been a high school track star. He runs with a single-minded focus. Impervious to pain or cold, his endurance is impressive. His long strides make him almost elegant to watch and near impossible to catch. I have seen many try.

Sam is a runner.

If the stars had lined up differently, I like to think he could have been Olympic. He is that fast. But the stars didn't quite line up that way.

Sam runs for reasons known only to him, usually with little warning.  At 16 he is big, strong and impossible to stop. He can defeat almost any lock. Weather is no deterrent: he runs barefoot in frigid conditions, impervious to pain; on a bad day scantily clad in underwear.  On an isolated worse day, naked. He doesn’t consider safety. He certainly doesn’t consider propriety. His sole mission is to flee.

Flee what? Sam offers no explanations.

A behavior near impossible to control, we’ve gone from a daily event to months, even two years without a run, almost lulling us into a false belief we are finally safe only to be abruptly reminded we are not. 

We are fortunate Sam often follows predictable routes. We find him, cold and sad, always contrite; unable to explain his distress. We warm him, knowing we were lucky – this time. And we hope. Maybe one day we will have more answers; maybe one day Sam will really know peace and safety. And no longer need to run. 

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day wishes and chocolate cake

Valentine's Day is about people you love.  Sometimes those people are complete strangers you are lucky enough to know for a little while but remember always… this is about one of those brief but memorable encounters.

Dining out with Sam can be tricky business. Though he has some basic civilization skills and loves to eat, he dislikes the loud noise inherent to restaurant dining. Ever resourceful, he has a solution: over power all noise with a much louder noise of his own.

This begins what I like to think of as dueling tables: neighboring parties escalate their volume followed by Sam escalating his until some sort of crescendo is reached, making us quite unpopular with family, most friends and other diners.

Faced with a possible eternity of dining alone, I decided to work on dining skills at a new trendy spot, early one Tuesday night.  

To my delight we arrived to an empty restaurant. So far, so good. Everything went well until two older women entered.  Well groomed and elegantly dressed in an understated way, they were seated two tables away from us. I  felt a sense of impending doom.

The women began to chat, paying little notice to us. Sam happily took this as his cue to start talking and drown them out. I leaned into Sam and asked for a quiet voice but unfortunately Sam had left that voice at home.

I glanced at the neighboring table, knowing we wouldn’t go unnoticed much longer. I quickly resorted to plan B:  Eat quickly and leave.  Sam, who normally inhales food, suddenly embraced the concept of leisurely dining and refused to rush – all while chattering away endlessly.

“SHUSH!” I said, a little exasperated. Sam responded by giggling loudly, "Be quiet!"

I could see from my peripheral vision the two women were now watching us.

Finally, the older of the two womn leaned over. Here it comes, I thought. She completely surprised me when she said, “Honey, stop shushing that boy. Clearly he has something important to say.” Smiling she added, “I have friends that talk way more than he does and they aren't nearly as interesting.”

Addressing Sam she said, “Now what's your name? Sam? Don't you listen to your mom. You talk as much as you want. I want to hear everything you have to say.” Turning to me she added, “You have a delightful boy. Relax and enjoy your dinner – and don't let him skip the chocolate cake. It's divine.”

Sam smiled. Finally someone wanted him to do what he did best: make noise and eat chocolate cake. It turned out to be the perfect night – I met two wonderful women who were clearly heaven sent; Sam found the chocolate cake to be heavenly, too.

I will always remember those two lovely ladies. Their kindness meant the world to a stressed out mom. Wherever you are, we’re sending you lots of love and hopes for chocolate cake this Valentine’s Day. Sam and I will never forget you. 

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