I know. It’s October. I know.
I started this post weeks ago and almost finished it and hit “publish.” Then school started and my focus has been everywhere but on what we did this summer. But I want to document this trip, and this post was almost done anyway. So here goes.
After our big road trip to CO and then our shorter road trip up north with my in-laws, the Roc and I were back in the car at the end of August, this time with my Mom. We went to visit my Grandma in Indiana. The last time I saw her the Roc was just shy of two-years old, about six years ago.
The Roc and I had flown into town to attend a party celebrating her eighty fifth birthday. I struggled with the Roc at her party, he didn’t want to come inside, he pushed a little plastic lawn mower around the yard instead, he squirmed and whined when I tried to show him off to my Grandmother’s friends. I remember feeling mystified and sad, having calmed the Roc down in a back room of my Aunt and Uncle’s house, a few relatives walking by, urging us to come sing to Grandma. I knew in my gut that I couldn’t take him into that crowded room, but I didn’t know why. With tears in my eyes and an out of sorts Roc on my hip, I told my Mom I needed to go next door, back to the quiet of my Grandma’s house. As soon as we got back to the empty house the Roc was fine and I felt both relieved and alone. I do have pictures of the Roc having fun on that trip, but I also remember feeling the push and pull of what I thought I should be doing, against what I instinctively knew wasn’t going to work for the Roc, and how I wondered what I was doing wrong. I didn’t know about autism then.
The Roc has changed tremendously in the last six years, and so have I. But one thing I’m grateful hasn’t changed is his willingness to travel. I knew this trip to Indiana would be vastly different from the trip we took six years ago.
The Roc did really well on our ride down to Indiana. We stopped in Illinois for the night, and after having dinner nearby, the Roc got to swim and swim and swim. The pool was empty except for us for over an hour, and the Roc loved having the pool to himself. When a man and a few boys entered the pool I felt that familiar dread creep up. A few years ago their entry would have caused the Roc distress and we would have left. The extra boys were rambunctious, jumping and splashing. The Roc watched and laughed, imitated a few moves, and kept jumping in from the side yelling for me to watch him. I moved to the hot tub and struck up a conversation with the dad, asking if all the boys were his. Quickly into our conversation he mentioned that his youngest son had autism. My eyes got wide as I pointed to the Roc, “my son too,” I told him. Quickly, our conversation went below surface details into the real grit of life. We spent a long time talking about our boys, life, schools, family, and how we view the world through a different lens because of autism. When we saw them at the hotel breakfast next morning the dad gave me his card and told me to keep in touch, that we can never have too many people who “get it” in our lives.
We drove on to Indiana and it was wonderful to see my Grandmother. We were only in Indiana for a couple days, but we kept the Roc busy. We drove over to see my Aunt Donna and Uncle Dave in Ohio for a few hours one afternoon, giving my Grandma some quiet time… Have I mentioned the Roc is kinda loud? The Roc remembered my Aunt Donna from her trip to visit my parents in July and he gave her a huge smile.
He grinned even wider when she made him a huge ice cream sundae after lunch (at Skyline!)
We also visited with my aunt and uncle, who live next door to my Grandma in Indiana, and the Roc had fun jumping on their trampoline,
and trying out the tire swing.
I enjoyed watching the dog Zora follow my 91 year old Grandmother around and totally obey her orders.
As well as the sunsets from the front porch.
While we were in Indiana we attended a ceremony for one of my cousins who became an eagle scout. The Roc was excited to go to a “party” and kept asking if there would be cake, a question he knew the answer to as we had picked up the cake the night before! When we got to the hall, the Roc was nervous and after being introduced to a few people I asked if he wanted to walk down Main Street to see all the big painted chickens in town while we waited for the ceremony to start. He did, and I now have a nice collection of pictures of the Roc standing by ten different chickens.
I figured the Roc might not make it through the whole ceremony, and I was prepared to take him out and do a bit more walking around town, but he sat quiet and still the whole 30 minutes. He amazed me, clapping when everyone else clapped, watching and listening to each speaker, only covering his ears during a prolonged period of clapping for every single eagle scout in the room. We did go outside to walk around when the ceremony was over and everyone got up and started chatting. Too much movement, too loud, and too many people the Roc didn’t know made him so anxious he started digging his chin into my hand and arm. We came back just in time to get some food from the buffet and for the Roc to have some cake. My mom commented that she was impressed that the Roc said hello and shook hands with the few adults we did introduce him to. He really worked hard and earned not only the cake, but the cookies and brownie my mom grabbed for him. He ate a LOT of food on this trip…
The Roc did well on our drove back the first day, mostly because we were holding the big ticket over his head…the swimming pool at the hotel. When we got to our hotel my mom was offered an upgraded room and man was the Roc excited to find that it meant our hotel room had 2 rooms! One with the beds, a dresser and TV and another room with a couch, TV, desk, fridge and microwave. He did his version of a happy dance,
and ran back and forth between the two rooms shouting, “This is amazing! I love this place!”
Eventually another family with a boy a few years older than the Roc entered the pool and I could tell the Roc wanted to interact with him, but he didn’t know how to start or what to do. When the boy said hello, the Roc ignored him and told me instead, “I’m nervous.” After a lot of coaxing, the Roc said hello, and after a lot of scaffolding, the Roc and this young boy started a conversation. They graduated to jumping into the pool together and then started a game I couldn’t quite understand but had something to do with the ladder, construction workers, and sharks. I sat on the other side of the pool and struck up a conversation with the boys parents, who were in town from California, dropping their older daughter off for her freshman year of college. They had no idea what they were witnessing and part of me didn’t want to tell, and then another part of me wanted to stand up and shout just how amazing it was to be watching my boy PLAY! With another child! That he had never met before! I pulled out my phone and snapped a very fuzzy picture, which I then texted to GC.
When the conversation moved to our boys and the dad mentioned how shy the Roc was at first, I told him it wasn’t just shyness, the Roc is autistic. I told him it was HUGE to be relaxing on a chair, watching him play with a child he couldn’t even look at, let alone say hello to, just 30 minutes ago. HUGE.
“I would have never known,” the dad said to me.
I couldn’t think of anything productive to say, and I didn’t want to give a list of all the reasons he would know on any other day. I just sat and smiled as I watched my boy who loves to travel, who is genuinely excited about a hotel room and going to new restaurants, who really rolled with everything new we did this summer. My boy who really, really, really wants to make a friend and connect with another child… have fun.
It’s what I wanted our summer to be about.
We had lots of fun.