Some of my happiest childhood memories are of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I looked forward to them every year, partly because the family would get together. I was “bought in” at every level: the TV specials, the food preparation, the familial love.
Dar, now 7, isn’t bought in.
On one level there’s relief; we don’t have to do anything in particular to impress him. On another level, I feel bad that he doesn’t get excited by Charlie Brown specials or turkey stuffing or any of the rest of it. I guess I want him to see some days as more special than others. To him, every day is special…special-needs.
I’m picturing Dar’s Turkey Day. We’ll have Dar’s grandpa in our house, as well as a few close friends. Dar will tee-tee-tee around the house. He’ll go outside and play with the muddy parts of the lawn. He’ll put his stomach on the backyard swing and spin it around in a circle. He’ll come back inside and track mud into the house we just cleaned. He’ll walk up to some of our guests. He’ll take their hands, he’ll touch their hair. Then he’ll drift to another room, tee-tee-teeing again.
Maybe in some ways he’s not that different from other kids?
Dar will throw some toys over our deck. He’ll hide other ones under couches, later pulling my hand to get me to get them. When he is playing with them, he’ll favor the ones with wheels, and he’ll rub those wheeled toys up and down vertical surfaces, like chair backs and shelves.
Dar will try to feed me. I had planned to make that its own blog post after we get video of that. Dar normally has very little interest in sitting at the family dinner table with us. But when he sees me eating, he runs over, picks up my fork, forks some food off my plate, and sticks the fork in my mouth. He doesn’t do this with his mother or anyone else. Not sure why he loves this activity so much. Is it because I still spoon-feed him sometimes, and he wants to get me back? Anyway, it’s weird.
During Turkey Day, Dar may well have breakdowns. He may decide to launch into one of his 15-minute screaming sessions. I could say there’s no rhyme or reason to them, but lately I have been suspecting his mouth. He’s seven and still has all his baby teeth except one. He’s way overdue for mouth pain – for teeth to come in. Well, he’s way overdue for a lot of things, but it doesn’t seem like autism should affect teeth.
Even if he’s not caterwauling, his recurrent “owhhhhhhhhh” sounds are like a dripping faucet that I wish I could turn off. Probably our guests will barely be bothered. Actually, maybe they can drown him out. As far as I’m concerned, the louder our guests’ voices, the better. I’ll take the afternoon distraction from autism noises.
Based on the holiday theme, I will also need to remember to be grateful for Dar. In more ways than one. I have to be grateful that he isn’t worse. I have to be grateful for his life on this planet. And since he doesn’t know how to be grateful, I should be thankful for him – I should try to feel his gratitude for his loving parents and secure home.
Now that I think about it, that’s the easy part.