Last weekend, I had another stranger confront me about Dar. I think I handled it a lot better than the last time that you read about. Practice makes perfect!

Friends in South Berkeley invited our entire family to their house for a Game Night. Sometimes I wonder why we even consider bringing Dar to such events. We have no helpful relatives in California. We could hire a sitter, but a sitter is money. We could arrange care through our state-alloted hours of respite care, but that’s not always as easy as it sounds. (The Venn Diagram of people who the state will pay and people who we’re comfortable with overlaps with one name; she’s not always available.)

As usual, I told wifey she was welcome to go with R and I’d stay home with Dar. That’s when she normally counter-offers that R and I should go and she would stay home with Dar. This time she said we would all go. It had been a long while since she had seen the very nice family that invited us. Autism circumscribes your life.

Of course, Dar can’t play any games. I wonder if anyone is reading this thinking, “Oh, but have you tried? You never know!” We know. Anyone who spends five minutes with Dar would know. At best, in a social setting, Dar’s behavior can be managed, as you’d manage a pet’s.

Turned out Dar did NOT want to be there. This was a house where he’d happily tee-tee-teed a few weeks before. Wasn’t the house. Might have been the social milling? Why even ask? It’s not like we can make some list of circumstances that will serve as a predictor for future behavior.

My wife does not get enough credit for how hard she works for us and with Dar. In this case, she let me hang out with R and friends inside while she gave Dar outside time in our friends’ front area. I could hear the screaming from inside the front windows. That’s just not normal. That can never be normalized.

Several times I asked wife if I could trade places with her. Several times she said no. Finally she said yes. Dar seemed to be coming off a major complaint, and began tee-tee-tee-ing around an enclosed part of our friends’ former driveway. I stood on the front porch watching him. It was a medium-cool night in Berkeley, the Cal football fans having already walked themselves home.

Out of nowhere, a person approached me. He looked like he was in his mid-60s, with a full head of white hair. I didn’t learn his name, but I’ll call him Joe Bob.

Joe Bob: “What’s going on?”

Me: “Hi.”

Joe Bob: “Is there…is there something?”

Me: “Is there…what?”

Joe Bob: “Some trouble?”

Me: “Ah, maybe you’re referring to noises made by my autistic son?”

Joe Bob: “Maybe.”

Me: “You haven’t done anything wrong. I understand why you might ask. Well, my son is right here. He’s very loud, but he can’t talk to you or anyone else, including me.”

Joe Bob: “Okay.”

Me: “He’s not hurt. You’re welcome to come over here and look at him.”

Joe Bob: “No, that’s okay. You answered it.”

Me: “I appreciate your understanding.”

Joe Bob: “I have two kids with special needs myself.”

Me: “That sounds challenging. You sure you don’t want to look at this one?”

Joe Bob: “No thanks. Have a good night.”

Me: “You too.”

I guess I changed my mind; some things can be normalized.