“Ee needa ugg!”
Said Charlie and, when I went over with a smile, he wrapped his lanky long arms around me and squeezed: A surprise—a sweet trick—from the boy who generally bestows the famous “backwards armfree hug.”
Ten minutes later, another “Ee need a hugg!” and another two-armed hug.
A bit later, I happened to tap the touchpad of my laptop; Charlie sat down before it. “Turn on, yes,” he said. Charlie’s teacher has noted that he likes to do some 6-piece online puzzles. I found one of a yellow school bus and he tapped rather randomly at the mouse, grinning.
If yesterday was a “dad ‘n’ son” afternoon, today was “mom ‘n’ me.” We walked to the train, Charlie stopping at the sidewalk’s edge and turning around to look at me; on the way back, he called out “Mom!” and tapped my arm. I had to remind him to move out of the way so other people could get to the sushi case at the grocery store (Charlie had been busy inspecting each pack). The store did not have any watermelon which he usually gets; Charlie’s response when I mentioned this was to march onto the next aisle.
It was a pleasant and peaceful easy-feeling day, from getting stuck in rush hour traffic to when Charlie told me “fold da blankett” as he settled into his bed (strewn with squishy pillow and fleece blankets and two of Jim’s old blue shirts and the green squishy ball).
But am I getting “soft” on autism—am I presenting a softened version of autism as some might say, a view that is proof positive of some kind of denial of what life with autism is “really” like: Scraping bad things (I have referred to these with a classical Greek word, kaka, which simply means “bad things” and I’ll leave the rest to your imagination) off the wall, etc..
Well. I didn’t call this blog “the autism reality show” for nothing.
After tucking Charlie in, I was upstairs preparing for a class on status, slavery, and citizenship in ancient Rome when I heard the distinctive clunk of porcelain dropped on porcelain. “Daddy bue bankett!” Charlie cried out as I beheld him taking a shower, pajamas in the laundry basket. Aside from a lot of water on the floor, everything was clean and where it should be: While just a few months ago Charlie, once in bed, would not get up no matter what signals brain and stomach sent, here he had just done that.
The nitty gritty is that Charlie was toilet-trained at the age of 3; at the age of 7, the accidents started and before you know it, we had more than walls to scrape. A year ago, we undertook “toilet retraining” and, while I still carry around extra clothes for Charlie, it seems to be working. Things could change—things can always change with Charlie—-but there is a much fuller picture to writing about “what life with autism is really like” than getting mired in the messy: There are the taboo subjects, the ache, so much love. I try (try) to get most of that into anything I write about Charlie: If there is darkness, then let there be light.
Like Charlie’s smile and “goo night” when I tucked him back in bed, and—just as when he was a newborn sleepy-full on warm milk—with arms crooked close behind his head.