[Illustration by Sir John Tenniel / Wikipedia Commons]
By Js Kendrick
We went to a wedding this past weekend. It was a lovely event, watching two young people start their lives together. I, my son Nick and my daughter Alexis were part of the wedding party and…
We went to a wedding this weekend.
That whole week before I fretted. Who was going to show up at the wedding? Alexis or Autistic Alexis? Yes of course they are one and the same. Yet one is a playful child that laughs and jokes with her cousin and brother at family events. Who is silly and willing to do all sorts of tasks asked of her. The other lives in a world of fear, one where emotions and tasks become crippling and she retreats into herself as a defense mechanism. I was unsure, I was worried.
I had been warned by her therapist. “You know, you will need to leave when she is done with the wedding.”
Meaning that when it becomes too much for her to handle. When the emotions become too hard to process, we would have to leave the hustle and bustle of the wedding. I planned to do as much, I had made a contingency plan. Take our car to the wedding and from there, the reception, leave when we needed to. What’s that saying? ‘The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’? Of course nothing ever goes the way one plans. I had a learning curve lurking around the corner.
That Friday night we had rehearsal, then a dinner afterwards. Rehearsal went fine, silliness and solemness abound as we practiced for the ceremony. The Reverend fielding questions from the adults, the children just nodded as they listen to instructions. Everything seemed fine. I felt a bit of relief.
Then at 2:30 a.m. I was awakened by Alexis.
“My tummy hurts, can we go home?” We were in a hotel room, a town some 40 miles from home. We had, like most of the wedding party, booked a hotel room for expedience. Easier to be there in the morning than to drive the distance to the Church. I looked at her and calmed her down. Asking her to lie down and not to worry, we could talk in the morning. She needed an ear to calm her fears, I hoped mine was good enough.
In the morning it was trying to keep a semblance of routine. Routines are good, you know what to expect. Weddings, for all their joy and zaniness are anything but routine.
There was the bath, the hair, the dress. The dress! The one she refused to try on for weeks on end. The one that I finally got her to try on only a week before the wedding. The one she told me she hated and didn’t want to wear. The one she now, on the wedding day, loved.
Yet she was dressed, she was pretty, she was in a good mood. I relaxed a bit, having more struggles getting a 6-year-old into a tuxedo.
So we rode to the wedding in a limo / bus. The bridal party going before the grooms party. Yet she loved the bus ride. She was enjoying herself with mom and her soon-to-be aunt. It was, as Alexis told me later, “girl time”.
At the wedding all my fears were washed away. Alexis, as an accompanying flower girl, walking down the aisle with her 4-year-old cousin, very carefully dropping color coordinated petals. For they were yellow and blue, can’t mix them up you know. Order is very important. And she stood next to her soon to be aunt and was happy.
During the lovely ceremony, the groom and bride assembled a unity cross. Two pieces of a cross held together by three pins that represented the trinity. Although the meaning behind this was two becoming one with God, I had a different take.
Some assemble required.
Because in life, some assemble is required. All marriages are work, a lot of work. If you assemble your life correctly, not to fret over the little hiccups, and stick together when the storms hit. You will assemble your life and enjoy the blessings of marriage.
Yet it is also a mirror of autism. As a parent I work at assembling the life of my daughter, so she can enjoy the most out of life. Alexis is high functioning, so it may seem a little self-serving for me to worry about her, when so many others struggle with more profound issues. But I do, of course I do. I’m her father, I worry about her as I do my other three children. I’m also new at this autism, so I feel inadequate when problems arise.
The wedding went off without a hitch, everyone preformed their job perfectly. Even the Bride and Groom said the right words…you know, the I Do part.
It was the reception, the one I had planned to make my escape from that became the issue. Both my wife and I had taken the bus. We didn’t have our car. We were ‘stuck’ at the reception from 5 p.m. till 10 p.m. when the shuttle bus would arrive to take us back to our hotel.
Yeah, that plan of mine went south quick. Oops!
Loud music, people laughing and talking, crowds of ‘strangers’ walking around you and a place you had never been to before. Alexis left, someone else took her place at the reception. Someone that couldn’t process all the commotion, who felt overwhelmed.
“Daddy I want to go home.” I was told in a terse whisper. On the verge of tears, she put her fingers in her ears as the music played.
“Hey let’s go outside okay?” I asked her, she nodded and we went outside to the quiet. The reception was held at a golf course’s club house. A nice place, a quiet place.
Outside Alexis wanted to know when we were leaving. I silently cursed myself knowing that, short of a taxi, we weren’t leaving anytime soon.
Then she found the rocks. Large boulders of different shape and sizes that circled a large tree. She got up on one rock and as she asked about leaving, started to go around the tree.
“Daddy help me?” She pointed to a gap between the rocks. I took her hand, pointed and told her where to put her foot so she could make the gap and we went around the tree. She smiled, giggled, we did it again. Then she did it by herself.
“If you feel you need to come outside again, let me know okay Alexis?” I said to her as we walked hand in hand back in. She looked up at me, a question of the greatest importance was forming.
“When are we having cake?” Alexis asked me.
We went to a wedding this weekend.
We went back out twice more. Then she played on the putting green with her brother, cousin and friends, we danced, we laughed, we had seconds on the cake.
I had learned to redirect my daughters breaking point. I had beat the learning curve…this time.
In life, some assembly is required, sometimes that assembly is oneself. Learning new ways to handle new problems, new situations and hurdles.
We went to a wedding this weekend, and we had a blast.