The Day I Became A Grandfather.

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Bentley found it funny that he stole my hat and I took the one he was wearing. / Photo by KidZond.

Six years ago, this very day, I became a grandfather for the first time. It has happen three more times since, but the one that broke the Father barrier, and tossed that Grand in front of it was Bentley Benjamin.

I wasn’t too sure about becoming a grandfather, actually, I am still not too sure about it all. It’s just weird for me. I was 49 years of age, and kind of always wanted to get that Grand label once I passed the 50 mark. But it doesn’t really work that way now, does it?

I mention this to my siblings, only to find out that, like being the baby of the family, I was the last in age to become a grandparent. They had all beat me long before they reached the 49 year mark. That made me feel a little better. It was still weird for me.

See, being a parent? I can do that. I’ve done it for 27 years now. Not an easy job, especially when I was a single parent raising two daughters. The frustrations, the pressures, the self-doubts were enormous. Those only became worse when I became a single parent.

But my two eldest survived to adulthood, and six years ago my eldest daughter Jenelle, became a parent herself. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best situation, she started off being a single parent. And, the poor kid, had to live at her parents house.

Which brings me to Bentley Benjamin. My grandson whom I was lucky enough to be around the first two years of his life. It was fun, crazy, and having two little children myself now, chaotic. As my daughter worked on establishing herself, she lived with us to help out with costs. Bentley learned to walk at my home, first spoke at my home, and terrorized my home with the help of his Aunt and Uncle.

With three adults, three children, a dog and a cat, life always had something mischievous planned. Yet the real fun started when Bentley moved out, and came to visit for the weekends so his mother could work.

Bentley is a precocious child. Although not the best speaker, he was adept at figuring things out. Like door locks.

While many children who awaken at night, and make their way to their parents bedroom, or in this case, grandparents bedroom. Bentley had other ideas. He wanted to explore the great outdoors. You know, at 3 am. Even in winter.

Probably because I raised his mother, and eldest aunt, I was pretty good at being a light sleeper. His first few attempts failed. With grandpa coming out to the living room to find him dressed in snow boots and a jacket.

“Hey Bentley, what are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m just going to go outside.” Bentley would respond in his four-year old voice.

“Bentley, it’s 3 am, it’s dark outside, and cold. You need to go back to bed.” I would say.

“I got a coat and boots on grandpa.” Bentley would point out. By god, the boy does plan.

 

But no, we went back to bed. Well at least he did. I didn’t sleep a wink that night. My grandson is a Night Walker. One of those children who think that going outside by themselves is perfectly fine. But no worries, he won’t get out on me.

I did say he was a precocious didn’t I? See, if you make too much noise at night? You wake up grandpa. And that will ruin all the fun. Of course the screen door makes a noise if you don’t close it by hand. It bangs. Been meaning to fix that, glad I procrastinate.

I found Bentley outside, wearing a coat and boots mind you, with the dog. The dog was very happy to be let out at 4 am. Grandpa was not happy to walk out in the snow barefoot to retrieve his wayward grandson.

The locks came, he outsmarted them. Obstacles came, he silently removed them. Chain Locks came, well on one door because I couldn’t get it to work on the other door. He used the other door.

An all out war of wits came. It was game on! Magnetic Alarm Buzzers! That we neglected to turn off and scared the living hell out of us when Bentley wasn’t here.

Of course when Bentley discovered this Magnetic Alarm Buzzer, it scared the living hell out of him. And the rest of the household at 2 am. Oh, they work by the way, very loud.

Yet it was the one door, that the Chain Lock wouldn’t work on, and yes, the Magnetic Alarm Buzzer also wouldn’t work, that became his objective. Moving the loveseat in front of it became our only option. Of course that meant I had to wake up at 5 am to move the loveseat for my wife so she could go to work on Saturday morning.

I did catch him trying to move it. When I did, he asked me for help. Touché grandson, touché.

Then it happened, he figured out how to move it enough. Probably because Grandpa became lazy and didn’t move it far enough over. Hey, the loveseat is heavy, and at 5 am? It is annoyingly heavy.

I heard it though, came out to see what was going on. Like a scene from a movie, I caught Bentley putting on a lightweight jacket (it was warm out, so his choice of jackets was appropriate) and standing there looking at me sheepishly. His shoes were on, he was dressed, out of his jammies, and just looked at me.

“Bentley? Where are you going?” I asked him.

“Take the dog out grandpa, Jess needs to go out to go potty.” Bentley replies logically.

Grandpa looks over at the couch on which the lazy lab now prefers over her own bed. The dog, Jess, is snoring. I look at Bentley and shake my head. With calm resignation, he takes the coat off, and follows me back to his bedroom.

That would be the last escape attempt Bentley would make. His mother’s job changed, she didn’t need us to watch him on the weekends. He comes back of course, is a wild child. Likes to figure things out. Mostly to his advantage.

And odd as it may seem, I miss those little games my grandson played on me. I marveled at his ability to problem solve, his little cons. The joy he had in trying to explore that great big world. I hope he never loses that joy. And I hope to have him over this summer.

He’s six now, getting big, full of attitude and defiance. He’s also a big brother of two. With a warm heart full of love and compassion for others. I would love to have him spend the night again. I miss the little monster, especially today of all days. He reminds me so much of his mother when she was his age. And that is the greatest part of being a grandfather. With the title, you see your family moving forward, carrying on, and knowing a new generation of you is here to make their mark on this Earth.

My grandchildren are always welcomed at my house, weird as it is to be a grandfather. And when Bentley comes over to stay the night the next time?

I will have that darn door secured.

 

The Misandry of Fatherhood.

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Nick with sparklers. / Photo by KidZond.

This is a little odd for me, but I want to talk about a father that many people I know say is a wonderful Dad.

Me.

For the last 26 years I have been told this by family and friends. That I am a wonderful, caring, dedicated father. That through adversity, a horrible divorce, I stepped up and raised my two eldest daughters. I have been told, by my own mother nonetheless, very Motherly. Wasn’t exactly sure how to take it, but I was pretty sure it was a compliment.

Being a parent was something I had always wanted to be. I can remember being a teenager and fantasizing about being a father one day. Yet, it really wasn’t my initial plans.

I was going to be a paleoanthropologist. Teach at a great university, go on digs during the summer months, write tomes of works dedicated to the field of primitive man. Yet it never happened. Life got in the way. I never went to college for anthropology, I only took silly courses that amounted to nothing.

At 28 years of age, I became a father, and for the last 26 years, I added to my brood and now have four children. At first? I had no clue what I was getting into. I had never hung around babies, nor small children. My cousins, and nieces and nephews, were all around my age. Being the youngest child of a family of four, with nearly 17 years difference between the eldest and me, I never experienced children that weren’t close to my age.

So, I was an idiot. Had to learn on the fly. Yet I had good teachers in my parents.

When I split with my wife in 2000, I suddenly became something I had always dreaded. A weekend father. It was rough, very painful, and the thought of giving up was very real.

When the weekend father part ended, and I became a full-time single parent. I was so overwhelmed that first three weeks that I want to run off and hide under a rock. But I didn’t. I stuck it out, got the girls in school, and made all the arrangements from changing my shift at work, to having a neighbor watch them after school till I got home from work.

What I didn’t expect, was the misandry. In case you are wondering, misandry is the hatred of men. Or contempt, which I got all the time, being a father (Male) with two daughters (Female).

I had experienced this before, since I took my daughters to many of their doctors appointments by myself before the divorce. This was done by design, since my wife at the time worked days, and I worked nights. Made it easy.

Yet the question of when my daughter’s birthdate always came up, and my quick answer was ALWAYS met with the surprised response from the nurse that I actually knew it. This little misandry grated against me, yet it was nothing compared to when I was a single dad.

Because dad’s can’t raise daughters by themselves you see, we are incapable. We just don’t have it in us. Then of course there were the side-eyed looks, of why I would be in a house with two little girls in the first place. By myself, without a female there to guide me.

Teachers would say disparaging remarks about me, either to my daughters, or within earshot of them. They would talk down to me, be contemptuous, and overall ignored any concerns or cares I had.

“Have you talked to their mother? Could she come in and see me?”  Was a line I was given over and over. As if talking to dad was beneath them.

I did my best not to let it get to me, but honestly? When my youngest two came along, and went to the same school district? I was jaded at that point. Untrusting of teachers and faculty. But, to their credit, the school personnel that I deal with now, are very nice. Then again, there is a woman at the house, my wife, and mother of my youngest two.

Don’t think I don’t wonder. Don’t think I don’t have that little fear in the back of my mind that without my wife, once again, I am nothing.

Both of my eldest daughters are grown, they are mother’s themselves. They had a rough upbringing, stories I will not repeat here. Yet…

They are respectful of me.

They say Please and Thank You.

They are not hooligans and in and out of the correctional system.

They both have jobs.

They both contacted me for Father’s Day. To tell me they loved me, and were thinking of me.

I worked a 12 hour shift today at my work. It was a hot, miserable, humid day. I work outside. Yet on my breaks, I saw the messages from my oldest two. When I got home, I was greeted by ‘Happy Father’s Day Daddy’ and cards. Hugs and Kisses all around.

I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, think I am the best dad in the world. I would give that honor to My Father, gone these 22 years. Yet I know so many good fathers, those with partners, those without. I see the single father’s struggle, know their plight.

Being a good dad, a great dad, is simple. You just have to care, and let your children know you care.

And to hell with the naysayers.

The Gift.

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A Fancy Fidget Spinner. / Photo by Kidzond.

 

The gift was given a ‘hmpf’ and put on the armrest of my parents couch. It was a book, nothing grand, just a book. A diary of Christopher Columbus and it included historical notations. It was fancy, had maps, very cool design. Yet, my father ‘hmpf’ at the Christmas gift and put it down.

I seriously hated buying gifts for my father. He was, well, the worst. Except for a set of knives I bought him once, that he absolutely loved, he never seemed to care for anything I bought him.

Well, there was that small remote-controlled car I bought him that he liked. But he used that to chase my mother’s cats. 

It wasn’t till some years later, after his death actually, when my mother handed me the book and asked me if I wanted to have it back. I commented that he probably never read it. She corrected me to let me know he read it all the time. Loved it.

I never knew it.

I had to be told after his death that the gift I thought he hated, he loved. Read it, and re-read it, over and over. It was, as my mother told me, one of his favorite possessions.

People are quirky. Things that people keep as keepsakes tell more about someone than anything it seems. Usually, something is not what it seems. The object may be special, even prized, yet the meaning behind it, that is what counts.

The fidget spinner in the above picture is one of those objects. It was given as a Christmas gift from my eldest daughter, to my youngest. Big sister wanted to give little sister something really cool. Jenelle was proud of herself to find this unique spinner. Alexis acted like it was nothing when she opened the gift. Kept it in the box it came in for months. To Jenelle, it seemed like a gift rejected. But to Alexis? It was the best gift ever. So special, she kept it out of sight of other children, on her desk, in an honored spot. She brought it out today only because we saw some fidget spinners in the store today. Yet only she could touch it, her little cousin, brother and friends were not allowed. This gift, one thought to be a failed gift, is like my father’s book. It holds a special place in Alexis’ heart.

Another special object, that would bring me to tears one very lonely day in my life, is a stuffed rabbit.

Herr Rabbit isn’t much to look at. A simple beanie baby stuffed animal. White, with colorful polka dots. Herr, the German word for Mister, was also a pun, Hare became Herr.

Playing stuffed animals with my children has always been a fun thing to do. A little window into their imaginations. It is usually silly, full of excitement from lava flows, wild animal attacks, and stuffed animals that go bad. Like the jaguar of Alexis’ that keeps wanting to eat the other stuffed animals. You know, it’s a jaguar. It’s in their nature. Don’t judge.

Herr Rabbit was ‘my toy’, the stuffed animal I played when my eldest two children and I, played stuffed animals. We would, in the days of me being a weekend father, play stuffed animals on cold winter days, or rainy days, or just because. Playing stuffed animals with them became a pastime, a father-daughter bond, one that has continued on with my youngest two, and even with my grandson. I’m sure I’ll be playing stuffed animals in the nursing home with the staff.

Herr Rabbit was German, he spoke with an accent, bad accent, but an accent. He would be the foil to my eldest two daughters plans. Usually spoiling their plotlines in a silly manner. Eliciting protests and laughter, usually both, at the same time.

Yet his silly antics earned him a special place in their hearts. He was mine to play, yet his owner was my daughter Kayla. It was her toy.

When I went from a weekend dad to a fulltime single parent, Herr Rabbit and the stuff toy playtime, helped easy the emotional burden. Kayla would sleep with Herr Rabbit, or put him in an honored spot in the girls bedroom.

Growing up, can do a number on playtime. While it is all the rage when you are pre-tween, those few years between a child and a teenager seem to have an effect on you. One minute you are imagining that you are the Queen of the World, the next you stop with Barbie in hand and go “This is childish” and stop.

Jenelle stopped. And of course, since she wouldn’t play, it just wasn’t the same anymore. So, Kayla stopped, and we found other things to bond over. Herr Rabbit, however, was still around. Waiting patiently for someone to pick him up and give him his voice. Even if it was in a bad accent.

As things go, and as parental custody does sometimes in divorces, my eldest two went to go live with their mother, out-of-state. Although I kept a good face, and did my best to alleviate their fears, inside I was dying at the prospect of being so far away from them. The pain and anguish was horrible.

When the time came, I drove them some 30 miles from our home, to their Aunts, for them to continue their journey. All the time telling them that everything would be okay. On my drive back home, alone, seeing the road was difficult. I had to keep wiping my eyes.

My duplex, where just us three had spent a few years together, was now a lonely tomb. I wandered around for a good five minutes just looking at an empty place. Then, I went into my daughter’s room. Two empty beds, made, and all their belongs gone.

Except one.

On my daughter Kayla’s bed sat a small stuffed white rabbit with colorful polka dots. Sitting their as if he too was wondering when the girls were coming back. Herr Rabbit sat there, his black eyes staring at the bed, waiting to play again.

Although on loan mind you, this Gift, was one of my prized possessions. Even if it is just a memory. That moment in my life stands out like no other. Because at that moment, I knew I would still be in their lives, even if I wasn’t there physically.

Like a Book, and a fidget spinner, this small little rabbit with a funny accent, became my prized possession.

 

 

Moms.

 

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Michelle with Alexis. (I think, might be Nick.) / Photo By Kidzond.

 

I use this line often.

“Women have periods, Give Birth, and menopause. Men live 10 years less than Women. And I am okay with that.”

Moms are a special lot. Kind of unique to our species. It doesn’t detract from those women who are not mothers, but even they would have to concede, their own mother is rather unique.

For one, the simple fact that we spend the first 9 months of our existence sharing a body with this woman, who will at the end of this journey be our mother, is a monumental task. If you think about it, it’s a small miracle in its own right.

They will endure heartburn, swelling feet, cravings that may or may not be satisfied, and overall, go through a purgatory to bring you into this world. Others, may breeze through their pregnancy and birth without the slightest complication. And if they are smart, keep that bit to themselves, and not tell their friends who had 32 hours of labor with an epidural.

Of course any parent will tell you, it’s what comes after that the real tests begin. Taking this new human and shaping them into a person. Guiding them, admonishing them, nurturing them, and scolding them.

And as my own mother said, you never quit being a mother.

Some mothers do the most challenging of tasks, take on children that are not biologically their own. For a variety of reasons, these women will adopt a child and take on the honorific of being called Mom. It is not an easy task, a complicated road of lawyers and judges, fears and tears, all to give their undivided love to a child. What magical, wonderful women they are.

Not everyone is cut out to be a mom. Many women I have known over the years elected by choice not to become a mother. I think I shock them when I tell them ‘Good for you!’ Because it is not the reaction they expect. But good for them, they know themselves well enough that children are not what they want. They are selfless enough to know that becoming a mom just to fit into some mythical role, is not what they want in their life. Sadly, too many believe the myth, and give it a try. (See the paragraph above for the lucky children.)

Now of course I am not a Mom. I’m a Dad. And I was told by my 10-year-old daughter the other day that I was “The best Daddy in the world, and Mommy is the best Mommy.” And that is why I am blogging about Mothers today. Because nothing makes a parent feel loved than to be the Best in their child’s eyes.

But I did tell her that others think they have the best parents in the world. She didn’t quite agree with me.

 

Betty Kendrick 19 years old

Betty Anne McDonald (19 yrs of age – sans Freckles)

 

Of course to me, Betty Anne McDonald, who would become Betty Kendrick, was the best Mom in the world. Well, to me. She was a little lady of Scots-Irish decent and pushed the stereotype of a Redhead to the limit. A woman of immeasurable love and compassion that would turn on a dime if you pissed her off. My favorite story of my Mother was once saying to her “Hey Mom” and she slapped me. Holding my cheek I asked her what was that for? Her reply? “Oh, sorry, thought you were going to say something smart.”

In all the stories I could tell you about my mother, the one thing that holds them together like glue is the simple fact she was a Mom. Being a mother was very important to her. She raised us, punished us, made sure we had respect for others, and did her best with what limited experience she had. My Grandmother had died when my mother was 4 years old.

The common joke among men is to marry a woman like their mother. I believe I have succeeded in that.

Now many women take this wrong. That men want a woman who will take care of them, do their clothing, keep the house, raise the kids, etc. Pick a 1950’s T.V. mom.

But what we really want, is someone who will raise our kids like we were raised. Someone that we know, will be there to kiss the boo-boos. Yell at the kids for a messy room, proudly display a bunch of scribbles called ‘Art’ on the fridge and threaten their very existence when all else fails. We want that nurturing aspect for our children.

I am lucky, I found that woman. She is the Mother of my two youngest children. She’s a great mom. And an overall wonderful person. And I have to agree with daughter on this point. She is the best Mommy.

Of course tomorrow I will not be calling my Mother. I lost her 12 years ago. Not a day goes by without a thought or memory passing through my mind. It was 17 years ago this past March that I last seen her, hugged and kissed her goodbye. We would talk on the phone, but we lived 2000 miles apart, and try as I might, I never got out to see her again. People very close to me will not be talking to their Mothers today, for the first year. It doesn’t get easier, and yes, some years are harder than others.

As sad as it is, Mother’s Day is a wonderful day for me. It reminds me of the sacrifices women all over the world make to carry on our species. That they keep humanity going. That every human on this planet, came from a Mom, and for all they do, we should be truly grateful.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

…Not Judgement.

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A sign posted on an elementary school wall.

 

Last week when I picked up my 5-year-old niece from her Pre-K class I passed a wall plastered with pictures and stories. In the center was this sign.

Autism is one word trying to describe millions of stories. and underneath, offer support, not judgement.

This may seem sappy, but the sign, the wall, what had been going on in my life at that moment, hit me hard. I did my best to hold it together and walked on to pick up my niece. Walking through a crowded hallway of parents and overly excited 4 to 5 year olds, who jostling each other for a turn at the drinking fountain. I signed my niece out, lead her out of the school, stopping to snap a picture of the sign. Then I thought about writing this blog. But I didn’t write. I thought about it for nearly a week.

I fully feel the support. From friends, family, school teachers and professionals who help us with Alexis’ Autism. It is a wonderful feeling, and I am truly grateful.

Yet at times, I feel the judgement. For many, Autism is just an unknown. They look at it from the outside and see…well they see a new car. See, I thought about the sign for nearly a week, and found an analogy that made sense.

 

Analogy Time!

 

Lets say, for the sake of analogies, Alexis is a new car. Snazzy, looks great on the outside. Sunroof, all the new fangled bells and whistles. I drive this car everyday. So I know this car well.

On occasion I give people rides. They like my new car, say it works like every other new car they know, looks like a normal car to them too. But they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

See, every once in a while, my navigation system won’t talk to me. It is very frustrating. I really need it to work sometime, but it doesn’t some days. Selective Mutism.

Then the fuel system doesn’t work, and my car vapor locks on me. Just stops.  Getting it to work again can take days. Sometimes, I have to take it into the shop. Gastrointestinal issues.

The sun roof is stubborn too. It will open, but refuses to close. Hangs up and the navigation system complains it hurts too much to close. Tactile Issues, Hair.

But everyone sees this awesome car on the outside, and they don’t understand the issues I have with it. I can tell them, and they will listen, but then they look at my new car, and shake their heads at me.

“It’s fine, what are you talking about. Can I have a ride?” They ask.

“Sorry, not today, the fuel system is backed up and the navigation system quit talking to me about it. Sunroof needs an adjustment too.” I tell them.

“You know? You complain about that car too much. It’s fine, you just need to drive it like everyone else who owns a car like that. You probably don’t know how to operate it properly, it looks just fine to me!” I hear. And all I can do is sigh.

Silly as this analogy is, unfortunately it is accurate.

Alexis has issues that come with Autism. Even as high functioning as she is, there are still issues that seem to baffle people.

In her case, Autism is expressed by extreme anxiety. Yet this anxiety is quirky. Things that freak other people out? Like roller coasters? She’s fine with them.

She loves roller coasters.

Yet a word, a phrase, a look can push her anxiety levels to nearly catastrophic levels. She will go mute, she will lash out, she make odd sounds and nervous tics. Then she will become constipated due to her anxiety. Which, a little TMI, becomes a nightmare to deal with. From as little as going through ten pairs of undergarments a day, to doctors visits when it gets severe.

There is also the impression that she needs to learn to behave like other children. Or that this is just a phase she will just grow out of. As if this is a cold she will shake, and I am overreacting.

She will never behave like other children, she will not grow out of it.

She will learn to adjust to our world. Find ways to cope with stresses that plague her now. She will grow, learn, become a productive adult. In her own way. I am so very thankful she will. Other who have autism, are not so lucky.

I don’t doubt her future successes, yet right now she is (and we are) in the adjustment part. Working on routines to keep life on an even keel for her. Because at this point, routines are important for her, and difficult to keep in the busy, fast paced, modern life.

I call Autism The Wicked Little Tailor, because it is. Autism truly is one word to describe Millions of stories. Each person whom it touches, it does so in its own unique way. No two autistics are alike. Each person wears their own little suit of autism, and has to cope with it.

Those of us who are the caregivers, we have to not only help them, but be an advocate for them. Do our best to teach others.

And honestly? It sucks sometimes. Teaching others. They would rather judge than listen.

Because to them, the car is new and shiny, it should work like every other car its age. They are only the occasional rider, they don’t drive it everyday like I do.

 

When I first saw an Autistic Cycle and took a couple of steps back.

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Ponies in a row. / Photo by KidZond.

 

The conversation went like this:

Me: She’s doing really good about getting off to school. We’ve been making it to school on time for the past week and a half. I think we’ve turned a corner.

My Daughter’s Consular: Don’t be shocked if she cycles, have you heard of that? They sometimes regress.

Me: No, never heard of it. As of now, she seems fine with going to school.

My Daughter’s Consular: Hopefully that continues, yet autistics do cycle, they seem fine, but then a trigger happens and they regress back. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back.

 

Wow. Was she ever right. I had never heard of “Cycles”. I wasn’t prepared for what that entailed. One reason I had never heard of cycles is that many call it by another name. Meltdown. Some autistics have bad ones, sensory overloads that tax their brains so hard that the only recourse is to ‘throw a fit’ and shut down for a ‘reboot’. It can be terrifying for all involved. The parents, friends, other family member, and especially for the autistic person themselves.

Yet, autism, being that wicked little tailor it is, never does the same thing to each person it afflicts. Some may meltdown, others may shutdown. Still others, like Alexis, require a restart. She has to go to a start point, then work her way out of it. She rarely cries, or screams, never have I seen her throw herself on the floor or hurt herself. We’re lucky in that respect. Yet when she restarts, we are usually confused. What caused this behavior? She was doing just fine, but why now?

Give me a moment to talk about myself.

I got a new phone. A Samsung Galaxy Note8. Pretty sweet huh? Yeah, it’s not an S9, but hey, new phone.

It sucks. Damn thing has been nothing but problems since I got it 12 days ago. Tried to take it back today to be told it was just me. It’s not me. I may not be the most savvy person when it comes to ‘Smart Phones’ but still. The thing is annoying as hell. Totally froze on me today. So I went back to the store to trade it.

But…

I waited a bit. I was pissed, angry, using words that with ‘uck’ a lot. So angry I entertained the thought of using my 3 lbs sledge to solve the problem. However, that wouldn’t solve the problem. I went outside, smoked a cigarette (yes I know) and did my best to calm down. Worked the problem out in my head. Knew what I was going to say, and then, once composed, I went to the phone store.

Came back with my phone. Told politely it was me, not the phone. It’s the phone, but hey, I can calmly work it out. I have been considering the beer in the fridge. But instead, have a diet soda, and my laptop to ‘ignore’ the problem. Because if I do ignore it? A solution will come. Usually does. It’s how I restart.

Back to the kid.

So okay, stressful day. I got upset, very upset, but I resolved the problem. Took me a good hour. The darn phone has been bugging me for a week and a half. Yet it took today to get my goat. And that lasted about an hour. Phone is still in one piece. Alexis, however, has taken all day to get over yesterday.

She had a school conference.

Now, in modern American Schools, they have come up with this fantastic idea called “Student Lead Conferences”. Which means, you can do four conferences at once. Which means, Alexis had to speak to her parents about her school work…which she is struggling with… as three other kids talked to their parents. A noisy, distracting, environment.

The conference went okay, she mimed what she did. Didn’t speak to us. Her very sweet and helpful teacher was shocked by all this. In class, Alexis’ practiced this, she did well. But now? Nope, silence, the Cycle had geared up.

Now by geared up, I mean geared up. Not begun, because the cycle had started before this. A good five days before when the reality of the conference was looming in the future. I should have caught on, but I didn’t. Hindsight of course, helps. It was that flipping idiom that should have been the key.

Idioms! Ahhhh!

Idioms can be tricky with many autistics. So can sarcasm. I use both constantly, which is hit and miss with Alexis. She actually likes idioms. Yet the other day, when she wanted to change clothes to eat breakfast, then change again for school. I suggested she change into her school clothes and eat. That way she’ll be ready, and just be careful eating. I put it like this. “That way, you can kill two birds with one stone”.

Why? For heaven’s sake, would she want to kill a bird? Birds are nice.

She was serious. She couldn’t understand why I wanted her to go pick up a rock and throw it at the birds outside our house. I was puzzled, because I had used other idioms, similar to this one, that she had no problem with, yet that day? Well it was taken literally.

It was the beginning of the cycle. She was nervous about the conference and the idiom was lost to her. She can get idioms, metaphors, jocular tales and most jokes. Yet when she starts to cycle up, things get fuzzy quick. Taking things literally is her fall back, her safe mode.

It was today, the day after the conference, that Alexis didn’t go to school. It was just too much for her to process. We tried to work on Math, a subject she has a bizarre relationship with. She is either very good at it, or very bad. I can’t tell, neither can anyone else. Math has become part of her ‘Fuse Box’. Or maybe it’s better to call it her ‘Tool Kit’. She will purposely get answers wrong, will whine about doing problems as we sit and do homework. Yet in play, she will answer questions without hesitation. Solve problems like they are a hot knife through butter.

Today? Adding 6+6 was too difficult. She couldn’t do it. Let alone multiply two digit numbers by another set of two digit numbers. Even with the aid of a calculator, she couldn’t do it.

This is the damnation of an Autistic Cycle. Things you know become lost to you. Simple task become beyond complex. The world comes crashing down and even 1+3 is impossible to answer. It’s not a game, not a joke, it’s real. Then her brain just shut down today. Trying its best to do a restart, after a day of high anxiety, and make sense of it all.

While my emotions ran high over my phone problems, I was able to find a way to calm down. To solve the problem in my mind and move forward. What an utter hell it would have been if I had been unable to do so. I can’t even fathom how that would be.

Try being a prisoner to your emotions, locked inside you, all there, all working but unable to translate them. It would be like waking up tomorrow and suddenly speaking a foreign tongue, without knowing it. How would you tell anyone the simplest of things? How would you even begin to ask for help?

The autistic cycles are a living hell for the sufferers, and just as frustrating to those who are around them. Peace and quiet, a relaxing hobby, no pressure and the cycle completes itself. Yet honestly? I’m not sure it is over. I have no idea if I will be able to get her off to school tomorrow. If she will go, or if she will refuse.

I have come to the point where I don’t take it personally, that I am not a bad parent, that I  don’t just let her ‘get away with it’ As some seem to think. Yet I have to be careful she doesn’t use this as a manipulate tool to skip out on her education. Deciphering the difference isn’t easy. Her need to avoid over stimulation does sometimes manifest itself in manipulative behavior. But, can you blame her? I don’t. I wouldn’t want to do something that would cause me anxiety at the level she feels.

So I ride a fine line, every in search of the Rabbit Hole she is hiding in. Doing my best to be on guard for the next cycle, the next trigger, and react properly so I can lessen the impact. It’s not easy, and I am not alone in this. And I am certain no expert. I hadn’t even heard of cycles till last week.

My hope is one day she will realize the trigger, learn to minimize them, control them instead of having them control her. Find solutions, a bag of tricks, to make her life easier. One day, I hope she can deal with a stressful situation that won’t push her into a cycle. That she find an out. Till then, I have a lot to learn, and teach to her, when she is ready.

The future for Authors…

…or where my first book is destined to end up.

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Books for Sale at the local Goodwill Store. / Photo by KidZond.

If you haven’t noticed, I like to write. Not just blogs about my family, but fiction. I tend to stick with the whole Fantasy / Science Fiction genre. I just find this realm my cup of tea. Sort of suits my creative personality.

Now even though I write, I rarely submit my writings. Because, well, it sucks. Maybe…not sure…but I am pretty sure it does.

But I want to write. It makes me happy and I have a passion for it. Writing for me is fun, entertainment, and well maybe, just maybe, I can make a few bucks off it all.

Maybe.

Then on a shopping expedition to Goodwill I found the used book section, and was humbled a bit. For several reason, let me explain.

There were a fair number of books on the shelves. Some of the books made sense that they found their way to the resale shelves. Children’s books, kids grow up, other Parents may want them. Cook books, because cooking is always a fad. Cajun cook books may have been all the rage 5 years ago, but now? Not so much.

Romance novels, well come on. Even their authors expect them to hit the resale shelves. Hope so I would think. People buy one for a buck, then buy their latest novel for $14.95. Great for marketing.

Other authors, many who have passed on to that great typewriter in the sky, well their books find their way to the resale shelf.

Others? They make you think. A story may be behind it. Books about becoming a new parent, what to expect when you are pregnant….

…Breast Cancer for Dummies.

I looked long and hard at that book. Did they survive? or did some love one sadly pack the book with other belongs to give to Goodwill? I wonder.

Books can tell a story about a person.

Unlike others who have that nosey habit of looking into your medicine cabinet, I will look at your bookshelf. What you read tells me a lot about you.

Romance lover? Then you probably are a hopeless romantic. Horror lover? Well, you like to be surprised and scared. You probably love rollercoasters and haunted houses. Science Fiction lover? Then you like to think of What If? and love NASA with a passion. Spy Novel lover? You always think someone is keeping secrets, you love cat and mouse games. Crime novels lover? You are always looking for the reason why behind everything, noting clues when something is amiss. Fantasy lover? You like to look at the magic in the world, see the connections that others miss.

Of course these are generalizations. You read to escape. To find a little bit of entertainment in-between the pages of that book in your hands. You want to forget about your problems and worry about the Main Characters problems.

And of course, when you are done exploring those other worlds, and those characters become fond memories just collecting dust on your bookshelf, or taking up room in a box in the basement. You end up giving up on them, shipping them out for others to find and enjoy. For a new generation of reader to find that escape you so loved.

For some, this bequeathing to new readers, may happen soon after you read the book, or years down the line. Then again, if you are like me, it will happen when you can no longer read the books, because, of course, the dead can’t read.

Yet eventually, one day, those books you read will end up on a shelf (if the book is lucky to survive that long) and will be sold for a pittance of what it original value was. Many may pass it by, others may pick it up and look to see if it peaks their interest. Some will smile at the book because they have already read it. Still, it will sit.

As a would-be author, this is my future. My books…you know, when I get around to writing them…will end up on a shelf one day.

I can take a little satisfaction that the library of congress may keep a copy. You know, if I publish.

 

Then of course, there is this…

 

Although I desire to be a writer, and have written many short stories and a few novels, they all sit in old xerox boxes and filing cabinets in my basement. Dozens upon dozens of storylines and plots waiting for me to get off my butt and get serious about it all.

Yet while I desire to be a writer, my youngest daughter will be. For in an odd twist, my autistic daughter loves to create stories. She loves the English language, and would give a ‘Grammar Nazi’ a run for their money. She has the potential to be a novelist, to do this thing that I desire, far better than I will.

And unlike me, who looked upon with a little sadness at the realization that my future books will end up on a Goodwill shelf, I think Alexis will relish the idea. Than even though her books may fall off the Best Sellers list, she will be delighted to know that they are still there, out there waiting for others to discover.