If you know me, or have been following this blog, you will know that my adult son Eric is autistic. He has progressed a million miles beyond the prognosis doctors gave him as a 3 year old, but he his still profoundly challenged. He will never live on his own, always need care and in recent years has developed anxiety disorders that make life very difficult at times. He is also very loving, and extremely loveable. I call him my divining rod, but rather than pointing out water, he exposes just who is, and who isn't, a truly GOOD person. Life with Eric is filled with daily miracles. He keeps innocence alive in my home. That being said- it definitely is not easy. Eric has developed severe agoraphobia and separation anxiety. In contradiction to his fear of leaving the house, he is also a 'wanderer' , he may take off at any given moment with no sense of danger, no safety awareness and limited verbal skills. Lets just say he keeps me on my toes.
|Bruce Cassidy and his amazing band at Hugh's Room|
You constantly need a full energy tank in my home and I've discovered that I need a regular break to keep my tank filled. My respite of choice is live music. This past Thursday a wonderful show was happening at Hugh's Room , part of The inaugural World Music Festival being staged by Jazz FM 91.1. It was South Africa night and the Bruce Cassidy Band was holding a tribute to Hugh Masekela. I couldn't wait!
I spent the evening making sure Eric was prepped for my leaving the house, as its always a major ordeal. It can take about 20 minutes for Eric to let me take the garbage out. Seeing me dressed up with my hair done makes his anxiety peek- because although he's fine once I'm gone, the thought of separating from me is too much for him to handle. On the nights I get a break it can take the better part of the day to prep Eric. He has 'reinforcers', things Eric enjoys that are given as a reward when he is able to master a new skill or to help ease anxiety during moments such as when I am leaving the house. This Thursday night Eric and I were going through the ritual. I was standing in the open doorway of my tiny townhouse with Eric, going through the 10-15 minute script. 'Mommy be right back' 'Eric close the door' 'Eric go put X on Eric's chart and soon get Ford C600 model kit' . Eric was rocking, rubbing his head, occasionally shouting, all typical, but a little more exaggerated this time. I was starting to get anxious. I had already bought my ticket and it looked as if I was going to be late, or not get out at all.
Suddenly, Eric stopped shouting and he started to hum, a sure sign he is calm, but he still wouldn't close the door. I had never seen this behaviour before. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small boy of about 6 appear at the bottom of my steps. Barefoot. rocking. Obviously autistic as well. Then I noticed Dad (I assumed) hurrying across the street to my steps. I had been that person many times, and will be many times more. This little guy was a wanderer (a mis-nomer, they are generally RUNNERS) too. Somehow while he was bolting, he had been able to re-connect for a moment, disconnect from his escape, and had come to sit on my steps. I smiled at Dad. He looked up, saw Eric in the doorway and relief flooded over his face. Seeing Eric, he knew that I KNEW. The little boy started to crab walk sideways up my steps. Dad was nervous. It was obvious I was heading out, we were strangers, and his son was trying to get into our home. I smiled at Dad 'Whats you son's name?' 'Jake'. Jake was still crab walking up the front steps, a difficult feat believe me, but it guaranteed no actual connection to anyone around him. I knelt down as he got to the top step 'Hi Jake, I bet you like Thomas' . Eye Contact. YES. Eye Contact. I nearly cried. 'Thomas?' I SWEAR he had the same inflection as Eric has when mentioning his favourite train. 'Yes, Thomas, what about Annie and Clarabel'. SMILE! Now I cried. 'Annie Clarabel?' Eric then echoed Jake 'Annie Clarabel'. I prompted Eric to say 'hi Jake' which he did beautifully and I told Jake he could come anytime and play with Thomas, we had LOTS of them.
|My handsome youngest son Mark|
|My handsome MIDDLE son, Eric|
I made my way down the steps, and Jake followed. Eric calmly went inside and closed the door. Easiest transition EVER. Dad introduced himself,'Jeff'. He thanked me for helping him get Jake back on track, and told me how great Mark had been. I thanked him for reminding me that even when our guys are challenging, they still seem to show us what is important in this world, and they seem to bring people together who need to find each other. Jake is very similar to the way Eric was at that age. It was like having my baby back. Jeff is very similar to me when Eric was 6. I've been there and can help them through it. And they remind me that even when things are challenging, and even when they are 200+lbs of anxiety, they are still our baby boys, we will do anything for them, and we are not alone.
Somehow, someway, we find each other.