Me and my girl and boy, raising awareness and acceptance of autism

Please see below from Jeff Stimpson, you can follow him on twitter @Jeffslife

Holidays

Holiday weekends at grandpa’s lakehouse have been work. The lakehouse has a computer, cable for the basement TV, a porch for grilling, a path to the lake. The nearest neighbor’s place is through a thin copse of trees and bushes where, when we first went to the lakehouse, the neighbors had put up no gate. The lakehouse also has a lot of doors that Alex (PDD-NOS) found from almost his first instant there. Once I finally snagged him half-way up the living room stairs in the neighbor’s house, and on another holiday I was at the dock fishing with my typically developing younger boy Ned when I spotted Alex’s bright red T shirt flashing across the neighbor’s porch with my wife Jill and his Uncle Rob on his heels.

I hate Alex barging in on neighbors, either at the lakehouse or in our own apartment building; his bolting made the lakehouse too exhausting, at least for me. Soon the neighbors put up a little gate.

Alex, 13, has always seemed to understand what the lakehouse was for; we’d take out the rowboat and he’d never try to jump ship. Basement cable also made it easier for a while: He’d spend hours down there in a carpeted proper bedroom, watching “Sesame Street.” “Grandpa’s house!” he began to say on the car rides up. “Watcha El-MO!”

And he would. Once or twice Alex would emerge upstairs and help set the table. We’d fry him Hebrew Nationals and slice them just so and he would take them to the basement (most trips he wouldn’t eat them) and throughout my family holiday dinner I’d keep an eye on the basement door, ready to bolt should he bolt.

Memorial Day this year promised to be tough. We’ve been bringing the iPad but Grandpa’s house just got a new router that I guess wasn’t quite working yet. Still, Elmo would be waiting on the basement cable. Alex has also been places this year, like to an afterschool program with computers. Just a few weeks ago, Jill and I stepped into his classroom and for an instant wondered who that tall boy was sitting back-to us at the Mac.

“Elmo? Watcha Elmo?” Alex said, sliding behind grandpa’s computer on Memorial Day. If he’s got a seat and seems happy and if he isn’t just down in the basement, I’m happy to go for a minute and see what Ned’s up to, especially if there are folks around the computer to keep an eye on Alex and his orange T shirt. I darted back a few minutes later and Alex was still at the computer, except now he had the browser and router working. Later Uncle Rob and grandpa say the same thing: Alex was the only one who could get the computer online.

I chopped down the weeds in the path to the lake and then took out the kayak and played U-boat for half an hour and soon it was time to eat. There still sat Alex, right next to the adults and Ned talking and talking, and I wondered and glanced but I don’t think anyone noticed this young man with a mustache was watching Elmo. For the third or fourth family meal in a row, I got to eat.

Soon it was nearing time to go. I looked in the basement and the bedrooms and no Alex. I looked in the garage and on the porch. “Jill, where’s Alex?” “Ned, have you seen Alex?”

I glanced through the path I’d cut and saw a flash of orange down by the dock. I ran down. I ran through the path I’d cut, I ran past the neighbor’s gate and rounded the muddy corner and saw Alex in orange. He was sitting at the dock, staring into the water. “Alex, buddy. What’cha doing?”

Jeff Stimpson lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as The Autism Society news blog, and An Anthology of Disability Literature (available on Amazon). He is on LinkedIn under “Jeff Stimpson” and Twitter under “Jeffslife.”

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