At graduation on Monday for the small college I work at, I clapped and smiled broadly -- beamed -- as certain students filed by, some of whom I could still see sitting in my old office -- just arrived days before from Bulgaria or Nepal -- scanning lists of courses and listening to me explaining the core curriculum requirements yet again; others whom I spent 10 days with in Greece on three separate occasions; and yet others whom I listened to so often, talking about GPAs, closed courses, essay deadlines, their parents, the next test, the job that seemed so good that wasn't working out. I sang 'The Star Spangled Banner' and what I knew of my college's alma mater and took photos and clapped some more.
A colleague -- he and I started teaching at the college in the same year -- observed that he didn't express his congratulations so exuberantly.
It wasn't the moment to explain it to him, but, what else would you expect from someone who's spent 15 years cheering on a big-headed baby become a boy become a guy to hold up his head, put one foot in front of the other, say 'uh' when we said 'uh,' point to the letter W, keep his feet on the bike pedals, eat two bits of an apple? from someone who says to herself 'progress' about her teenager who throws a box of Classics books then sits, crying and moaning but sits, in a big brown chair, instead of slamming his head on the hardwood floor?
Charlie is always with me and so I felt no surprise when I saw the number for the Big Autism Center flash on my cell phone, as the 'College of Arts and Sciences/School of Business Administration' students were receiving their degrees. I got up, climbed down the platform and went backstage (graduation was held in a large entertainement venue): Charlie was having post-birthday syndrome: too much to eat of what he likes too much, lag after a happy afternoon of being social, anxiety because my parents leave on Tuesday.
His teacher said he just didn't look like himself. We also talked about the wet, rainy weather that was ruining most of the photo-opts for the graduates. Charlie's teacher said he would call in an hour and let me know how Charlie was doing and I went back to my seat and calculated that by the time I made a grand exit off the stage (yes, folks, the show always stops for Charlie), dropped off my cap and gown (so I wouldn't receive Reminders that I had failed to do so), driven fast up the Garden State Parkway, run home to get Charlie's meds (I know, never leave home without them), hurry up to Charlie's school, it would be 1.30pm at the earliest and Charlie would be almost ready to take the bus home.
I watched the students file by and four other people exit from their seats but not because they had calls from the BAC.
The BAC called after, as stated, an hour: No need to pick Charlie up.
He made it home fine on the bus and he and Jim got up to six miles of a bike ride before soaking rain led them to turn around.
That must have unsettled Charlie a bit along with everything else and he went from over-the-top happy at dinner to impassioned crying.
He sat in the chair. Jim and my dad and I sat near by and my mother finished what she was doing in the kitchen and came to sit too. After a half-hour, Jim and Charlie and I went on a walk-run and his stomach was better and he ate up the bowl of shrimp in special sauce my mother had made, dipping in a piece of sushi to get the last tasty drop.
Charlie and I walked and ran again and he stood looking around him and at everyone and went to bed.