Who would have thought, but it has been six months since we packed up our boxes and watched the movers (from a Newark company owned by the grandfather of a former student) load everything into their light blue van on Christmas Eve and, after Jim locked the door to our pale yellow house one last time, drove on Christmas Day in a maroon rental car to Newark Airport (with a stop in beloved Hoboken, for Jim to take some last photos of cherished sites like a fence that appeared in a prominent scene of On the Waterfront and because Charlie insisted we get going though it meant a four hour wait at the gate before boarding) and leave New Jersey for what I think is probably going to be forever.
I haven't properly recounted how the flight went or how we came to decide to leave behind a lot in the hope of moving Charlie forward into the next stage of his life, into ever-nearing adulthood. Just over a week after we got to California, I started working full-time at an internet company in Silicon Valley -- if you've read even a bit of our (mis)adventures on this blog, you know that my being a classics professor at a small university on John F. Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City has been intertwined with raising and advocating for Charlie. Suffice it to say, I have been quite immersed in very different circumstances and all while helping Charlie adapt to a new school, a new house, a new climactic zone with new weather patterns, a new life -- and still processing the metamorphosis myself.
Jim of course has, very gladly, taken on a huge role as Charlie-caregiver, driving him to and from school (and 'school-camp' before summer school starts) and all over a couple of counties in the Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Marin, Sonoma -- my family can't get over the many places we've visited that they, lifelong Bay Area denizens, have never set foot in), while getting a solid start on his new book. Weekdays, I leave our wonderful new house (I've a lot to say about how we found it and ended up living in it -- I still can't quite believe we are actually in it) at 6.45am to take Bart, Caltrain and a shuttle to work, returning almost 12 hours later. Suffice it to say, it's a very good and essential thing that Jim is around full-time. Not one day has been bikeride-less since we came here: Again, if you have followed this blog for a bit, you may recall the hours Charlie and I spent waiting for Jim to return from teaching and meetings at Fordham University in New York, pacing in the front yard, sitting in the white car, walking a 5-mile circuit in our New Jersey neighborhood and through a couple of parking lots, standing on a freezing cold train platform and (one long night in mid-April 2013), sitting in the emergency room.
I have yet to write up the events that led up to that ER wait and the ambulance ride preceding it. It was good to note the anniversary of that night listening to Jim talk about doing our taxes with my dad's accountant and finding a birthday present for my mom.
Our half-year of living in California has more than suggested, the move -- aspects of which some may have thought foolhardy or at least giving reason to raise an eyebrow -- was a good and right decision. Our pale yellow house was sold in April; I got my California drivers license this month; Charlie has started in a Workability program and earned his first $8, and has not mentioned 'Jersey.'
Our lives have all been utterly changed.
'Tis often said, and it is true, that autistic individuals do not favor change, adamantly preferring routine and order. Based on the past six months, I would say that change -- a major change in life surroundings and circumstances, a drastic shakeup -- can be just what is needed to jump start a path into the very big changes (the end of school at age 22, the search for work and housing, the terra incognita of adult services, aging parents) that lie just around the bend for Charlie on the long journey of his life.