Charlie picked up the football from the living room floor and looked at me expectantly. "Shall we play catch?" I asked. "Casstch," he said and lobbed the ball to me. I've never been good at catching a ball---I tend to duck when it comes my way.
I'd do anything for Charlie, and so catch and throw it was for a half-hour, during which Charlie had long and intense eye contact, hurried to retrieve the ball when he or I missed it, and kept laughing delightedly when he caught it. I noted that he was especially watching my hands, and that he paused from time to time to shake out his arms.
Back and forth and back and forth. Charlie kept the ball alive, all the time maintaining that exemplary eye contact, as if he wanted to keep the connection going after a day his teacher and I had to term "interesting."
An anxious waking and sudden throwing himself headback onto the floor. More head trouble throughout his school day. Another abrupt fall to the floor just as we were going out for an afternoon walk that never got beyond the perimeter of our lawn because Charlie threw himself down--flailed his body flat--on the grass and, when I pulled him up, resisted. His torso twisted and his head, which is very large, came down like a rock. Inbetween came the screams: High-pitched, long, and making me all but certain that what was driving on the whole wrassle on the grass was a pain in Charlie's head that he and maybe no one has any words for.
It ended with him leaning back on me and crying dry heaves. Cars drove by and a basketball game across the street continued. "Bah'oom!" said Charlie. He stood up on his own, went up the steps and straight in for a hot shower. And then he was perfectly peaceful. We went grocery shopping, he grabbed the phone ("Daddy talk phone!") when it rang and had a short exchange with my parents, he smiled up cheerily at Jim and they watched a basketball game together.
Over these past years, life in Autismland has again and again handed us the best and worst of times. More than a few fellow traveler autism parents have been noting how the change in the seasons--the huge transition from cold winter to wet spring---has been affecting their children, sometimes to intense outbursts.
"Easy is the trip down to the Underworld, ..... but to recall your step and to escape to the upper airs: This is the work, this is your task." So the Sibyl tells the hero Aeneas in the sixth book of Virgil's Aeneid as he prepares to visit the Underworld to find his deceased father, Anchises. How quickly do our children--do we---fall into that Slough of Despond from some bright meadow, and how much muck we have to claw through to get back to solid ground.
Charlie has been having odd transition trouble, not so much between activities at school or home (the careful implementation of an activity schedule has helped him immensely), but with transitioning from one state of consciousness to another: For the past few days, he has been agitated and tense a minute after waking. The episode on our front lawn, pierced as it was by his sudden screams, has been suggesting to Jim and me that Charlie may be having seizures, or that, at least, something is hurting him in his brain. We'll have more than enough questions for the pediatrict neurologist next week.
Whatever it is, is the latest autism mystery to unravel. Strangest of all to me is that after Charlie, rather muddy from rolling on the front lawn, came into our house, he was smiling and easy-going, completely different in a very short time.
"We'll figure it out," I had said to Charlie as we sat, covered with dead grass and bits of dirt after the loud part was over. "We're in it together."
Or, as Charlie later put it: "Turn on Barney! Barney I wuvoo." "Barney says," I interjected. "Sayzz I wuv oooo! Barney turn on." I think Charlie was smiling as he said that but I couldn't see for sure, as he was wrapped up tight in Daddy's blue blanket and leaning his head close into my arm.