"Wahlk!" proclaimed Charlie after dinner. I handed him his blue hooded fleece sweatshirt, which we discovered he had put on backwards when he found the hood cradling his chin.
"S'irt bakkwards!" grinned Charlie and we were both laughing. Charlie pulled it off and then back on the right way and out we went, just before twilight. He wanted to walk right, which is towards the train station. He skipped, hands in his front pocket, ahead of me, lightly, and I followed, curious to see where this might be headed.
At the station, Charlie affected his usual postures: Running the length of the platform with his head at a just-so angle, warbling. Sitting quietly on a bench, hands in his pockets, questioning gaze aimed towards me. Rising as the train pulled in and wading his way amid the crowd of commuters, eyes ahead and looking for his dad.
Who, due to his taking the white car, was not on the train, which fact I tried to say/half-yell/communicate to Charlie amid the clank and growls of the train machinery and the numerous business-attired adults in search of their ride home. Charlie, his mouth in an almost-O, looked a little more than woebegone as his flicked his eyes from side to side but there was no Daddy.
"Charlie, Daddy is working late tonight. He's still in New York!" Said I some half-dozen times in my cherrily upbeat voice---no room on this train platform for a tantrum and certainly not like the one that Charlie had when he was seven in the Newark train station atop a manhole cover. "Let's go home."
It was getting dark. The streets are wide where we live but there is no sidewalk in some parts of the road and I made an elaborate show of saying "Let's walk on the grass" when I sighted headlights before or behind us. Charlie only did so after some forcefully gentle pressure on his arm the first time, then immediately stepped onto neighbors' lawns when I repeated my request. After a minute, I could see that the corners of his mouth were turned up in a smile: He had done it. He had turned around without incident.
But am I shooting too low to be so happy just for this?
After he got home from school, Charlie and I had gone to the town library. He had gone a few times with his summer school class and immediately turned his footsteps towards the children's section, and then all the way to the back, where there is some carpeting embossed with the letters of the alphabet and a bead coaster. Charlie went down and up the little steps and then paced the aisles, eyes on nary a book. I scanned the shelves of picture books and tried to call him over: "How about Spot? very hungry insects? maybe not Angelina ballerina...." No reponse. Finally I chose a book about trains called Choo Choo and held the cover up to pacing Charlie. "What letter?" "See-ee." "What letter?" "Ayss." He did some more pacing, a bit more quietly, as I, as happy to be among books as Charlie is non-committal, searched in the new book section.
Would I be more happy if Charlie had poked at the picture books and pulled several out, or made his way to the Young Readers section and clamored to take out just one more book? (As seemingly every other child in the library was doing.) Should I be spending every waking and sleeping moment scheming about "how do we teach Charlie to read?", as if Charlie does not already have extensive programs in place in school and in his home ABA sessions to do just this?
I hope that, after all these years in Autismland, and especially after the last two years, I have learned to get my priorities straight. Charlie has his, already.