A journalist came to our house Saturday afternoon. He works for a large broadcasting network who had visited Charlie's school last week, along with other schools and school programs in New Jersey and a few other places.
Charlie asked for a walk not long after the journalist appeared and so out all four of us went. Within a block, Charlie was (as is his wont) running. Jim was keeping up with him while I walked with the journalist, who asked if maybe we shouldn't keep up; I said, yes, that was usually what we did and he and I did some running till we caught up with Jim and Charlie, who was ahead the entire way (also his wont on walk-runs).
Back in the house, Charlie was very patient as we talked about things and, inevitably, about him. We've long been wary about talking about Charlie in front of Charlie and did our best to speak about certain difficult things with all due respect to Charlie himself sitting right there. He sat, asked for 'spring rolls' (which we've been venturing into Jersey City for on Saturdays, lately), put his hands over his ears to modulate the sound of so much talking, didn't get agitated.
The journalist asked about how we'd gotten so into riding bikes with Charlie and, aside from the pragmatic explanations of wanting to get him exercise and a vague sense of wanting him to attempt, to the extent he could, one of the rituals of suburban childhood, we found ourselves without the sharpest answer. Bike-riding just seemed something Jim had Charlie take up, Charlie struggled at first and there were hair-raising adventures, Charlie after countless rides and thousands of miles got good at it, we ride bikes every single day.
After more than 15 minutes of listening, with the camera going, Charlie stood up and moved some around the room: 'White car, white car.' I said he could get his stuff and he ran up the stairs to his room and, in a series of trips, brought down the items he's been keeping with him these days (in previous years, he had others): his iPad, a pair of my mother's shoes, keys, a blue shirt of Jim's, a blue jacket of Jim's, a grey shirt of Jim's, a faded yellow green and orange dress I used to wear at the beach, a Walkman Charlie scavenged from the basement. These he laid out carefully according to the floorboards.
The journalist watched him with real interest, asked if he could film the arrangement Charlie had made on the floor and asked us about it all. Later in the evening, I also wished I had shown him Charlie's blue book bag, laid out carefully before the doorway to the kitchen: Usually on the weekends Charlie places the bag on a chair beneath a green bag of gloves and bicycling equipment, but he had left it on the floor instead this weekend.
We talked some more, about our trying more and more as the years have gone by to see things from Charlie's perspective and, unlike in the early days of ABA when all 'self-stims' were 'redirected' into behaviors 'more appropriate,' ourselves watched as Charlie did as he would, and have tried to learn from it; have seen (for instance) those floor and other arrangements as Charlie communicating something of importance to him, something going on in his head.
We said pleasant good-byes after Charlie had settled himself in the car with a selection of his items. Jim opened the back door and Charlie reached out, with a smile, to shake the journalist's hand.
The visit had been framed by Charlie leading the way and us fitting ourselves into his lead: As much and more than all the talk, 'what Charlie did' said the most about what it's all about.