Melanie told me that I had to write something upbeat. That’s been hard for me lately as I have been in a bit of a funk.
Here we go. An amusing anecdote for you…
For Christmas 2006, we went to New York. Ethan was fascinated with the city and specifically the Empire State Building. Asperger’s usually results in a fixation on one thing. At this point it was NY. So, we packed up the car, popped Breckin in her car seat, and Ethan in his booster and the rest is history.
Both Melanie and I worked that day and had to prepare lessons/assignments etc. for the next day. We were leaving one day before school let out for break. This is frowned upon, but with our principals’ approval we carried on. We were traveling from Youngsville, NC, and there’s really not a great way to get to I95 from here. We headed north on the backroads of NC and VA towards Richmond. It was much later in the day than we had planned, dark already. So our plan to avoid some traffic and make up some time with the state highways backfired immediately. It actually snowed, and we had cold weather, below freezing weather. Those roads were unfamiliar and unfriendly. Shortly after entering Virginia, Breckin “spit up.” At that point I looked at Melanie and said, “It’s not too late to go back.” She assured me that it was nothing and we went on, eventually stopping overnight in Maryland. Breckin had a few more “spit up” incidents. We had one last chance to turn back. We didn’t.
We arrived in New York and met Melanie’s mother at our hotel in Times Square. Melanie got to experience me driving around NYC. There really wasn’t a problem until we arrived at the hotel and had a “you can’t there from here” moment. To this day, I’m not sure how we actually found a road that would get us there, but we arrived safely. Breckin who was 6 months old at the time, seemed to be feeling a little better. That was a relief to all of us. The events, the sites, are jumbled in my mind. It’s been awhile, but I do remember the highlights.
Melanie, Ethan, and I headed out to the Museum of Natural History. Ethan enjoyed his subway experiences. He has since asked for a pet rat. We bought our tickets and in we went. There was (is) a little snack bar right past the entrance. Ethan said he was feeling a bit off. We bought him a drink and sat there for a minute. He seemed OK, so off we went. We arrived at the elevator to go up. Ethan had other ideas. As the elevator was about to open up, Ethan threw up. He threw up good. It was almost like one of those fake vomit scenes from movies. It was ugly. Melanie took care of Ethan and I tried to take care of the mess. We were eventually shooed along by an employee who looked none to happy about her upcoming task. I would have finished cleaning up, but if Ms. Sunshine tells you to go. You go, rays of sun burning the back of your head. Melanie came out of the restroom with Ethan, left him with me, and went up to the entrance to see if we could get refunded. Despite being inside for roughly 20 minutes and viewing only one exhibit, the aforementioned snack bar, we were out of luck. In their defense, the museum did provide us passes for another visit that we knew then, as we now, will never be used. So what, 60, 70 bucks, not a disaster. Little did we know that we would be paying over $5000 a month in tuition for a residential therapeutic boarding school about 7 years later. Of course that seems little compared to what we will likely be paying beginning in the next few months. But that’s a downer. Let’s move on.
We now look back on our museum outing as a positive one. Ethan was able to see a rat, ride the subway, vomit in one of the most famous museums in the world, and take his first taxi ride. Obviously we took a taxi back to our hotel. All we needed was a subway full of very unhappy people to make our day complete. Instead, adding to our wonderful day, Ethan threw up in the taxi.
Eventually both Ethan and Breckin recovered. They were able to visit the giant Toys’r Us store which made Ethan incredibly happy. Sometimes I think back and try to figure out where Ethan’s addiction to toys and legos, specifically, began. I’m sure a toy store large enough to have rides didn’t help.
More than anything else, Ethan wanted to go to the Empire State Building. Through our hotel we purchased passes that would allow us to bypass the line, like a Fast Pass at Disney. I haven’t mentioned Ethan’s Autism here, but one thing you need to know is that patience is not a strong point for Ethan, and a quick Google search will attest to this as a common symptom for Autistic children. Throw in a heaping dose of anxiety just for good luck. Ethan, even at this young age (4) before he started exhibiting increasingly severe behaviors and tics, was ripe for a meltdown if he had to wait in line. So we arrived in the evening for a nighttime view. We flashed our passes and got a ‘so what’ response. Ugh. We spent the next hour trying to placate Ethan and there is nothing to do. Nothing. Luckily, between Melanie, Melanie’s mother Mary Lou, and I we were able to trade off. Don’t forget that Breckin was 6 months old at the time. Despite that, Ethan was our biggest worry. I’ll go into my many mental health issues at another time, but social anxiety is near the top of the list. The very idea of a scenario that draws attention towards me sends me into a sweat soaked nightmare. An Autistic child tends to provide me more times to practice these situations than I would like. So we spent the whole time trying to keep him happy and interested, promising the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Just ten more minutes. Just 5 more minutes. All on Eastern Dad Time. Finally we made it to the point where a worker made his way down the corridor checking on tickets, maybe. I’m not sure if everyone had tickets at this point. I don’t think so. Whatever the reason, when he reached us and saw our passes, he asked, “Why did you wait in this line? You have these passes.” How do you feel at that point? I was angry, frustrated, justified, but mostly I just wanted to cry. Every minute of the wait can be a lifetime with Ethan. Of course, now that he is off in a residential placement, I would give anything for those small lifetimes.
After we made it in, Ethan was as happy as I’ve ever seen as can be witnessed by the picture above. I made a quick circuit, holding Breckin so close that I’m sure she was uncomfortable. I’m afraid of falling. I’ve discussed that on my other blog before. (If you wish to review, you can read it here.) So I quickly went inside the safe and warm, if not uncomfortably so, gift shop. Ethan, Mary Lou, and Melanie took their time and enjoyed the view. I tried not to look out. Of course, we exit through the gift shop and Ethan must have a gift. This time he gets a little statue of the building. Is this where his addiction to things began? Now when we plan a visit to a museum or zoo or aquarium or wherever, he’s always excited. But his first question is, “Can we go to the gift shop?”
The Empire State Building visit was clearly one of the highlights, if only because everyone was healthy. We were scheduled to head home on Christmas Eve. I am strongly opposed to spending Christmas outside of my home. I mean, how will Santa find us? I know that the Tooth Fairy constantly forgets to stop by. So Christmas Eve it was. In the wee hours of the morning, which must be wee because that’s when I always wake up to go to the bathroom, I heard unwanted sounds emanating from the bathroom. There was no one next to me on the bed. Oh no, no, no. I went in to check on Melanie. Oh yes, yes, yes. Long drive home a coming.
We woke up early to leave. Mary Lou had to catch her flight, and we wanted to get back to make sure that Santa had all that he needed. I woke up and I knew it. I had it. I could feel it. Melanie was gradually coming around but still quite sick. The kids were fine. We were heading out and going as far as we could. Melanie wanted to drive, but I insisted that I drive us out of the city. Once we were on the NJ Turnpike, we switched. Not while driving, but at one of the rest areas. I wonder how it must feel to have a rest area named after you.
As Melanie drove, she was slowly improving. I was not slowly improving. Not improving at all. We made it to Maryland where everything happens. We stopped at a rest area, but for some reason I think that ended up being more difficult than it should have been. Is there not a welcome area? Maybe it was closed. We had to drive further. I was like the Grinch. My stomach grew 3 sizes that day. When we reached the rest area, I asked Melanie to park in the back where the buses park. This was it. This was now or never. It was that moment where you are leaning over the toilet, or in this case the parking lot of a rest area, when things tip. I no longer don’t want to vomit. I had not wanted to vomit for hours. I reached the tipping point. I was ready to do my time. The following is not a lie or even a bending of the truth for effect. This was the real deal. A tour bus of mostly Asian (maybe all Asian) tourists chose the wrong side of the tracks to park. As it pulled in, I let it fly. Live in technicolor. Welcome to Maryland. Hey, Maryland–William Kline Rest Area. Has a nice ring to it.
Ethan had complained of his legs hurting while we were in the city. At that moment, I understood. I now knew what achy meant when related to flu like symptoms. But this wasn’t ache. This was pain. I wasn’t alone. Melanie ached along with me. We eventually made it home that evening.
Santa brought Breckin a large doll house that year. Hurray Santa.
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through our house
Not a creature was puking or starting to grouse
The stockings were hung on the staircase by a chair
In hopes that our dogs would stay out of there.
The kids drank Nestle’s and went off to bed
Mom and Dad rested and wished they were dead.
Melanie in a blanket and I almost collapsed
Had just settled in to instructions at last
When what to our exhausted minds should we see
A page that we missed, that damned part C
The pages were flying starting to billow
I tossed my tools and screamed into a pillow
The coffee pot filled to the brim oh so slow
A caffeine infusion might soften the blow
When suddenly I felt it, an ever growing fear
Santa won’t make it, not for this year
But with a little coffee and a carrot stick
I went back to the job and it need be quick
Oh how the seconds swung round and round the clock
The sun will be shining, ’tis just up the block
“Now lock nut! now small bolt! now big screw then little!
Oh crap! So stupid! this f*%#ing stuff so brittle!
To the side of the tree by the the one that is green!
Now tylenol, now motrin, and much more caffeine!
“Here dogs, eat these cookies.”