Is he rigid? Absolutely.
Nobody's ever said, "Yep, that kid really goes with the flow."
But once in a while, he bends his schedule just a teeny tiny bit.
Every Tuesday night like clockwork he hangs out with a respite provider for two hours. When he comes home, he goes to Hy-Vee with Chris a bit after 8:30 pm, whether or not we need to buy groceries. It's just what they do.
Tuesday night our respite provider, Ryan, took Isaac to a boys high school basketball game.
That's not what usually happens!
If someone suggested another activity like swimming or going to Target or bowling --all things Isaac likes to do --he wouldn't budge. Period.
Because Isaac loves basketball, it was a little easier for him to be flexible. (I use the term "flexible" here loosely.) Chris and I had been talking about it for a few days, so he had time to let the idea soak in. I had written it on my planner and on Isaac's daily schedule. (I might be the only person on the planet using a paper planner, but Isaac pores over it every day. If the schedule were on my phone, it wouldn't be as easy for him to see what was happening for the next several days or months.)
Ryan, a college student who has been working with Isaac over a year, was thrilled to take Isaac to the game. It was a nice change of pace for Ryan, too, since he's likely tired of the same Tuesday night routine. Even though Isaac normally comes home at 8:30 pm, it was understood that he could stay longer until the game was over. No problem.
I laughed when Isaac stormed in the front door at 8:37, seven minutes later than his routine dictates. Ryan trailed behind by a few seconds.
"It was a two-point game with three minutes left, but Isaac insisted on leaving," Ryan said as he walked in the door. He knows Isaac well, so he wasn't surprised. I know he tried everything in his power to convince Isaac to stay just a few more minutes.
"Yep, that sounds about right," Chris said, laughing.
"Maybe you can go back and see the end of the game," I suggested. "We really appreciate you taking him."
Ryan shook his head, said they had fun, told us he'd see us next week, and drove home. I would have done the same thing. I'm guessing he watched the news or looked online to see what happened during those final three minutes.
Tonight as we were watching TV, somehow we landed on our local cable channel that replays high school basketball games. (I have a feeling Isaac changed the channel when we weren't paying attention.) Isaac enjoys watching the same games over and over and over. The Tuesday game he and Ryan attended was being broadcast.
We spotted Isaac and Ryan sitting side by side in the bleachers, both intently watching the game. Isaac really didn't care about seeing himself on TV, although I thought it was as close as we might ever get to local celebrity status. At one point during the fourth quarter Isaac stood up abruptly. Ryan touched the bleachers, and Isaac sat down. The next time the camera panned the crowd, they were gone.
Isaac's anxiety wouldn't allow him to stay.
I looked at the score. It was 54-52 with 3:24 left in the game.
At that moment Isaac became Cinderella at the ball. No matter how exciting the game was and no matter how much he enjoyed being there, if he didn't arrive home close to 8:30, he would run the risk of turning into a pumpkin and missing his chance to go to the grocery store.
I can't imagine living with that kind of anxiety and rigidity, but it's what he does every day. He's tied to his rituals and his routine.
As soon as Isaac came home from the game he grabbed the keys, opened the garage door, ran outside, and sat in the van. It was after 8:30 and he needed to go to Hy-Vee.
After all, he had a schedule to keep.