Tuesday night I had a date with Laura, a friend I’ve known for more than 35 years. I asked Laura if we could go out for dinner to celebrate her birthday, and she agreed to pick me up. (Her birthday was two months ago, but it was a good excuse to get together.) We were thrilled about leaving our families behind and catching up.
Tuesday afternoon when Isaac got off his bus, he asked to go swimming. I reminded him the pool was closed. He understands but is disappointed because water slides are one of his favorite things. I asked him when the pool would open again and he said in a loud voice, “May.”
Exactly right. Only eight short months and the pool will be open again. God help us.
Then he looked into my eyes and said, “I love you. Culver’s.” This could mean one of the following:
1. I love you.
2. I love you. Let’s go to Culver’s.
3. I love Culver’s.
4. Mom, I’ll butter you up so there’s a chance we can go to Culver’s later.
5. All of the above.
I told him we were not going to Culver’s, and he would be staying home tonight with Dad and his brothers while I went out with my friend. He lifted up the crockpot lid and studied the taco meat I had prepared for dinner, and although he likes tacos, he didn’t seem enthused about eating them. Such is life.
Every Tuesday afternoon I take Isaac to the grocery store. It’s on his schedule. We go even if we don’t need anything. We always enter and leave via the wine and spirits entrance, even though we don’t buy any alcohol or pay for our items there. After we shopped for a bit, Isaac steered our cart to checkout number three. It’s always number three. A manager who noticed the long lines said, “Ma’am, she can get you on number six.”
“He won’t move from this lane, but thanks anyway,” I said.
We left the parking lot and drove the long way home, like usual, past the Rec Center, coffee shop, McDonald’s, car wash, gas station, and past the bad jokes on the bank marquee on the corner. When I got home, I had about ten minutes to spare to prepare for my outing. Luckily I had just enough time to put on deodorant and some lipstick.
Noah and Henry had stayed home to do homework while we had been gone. Chris was now home from work. The house hadn’t burned down when I was gone, and nobody had called my cell phone in a panic. Dinner was waiting in the crockpot. All was well.
Isaac handed me the car keys. This means, “Drive the car. Under no circumstances are you to drive the van. That’s the vehicle I want to ride in. Got it?”
I told him Laura was picking me up, and I set the keys on the counter. When she pulled into the driveway, he went outside with me. He leaned into her car, changed the radio station, and cranked the fan so the air was blowing at top speed. Then he waved goodbye and stood by Chris on our front steps as we drove away. It was a relief for me to leave the autism-related routine behind. Isaac was fine with my leaving, but deep down he never wants me to go.
I’m grateful Laura was cool with everything. Isaac picked a good station, she admitted later. She likes moving air. He had gotten it right.
Laura and I had a great time eating ravioli and fettuccini. Our conversation flowed easily, and we talked about everything from wedding vows to Dr. Seuss. Meeting with Laura is nice because it’s easy to pick up where we left off, whether it’s been a few weeks, months, or longer.
I was feeling giddy about having been gone. I hadn’t talked to Chris all day, so I had to fill him in on everything from the grocery store trip to the dinner out. I had diarrhea of the mouth. I’m thankful he is a patient man.
Suddenly Isaac clamped his hands around my jaw and looked into my eyes. He wasn’t happy.
“Do you want me to stop talking?” I asked.
He didn’t respond.
The AFV episode is one we had seen about 2,000 times, and that may seem like an exaggeration, but I swear it’s not. I decided to move closer to Chris, so I sat on the couch next to him and continued our conversation a bit quieter.
A few minutes later Isaac wandered into the living room and stood near the rocking chair across the room. What in the world was he wearing? He was still wearing the white t-shirt he had worn earlier, but he was no longer wearing shorts. I strained my eyes to look at him from across the room. Was it my black back brace I wore a few years ago when I injured my lower back? No, the back brace doesn’t have straps, I thought. Was it a singlet? It sure looked like one. We have no wrestling gear in the house, though. Nobody in our family wrestles. That didn’t make sense. Finally it clicked.
“You’re wearing my black swimming suit!” I cried. I walked over to Isaac and said, “The swimming suit boobs are on your shoulders! It’s on backwards!”
Chris let out a belly laugh that could have woken the neighbors next door, and Noah and Henry were laughing so hard they were doubled over.
Isaac wasn’t laughing. He looked and me and smirked. I wasn’t laughing, either.
I failed to see the humor in a 13-year-old boy rifling through my dresser and wearing my swimming suit. To make matters worse, the swimming suit looked better on him than it had ever looked on me, even though it was backwards.
“Take it off now,” I said.
“Is he wearing underwear?” my husband shouted from across the room. He was laughing so hard he was crying.
“Oh my God, he’s not. This swimming suit is going down the laundry chute now!” I screamed. All I could think of was Isaac’s bare butt and other teenager boy body parts touching the crotch of my swimming suit. How lovely.
Isaac stood in the darkened living room, pulling at the crotch of the swimming suit, smirking. It was ill-fitting, of course, because he was wearing it backwards.
He finally took off the suit (thank God we had our living room blinds closed) and fought me tooth and nail when I tried to throw it down the laundry chute. He grabbed it from my hands and shoved it into my bottom dresser drawer. Then he walked away like it was no big deal.
When you have a kid like Isaac who has autism and trouble communicating, behavior is communication. Isaac wearing my swimming suit could mean one of the following:
1. Mom, you shouldn’t talk when AFV is on TV. It doesn’t suit me.
2. You don’t need to go out to dinner with a friend. That’s not the routine. If tacos were good enough for me, they should be good enough for you. (This is akin to Isaac giving me the bird.)
3. I’m irritated that the pool is closed.
4. Give me some attention. It’s almost bedtime.
5. All of the above.
The wearing of the suit will likely remain one of life’s greatest mysteries. I may never know what he was thinking.
What I do know is that my birthday is next month, and I’m going out to dinner with a friend. I’ll write it on the calendar as soon as I know the date so Isaac can get used to the idea. In the meantime, I’ve washed and sanitized my swimming suit. If it makes another appearance, I will know Isaac found it in my bottom dresser drawer.