My Billy and my Mom’s Fall

Imagine being wakened up in the morning by a stranger calling your name? That was how my story began for me, my Mom, and my Billy (my nickname for my Asperger’s Syndrome).

The stranger standing in the doorway was one of a few who had stopped when they saw my 85 year-old Mom fall on the sidewalk in front of our house. The picture of her on the sidewalk grimacing in the pain is etched in my brain. What had happened was her wheeled walker she was sitting on while bending over to do yardwork had come out from under her.

It took some “trial and error” for me and my youngest of two brothers to get her up the three porch steps and back in the house. Her right hip had taken the direct hit and I feared she had broken it. She initially wanted to wait for my other brother to arrive before doing anything.

One of my “Billy” traits is my first response is less likely to be one that my fellow neurotypicals would have taken. I have a better track record in situations where I have time to mull it over in my head. This wasn’t one of those situations.

My out-of-state brother advised me on the phone to call 911 since it would take nearly three hours before he would get there. After about a half-hour, she told me she was in a lot of pain. Finally, a lightbulb went off in my head. I asked my youngest brother to do what was too much for me to do – call 911, deal with the paramedics, and follow her to the hospital. That was not a small thing for my brother because he has mental illness issues. And, I have my “Billy”.

I was impressed at how my brother did a good job. Maybe one blessing in disguise of my Mom’s fall was upon being asked, my brother could follow through and in the process feel useful. He just needed direction.

I didn’t want to go to the hospital. The thought of going gave me such anxiety to the point of nausea. I confided in a dear friend of how just the thought of going to a hospital, an unfamiliar environment, felt. The picture in my mind was of riding a roller coaster inching slowly up to the top knowing the big drop was coming that would turn my stomach upside down. I told my Mom before the ambulance arrived about my anxiety and she was most understanding.

Her hip was indeed broken and required surgery. It didn’t require replacement and that was good news since she had one artificial hip as it was. My other brother arrived and took over in keeping her company at the hospital and communicating with medical staff. His daughter and other family friends who lived nearby pitched in with visits as well.

My Mom went from the hospital to a rehab center close to home. It took some talking by her doctor and my sensible brother to talk her into it. She’s a firm believer in no place like home. My Billy is a fellow believer in that, by the way!

During her time at rehab, a social worker left a phone message for me to set up a conference call to discuss my Mom’s care. This brought on ANXIETY big time! My brother is better at handling such calls while I’m better at keeping my Mom’s house in check. He told me not to bother with them and he would handle it. I was so thankful for him to do that. It came easier to him than for me in dealing with strangers over the phone. All in all, it was a family team effort with each member working from their strengths!

Someone who gave me tremendous comfort was my Mom’s best friend and someone I affectionately call “my second Mom”. I was on the phone every day with her during my Mom’s stay in the hospital and rehab center. She not only wanted to know how my Mom was doing but how I was doing too. In many conversations with her, I talked a lot about “Billy”. I told her if I revealed all my autism “secrets”, the things I do and think that I don’t tell a single soul about, she’d see even more how “Billy” impacts my daily life.

A family member reported one day after visiting that my Mom did “group therapy”. In one session, group members passed a ball around to each other. The evening session was even more fun. They played “BINGO”! I imagine my Mom hasn’t played that game in I don’t know when, but her lack of experience didn’t keep her from winning the last game! . I was not surprised my Mom would take to group activities like a duck to water. For me, though, my “Billy” takes to group activities like a deer tangled up in a wire fence.

My Mom returned home almost two weeks after her fall. I was so thankful for my niece who brought her home and helped to get her settled. She was so glad to be home! She plopped in her recliner with utter delight! She came with a host of instructions. My “Billy” was agitated with those instructions coming at once. After I adjusted to the new routine of my Mom’s medicine and such other things, Billy settled down as he usually does after a new routine sinks in.

In hindsight, my Mom’s fall brought to light to family members that my “Billy” is not a figment of my imagination. I was forthcoming to family as to why I would not visit my Mom. My Mom never asked me to come visit or asked why I didn’t. Since she came home, she has been more patient with me. Maybe she gets it now too.

I wrote this blog because maybe someone who lives with a “Billy” reading this has been through something similar.

Alis Rowe, a well-known writer about living with Autism in the U.K., known as the “girl with the curly hair”, once wrote:

It can, at first being very isolating taking a path nobody else takes. But it’s far, far more isolating taking the path everyone else takes (because it is not the right one for you.)

The Rug Undoing

I have lived with my Mom back in my hometown in Texas for nearly 8 years at this writing. In the previous chapter of my life, I was one of millions of federal workers living in or near Washington, D.C. I’m 62 and my Mom is 85. I reveal our ages because the story I am writing might be more typical of a pre-teen or teenage daughter. That I am not!

Once upon a time, my Mom called me into the kitchen and started off with, “I’ve been thinking…”. Whenever she starts off a sentence with those words, I know I’m more likely than not in for chore duty.

There has long been a black spot on the rug that dwells under the kitchen table. The spot is located on one of the four corners of the dining room rug that is in my Mom’s line of vision. It is in mine and my brother’s too but we don’t give the spot much thought. She has tried more than one brand of carpet cleaner and they all were no match against the black spot. What she had in mind was to turn the carpet around so that the black spot was on the far side of the room out of view. It would require moving the chairs and the table to make things right. She added, “We’ll do it sometime.” So I went back to whatever I was doing.

Later, when I got a whiff of energy, I decided to do it solo. Why? Well, for one thing, I wanted to surprise her. I’m not crazy about being on the receiving end of surprises, but I delight in giving them.

Now this is where my Autism kicks in too. My first preference is to do chores on my own! I do mean that! I’m the same way with hobbies, shopping, dining, etc. My next preference is to do chores with my Mom. Most especially those chores that require an extra pair of hands or they won’t get done.

She was sitting in the living room with one of my brothers watching TV. I had to be QUIET so I could do it without her knowing it. I will pause by saying I’m 62 going on 12.

I had no problem moving the chairs out of the way; the table was not as easy but nothing I couldn’t handle. I managed to do it without attracting attention. I wondered to myself just how long it would take her to notice the black spot was out of her sight.

Just after I put everything back in place, I noticed something. It’s a darn good thing I noticed too! I would have had a heap of explainin’ to do if I hadn’t noticed. The black spot was right back where it was.

I suspected right away my Mom elicited my brother’s assistance in moving chairs, table, and rug. So I had basically UNDID the rug project. I was relieved I caught what my “undoing” but frustrated at having to do it all over again while trying to be quiet about it. Knowing full well how easy it is for my Mom to detect something out of place, she would have spot that black spot right on the spot. She surely would have been scratching her head and wonder “what in the heck happened!” Followed immediately by yelling my name!

But that was all averted! Quick action on my part! I quietly moved the chairs and table again while both my Mom and brother were sitting in the next room. I was sweating bullets because there was more at stake if my Mom heard me moving things. I didn’t want to have to explain the “rug undoing”. Finally, the table, chairs, and the RUG were back where they had put them. All’s well that ends well!

The following day, my Mom asked me if she thought the rug looked better. I told her sure it did since the big black spot was no longer in her tunnel of vision. I let out a big chuckle but I didn’t let her in on the story behind my chuckle.

No Kidding!

I do my own stunts like trip and bump but never on purpose.

I am not willing to give up the face mask when in public. Really! For one thing, it has helped keep the cold and flu bug away. But mostly, with something over my mouth, I can talk to myself without attracting attention.

A meltdown is a big thing that can be over a little thing, such as the nerve-breaking sound of someone singing soprano beautifully.

It’s a delight to put away my Mom’s groceries in my own organized fashion. If she can’t find something, I’m just a holler away.

Sorry to interrupt you but something so exciting popped up in my mind and it popped out.

I have a large size pizza worth of clothes but I only wear a couple of slices worth.

A major rule in my daily life: NEVER run out of my favorite food! Must have at least two of each item or it’ll occupy my thoughts until I rectify the emergency.

I require rehearsal time and gumption before I make a phone call.

I do try to explain my autism but it is like trying to explain what the Sun smells like.

Not My Thing But That’s Okay

My Mom went over to her friend’s house. A year ago, it would have been unthinkable for her to do such. She sees it now as a treat after a year of living through the COV-19 lockdown. My Mom missed the family holiday gatherings, church services, and get-togethers with friends that didn’t happen in 2020. Me? Not near as much.

I didn’t see my Mom for over three hours. Knowing how much she enjoys socializing, I wasn’t alarmed enough to conduct a search. If I had been at a friend’s house half that long, my Mom would have sent my brother out to check on me.

I like it when my Mom gets an invitation to join family or friends somewhere. It puts her in a really good mood and since I live under the same roof with her, that’s a good thing for me too. When someone has invited me over for lunch or whatever, flares of anxiety light up my central nervous system. If more than one person would be there, I am anxious as a dog might be at a half bowl of dogfood. Now I have on rare occasion visited a friend and it was my idea. It met the criteria of one person whom I felt as comfortable with as my worn-out favorite pair of jeans and we had mutual interests so there wasn’t worry of a lag in conversation.

I’m glad my Mom can now enjoy visiting her friends, meeting up at a restaurant, and going to church in person. She enjoys being with people as much as I enjoy not being with people.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I enjoyed such outings as much as she and others do. Just as I suppose maybe one of my family members with OCD wonders what life would be like going a day without worrying about germs. Speculating is like rocking in a chair from dawn to the setting sun. At the end of the day, I won’t have gotten anywhere.

It is true I can go to a social outing of whatever kind and pretend I’m having a good time. I have done that more times than I can count in my 60+ years of living. But since learning about my autism four years ago, I don’t pretend as much as I used to. I’m more comfortable with declining invitations. I delight in communicating through e-mail with folks nearby and far away. I get such a boost after enjoying a one-on-one conversation where I got to let loose with my thoughts without the other person yawning.

It’s wonderful my Mom enjoys being with loved ones and all. It’s okay that it isn’t my thing and what is my thing is wonderful too.

My Plush Pups

A bright side of my living on the Autism Spectrum is some of my obsessions provide magic in my everyday life living on the Spectrum.

My obsessions usually start when I try something new. If I like it, I’ll go overboard. That’s how come, for instance, I have three computers, three TVs, three Echo devices, three Google Home devices, and several boxes of my favorite snack bars.

This obsession started with an eye-popping ad on FACEBOOK of a cute Alaskan Husky black/white stuffed puppy. If it had just been stuffed and cute, I wouldn’t have been enticed at all. It fit my tech/gadget/toy obsession because it does run on batteries. The dog is advertised for the ages of 3+ … so I easily qualified at 62. It attracted me because it looks like a dog, walks like a dog, and woofs like a dog.

I am a dog-sitter for my brother and sister-in-law. One reason I like dog-sitting is I am a long-time dog fan. Another is they live in a secluded area in the country where I can roam without people around. I’d have a dog myself but I live with my Mom who has the deed to the house. She might allow me to remain under her roof and even with a dog if I brought home one, but I don’t want to put that to the test.

It took a little over a month for my Alaskan Husky to arrive since its birthplace was China. I gave him the name “George”. When I turn George’s button on underneath his belly, he can walk on his own, wag his tail, and bark. George isn’t the same as a real dog. I didn’t buy George expecting all the things a live dog provides. I receive that when I dog sit my Bailey and Luna ever two or three months.

George is a good match for me and my Autism. He doesn’t interrupt my routine such as getting up at sunrise to take the dogs out to conduct his/her business as I have to do when I dog-sit. I don’t have to make appointments to see a vet which is a positive for me since I hate appointments. Also, George’s diet fits my tightwad-budget since he fasts around the clock and never gets thirsty. His barking doesn’t impact my sound sensitivity since he comes with a turn on/off button.

Realistic Breathing Alaskan Husky - Perfect Petzzz Life Like Husky Dog -  Walmart.com - Walmart.com

Again, when I like something, I go overboard! Shortly after George arrived, he got a playmate. It didn’t come all the way from China like George. It is from a company called “Joy For All”. These dogs are popular with senior citizens. I think it makes a good companion for those who are sensitive to the smell or touch of dog poop.

Dog, Joy for All Companion Pets | Objects | Collection of Cooper Hewitt,  Smithsonian Design Museum

I named my dog “Bear Two” since he reminds me of my grandniece’s dog Bear who I have sat with too. George can walk and bark, but that’s it! Bear Two can’t walk, but he can move his head and bark. He has sensors at certain parts of his body that will activate him to turn and woof. Bear Two is bigger than George and so he’s more of an adult dog; whereas, George is a puppy that sits rather nicely on top of one of my three computer monitors.

George and Bear Two are a bit different from robotic dogs. They don’t look like robots; they look like … well…dogs.

Sometimes there are moments when living on the Spectrum is hard. I can’t make those moments disappear, but I can weather through them in various ways. Such as turning on my plush pups, watching them play, or just holding them tight until the storm passes.

Autistic Lady in Waiting

My favorite comedian, Michael McCreary, “You Dont Look Autistic”, is a frequent poster in social media. His humor is most appreciated by those of us who live with Autism. One of his posts had me chuckling because it hit close to home:

Gas Pump: See the cashier inside for your receipt.

Me: Absolutely not!

I don’t get all jokes, but I sure got this one! I am not against cashiers or those who work behind the counter. I have in my career worked behind a Help Desk counter and my being there felt like I suppose a polar bear would feel on a beach during Spring break. I feel at least a certain amount of anxiety when I do have to appear at a cashier window, or visit a customer service desk, or a grocery store deli-meat-bakery-pharmacy counter, etc. If there is no waiting, my anxiety drops. If there is, my anxiety goes in the opposite direction.

Recently, I went through an ordeal that shook me up pretty good. The scene of the meltdown was the grocery store pharmacy. I dread picking up prescriptions because it requires interaction with a human being at the counter and the possibility of a wait. So it is already a given for me to walk into the store with some level of trepidation. I know this sound strange but, well, my autism constantly baffles me. I keep my head down as I walk inside the store towards the pharmacy. I fear there’ll be more than one in line. I wish I didn’t do this but it never fails that I do. On this trip, I breathed a sigh of relief when I lifted my head and no one was at the counter.

The man behind the counter told me my prescription wasn’t filled yet and it would be another ten minutes. I was taken aback since the pharmacy called and said it was ready. I sat in a chair next to my grocery cart a few feet from the counter. I had been in that chair more than once before and each time I felt like I turned invisible to those working behind the counter. I tried to calm my anxiety by pulling out my smart phone and browsing the apps on it. But after the ten minutes and one customer after another, I had entered meltdown country.

I would have waited until there was no one waiting to go up to the counter and ask how much longer it would be. However, the line got so long that a co-worker had to open the other window. I felt utterly helpless. It pushed me to do something I rarely do – confront! I stepped up to the other window and asked if she knew how much longer it would be. She said, “I don’t know ma’am, I don’t know your name.” She was right but her response hurt. I told her I had been waiting for over 10 minutes. I was willing to leave and come back if it was going to be much longer. I realize that I should have asked the man who originally helped me but he was tied up with a customer whose refill was complicated.

I was a wreck! I was literally panting underneath my mask. I looked down at one of my hands and it was shaking. I imagined the other customers’ pairs of eyes on me. I didn’t look at their faces to see if that was indeed the case.

My suspicions was correct! The prescription was ready. It was just sitting there and no telling how much longer if I hadn’t stepped up to the window. I hold no grudge against either person behind the counter. They couldn’t know how much I dread coming up to their counter or why it is hard for me to wait.

I am most calm and happy when I’m on my own and doing things on my own. That’s typical of autistics. A pharmacy counter is one of a number of places where I have to rely on another person to get what I need. If I have to wait without an end in sight, it compounds the feeling of helplessness.

What do I take these two prescriptions for? ANXIETY! As of this writing, over a week later, I haven’t walked back in the store. When and if I go back, I’m taking my 85-year-old Mom with me! She isn’t afraid to ask, confront, etc.

I wrote this for myself because it helps after I’ve been through a rough spell to write about it. Writing is my hallmark coping skill. If I can write about whatever, then whatever hasn’t defeated me. I share it because there just may be someone out there who is reading this who can relate and will feel less alone.

QUIET!

If I hear one more time that I am a quiet person, I will … never mind!

My “quiet” reputation isn’t news to me but you’d think those who have told me I’m a “quietee” thought it was their job to inform me.

I recall once of someone bringing it to not only my attention but to everyone else in the room. What that person was thinking was beyond me. I wasn’t expecting such from a fellow church member in my Sunday School class. The class members spoke up more than most any other church classes I had attended. I was content to listen to their voices which weren’t always in unison on all topics. There was ample supply of both discussion and debate. Those who offered their opinion knew they were at risk of being countered by another fellow loving member. I had easily maintained my reputation in class of not taking the floor, but such was true of any class I attended.  

This was also long before I knew I had autism.  I had my opinion and was content to self-talk about it when I was by myself. I would never have given my two cents worth for fear of having to defend it. I’m not a debater! If I am at the head of the table, the sole speaker, I will gladly speak to those who have to listen to me for a change. But when I’m just one of those around the table, my mute button is on.

So on this one Sunday out of the blue, the class member brought it to everybody’s attention that if I ever spoke up, he’d fall out of his chair. It would have been tempting, so tempting, to have spoken just to see if he would take a fall. However, I just smiled but underneath, I was even more determined to maintain my silent reputation. 

I have encountered many a time an opposite situation that can be just as painful. I have been “shooshed” about as many times as I have been reminded that I am quiet.

I wish my mouth came with a volume control button. When I am talking one-on-one about a topic dear to my heart, have a strong opinion about, and have much to say about it, my volume goes UP! It is true when I’m conversing on the phone as well as in person. The stronger the point is I am trying to make, the louder I get.

This tendency of mine gave me grief during my a decade of working in a government library. A library is a mine field for getting “shooshed”. A few times it was a supervisor that “shooshed” me. Another time was a library patron who did more than “shoosh” but told me off in front of a few of my colleagues. If he had just said something like “Quiet please!”, it would have been sufficient. I would have gotten the message. It is a good thing the patron didn’t see one of my colleagues throw a piece of trash behind the patron’s back after the patron gave it to me in spades.

In each case of being told, more or less, to be “quiet”, it was an upper cut to my heart. I would try so hard to remind myself to keep the volume down. The “reminder” just wouldn’t enter my mind when I was empathically and/or enthusiastically telling someone “all about it”.

After I learned about my autism, I had an explanation of why I am so quiet amidst people and why I raise my voice when I have an active listener. The explanation didn’t change my reputation for being the quiet one. It didn’t keep me from being told to turn down the volume. It did help me from being so hard on myself. Another thing that helped besides my diagnosis was leaving my library job by way of retirement station.

I still get “shooshed” though but not as often. I am living back with my Mom now. She “shooshed” me when I was a kid and although I am a senior citizen, I’m not too old for her to “shoosh”.

Queen for the Moment

In a conversation with a special education instructor about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and traits, I said one of mine was, “When I like something, I go way, way, overboard”. She nodded and pointed at her student who was happily walking around the classroom holding an IPAD to his ear listening to the same cartoon app over and over again. I did something similar when I was his age but it was a record player with 45 rpm records.

One of many things I go overboard with are automobiles. A few decades ago, I bought my first hybrid car, a Toyota Prius. I was impressed with saving at the gas pump. To this day, any time I fill my Mom’s non-hybrid with gas I’m reminded of that luxury. However, the main attraction wasn’t its hybrid capability, but the tech gadgets such as remote key entry, GPS, and satellite radio. It was more the “tech” than its exterior, or interior, or what was under the hood that I got all excited about. How overboard did I go with Priuses? I’ve owned more of them than most Toyota dealerships have of Priuses on their lot on any given day. I can’t remember all of my Toy-Ex’s. I don’t stay married to a car for long. Within two years or less, I’m ready to separate and start looking for another auto-mate.

So, I am not new to auto shopping. I don’t go about it the typical way which is true about most anything I tackle. My autism doesn’t go into hiding when I go to a car dealership. It plays a vital role in what I do, when I do it, and above all, how I do it.

I arrive at the dealership with a price in my mind of the least amount I’ll take for my car I’m seeking to divorce. I suspect that figure is a low estimate because in all the times I have bought a vehicle, the auto dealer’s offer has exceeded that amount.

I don’t take everything a car salesperson says to the bank. I suspect there is more going on behind the scenes from what others have told me. I know those times throughout the buying experience when the salesperson goes behind closed doors that he or she is doing more than taking a nature break or visiting the water fountain. I know that someone like my brother who is a retired General Motors (GM) employee could come out of a car deal shelling out less dough than me. I could bribe or beg someone I know with auto expertise and strong negotiating skills to go with me, but I prefer to do things by myself! Stubborn? Guilty as charged.

The strange thing is I don’t mind my chat with a car salesperson. That’s an odd thing since I am happiest by myself. Why is a car salesman different? In a nutshell, I have the person’s undivided attention! I control the conversation! I can say just about anything and the salesperson will agree with me. It doesn’t matter if the topic is on cars or the best places to eat on the north side of the Red River. In all my encounters, I haven’t met a salesman yet who didn’t follow along with me and who didn’t hang on my every word. I get more “you got a point” or “you got that right” or “I totally agree” than in conversations I have with most folks like my Mom, bless her heart.

I can’t read minds and I’m not accurate with reading facial expressions either. So, I can’t possibly know if the salesperson is sincerely agreeing with me or not. It is in their best interest not to get in a debate with a customer who may make their day in a sale. I empathize with the enormous pressure on sales people to convince someone they probably just met to fork over thousands of dollars for what they are trying to sell as a must-have set of wheels. My ASD would have made me a pitiful sales associate since anyone in sales must do a lot of social interacting on the job.

I write this at the time I divorced one hybrid and got hitched to a new one. This one was different than all my previous ones by the fact I went to a brand new dealer. But I still stuck to a hybrid. It had more “tech” gadgets than my ex. It had more safety features and as a driver, I need all the help I can get. My salesperson was a delight to converse with. He treated me like a queen.

I told him I had ASD. The reason I brought it up was to explain why I wanted him to drive when we did the test drive because I could learn better by watching him. When someone is watching me do whatever and giving me instruction at the same time, my anxiety is over the speed limit. After observing him, I was able with confidence take over the wheel on the second half of the test drive. I know I didn’t have to tell him I had ASD. It’s not something I tell everyone but I am by no means ashamed of it. Besides, if he doesn’t know anyone who has ASD, well, now he has a face to ASD – mine.

The day after I met and took my “new set of wheels” home, I felt like I was suffering a hangover from too much social interaction from the day before. Even though the socializing was “happy”, it was intense. My encounters with the salesperson, finance person, and the manager of the dealership took more wear and tear on my nerves than I thought it would. Then, the phone calls I wasted no time in making to notify those I needed to, such as auto insurance, about my auto divorce and remarriage.

It took a few days for me to be up for playing with my new “babe on wheels”, basking in all the new tech gifts it offered. How excited was I? I was as happy cruising down the road as the youngster walking around the room with the IPAD to his ear.

The Dogs and Me

Try to picture this:  A 62-going-on-12 gray-haired lady in her P.J.’s outside after midnight in the country, yelling “Luna”, with a dog bone in hand.   I was so thankful there were no kinfolk around with a cellphone camera.

Just some background. In my retirement years, I have an occasional job of dog sitting for my brother and sister-in-law. It is a vacation for me since I love being in locations, regardless of urban, suburban, or rural, where it is just me alone doing what I want to, when I want to, and how I want to on my own schedule. Alone as in no human within a few miles.

What landed me out at midnight all began earlier around 8:00 p.m. when both dogs, Bailey and Luna, heard one of them creatures, such as a deer or turkey, that comes out after the Sun goes to bed.  I knew about them creatures because my brother has an outdoor camera that has caught these creatures on camera coming out after dark. The dogs both leaped towards the door and I let them out.  That’s where I made my mistake but at the time I thought it would give them one more opportunity to respond to a nature call.  I was sensitive to that since the morning before, just after sunrise, I was cleaning two carpets, one with pee and the other with poop.  I don’t know which dog did which or if one dog did both.  Neither would own up to it.

Well, on every dog sitting gig I’ve ever been on, they wasted no time in coming back after letting them out, even at night.  BUT NOT THIS TIME!  Both of them, I do mean BOTH, even “shy” Bailey, were still out there at my bedtime at 10:00 sharp!  Now my Autism doesn’t stay home when I go out of town. It is a prominent player in whatever I do and wherever I am. Such as following my routine, it is almost as paramount as breathing.  So I went to bed at my routine time with no dogs in the house.  This is NOT what dog sitters aim for.

Before they left, my sister-in-law warned me that Luna would do a disappearing act at night.  She suggested putting a leash on Luna or tempting her to come back in with a treat if she was within eyesight.  She didn’t mention any possibility of Bailey pulling such a stunt.  I admit I didn’t follow the instruction because it didn’t make sense to me. Oops! If I had put on a leash on Luna, it could have all been averted.

The thought crossed my mind that if this had happened with my brother and sister-in-law at home, they would have gone out looking for them.  One going in one direction and the other in another. Just a passing thought though.  For one thing, there was just one of me. And, too, I wouldn’t have known where to start.  I don’t know exactly how many acres my brother has, but one too many for me to conduct a night dog hunt by myself. Also, there were those night creatures wandering around.  Even a raccoon would scare the diddly-squats out of me!

I went to bed in the recliner but sleep?  HARDLY!  I had a fearful thought that if after sunrise the dogs had not returned, I would be out searching for their remains.  I imagined all sorts of things. Some realistic but most not. Did one of them night creatures get them?  BOTH?  What kind of creature could…  Just awful thoughts that made sleep impossible. 

I thought, too, if the worse happened, how would I tell my kin?  Maybe gradually telling them.  Like starting off with, “Have yall thought of getting a rabbit?  Like your granddaughter got for Christmas.  Even better, a pair of hare so one hare doesn’t get lonely?”  

An hour or so after I went to bed, Bailey ambles in as pretty as she pleased.  She joins me in the recliner.  Bailey is not the risk-taker that her younger sister Luna is. I was surprised Bailey took off, but it isn’t surprising she was the first one back. Well, my anxiety dropped some.  One dog was better than losing them both.  

My stomach started hurting.  I’m sure it was the stress.  I can laugh about this now but it was no laughing matter at the time.  Finally, I heard her barking.  Now if I had been her human parent, I would have gone out there at the time.  But, shoot, the wind was kicking up a storm and there was those creatures. I had the door slightly open which was how Bailey got in.  I figured Luna knew how to get home when she was ready.  At least, I knew she was still among the living!

I got up twice with my stomach.  On the second time as I was making my way back to the recliner, I had a sighting of Luna.  I saw her through the window sitting there as pretty as she pleased at the side of the house.  That’s when I retrieved a big dog bone treat, meat-filled too, I had bought her earlier in the day.  She came back inside; not for me, goodness NO!  I’m just some animated object holding the golden prize of a bone to her.  Can you tell I’m still peeved at her?

The next morning I scolded Luna for being out beyond her curfew!  It’s like having a teenager in the house. Now when I was a teen I never had a curfew. Instead, my Mom worried that I never went out with friends to begin with. Of course, I knew scolding Luna did as much good as talking to a fence post. I acted serious-like but I was pretending to be such.

Don’t get me wrong! I luv the pups I sit for. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have any “solo” vacations. Despite their mischievousness, including that of Luna, they are both a joy to watch … just some dog sitting moments more than others.    

Let Me Listen My Own Way

A few years ago when I was a teacher’s aide, I met a boy who was at the time a new addition to a life skills special education class. He was more animated at stimming than the other students. Out of the blue, he would spin around in a circle without missing a step. Just watching him made me dizzy, but if he ever got dizzy, he didn’t show it. I did empathize with his need to stim since I’m on the Spectrum too. I, myself, am a floor pacer. Irregardless of whether it is spinning, pacing, twirling, leg bobbling, etc, it is stimming to comfort ourselves in a world we don’t understand.

The teacher was challenged by his behavior. She had many years of teaching special education classes but doesn’t live on the Spectrum herself. Up until him, her students pretty much stayed in their seats. Also, she had not had much dealing with non-verbal students like this lad. There was another special education class in the school where most all of the students were non-verbal and had more learning challenges than those in this life skills class.

It wasn’t just his spinning that I remember. Like myself and many others on the Spectrum, he had a passion and his was drawing. I had come across other students with Autism who shared this same passion too. Without exception, their drawings were impressive for their age. It was something the boy could do that came natural to him and was not a struggle as every other school activity was.

I recall once the boy was drawing on his tablet while the teacher was giving a lesson. She told the boy to put away his tablet. He was having none of that and so she took the tablet away from him.

She wanted him to pay attention. I wondered as I was observing if she might be going the wrong way about it. I was coming from the perspective of living on the Autism Spectrum. She possibly could have gotten more of his attention by letting him draw while he listened. I, for one, am best at listening when my hands are occupied rather than idle. Since all on the Spectrum are unique, I couldn’t know if the student would have been more attentive with the tablet and pencil.

I wouldn’t want my pastor to know this, but when I listen to his sermon on-line, I do crossword puzzles at the same time. If someone were watching me it may appear that I am more into my puzzle than the sermon. Honestly, I pretty much hear every word. If I just sat down and looked at the computer screen, my mind would be out in left field instead of my pastor’s inspiring words.

As for the student, without a pencil in hand, I wondered if he heard a word the teacher said. While watching him, I was guessing that his mind was far away, perhaps imagining what he would draw next once he got his priceless tablet back.