When Tom and I renewed our vows on our 10th anniversary in 2007, he talked about the incredible ride we were and still are on and that the only way to truly enjoy a ride is to not know what is coming and sit tight and ride it out when it goes chaotic and random. Well, we only know chaotic and random and this year certainly we endured many loop the loops on the ride that is our life. We’ve had a lot of experiences that created new feelings; new ways of doing things; looking at things, that I suppose, took me by surprise. There was not a lot of time to write this summer but on Labour Day weekend, with one day to go before school started, I sat in my little home office, in front of my old friend Laptop, my fingers retrieving stories I had tapped out about our wonky family life. This is the story I wrote about Adam’s lost wallet in May 2018.
Today went down hill when we realized Adam’s wallet was missing. I usually have stuff they can grab from the fridge or freezer that they could warm and take for lunch but it’s been a hectic work week and I remembered Adam had 5 bucks in his wallet and I decided he could buy his lunch at school, since there was nothing he really liked in the fridge that he could take with him. Court was working with him lately to try and make sure he checked for his wallet and his phone to teach him how to be responsible for his things and she thought it was secure in his coat pocket when she dropped him off after the movies.
My autistic teen does not really get the seriousness of losing his wallet and at times, has a really sketchy short term memory, so getting the clues needed to piece together where it might be, was for this mother, quite stressful. We retraced steps and even called the police to see if anything was maybe turned in. The only place left to check was the theatre but when school is on, there is no staff on site until about 3:30 pm. The mental weariness of knowing I had to cancel his bank card and then looking up the procedure of cancelling his ID card and health card numbers just started to swirl inside me like a tornado and then I, the non-crier started to sob.
“He’s not ready,” I cried to my husband. “He’s never going to be ready and if we are not here to help him who will really care? Who will turn every stone looking for his wallet? Who will try and get the clues out of him and who will look up what to do and make the calls?”
My patient, patient husband, kissed the top of my newly grey haired head and told me simply,”Someone will,” He told me that as capable as Adam is, he will always need help with the fine tuning and that losing the wallet was a good lesson for us because when it happens again (and it will) at least we know what to do and this experience will help us figure out ways to lessen the number of times something like this would occur.
So, while Tom held down the fort at work today, I worked from home and also worked on cancelling Adam’s bank card. I decided I could at least prevent someone from accessing his account but would wait on cancelling the other cards until we checked the movie theatre. Let me just tell you that losing your wallet is one thing when you don’t have special needs, it is a complete gong show when you do. Last year, in the fall when Adam was still 17, I set up his new bank account so he could collect his ODSP* the following year upon his 18th birthday. It had to be a joint account because he was still a minor. I set up accounts for each son and all was well. Now that Adam is 18, I was not able to cancel his card even though his account is a joint account with me. He needed to call in himself. After explaining that his autism would make that scenario difficult, I finally got the bank to at least freeze the account until we could cancel the card. They struggled because the millennial on the phone did not have a field on his computer screen that could help him make allowances for exceptions like Adam. No word of a lie, that was what I was told. I suggested he maybe ask a manager to help him figure out a way but he was a millennial too (not to knock them all) and said if there was no field on the computer screen, there was no way. Adam had to make the call. I started laughing this insane cackle. Adam. Adam had to make the call. Adam, who HATES talking on the phone, especially to people he doesn’t know. Well, the whole family had to be in on that because it takes 3 people to help Adam get through scenarios that other people could navigate with ease.
When the boys came home from school, Adam made the call. When asked his full name he answered John Adam James and he also added “I’m looking for my wallet” to which the person on the phone said ” Oh, I just need your name at this time,” to which Adam said, “John Adam James and I am still looking for my wallet,”. The rep realized that this was the point in the script that called for that thing called human empathy and he said that he understood because losing a wallet happens to everyone. It was a sweet attempt because it was clear to him now that I was not bull shitting when I said talking to Adam was not going to be easy.
Adam proceeded to give his date of birth and his address however when it came to remembering the branch where the account was set up and what the answer to the security question should be, Tom had to whisper so he could answer correctly as I was not allowed to “coerce” him. Then by process of elimination they needed the card number and the boys accounts are joint with me so we had to read out the other two card numbers to isolate Adam’s. I read mine and Logan read his and had a blast taking his turn with the guy because by this time Adam was antsy and scripting quotes from movies and it had become significantly louder in our house. Adam is talking, Tom is trying to settle him down so Tom is talking, I am just laughing and Logan is well,”Loganing”.
“You ready for my information, Sir?” he began. “Listen up because it’s getting loud. That’s what it’s like living with autism. See, this is what we were trying to explain to you. He can’t answer you alone. That’s just the nature of the beast. You would have had an easier time talking to Mom,” he said, as polite and jovial as always, schooling all the while.
Fast forward, we got the card cancelled, ordered a new one and a new PIN all before we found the wallet at the manager’s office at the movie theatre when they finally opened. For all the absurdity, I was disturbed to know that those who have no voice, those who struggle with conversation, those who need and have advocates, still in many areas of our daily lives, still have no voice. Losing a wallet is an inconvenience for us but a disaster for them. If my son had been non-verbal, how would I have been able to cancel his card? I learned too that for his ID card and health card and any government issued card, he would have to go in person to fill out the form and sign his name. Easy enough for Adam with a bit of help for the form because he does read and write and can sign his name but what about those who can’t? If upon getting these important documents one can see that a person has a disability, why can’t the powers that be, find a way for those who can’t speak or write to skip the usual formalities and get straight to the matter of protecting them from identity theft and fraud? They need help getting these documents in the first place so they’d obviously need help when they are in situation regarding a lost or stolen wallet.
Today, formality and strict regulation was ridiculously humorous for a few seconds and then it became downright irritating and painful for my son. It took almost half an hour to cancel his bank card over the phone because a customer service rep was only able to stick to the one way of doing his mundane job. I could hear how flustered he was getting trying to speak to my son as if her was just another customer. But Adam isn’t just another customer. Adam is representative of the now 1 in 45 persons diagnosed with autism and he is one of many persons who struggles with verbal communication. Sure he can speak but he cannot conceptualize things the same way we do. Things are different for him because his brain is wired differently and he lives in a world that has evolved tremendously in many ways to incorporate people like him, but it is also a world that is also as inflexible as it was 40 plus years ago.
The day, however, was not completely stressful. We found the wallet with the 5 bucks and all his cards inside. It was reassuring to know kind, honest people still exist. I hugged the movie theatre manager tightly and she hugged me back saying she had never met anyone so grateful to find a wallet. Adam had to go to Tim’s for a frozen raspberry lemonade with Logan to settle himself after his stint on the phone and did not come with us to claim his wallet. To be honest I was prepared for a struggle to get it back if it was indeed found, because he wasn’t with us but the manager came out, asked me what colour it was, who it belonged to and what was in it and presto! She got the description, she realized we must have been his parents and we didn’t have to sign anything. She understood our situation and she made a human decision. She didn’t worry about formalities or rules. She was just happy to return the wallet. She was happy to help. Most times, that’s all people like Adam and parents like us need.
On the ride back home Tom glanced at me and said the most wonderful thing I’d heard in a while. He said, “You know you gotta love being a parent when something great happens to your kid and you feel fantastic! It didn’t happen to you, it happened to them but you just feel great! Today we lost a wallet and it took us down a worrisome road where we questioned if Adam was truly ready for independence and for better or worse, he spoke to a stranger on the phone and answered many of the questions without our help . And while we were stressing over his wallet, we received great news about Logan. Watching Adam’s big smile when we returned his wallet was like watching him look at me for the first time all over again. Just a feeling of pure joy, you know? We got great news about Logan and we found Adam’s wallet intact. Nothing beats being a parent when you have a day like today!” Ever the optimist, I dare say, he’s so perfectly, completely correct.