I need a new mountain bike. I went for a ride yesterday and I could hear and feel that it is time for a new one. It’s been a faithful friend over the years though. I have had her since I lived in Brockville, well before kids were even a thought in my head. But second the boys were old enough to ride without training wheels, that was the bike I used to teach first, Adam, then Logan, how to ride in the street and along the trails. Yesterday was the first time since they were born that I have ridden alone. They still do these sort of activities with me if they feel like it but they are teenagers now; a far cry from the ages where this sort of thing was part of our day to keep them active, teach them things and to make them nice and tired by the end of the day.
As I rode along the route, I remember stopping at the bridge with them, taking the time to look at the people fishing and looking at the large heron we used to see perched on this massive rock in the middle of the river (Wonder where he’s gone to? Wonder if he is still alive?)
I remember Logan’s endless questions and non-stop chatter and Adam’s intense stare as he quietly took in everything, building a massive vocabulary in his head without uttering a word until of course, we rode under the bridge where he would join Logan and yell “ECHO” and laugh until we were clear of it. I yelled “ECHO” yesterday too, for old time’s sake irregardless of the stares. As luck would have it, I rode under the bridge while the train was crossing and I remembered how fast Logan would pedal from under there because he was always scared of the loud noise of the wheels on the track above and was concerned that the bridge would collapse under the weight of the train (“and fall and qwash our heads Mummy!”). Then, because we had Adam with us, if a train was crossing, we had to stop in the pothole laden parking lot of the yacht club to watch each car go by until they were out of sight. Autistic people are flabbergasted by trains while their younger “regular” brothers like messing around with the gravel and mud in the potholes much to my disgust (there was never anyone dirtier than our”Pig Pen”, Logan James).
Closer to the marina’s boat launches we would often stop at the Duffer’s counter for an ice cream or a freezie in spite of the dead-fishy smell.
Logan had an eye for locating dead fish and depending on the time of year, he had an eye for large mating fish who’s bodies would emerge out of the water, splashing wildly as their bodies tumbled around like laundry in a clothes dryer. This caught the attention of every child on the path which led once again to Logan’s most frequent question “How come those fish are fighting? What are they doing then if they not fighting Momma?” followed by “But why?” At the middle of the trail, there’s another bridge which is a perfect spot for watching the turtles dive off the rocks and into the mossy water and on the other side you could look out onto the bay and see a family of swans as they swam by marveling each time we rode down there at how quickly the babies grew.
A few steps away is the playground where I always promised them we would stop so they could play on our way back from the end of the trail where they would practice skipping stones at the rocky beach near the rowing club. After the thousandth rock was skipped and they exhausted themselves at the playground, they would gripe about having to ride home, but they did anyway.
Our bike rides to the waterfront would take about two hours when all was said and done, three if I ran and they took their roller blades or scooters instead of their bikes. Yesterday the ride was part of my exercise program. I was able to ride in high gear the whole way there and back in an hour. For the first time in a long time, I only had to look out for myself on a ride. I didn’t have to shout out directions, or reminders to look both ways before walking our bikes across the street. I did not have to worry about drivers seeing them or them paying attention to the traffic signals. (And to think I sometimes took other people’s children with us. I must have been some kind of sucker for punishment!) For the first time, I did not have to yell at 8 year old Adam to slow down or tween Adam to keep up. I did not have to sandwich a highly distracted Logan (at every age until he was 11) between his brother and me as we rode along the path. I did not have to remind anyone to stay to the right and watch for pedestrians (though I did have a chuckle as I recalled a very blunt Adam not using his bike horn but preferring to yell, “Move out of the way, old people” as he rode past them on the path, hands behind his head like a circus act …and me with the disclaimer “Sorry…he’s autistic”) Yes, for the first time since I became their mother, it was just me on my bike and it was kind of strange but nice … and it was relaxing and it was freeing, yet quite nostalgic now that I think about it. I was alone but not lonely because as I rode past each of our “spots” I could see them with their big colourful bike helmets on,
their Hot Wheels sunglasses and their Ninja Turtle water bottles, I could hear them too, “Look at this Mom!” “Whoo hoo! I jumped it. and I didn’t die!”
“Push me harder mom! Want swing higher, please, Mom!” “Mom, come quick, Adam fell down!” “Mom….Logan…it’s crying. It has a bleed!”
Were all these moments that long ago?
They are young men now and so much has changed and they have changed me in many ways. I remember feeling so tired just keeping them busy, teaching them, raising them and more specifically trying to enhance Adam’s life and give Logan the most “normal” life we could give him. I remember wondering how long it would be before they could do more for themselves, be more independent and of course, if Adam ever would be independent enough to do anything on his own. It felt sometimes their childhood and their helplessness would last forever yet once they reached their milestones I never noticed right away because I was caught up in the next issue or phase I had to get them through. But suddenly here they are now; capable, independent, happy (with the most interesting personalities and senses of humour) and I don’t know where the time went or when they got so big and tall. It was hard raising these two, and it was joyful, it was tiring but it was and still is worth it.
When Adam was diagnosed Tom and I made the decision to do all we could to help Adam and keep our family whole. I sacrificed my career to stay home with my children for as long as I could. Even when I went back to work, it was on a part time basis and even now that Tom has established his own business, I still work very flexible, part-time hours. It has been and still is my pleasure to have made the decision I did. I was here for every first, I was here for every tear, every bloody nose, skinned knee, very lump, bump, fight and every triumph. If Adam was not autistic, I might have very well missed out on all of what are now the most cherished moments of my life. I was here for them then as I am now because I believe it was and is important and worth the sacrifice. I still feel that they need me to be available. Not that I want to micro manage them, but I want to be here to lend my support during these teen years on the days that are absolutely shite and to be there to high five them on the days when something awesome happens. Conversations in a day or a week occur less frequently now, but when they do, they are long and in depth because there is an openness among all of us. Logan is comfortable speaking to both Tom and me and he trusts what we have to say even when he feels he has to be objectionable. Adam is still a man of few words, but over the years he has learned in all his independence that he needs our help from time to time and seeks it whenever he can in the best way that he can. He does not like long conversations, and the three of us respect that but still do find ways to bring him out of his shell verbally.
Logan is a typical 14 year old guy and is the best teacher Adam has ever had when it comes to him fitting in and has been so crucial in helping us recognize what in Adam’s demeanor can be classed as puberty and what is autism. Looking at these photos, and many that we have taken over the years, makes me realize how much they have done together and how close they are in their unique way…Logan, the mouthy self proclaimed big brother, Adam, the silent, thinker who adores his brother and sees him as a best friend. I used to worry that the autism would alienate them but they spend a great deal of time together and I think there is nothing they would not do for each other. And as Adam gets older, he is showing more compassion for others especially Logan, and does not like it and actually feels badly when something has upset his brother. It is the sweetest thing I have ever seen from Adam, whose condition makes regular and appropriate human emotion almost impossible for him to understand or display.
Adam has given the rest of us in this family a special ability. He has taught us how to speak in ways that he could understand, do things in a way that he might be included and to think outside of the box pretty much for everything we need to accomplish with him. He has taught us how to help him be successful while challenging him with the same high expectations we have of ourselves. Knowing it is important to speak to people, Adam has been practicing the arts of texting and conversation and he has some rehearsed phrases and sentences that he knows are effective in helping him get what he wants. Lately, he has taken to coming up with great ideas and usually they are great ideas that benefit him. Every week when we go for our ice cream treat, he is insisting we go inside the store to practice placing his order and paying for it.
He’d say, “Hey, Mother! I know! How about we go inside the store and get the ice cream there. We don’t have to do the drive through today!”
He is so insistent and so passionate about this that it is a joy to watch him at the counter, his bank card in hand, shouting his order to the cashier who might come away a little bit deaf after being exposed to his loud deep voice but hey, we’ll work on volume in the fall.
Now that he is a teenager, Adam and I have a musical bond. He is my in car DJ, switching between Hits 1, The Pulse, and Pop 2K finding all his favourite tunes. We chat briefly about the song, who sings it and why we like or dislike a song. On long drives, I get a kick out of looking at him out of the corner of my eye as he air drums or when we both start giggling when we catch ourselves miming and bobbing our heads to the beat of song we enjoy. When I sing he tells me how terrible I am and when he sings I tell him how wonderful he is to which he promptly replies, “Thanks, I know,”.
I have not been perfect with them by any means. I have made many mistakes as a mother and I am just as flawed as the next person but I do have and appreciate my special connection with each of my boys. Now, I think a proverbial torch has been passed from me to their father. They like going to the movies with him, they like going to Canadian Tire (a hardware store and then some) with him, like going fishing with him and Grampa when he is feeling well (Adam mostly likes to drive the boat)
and they like going to the gym with their dad too. It’s absolutely a man thing because I am politely not included and it’s perfectly fine. When it comes to getting their uniforms for school, they want to go with him because they are more comfortable fitting on the different sizes with him there as opposed to MOM being there and making it awkward much like how they prefer to go underwear and razor shopping with him too. It’s nice to see their man bond with their dad but I will admit I do miss their little feet, their little shoes, their
scabby elbows and knees, all things Thomas, Star Wars Clone Wars, WWE,
YTV, Teletoons and when Spider Man and Superman were like God to them.
I miss finding them asleep in their tent; I miss the stuff in their pockets like a toy car, a rock or some dead bug. I miss dirty hands and faces and their over-sized heads … sometimes …. many times…. all the time.
Their childhood went by quickly in my opinion but they still have some time for old Mom and they have their memories that’s for sure and it’s really nice when we look back at the photos Adam remembers because we often wondered if he did at all. They are almost men now and as bittersweet as it is to say goodbye to their childhood, I get to watch the best part now. Where will their path lead them? Whatever will they become? Time will tell and hopefully their father and I will be here to see it all unfold for years to come. But for now, maybe I’ll start looking up bikes on line…see what’s out there that this Mom of almost 50 will enjoy riding … alone.