We’re back home and back to our everyday routines. Yet, before the last weekend fades into distant memory, I want to thank all those who wished us well - Doc Mark, Casdok, Megamom, Leirs, Doc Ness, Beth (FXS Mom), Mari, and Odette — your prayers and well wishes are very much appreciated. :-) Thank you, dear, dear friends. We had such a great time that already I am planning and saving up for the another weekend trip next month.
Last Friday morning, Alphonse woke up at the crack of dawn. He was too excited to sleep, I guess. He kept handing me a picture of ”car” and I had to repeatedly remind him that it was still too early to go anywhere. We sat down and looked at the picture schedule of his day and that seemed to quiet him down.
After a three-hour lesson in the morning, a leisurely lunch, and some play time, he knew it was time to go. He hurriedly dressed himself, slung his pecs notebook over his shoulder, and climbed into the back of the car, a silly grin plastered on his face as he waved happily to his nannies.
Thirty minutes into the car ride (we were not even out of the city limits), I took a peek at the back through the rearview mirror and was surprised to see both boys fast asleep. It’s not unusual to see Alex sleeping at the oddest hours- this boy sleeps as soon as the car starts- but Alphonse is another matter. Still, the day’s excitement was probably a little too much for him. Add the fact that he started his day long before the sun was up, and it was understandable to catch him dozing off.
We got to our destination shortly before sunset. Alphonse spent a few minutes walking around the well-appointed hotel suite. He checked the mini-bar, flushed the toilet a few times, channel surfed, ate the complementary fruits, and paced the entire length of the room as if counting his steps. Then he insisted on opening the balcony door to catch a whiff of fresh sea air. He took three sniffs with his flaring nostrils, frowned at the thick, salty air that assailed his senses, then closed the door back to settle in on the airconditioned room. So much for nature.
Over the weekend, we were able to bring Alphonse everywhere. Alex volunteered to baby-sit while A and I have a quiet dinner but since I don’t trust two teenagers alone in a room together, we hauled them everywhere. Alex feigned hurt that I did not trust him to watch after Alphonse, and he seemed to get a kick from my response that if I catch both of them in a wild party with girls and drinking, I’d have to ground their a**es till they were in their thirties.
It was amazing to see Alphonse enjoy himself. The last trip we were in all together was almost two years ago, a few months before he went on “siege.” Since then, we’ve been wary about bringing him places, as new people, places, and experiences could set off a major tantrum. Lately, however, we’ve seen in him a renewed interest in the world. He’s been so much more attuned to others around him. And yes, his behavior has improved so much that most of the time, he now simply responds to verbal reminders on how to behave and act appropriately.
We were able to eat dinner at a Japanese restaurant and while he kept looking at the other tables, probably wondering why his food was taking a bit longer than he was used to, he did not whine at all nor did he attempt to grab someone else’s food. He played with memory cards until his food arrived, and when it did (a large order of tempura and a bowl of gyu saikoro don), he gobbled it up almost immediately. Not content, he begged for slices of Alex’s teriyaki chicken, and only after eating half of Alex’s food did he appear sated. Then he sat down quietly, taking in the conversations around him, till we were all finished.
It was the same thing when we brought him to fastfood joints. Here in Manila, drive-thrus and home delivery are commonly the methods of food acquisition we use, as they limit our interaction with other habitués of any dining facility. Over the weekend however, we discovered that Alphonse could now tolerate waiting periods, could eat independently, and best of all, would not grab at other people’s food or drinks. It was such a major stress reliever.
The trip without the nannies was a big test, true, but he seemed to enjoy the independence. Of course, I looked in on him while he bathed and dressed (I supervised), but I no longer needed to help him with a lot of things. Also, he used his communication notebook and pecs cards more consistently; we were surprised to find him “asking” for things and not simply waiting for it to be brought to him. And these were some of the lessons we brought home for his nannies. They were there to watch over him, to prompt him occasionally, to help him cope with the things in life, but they are not his hands or feet. Many things he will have to do by himself. It’s time to stop the babying and let him be the man he is destined to be.
Alex and I were reviewing our weekend pictures last night when he remarked, quite aptly, that our pictures seemed so mundane and would hardly merit any praise as travel pictures. (“Mom, you took pictures of the bathroom? Did you take one of the park? How about the beach?”) He didn’t want some of his pictures shown, the ones where I catch him holding on to his PSP as a fifth appendage, and I had to twist his arm a little (not literally) to convince him to allow me to show people how he sleeps with his mouth open. I certainly agree with his astute observations; I did forget to take shots of the lovely beach and the verdant park. Yet, I explained to him, that this last weekend was not about the destination but about the family, not about the sights but the journey. And if those 48 hours were any indication of what our future will be as a family living and loving and thriving with autism, then I can look forward to tomorrow with inextinguishable hope.