“I’m right here!” comes the insistent voice out of my cell phone for the second time.
“Ok, but where is right here?” I respond. My voice is beginning to quiver a bit even though I’m doing my best to stay calm and not trigger another melt down. That would mean that he would hang up the phone, turn it off, and then I would really be up the creek.
“I’m right here!” he says again with a louder more impatient tone.
I sense that I’m reaching an impasse and I try to come up with another strategy before he hangs up on me. “Tell me what you see.”
“The new houses they’re building, remember?” I start to feel some hope. Maybe I can try a series of questions, treat it like a game, and solve the mystery.
“When did we see those houses?”
“Yesterday, remember!” I know that we weren’t near any new construction yesterday or in weeks for that matter, but I needed to remember that time was an elusive concept for Sean.
Trying to pin that down would be an exercise in futility.
I feel like the detective who wants to keep the person on the phone long enough to run a trace, but this is real life. My son has wandered off and now I was getting desperate to find him before dark. My mind struggles to remember any new construction that he may have seen.
“Where are those new houses?” I query. “They’re right here!” It dawns on me that he believes that I am seeing the same things as he is, as if I am standing next to him. That’s a characteristic of autism, which can be unnerving when you are trying to find your child.
Meantime, Sean is becoming increasingly impatient and befuddled by my incompetence and I’m on the verge of having my own meltdown! This isn’t helping the situation, because Sean picks up on my emotions with what I call his “sixth sense”. He knows that I’m upset before I do, and my emotions tends to cause his fuse to burn faster.
My dentist asked me the other day if I grind my teeth. At first I thought no, but on reflection I realized that I probably did when I relived one of these experiences during a fitful slumber.
“What else do you see?” I was sticking to my line of questions hoping that there would be a breakthrough.
“The train, you know!” I could sense he was using up his tank of patience and was running on fumes. My mind scrambled to fit these clues together into a recognizable picture.
“Are you by those new houses we watched them building next to the Metrolink Station?”
“Yes!” He shouts into the phone, with an intonation that conveys relief that I finally got it, with anger that it took me so long.
I rush to the garage for my car, now that I know where Sean is. I bang the car door hard against my faithful old lawn mower, an innocent bystander to this unfolding incident. I glance at my new car and realize that I’ve added yet another ding to the tapestry. I slide quickly into my seat and realize I don’t have my keys! “Perfect, dimwit”, I mutter to myself as I realize that I need to calm myself down before I do something even more stupid. Returning to the hallway, I pause to do some deep breathing. I’m relieved to see my key-ring hanging on its designated hook for a change. Hopefully this is a good omen.
As I drive to pick him up my boy, as I had done so many times before, I am debriefing with myself. I need to arrive without emotions that could quickly turn this success into a disaster. I was learning more about Sean and how he processes things; so differently from me. More and more I was coming to realize that trying to get him to think and act the way I thought he should was only leading to mutual frustration. Our only hope was for me to check my own ego at the door, and work on viewing the world through his eyes.
I was growing up with Sean!