Vanity

Apparently a war was waged recently – chillingly close to my bedside. It must have been quite a sight. Unseen by me, even though it was fought in my own bathroom. Yes, I can see from the newly darkened hair of my husbands he attempted, again, to color his own locks.

Mind you, it suits him, that deep brown hair color. Looks good with his Sicilian year round skin tone. And honestly, I appreciate him taking care of himself. As we age (we as in all of us) its only natural to fight nature with the products and protocols manufactured just for this purpose. But really, my toilet seat was meant to be white, dear.

Oh, and the drips on the counter, in the drawers, and all around the sink? Didn’t you USE the gloves provided in the box, dear? And my towels, or should I say your towels now, they didn’t do anything to solicit such abuse. Yes, there is a waiting period for the dye to adhere to the hair folicle….I get that. But getting sucked into your favorite NFL channel – post season no less – is not a good enough excuse for destroying the nice bed linens that I JUST washed and replaced. Again, where was the plastic head liner that was also provided IN THE BOX, dear?

Thanks for leaving the conditioning treatment in the shower for me to use too. But leaving the comb, q-tips, and oh! so thats where the plastic gloves went….they too are in the shower, dear. And I’m curious, just how did you manage to spray that forsaken dye on the ceiling? Do you just shake like one of the dogs when they come in from the rain, dear? The mirror, did what you saw need to be swiped by your hand while wrangling the applicator, dear?

Yes, it was a thrifty thought, buying a nice hair dye kit on sale, with a coupon to use in the privacy (you thought) of your own home. It really was……but I think next time you need to be supervised. Of course, I’ll grab the stain remover, paint supplies, industrial cleansers and hydrogen peroxide when I’m at the store, dear. No problem. But honey – I’m also going to make you an appointment for 3 weeks from now with my stylist. I have a feeling it will save us more in the end, dear.

(Insert eye roll, right about HERE, dear.)

~ Wendy Frye

“A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.” ~ Michel de Montaigne

Ideology

It is thought by some, that Autism renders the soul without ego. Living in the id – or emerging infantile ego state – of base needs and Freudian explanations over the lack of “social conscience”.

The id of my son:

Social conscience, for my adult son diagnosed on the spectrum at the age of 3 1/2 years old, be dammed. He slurps, burps or bumps into people on the street without a thought. Ever mindful of hygiene, taking two showers a day, abusing the deodorant and shampoo, he still refuses to shave his beard. Looking like a wanna be bearded Amish man – his face fuzz is just NOT manly – but he doesn’t care. An extended hand to shake receives a wag of the finger, no hands touching. Awkward? Yes. It’s all in the getting used to part of knowing him.

The ego of my son:

So. You want to talk about works of art and their makers. Discuss creations by masters of pop or surreal nature. He’s on it and engaged. Working with his new job counsellor today, a charming lady – he’s met his perfect ying/yang match. She’s creative, happy and does not hide her obsession for colorful pens….all nestled in clay mugs in a row across her desk.

Lively discussion, complete with true admissions from the young man, he paints his future out loud like a masterpiece. Can’t name the exact voodoo his counsellor possesses – but she is in possession of a certain kind of magic for sure. The conversation drifts into the nuts and bolts of the work involved, she turns to me and my son tunes out.

He retreats into the conference room. The walls littered with quotes and phrases of encouragement and an oversized white board. A blank and handy canvas, just ready for his ink. Picking up the first dry erase pen (no asking, just assuming it’s okay) he starts a new drawing . She quickly finds and hands him another box of more colors and shades from her extensive collection. Just like my son, never missing a beat.

THIS is going to be fun……
~ Wendy Frye

20131010-141844.jpg

Breaking Bad Ass

We like to have a beer or other adult beverage while watching the Seattle Seahawks play football. With our son on the autism spectrum since he was three, an adult now, there stands a hard line between beer and wine – and hard alcohol.

“Vodka!” He screams at the top of his lungs….”Yes, Vodka.” We, his dutiful but worn out parents confess. “It makes a delicious alternative when mixed with lemonade vs. a heavy beer.” We TRY to explain.

“It will lead to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE!” He vehemently proclaims. Daring to hope he understands and will choose to be rational like he usually is……we headed down to watch the game. With the vodka drinks.

Ever the comedian, and dramatic as all get out, our “not so sold” adult son hears us from his room yelling at the television, cheering on Russell Wilson the the team after a very solid play. The stadium in Seattle is rocking and everyone is knocking. Except our son.

“Thats IT!” “You are fighting and it’s because of the VODKA!”

We yell upstairs to him that we really are not fighting….we are cheering on our team. No go. “I’M CALLING 911 NOW!” Oh shit. He does have his cell phone fully charged, in his room, on the night stand at all times.

We rush up the stairs. In full boxer short glory he’s taken the “God Forsaken Poison!” from the fridge (sitting next to the apple beer) and threw it out the back door almost to the neighbors yard.

“I’m DIALING!”

“NOW!”

Mind you, we suburban dwellers, affected by the virtual tragedy of autism, i.e. underemployed, lifetime caretakers, double duty chefs, and on and on. Deserve. A. Drink. Especially at this very moment. So, in his room, hand poised to press send on his cell he smirks…..

Yes, I called him a rat bastard. Yes, I meant it. No, I’m a horrible mother sometimes. Yes, he had us. Yes, he knew it.

Yes, we dumped the bottle.

Yes, we had an apple beer instead.

This morning I approached my adult son on the spectrum. “Wanna go to the casino?”

Oh boy…..the new frontier.

“WHERE’S MY CELL PHONE!!!!!!”

(snicker) ~ Wendy Frye

“Spend some time this weekend on home improvement; improve your attitude toward your family.” ~ Bo Bennett

Mincemeat – reposted!

We have a rule in our house: We are the nicest to each other because we should be.

From time to time I reach down, pull out my worn out soap-box, step up and preach to my children about the people out “there” in the world we live in. The people you meet who would willingly punch you in the throat to get ahead. “Let those persons have at it” I tell them, in the end you won’t want to know them anyway. While choosing how you interact with other people, remember to always consider your own family first. We will always be stuck with each other, get used to it, so be nice. I then require them to re-commit to the “team”. The family “team” who WILL ACT CIVILLY, TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT, AND REMEMBER TO USE THEIR MANNERS WITH EACH OTHER! “What?!!” “Why are we having this same conversation again……MOM!” My teen-aged boys cry out in unison. “Well, let me go down my current list of reasons why in sequential order.”

– Telling your autistic (but not even close to helpless) brother that the magenta colored golf shirt he picked out for our vacation to San Francisco will make him look “gay”, is unacceptable. Gay people wear purple and straight people wear purple. Don’t be judgey of anyone.

– Snapping at each other (semi-forcefully) while folding laundry over which channel to watch on the television is complete lunacy. On that perfect day the window was open and the neighbors heard you bickering like holler monkeys. Not cool.

– Punishing your parents for wanting to take you to lunch after shopping as a family JUST because you couldn’t agree on a restaurant after 25 minutes is unacceptable. It’s called deferring to each other from time to time, gentleman. Go look it up.

– Launching air squadrons when either of you enter the kitchen just to protect your soda, ice cream or (insert here) from the other one this summer will not continue. And the Nerf gun your Dad brought home? I buried it in my garden.

– Remember, the dogs are family too. If you let them out, you wait for them to come back in. Standing on the deck, again bellowing like a holler monkey, wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt is not okay. You are hurting their feelings yelling at them in that tone – and use patience!
Sometimes they need a little privacy too.

Lastly, in general, the snapper-fish answers to anyone who asks a question will end. Automatically responding “no” is lame. Please try harder in the future to craft your answers and use your words, please. As punishment, each takes a turn going all day without referring to themselves in first person. Think about that, all day without starting a sentence with the word “I”. The mental fatigue will be epic. But you will be fine. “Are we good now?”. “YES MOTHER!”

I retired my soapbox for now – a little wary……..knowing full well that the potential to be submarined by my two children and just as insolent husband is lurking around any corner. Seriously, is turnabout always fair play? Maybe, maybe not.

Oh man, I am doomed. ~ Wendy Frye

“Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.” Walter Benjamin

Leverage

Three little words in our home are equal in power to any weapon of mass destruction. The biggest and oldest of our two Bichon Frise, Annie-Annie, not only understands what we say, she buys into the power of persuasion when it comes to her Daddy.

Weekend mornings, she lays in wait, listening for any of the three, harmless little words. “Go.” “Walk.” or “Leash”.

Sometimes, when the Bichons are outside, my husband will whip open the slider and simply raise the leash like a flag – a beacon of hope that Annie has not been forgotten. Other times, the two will have a elongated stare down. The subliminal hope in a thought that she will get to strut and brag with her beloved daddy down the street.

Then, those mornings, when the moment seems right. I whisper a key word under my breath. Ever vigilant, she typically looks at us in disbelief. Of course, I cannot say with all certainty that my husband is ready for a little jaunt, however, there is no turning back the clock to the moment before the “mistaken” utterance. “Oops! Sorry Hon.” I mock wearing a devilish, sideways smile.

“Well then, I better get my shoes, and you better get your leash.” ~ Dan Frye

“Peeves do not make very good pets.” ~ Bo Bennett

20130105-115533.jpg

Eve

Oh ya, my youngest son, he thinks he’s so clever. Every year on Christmas Eve we open a present together in the morning to get the holidays rolling. Even as a teenager, my youngest son shakes, stalks, snoops and generally regresses into that gorgeous little pain in the ass toddler he once was.

While wrapping presents in my room, he makes 27 “necessary” trips through to the bathroom, in just as many minutes…hoping to get a glimpse of any gift left out. Over the last two weeks he’s been considering just what gift he would open. Upon disclosing his choice, I snickered. He was certain it was a vinyl album. I asked him why he thought that. Well, the dimensions, lack of bounce upon the shake, and the general size of the box certainly gave it away.

This morning, the youngest rolled us all out early to get the preliminary-holiday-one-gift-unwrapping STARTED! We waited for the eldest sons response to his choice ….it was a hit! The Men Without Hats Silver Collection – we’ve all been singing along to the “Safety Dance” – oh come on, you remember their 5 minutes of fame back in the ’80’s don’t you? I don’t know where he gets this stuff.

Now. Comes. The. Moment. He. Has. Prepared. For. All. Month. In one fail swoop the wrap, bows and sides of that box threw up its contents. Wait for it……wait……WOW~! It was a sweater. A nice, sensible sweater in black. Son deflates in northeast corner of home. Parents roar, brother laughs and heads down to serenade us with techno-pop hits no one remembers. Younger son is granted a do-over. Life is good.

Happy Holidays! ~ Wendy Frye

“I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending.” ~ Fred Rogers

Muster

The gate-keeper claimed 30 years of experience in disability services while he eyed our son. Our son, who just happens to be a very talented collage of a person on the autism spectrum and a recent high school graduate.

After we were asked 15 times over 5 minutes in 15 different ways imaginable IF we paid our application fee. Then we were told by the gate-keeper that this particular gentleman possessed two friends. These alleged friends just happen to be a father and son, of whom are both doctors no less. And that these two “highly pedigreed friends” (cough, cough out the side of his face) just happen to have young grandson/son in common, who happens to be Autistic.

And we are supposed to care? Well, yes in general, we care very, very much – but we did not care at all for the insertion of this particular fact while in a meeting regarding our sons secondary education needs. The 5 x 5 office space was already too cramped and eye contact was going to get pretty limited. Right. About. Now.

“Well, my friend and his son, both who are DOCTORS, do NOT believe that vaccines cause Autism.” The gate-keeper proclaims to his ever deflating potential student.

He draws a loud breath and continues….”We will require a 3 hour reading and writing assessment.” For art classes – even labs. Awesome. Didn’t we cover our Achilles heel well enough over the 15 years of education, therapies, assessments, awards, grades, passing standardized testing, web-site, art submissions earning honors, even the high school ceramics teacher staying on one more year before retiring all because of the massively unique talent this particular college applicant possesses?

“But, if you haven’t paid that application fee, I fail to understand how he is already in our system.” Gate-keeper stated. “Because he earned that 4.0 grade when he attended a running start college class while in high school in industrial arts (yes, while in special education). AND, I understand it was a fairly complicated class.” Came my snarky retort. None of us in our family circle were confused anymore – our son was being assessed, not admitted, by a person with so much experience, BUT without even a tiny clue regarding Autism. Oh right! His pals were doctors, right!?! And, discussing vaccines during this meeting was critical and germaine to our sons college success, but of course! W. T. F.

While leaving we deliberately and mis-leadingly scheduled “the assessment test” and flagrantly walked past admissions without paying our application fee. But we were not defeated. Oh no, not us, not now and possibly never again. Because, as his parents, we knew there was no conceivable way we were going to subject this fine young man, who possesses the heart of a lion, to a situation in which he was going to fail. This is a person who understands everything, yet his disability lies in communication. He has adapted admirably to his disability within the creation of his own art. This art supports his need to communicate with the world what it is like to be a person with Autism.

During the drive home we cooled him down, explained that he needs only a certain set of skills in which to create his graphic art, and he was going to learn and expand those skills. Ended up he was somewhat relieved, knowing that he would not have to endure any class in which he was not highly interested in, just to earn a diploma. He’s paid enough dues. So we’ve looked around and soon found a better and more meaningful path for him.

Incubating his new skills, refining old ideas and thoughts that he so desperately wants to communicate with us all, The Astronaut is learning his new language in graphic arts. Assisted by his family and a soon to be elevated non-profit, this trip continues…….

“Go James!” ~ Your Mother, Wendy Frye

“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” ~ David Brinkley

http://www.jamesfryeartist.com

20121115-143105.jpg

Pong

The location: Family Home Front

The players:

Son #1: Diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum at 3 1/2, didn’t speak until he was 8, has progressed nicely since and has graduated high school this past spring.

Son #2: Super hero of the family, considerate, funny, polite, and smarter than most humanoids I know who is home that day with a sore throat and little fever.

The Scene: Living room, complete with two new red couches (purchased on a whim by my husband while grocery shopping this past summer), with Son #2 home sick with laryngitis, Son #1 is essentially grounded – his plans to go to the art gallery “RUINED!”

Son #2 lays on smaller couch, freshly showered, helping himself to my iPad to watch another past episode of “Top Gear”.

Son #1 emerging from the basement researching artists on the web, studying their forms and styles to see what is happening.

Me, I’m in the kitchen (again!) doing another sink of dishes. Let me tell you, the “Early Retirement Gods” have some twisted sister humor. The day I “retired” the dishwasher went on the fritz and the lawn mower threw a rod. Picked up the lawn mower (Good Lawd, wouldn’t want the neighbors to think my husband a heathen by not mowing in a timely manner, would we?) leaving me now scanning the ads for a blockbuster sale on a dishwasher. So, anywhoo – in the meantime I tackle and tame the ever breeding army of plates and spoons the old fashioned way, by hand. (fake smile)

Son #2 has been answering my questions with the memo app on my iPad – saving his voice for someone else I guess. Son #1, who uses the app for his doodles and drawings, is a little ticked his brother has (again) hijacked his shit. “What’s WRONG with you!” He bellows at his brother. I explain, “he’s got laryngitis, be cool and cut him some slack.”

Stomp. Stomp, STOMP! Into the kitchen comes #1. I jerk my head away from my sudsy hell hole to see #1 grab my refrigerator black erase memo board. He whips open the pen, jots a note, holds it to his chest and proceeds to beat like Tarzan to get his brothers attention.

#2 doesn’t waiver, scribbles a hasty reply – #1 wipes and retorts…this goes on for a few rounds, my head watching the literacy ping pong match in front of my very own eyes.

Soon, #1 wipes the board for the last time and heads back downstairs. I look over at #2, still on the couch with my eye brow in full Spock mode. He shook his head with a wry grin and went back to his program. I grabbed a towel, wiped the suds off the floor and turned back to my drudgery.

I never asked after the context of the exchange, only marveled in the moment that we’ve come this far. Silent bickering. my eldest, the one who took so long to find his voice, facilitating communication with his temporarily silenced brother.

Life is good. Little things matter. And swearing at each other with facilitated communication devices in our home? Acceptable. ~ Wendy Frye

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” ~ Richard Bach

20121004-162909.jpg

Missed Adventure

Sometimes, and you know when it happens, the Universe hands you your backside and you decide, with all the dignity you can muster, you must make a choice.

This happened, again, in our family the other day. Our oldest, diagnosed Autistic, graduated high school with honors – and we were set to celebrate. BIG! A vacation, a little time carved out for each other, traveling to a strange and wonderful place together. A time to explore the possibilities that the future has to hold. San Francisco! A haven for the artist within our oldest, and the dynamic venues available to our youngest – who’s thirst for knowledge will never be quenched.

Plans were drawn up, tickets bought and at the last moment, mayhem. Our dog sitter didn’t show up. It was at the last minute we realized how vulnerable the two little white dogs we love so fiercely had meant everything to us. The slippery slope of quick change for our oldest can make or break any adventure – and no amount of planning could so quickly derail all our efforts to take a break as a family and adverted the disaster that loomed Sunday morning.

She just didn’t show up. An agenda aside of our own, we never realized how a vindictive wife of my husbands friend could so easily change our fates. How her callous disregard for our sons victory dance to San Fran, after a long school career and the regaled graduation of our eldest. We trusted this person, who had known our family for 10 years, and had cut and styled or sons hair from the time he couldn’t cope with the sound of clippers in our home, the very person who just didn’t show up.

We proverbially woke up, shifted admirably, and I dropped off the three most important men in my life at the airport. At the break of dawn, there we were, plans blown up – and surprisingly the subsequent damage to our sons dream vacation was minimizing as the minutes ticked by.

What an alien feeling coming home, alone, to the dogs who were snubbed by the woman they saw only two nights ago, nuzzled and loved on her as they do us. A quick woe is me post on Facebook netted several phone calls from real friends willing to come over and salvage our plans.

No, we had already made the on the spot decision to send my husband solo with the boys. A male bonding adventure, complete with municipal traveling, arriving at the wrong hotel, with low blood sugared sons competing for security with the man they know as their father. He was just as alone as I, in a strange place – pulling up his big boy pants, he is now on point, determined to show his sons the time of their lives……..

My other mother, Cynthia, called me to talk it out. “The Universe is telling me something here.” , I say. “Yes, and everything happens for a reason.” She replied. We laughed out loud at how my husband went to the wrong hotel after I told him every day for 2 months that it was the Hyatt ON the Pier. (Who knew there were TWO Hyatt’s in San Francisco!) Really, they will be fine, and now – after two phone calls on day two, they are having a great time, without me – and that is the best news, ever!

I was disappointed for a while. But you know, navigating the lives of the members of my family so throughly and for so long nets me a little me time to call my own, too. It is worth what we are out for my plane fare and cost of a hotel bed for this, this forced bonding time for the boys.

Chasing the dogs back to bed from the front room window, where they keep watch for the rest of the family, kept me up most of the night. But alas, I had a long lunch with my mother in law today, one of only a hand full of times we’ve had 3 minutes to string together for each other. We went shopping, nixing the mall for the salvage stores and having a delightful bite at the local bistro. It was priceless spending time with her…..and I promised to do a better job in the future.

An era has come to an end. My two boys – they are not the babies I borne or the little boys I worried over for so long and so intently, especially the eldest with Autism. No, they are men of the world now. And their father? He is making the mutual memories with them to call his own with the two young men he helped craft over the years. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful!

So right now? I’m going to eat Fritos and string cheese for dinner, chase the dogs off “Daddy’s Chair” and wait for the next phone call from my family. Spending time in boxer shorts, cruising the internet and Facebook has been delectable. Can’t wait to hear about the mis-adventures and experiences they have shared together – alone in a big city – without me, the navigator of the family.

A long, long time ago, my very close friend Jenny told me every year for Mother’s Day she spent 24 delectable hours alone at a local hotel with the explicit orders to her family that she was not to be disturbed. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES was she to be disturbed, and that meant blood too. It was her time to recharge – the mother of three children that includes twins all under the age of two years old, living under the roof of a single wide mobile home trailer. All the while raising them all at the same time. Her husband honored her wishes and she found her center, once a year – and now, I get it. Alone time is divine, in small doses actually therapeutic. OMG Jenn, I get it.

Thank you Universe – this time to myself is welcome. The hand dealt to my husband, alone with his boys also, again very welcome. Now please, move along to the next family, hand them theirs so they learn the lesson of solitude and sharing the responsibilities of life – and please, leave a little more time for us, the ones who have learned and honor your wishes. Because ultimately, all we have are our memories, and in the end? Its the time well spent, together, and apart – that is most remembered by all.

~ Wendy Frye

“Fathering makes a man, whatever his standing in the eyes of the world, feel strong and good and important, just as he makes his child feel loved and valued.” ~ Frank Pittman