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Saturday, January 28, 2012

I totally caught that snowflake on my tongue

Dear Old Man Winter,

  when did you officially start sucking?  I mean really?  At what stage in my life did I stop looking at you with fond wonderment and slight amazement and start looking at you like a blight on my life?  When was it that you started making my bones ache and my skin crack?

I look back on our time together as a child and I think of all the good times we had.  Remember that one time when you and I built that huge snow fort in front of the house?  It had tunnels and small windows for whipping snow balls at the enemy.  Man......we must've hung out in that thing for hours.  It had to have been hours 'cause I remember digging out a 'whiz hole' so we could take a leak out the side without ever breaking cover.  Nobody could find us in least as long as they didn't track us back to that patch of yellow snow.

I remember snow days.  No, not just snow days but "You can't go outside because your eyeballs will literally freeze in their sockets" kind of snow day.  Those were the days that the car refused to start.  I can remember my Dad sitting behind the frosty wheel of the old Buick silently cursing you under his breath....the car sputtering and coughing; refusing to turn over.  I knew that if that old beast of a vehicle wouldn't come to life, then there was no chance I would be turned out into the cold to walk to school.  Thank you for that.

I remember snowball fights, and snow angels and finding the biggest snow bank I could possibly find and flipping off it head first into piles of soft, cushiony snow.  Growing up in the North, you really were a good friend.  After all, we really did spend a lot of time together.

But as I grew older, something changed between you and I.    While there were days that I enjoyed hanging out with you, I found that you started becoming more of an inconvenience and annoying more than anything else.  Like a dinner guest that just hasn't quite taken the hint that it's time to go....even as the host is standing there in their pyjamas looking longingly at the clock.

I'm totally kickin' your ass Winter!
 I think things really started to get awkward for us when you stopped helping me and started acting more as a hindrance.  Like that time you dropped 20+ centimetres on us and you brought along a huge dose of freezing rain for good measure?  Ya....pretty impressive.  Except you did this the day I had a major meeting at work and I was hours late for it.  Not cool dude.  In fact, that was pretty downright 'douchee'.

You see....I grew up.  You didn't.  My priorities shifted....yours didn't.  I guess to some extent I should've seen it coming.  I mean, over the years you've always been into the same things.  Every year it was all about cold and snow and sleet and freezing rain.  Sure you'd mix it up every now and then with a good ol' dose of frostbite.  But c'mon man.  Things got real boring real quick.  Our visits eventually always followed the same routine.
Me: "Hey Winter!  How have you been?  It's been about a year since we last talked."
You: "Hey dude!  Ya things have been awesome man!  You know.  Freezing people out.  Making cars slide into ditches....totally cool stuff."
Me: "Huh.  Isn't that what you did last time we talked?  And the year before that?"
You: "Well ya.  It's kind of my thing."

.............and so on and so forth for the rest of time........

Fat Kid + Momentum+ Slippery Hill=AWESOME!!!

Look, I'll admit that I still enjoy your company every now and then.  Summer's awesome to lounge around with and all.  But somedays, you just really need to jump on a crazy carpet and fly down a snowy hill at breakneck speeds.  Truth be told, I can't do that with the rest of your family.  So there's that I guess.

I hate the fact that you make me buy snow tires, and add more driving time to my commute and cause my gas bill to go up.  I hate that you freeze snot to my mustache and cause my lungs to burn when I walk outside in the morning.  It's not cool that you make me chisel my car out of a block of ice or break my back having to shovel tons of snow out of my driveway.

But I will admit that I still giggle like a little school girl when I catch that perfect snowflake on my tongue (I totally caught that snowflake on my tongue).  I still love the way my heart races when I jump on a toboggan and power slide down a huge hill.  And that bully inside of me still gets a kick when I land that perfect snowball across someone's face!  Especially when it's my kids.  Shhhh.....don't tell the wife.

Maybe we'll never get back what we once had.  I'm willing to accept that.  I willing to accept that we may need to change the rules of our relationship so that we're not at odds for the rest of my life.  I know I left your completely for 4 years.  California offered me an escape from you and your abusive tendencies but I came back.  I always come back.

Contrary to popular belief...I didn't have a gun to my head when choosing to leave this behind.
So let's do this right.  I don't like you anymore on a personal level but I respect you on a professional level.  My recommendation is as follows:

  1. We will have contact with one another during the months of November through March.  Any correspondence outside of that range will result in cursing and swearing and shaking my fist at the sky.
  2. You will give these dunder-head weathermen ample warning before you drop ass on us.  These guys seem to have trouble tying their own shoes most days let along predicting the weather.  They might as well "Consult the bones" rather than watching the Doppler radar.  It'd probably more accurate.
  3. You'll keep your tantrums down to no more than 5 over the course of the season.  I don't mind an occasional flurry here or there....but 30+ centimetres and 6 feet of sleet and ice don't cut it anymore.
These are my terms.  You will accept them.   Only in doing so will you suck less and regain some of that wonder and amazement you lost when you refused to grow up along with me.  If our friendship meant anything to'll take those next steps to make amends.

I'm not crying....I'm sweating tears from my eyeballs.


The Can-eh-dian Kid.

Friday, January 20, 2012

I'd like to introduce you to my new friend SARAH

I'd like to introduce you to my new friend SARAH.  She's going to be staying for a while.  She's moved on in to my house and now has her feet up on the coffee table as I write this.  It doesn't look like she's going anywhere anytime soon.  That's what she thinks.

Funny thing about SARAH is the longer she stays, the better the visit ends off.  But while she comes in raging like a bull in a China shop, she often leaves with hugs and kisses and a sense that all will be well.  But we're not at that part of the visit just yet.  My wife and I knew SARAH was planning on making an appearance sometime in the New Year.  In fact, we've been anticipating her visit for about 10 years now.  Her plans though really didn't solidify until about a year ago.  At that point, we started mentally getting ourselves ready for her stay.  But no matter how prepped we were, her arrival was still a kick to the gut.
Five days ago, my 10 year old son was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome; a mild form of autism.  In brief: 
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a 'spectrum disorder' because the condition affects people in many different ways and to varying degrees.

Asperger syndrome is mostly a 'hidden disability'. This means that you can't tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with the condition have difficulties in three main areas. They are:
While my wife and I had our suspicions; she much earlier than I, it was still a slap in the face when those words spilled out of the Psychologist's mouth.  "Your son has Asperger's Syndrome."  Somewhere in my mind an imaginary phone began ringing.
'That's SARAH calling.  She's finalized her travel plans and should be here later this afternoon.'

"Your son has Asperger's Syndrome."

'I'm not sure if we can handle having her visit.  There's too much to do.  She'll only get in the way of things!'

"Your son has Asperger's Syndrome."

Driving to work after the diagnosis was an odd experience.  My wife was on the phone with her Mom.  The radio was playing but I can't remember what was on.  I remember gliding through traffic and eventually showing up in the parking lot.  It was freezing outside that day and regardless of how hot the car heater was blowing, I felt cold....numb.  There weren't really any tears shed nor many words spoken in the car that day.  How do you react to something that you saw coming from 10 miles away?  Nope.  There'd be plenty of time for all of that once SARAH got here.

I finished work and was in the process of driving home with the family (they had picked me up after work) when SARAH showed up. I had stopped to pump gas when she tapped me on the shoulder to say Hi.  An overwhelming sense of sadness came flooding in; like a weight had been dropped into the pit of my stomach.  The first phase had begun.

I should clarify.  SARAH is not a person.  She is not even a She.  She is an it.  A concept.  An idea.  SARAH is what I use to classify the 5 stages people go through when dealing with a traumatic event or loss on some level.  Sadness, Anger, Rejection, Acceptance and Healing.  The time needed to move from phase to phase is as unique as the person who is going through the process.  Needless to say, SARAH has so far been able to manifest in her first two phases.  It really comes out of nowhere and there's nothing you can do but roll with it.

I've been waking up late at night (I'm not sleeping terribly well these last few nights) and ask myself....'What's next for our boy?' The long and short of it is that he will never be "cured" in the traditional sense.  There's no magic pill that makes it all go away.  At least that's what the experts say.  But I have hope.  Maybe that's SARAH making her presence known and showing me her "Rejection" side.  I denounce the possibility that there's no possibility for my son to wake up and snap out of it.  I think I'll probably always reject that idea on some level.

My wife and I are doing our best to begin to adapt our lifestyle, routines and household to this new and strange disorder.  While nothing drastic has changed, the diagnosis; the stigma around the word has us looking at the world through slightly different glasses than before.  We're taking steps to help him more with school, chores and social interaction in general, but it's an uphill battle.

Imagine a typical 10 year old boy; full of questions, mischief, humour and heart.  Think about how they thrive on social interaction; hanging with their buddies, playing sports.  Imagine them collapsing into bed exhausted at night to dream the night away after a hard day of playing.  Now imagine a child that has no 'off switch'; no ability to recharge because their mind never stops working….ever.  A child with all the hopes and ambitions as other typical 10 year olds but with an inability to read social cues; to understand why their behaviour and actions come across as odd or weird or disruptive.  An inability to make and maintain friendships.  There's no happy ending right now....only adapting and coping.

There's a whole community of Parents with Asperger children out there.  They affectionately refer to their children as "Aspies".  Cute.  But at this stage I find the name offensive and not much classier than calling someone a Retard.  They speak about the uniqueness of their child and how they will grow up to be Professors or Rocket Scientists or something else amazing.  But truth be told, not every child will be so lucky.  Some will never be able to live an independent life. 

We're extremely lucky that Evan will more than likely fall into the first category; able to utilize his amazing visual/memory talents for the greater good. This is a kid who at age 4 could memorize where all the objects were on a seek and find picture book.  With the proper social coaching and care he’ll not just be able to cope but thrive.  They say 1 in every 150 children in North American is affected by the Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Our boy just happens to be one of them.

My hope is that SARAH will eventually pack her stuff and move on to some other poor bastard family.  She's not really welcome here anymore.  In the meantime, we'll continue to learn and love as best as we can.