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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chowder and Friends

 Bubs 1, mom and I returned to the chowder festival this year. We missed last year, because Bubs 2 was too little to subject to the harsh outside winter temps. So this year marks his first chowder fest... and he darn near slept through it all.

I am unsure if this was Bubs 1's second or third time back. We have been living in the area for a total of four chowder fests, or otherwise measured in years and that would make us living here for four years now. I remember the last festival we attended, I think Bubs 1 was 28 or 29 months old. He was able to walk, but not stable enough to simply walk with us yet. He was this year.

Clam chowders and chicken corn chowders seemed to be the dominant chowders out there this year. Both mom and I couldn't eat any more. We had to give away our last three tickets. We had met our chowder limit. Bubs 1 had reached his limit too. He didn't want to sample any of the chowder, but he did enjoy the social interactions. He found a friendly cat, a couple of guys on stilts and his favorite spot - the duck pond. We had duck food from a previous visit to the village (mom saves everything) and Bubs 1 couldn't wait to feed it all to his webbed-foot buddies. He met some new friends, who asked to feed the ducks with his duck food. With mom's encouragement, Bubs 1 agreed. We also encouraged the bubs to ask for the names of his new friends. He then identified himself as Luke Skywalker (again). We've been living as the cast for Star Wars for over a month now. I've apparently been demoted (in my opinion) to C3PO, from once being Han Solo. It was Bubs 1 idea. He also renamed Bubs 2 R2D2, who was once Chewbacca. Mom has always stayed Princess Laya. All of this Star Wars stuff made the parents (or maybe they were grandparents), of Bubs 1's new friends, laugh.

In attempting to make a connection to my past, as most of my blog posts do, I can only remember the Sussex County Farm and Horse Show. There is a picture of me riding a pony in some small corral, with a local volunteer guiding the animal in circles as kids took their turns riding it. It was held at the Sussex County Fairgrounds, which may have been an annual event. Click this, or the previous sentence, for more on this event.

Sussex County, NJ region is known more for it's farming, than it's chowder. I only say this because I ate Cambells New England Clam Chowder as a kid. I used to prefer the Manhattan style, but soon realized what I've been missing - the fat. I'm taking a statin pill now, so at least my cholesterol is safe.

There wasn't a chowder festival where I grew up. The big draw was Vernon Valley Action Park. I remember when that park opened. It was a popular ski mountain during the winters and now a water ride park during the summers. My brother worked there when it opened. I think he worked with the kayak water ride. I never skied, and only went to the summer park a couple of times before moving from that area. I remember my last trip to Action Park. It was my 13th birthday, the Summer of 1983. My mom brought me and my friends down there. She also brought this guy named Fred. I think that Fred was one of the first guys she dated after my father left the house the year before. That last summer's memories in the area used to haunt me. Now is just lurks around in my mind. It no longer increases the adrenalin levels in my blood stream when I happen upon a memory. That summer was more than just memories of a broken home, it was also the time when I entered my teenage years. Good memories too. I remember my friends and I got drunk for the first time (on white wine) at Mike Passante's house. We befriended some girls from around the area and music videos were very popular. I even remember the Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams are Made of These, video. We watched it all the time. It was a great place to be a teenager. It was a mountain lake community and we hung out at the beach each day and down at the lake club house each night.

 To this day, whenever I hear that Eurythmics song, I think of that summer in my life. It sounded like a fun summer, and it was. But it also had a lot of pain. I was slowly losing my friends. My behavior was changing. I my own boss at that time, because my mom worked two jobs and my brother was living elsewhere. I heated up my own frozen dinners for supper and basically ran the       household. My mother would share her anger of my father. She'd also share her anger about his family with me. My mother felt that everyone had turned on her once my dad left. She was scared. She'd make me sleep on the floor, next to the couch in the living room, where she slept each night. She wouldn't sleep in her bed much anymore. I'd have to lay there and listen to her cry herself to sleep. Sometimes she's ask me to ''pray that your father comes home.'' The latter never happened. It was also at that time when I learned that she was planning to leave the area and move us to Roselle, NJ. She told me that the bank was taking our house. I didn't want to move to Roselle. So I decided to move in with my dad. My father lived with my aunt, uncle and cousins. They had a big house and it seemed like a nicer place to live than with my grandmother, in Roselle. I mentioned the ill feelings that I harbored about that almost-Roselle move in a previous blog. Not wanting to live in that town really the core reason why I moved in with my dad and cousins. I even agreed to attend a Catholic school, which is a big indication of how much I didn't want to live in with my mom in my grandmother's house, in... yes, Roselle, NJ.

So I gradually became more removed from my friends, because I guess it is easier to leave people when they aren't that close to you. I didn't consciously think that at the time, but it seems to sound good in hindsight. Another factor that made it easier for me to leave was that an old friend/neighbor returned to the area, that last summer. His name was Kevin Carmody. He turned out to be my nemesis. I beat him in one-on-one basketball games and he hated me for it. He eventually capitalized on my negative behavior, that summer, and increased my distance from my other friends. I soon realized that Kevin was running the show and had a lot of power over me. It really did make leaving much easier.

It wasn't until after 20-some-odd years that I later found out, from those same friends, that Kevin even turned on them. I had already left, but it was validating to hear that Kevin eventually showed his true colors to the others.

I still keep in touch with some of those friends. Time heals all wounds. In fact, one of those friends lives nearby and has a daughter the same age as Bubs 1. We periodically get the kids together and keep updated on each others' lives. I want both Bubs 1 and Bubs 2 to have good friends like this too. I would like to see them enjoy lifetime friends, without the pain. There is a lot of healing from that time in my life whenever I hang out with those friends today. It's powerful to have good friends.

In fact, one of the reasons why the bubs' mom wanted to have Bubs 2 was to create a lifelong friend for Bubs 1. She also has a few of these lifelong friends. Now I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with new friends, we both have many. However, keeping those lifelong friends around is simply a good idea.

Oh, and I'd like for both bubs to enjoy some good chow-da too.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Duck

The bathtub duck's day may have finally arrived. No longer is it being used as a bathtub, for either bubs (especially not for Bubs 1 any longer). It used to be gold to both the bubs' mom and me. We loved the air cushion protecting from the cold, hard porcelain, which is typical of most washing areas.  Before the duck, both bubs made their way through the typical progression of bathing basins, including: a newborn tub, a few bathroom and kitchen sinks and even a large plastic bow.

The duck was the final watering hole before graduation to the final washing cauldron - the bathtub. This duck was even lent out to friends for their child, who's  age falls between Bubs 1 and 2. We weren't expecting it back, but after the arrival of Bubs 2, the duck made it's way back to our home. We were glad to see it too.

I remember my mother giving me baths in our bathroom sink. It was an abnormally large, rectangular sink. I remember a picture of me in this sink. I was likely 3 or 4 years old and I seemed to still have had plenty of leg room. I graduated to a shower stall, since we had no bathtub. My memory of this shower stall is scary. It had mildew riddled throughout the walls and floor. The step between the shower and the bathroom floor was an unfinished concrete step. Actually, I couldn't step on it since the top was not smooth. It was an edgy, unfinished top that would have hurt my foot if I did step onto it. My brother tells me that he remembers worms on the floor of our shower. I may have blocked this memory, because that would have freaked me out. My childhood bathroom was a strange one. The door, to the bathroom itself, had glass panes, from top to bottom. It was a bathroom door that you could see through. We had a white curtain that stretched from top to bottom, but not all that private.

I remember, in 2nd grade, drawing a picture in class. I may have written about this picture in a previous blog post. The class gathered around me and started laughing. I didn't know why. Then my teacher, Miss Karnas, walked over to see what the commotion was about. I remember her face expression. It was a hesitant smile. She asked if she could have it. I didn't mind, so I gave it to her. She walked away and that was it. Some time later (maybe even a few years later), when I was older, my mother told me about this picture. In fact, I remember seeing it again at home. Apparently, Miss Karnas called my mother in to talk to her about it. I remember my mother telling me how she had to explain my picture, which happened to be of a person with both female breasts and male genitalia... wearing a cape. My mother said that she had to think of something and told me, that she that Miss Karnas, that the picture may be a result of her and my father exiting the bathroom, individually after their showers, while tying together their bathrobes... and therefore explaining the cape thing. My mother was always quick to explain things.

Thinking back now, I'm wondering how you say something like that to your child's teacher without laughing. Couldn't she have just said that our bathroom door had glass panes? Maybe she did explain that too. My memory is fading. This was about 35 years ago.

Anyway, that bathroom door eventually have two sheets of quarter-inch plywood nailed to both sides of it. As for that duck, it now serves as a toy seat for the bubs. Both bubs are too big to wash in it, but they've apparently made room to play in it.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

I'm Luke Skywalker

 Bubs 1 has lately been requesting to be addressed as "Luke Skywalker." He hasn't yet seen any of the Star Wars movies, but he knows all of the movie's characters. He plays Angry Birds Star Wars as part of his potty training reward system. His mom has been helping him learn about the movie's characters, i.e. Darth Vader, Chewbacca, etc.

On this topic, I recently found the bub's bubble wand in the trunk of the car. To me, this wand looked just like the Jedi vs Empire intergalactic weapon of choice -  the lightsaber. I showed it to the bubs. I should say, that I sold it to the Bubs. What do I mean by that? Well, instead of saying, "Hey Bubs! This bubble wand looks like Luke Skywalker's lightsaber," I sold it as, "Bubs! A lightsaber!" He bought it, and good thing too. He sometimes has a hard time grasping the concept that one item can represent two meanings. In fact, sometimes he gets downright argumentative and digs in his heels. His mom and I see him progressing in this area too. There are many variables operating here as he moves from a simply concrete-meaning world towards an abstract one. How does his ASD inhibit this? If at all? We'll likely never know, and frankly don't care as much either. We're seeing progress and that's all that matters. We're learning to see the bubs through the spectrum disorder, rather than the spectrum disorder through the bubs. 

As a kid, I wasn't big into Star Wars or science fiction. The culture I grew up in defined this area of interest as "uncool" and I was indoctrinated into this belief system. I gravitated towards sports, because that is what held social value. I was scared of being different, or considered less than.

I remember a childhood, neighbor couple. They were a geeky couple. They were science fiction fanatics. They were also adults, so they operated within another social paradigm. I remember that they had this really cool projector television unit, which made watching t.v. like sitting in a movie theater. I remember watching Star Wars on their projector/television. This had to be around 1979, or 1980. They had no children of their own, but they had two dogs. These two dogs, Captain and Brandy, were this couple's children. My parents hung out with over there house and they hung out over at ours. Their names were John and Joyce Mier, or Meyer. John was an auto mechanic. His hands were always stained in oil and grease. My father got John to help rebuild a car engine. My father knew very little about cars, and had even less money, so John's help was so very valuable due to the fact that we couldn't simply purchase another vehicle. I always remember my parents having car issues. It was rare that we ever had both cars operating at the same time. I remember my dad and John working on that engine for months. I'm sure that it wasn't fun for John to have to work all day and then come home to work on another car, but he was a nice guy. Joyce was too. However, a year or so after my father left the house, I had decided to move to where he lived. Joyce was upset about this decision, which I wasn't aware of until the day I was to move.

I remember answering a strange phone call that day. "Hello," I said as I answered the phone. "You're a fool and you're making a big mistake," I was told by somebody on the other end of the line. The person then hung up. I stood there for a second, unsure if I had just heard what I thought I heard. Then, about 10 minutes later, there was a knock at the door of my house. I answered the door and it was Joyce. She handed me a book. She was crying. The book was about how to take care of your dog. My mother got me a puppy after our family dog died. Our family dog, Pierre, was a French Poodle and lived to be 14 years old. Apparently, Joyce wanted me to have a reliable resource when raising the new one.

Joyce walked into the house and told me that she was the person who had called. She told me that my father was not a very nice person and that my decision to move in with him was breaking my mother's heart. This was a lot for me to take in, and I somehow quickly developed a way to "store" poignant information like this until I was better able to process it... if I ever did at all. I had already lived through a year of my mother informing me of every negative act my father did towards her. I learned about his tax problems, which stemmed from him not paying them and how these legal issues began to impact her financial needs. She told me all about his extra marital affairs and of his recent decision to stop paying her alimony. She even disclosed family secrets about my aunt and uncle, who had provided a new job and space in their home for my father to begin anew, after he left us. There was a lot of negativity that I was steeping in. So what Joyce was telling me was nothing new. I just knew that my mother was moving too, and I didn't want to live in Roselle, NJ. My mother had already registered me in Abraham Clark High School (it had an eighth grade attached). I didn't want to go there. It looked like hell to me. So I had no other option, because the bank was taking our house. Therefore I abandoned my mom too. I moved to a new state and lived in the home of my aunt and uncle, cousins and father. My world had changed. I even had temporarily moved up a social class, because my aunt and uncle were relatively wealthy. It caused enough distraction in my life for me not to think about my other life. However, time always catches up. I regret leaving my mom in that situation.

I sometimes wonder where John and Joyce are today. I would enjoy re-connecting with them after all these years. They cared about my mother. They likely don't know that she passed away. I bet that they would love to meet my family. I also bet that they have a pretty cool television set-up, where ever they are.

So as this blog is designed, that's a little bit more of my upbringing weaved into both bubs' soon-to-be past memories too. To end this post in the positive spirit of The Force, I'm going to cut-n-paste a post that my wife wrote on her facebook page today, "Well I'll be. My 4-yr old, whom experts claim to be autistic, made a joke, based on his imagination, in front of a small crowd of people last night. When the starbucks guy asked my son what his name was, he paused for a good while (usually takes him a while to formulate his words), and then shyly yet clearly said with a smile: "My name is Luke Skywalker."

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