The Hideaway has transitioned from summer to Christmas. The leaves, flowers, and warm temperatures have been replaced by Christmas trees, cozy pj’s and crackling fires.
As every day passes our decision to make a change is more validated. I don’t think we go through a full 24 hours without hearing someone say how much much our home is loved. The boys have had a great term in school and their report cards were truly indicative of this.
If you recall, this time last year Matthew had his biggest dream come true having the opportunity to meet his ‘hero’, Cesar Millan. Well, it seems like December could be his lucky month as this past week he was able to meet his second “hero”, Temple Grandin. For those who don’t know who Dr. Grandin is, she is basically the Wayne Gretzky of the autism world. She also has a PhD in animal science and is the most famous (and influential) adult living with autism in the world. Cape Breton was very proud tp host a “Celebrating Abilities” Conference this past week with Dr. Grandin being the keynote speaker at the event. During the day I had the opportunity to hear her speak twice and chat with her briefly as she was very accessible to delegates after her presentations. The highlight for me was before the evening session when Matthew had a chance to spend some time with her one on one in the conference book store. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or what, but every time I saw her throughout the day she was surrounded by lots of people hoping to speak with her for a moment or have her sign a book for them. Matthew arrived an hour and a half before the evening session was to begin (I was confident and determined to make a meeting between the two of them happen).
As we walked down the hallway towards the book store we bumped into a friend of Mike’s whom I just had the pleasure of finally meeting at the conference (more divine intervention). We chatted with her for a bit and then I noticed that Dr. Grandin was in the book store alone!! Needless to say it didn’t take me too long to excuse ourselves and get in there.
I have never witnessed a conversation before between Matthew and another adult living with autism. It was nothing short of magical. For those of us not living with autism it would have appeared to be a very awkward, uncomfortable and meaningless conversation. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Dr. Grandin shook his hand and asked him about school. He told her of his favorite subjects and his love of animals. She asked about his interests and was thrilled to hear that he didn’t sit in front of a screen playing video games. He told her he was born years too late as he was a real old-fashioned, outdoors type guy. She told him to make sure he worked hard to develop good skills so he could get a good job and she said that his involvement with the volunteer fire department and 4H were great for all types of different social skills building. After signing a book for him, I thanked her and we went on our way.
Sounds like a pretty typical conversation, right? And it was except there was no direct eye contact by either one of them. At all. The conversation would start and stop very abruptly with no transitions or “fillers”. It was actually quite awkward for me. No idle chit-chat, no easing from one topic to the next, no beginning, middle or end, if you understand what I mean. They said what had to be said and that was that. It was just that simple. Point blank, the way it had to be, end of the conversation. No unnecessary “stuff”. He wanted to meet her and she allowed herself to be met.
Yet again, my son taught me something I could never teach him. My idea of a conversation is much different than his. Was his meeting with Dr. Grandin less meaningful than mine? Actually, after some reflection I think the opposite is true. I think the interaction between her and I was much more awkward for her than the interaction between her and Matt. I am an extrovert. I blow into conversations head-on and talk and talk and talk. This time was no different. My excitement of meeting her clouded my knowledge of how I should have approached her. I’m sure she’s somewhat used to it, but I got caught up in the moment and didn’t realize it until I saw her and Matthew talk. The conversation between the two of them was all that it had to be with no nonsense in between. Sometimes less is more and I witnessed that first hand.
While we were waiting to go into the session I realized that I forgot to snap a picture of the two of them. Matthew looked at me and said “Mom, I met her myself, I don’t need a picture, I’ve got the real thing in my mind.” Again, it’s just that simple. The stuff that is important to me really isn’t really that big a deal after all. Thank you Matthew (and Dr. Grandin) for allowing me to be there for probably one of the most profound meetings I have ever witnessed.
Now our focus switches to Christmas. It’s been different this year. No stress, no rushing around, no unnecessary short-tempers. Why is this? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m in a different frame of mind this year and I like it. I’m relaxing and taking every minute as it comes. I can’t wait to enjoy our first Christmas here at The Hideaway. Maybe it’ll even stay green so we don’t have to worry about anyone travelling back and forth. Here’s hoping!
Until next time…
**photo credit – PROPHOTOGRAPHIC