Today was every autistic parents nightmare. I had a full tank of diesel and with Charlie and Floyd in the car I horrifying found that my card was declined at the local Tesco garage. My first thought wasn’t the embarrassment of the some twenty people waiting behind me but that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, that this was not part of Charlie’s routine and that I was moments away from having to deal with a serious meltdown. Ten minutes in the kiosk and my heart was racing and hands were shaking on the phone to Barclays as I peered out at the car and thought I could see Charlie gesticulating wildly, crying and shouting. The Staple Singers came on the radio in the kiosk singing ‘I’ll Take You There’. Laughing, I remarked in too loud a voice “Jesus, I wish someone would take me there!”. There were a few polite, nervous titters from the people behind me in the queue, probably wondering when the woman with the wild hair that I’d forgotten to brush that morning was going to get it together. Others rolled their eyes or scowled. Unfortunately I’m one of those people who say inappropriate things when they are a little nervous. I looked at them in the queue and thought bitterly if only they knew the half of it and I wondered what unspoken mire they were all dredging through that day. Twenty minutes in and I was close to imitating Basil Fawlty with his mini cooper. I was breathless with agitation and in a panic. Finally I was allowed to pay as the fraud restriction on my card, thanks to some dude in Thailand, was lifted. I bolted back to the car to find the inside an oasis of calm. Charlie, who hadn’t wanted a toy at Tesco and had opted for a Kelloggs cereal variety pack was engrossed in reading aloud the nutritional information and distribution addresses for each of the little individual packets. Floyd too was zen-like in the boot. A hairy Buddha. As there was nothing else to do but laugh I reflected that perhaps bad luck wasn’t personal or part of some grand plan for your life, just totally random, like I was little more than fluffy particle floating on a breeze waiting to bump into something.
A sense of humour has always served me well when we’ve been in troubled waters. I needed it during Charlie’s MIBG scans, when trying to avoid looking at the almost heaven-like illuminated ceiling above the scanner with blue sky and clouds, his sedated body below it strapped into the scanner looked like a corpse. As I thought how inappropriate it seemed to make it look like the bloody pearly gates a tiny noise arose in the room. The radiographers caught my eye across the room and we all looked confused. There it was again. Charlie was snoring. Blissfully unaware. And it was hard for all of us to stifle the chuckles. Inappropriate a moment or not, it was funny.
Then again on the day of surgery when pacing around Whitworth Park with a tear-stained face, suddenly from the boughs of the trees there sprang the sound of an African township which made me stand still. An installation by the Whitworth Gallery, I stood open-mouthed and listened to the sound of cattle, cars and voices shouting “Jambo!” and the absolute absurdity of that moment made me smile. Now when I think of surgery I think of Ghana and giggle.
And lastly on a riverbank this week we waded out looking for fish. We talked about salmon. And I got to thinking about that fish and the fact that it spends a large part of its life swimming upstream. I admire that fish. Some walkers passed by the on the bank and Floyd attacked them in a frenzy of kissing, jumping and wagging due sadly to his poodle genetics. Heading to rescue them from my over-zealous friend, Charlie began screaming behind me “Don’t talk to them! Kill them!!” and pulled us both down into the water. Floyd came running to our aid, the walkers ran away at the horror of us and Floyd’s bags full of poo that I’d been carrying bobbed away on the current downstream “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” Charlie fervently pleaded. Wet, stressed and looking round at my lot in life I replied theatrically “Do you know what Charlie? I am a salmon.” And we both laughed long and loud about that. Him because he imagined the head of his mum on a salmon’s body and me because that’s how I cope when the swim upstream threatens to overwhelm me.