Freak Out

Laminator - Autism Moves OutIt’s been a couple of months since I posted.  Feels like about three weeks.

CJ had his fifteen minutes of fame and got quite used to his new normal of The Entire World Has Gone Green Just For Me.  A month after all the excitement, the “winning” touchdown, the TV cameras, and people wearing green body paint in the bleachers…well…all I can say is, thank goodness Christmas came right up on the backside of it all, because nothing less than Christmas could keep CJ’s enthusiasm for his own life up as high as it’s been.

I love everything about Christmas.  Love the decorating.  Love the baking.  Love the making gifts, the holiday shows, the lights.  CJ loves parts of it.  It’s overwhelming and overstimulating…but he absolutely demands we produce a Christmas tree and outside lights.  It’s mandatory.  He also insists on knowing when everyone one else is going to decorate their trees and houses, and waits impatiently for them to get to it.  Of course, just as soon as we get everything up and lit, he starts wanting to know when we’re going to take it all down. It’s a fine line, timing it right so he doesn’t build up too much of a head of anxiety on either side.

He also loves giving Christmas gifts to everyone.  As he’s never been voluntarily holiday shopping in his life, this means he is actually volunteering and offering step up for anything that needs to be made or done.

The fact that he is actually volunteering me to bake and knit and craft is completely beside his point.  He’s one jingle hat short of Santa CJ and I am his elf.  And now that his social life and contact list have blown up in the wake of all football excitement, my normal short list of teachers and neighbors turned into 30 containers of Christmas cookies plus extra for the coaches’ office.

I’m gonna need a bigger oven.

Along with the tinsel and lights and cookies came a phone call from my doctor.  I’ve had a place on my liver for about a year now that was concerning, and after a new round of internal close-ups (bad lighting, no makeup), while he thought it was benign, he decided it had to come out.

Well.  Merry Christmas to me.

At that point, everything became a blur.  Anyone who knows me knows that I am Douglas MacArthur, Genghis Khan and Judge Judy, rolled into one organizing, do-not-get-in-my-way-when-I’m-on-a-mission-or-I-will-roll-over-you-with-my-minivan Commander In Chief.  Suddenly, December 25 was just a stopping point on the way to mid-January, when I would have to actually set foot inside a hospital for the first surgery of my life.

Just for some perspective, I would rather give CJ a haircut and shave every day for the rest of my life than spend two hours getting hooked up and prepped for…anything.

So while my oven was turning out dozens of cookies, I began making lists.  Lots and lots of lists.  It gives me the illusion of actually having control.  Especially when I laminate the lists and I can see at least one over every major appliance and from any angle where I stand inside the house.  With lists, even if I didn’t make it through the surgery, I would still be there, telling everyone where to go and what to do and how to do it.

Meanwhile, Life, with a Capital L, kept on coming.

CJ got a letter, a cap and a signed ball from a Kansas City Chiefs player (that was a jaw dropper, and one of the nicest letters I’ve ever read).  Then he was awarded his football letter along with the rest of the team (didn’t see that one coming and another jaw dropper).  Then, and I am not making this up in a post operative fantasy, CJ was voted MVP by the entire team.  After I picked my jaw up off the floor yet again, I let the coach know I was concerned that a very deserving player on the team had missed out on the honor and I wasn’t quite sure what to do.  The coach, a man after my own organized heart, did a recount and realized that the second place player had voted for CJ too.  The whole team had decided.

I suppose it’s true that he did play in the only game they won this year.  We’ll take it.

CJ now moves the MVP trophy from his bed to his table in the living room to the floor in his bedroom, depending on wherever he is at the moment.  He holds it while watching “his” press coverage saved on our DVR.  He would sleep with it if he could figure out how.

I took Elizabeth with me to visit my sister in North Carolina.  I had seen snow once, but I never got to see it actually fall before.  My husband stayed home in Florida with CJ and we actually got to fly instead of road tripping with CJ.  I love my son, but it was crazy how unstressed I was.  There was a six hour flight delay and three hours sitting in the airport, and I just kept smiling and smiling until nobody wanted the seat next to me.

OH!  I forgot to mention that CJ had his first date!!  He took his Best Buddy to Steak N Shake.  Of course, this means that I had a first date too, as I went along.  I discretely sat at another table, far enough away not to cramp his CJ style, but near enough to hear now and then.  And take a few photos.  Poor CJ.

Mind you, his Buddy is drop dead gorgeous.  She won a scholarship pageant, plays basketball and has interviewed with Harvard and Yale.  She’s is bilingual, and is even more beautiful in the inside than the outside.  She told me later that CJ talked to her that night more than he ever has.  She told me that he told her all about how Elizabeth and I spent New Years at the beach.

Beach.  Snow.  Close enough.

Aim high, CJ.  Aim high.

Mercifully, school started back up, which gave me the time I so desperately needed to start really freaking about over my upcoming surgery.  Even ignoring my fear and loathing of hospitals and needles of any kind, there was still the fact that someone was going to carve on me, and me and a piece of my liver were going to part company.  And somehow, some way, the world was going to have to struggle on without me for at least a week.

This is exactly what OCD freak mode is for.

I typed.  I washed.  I shopped.  I scheduled.  I worked up directions for the oven, the washer, how to clean the floors, work the locks on the fridge and pantry, how to clean the bathrooms, use the microwave, use the internet and shop for food.  I stocked up on chicken nuggets and pretzels.  I emailed teachers.  I printed labels.  I made an entire notebook, and if it wasn’t in the notebook, it was laminated.

I was in my element…in my glory.  I eventually realized what I was doing was what is second nature to me now:  making sure that everything in CJ’s life was as close to unchanged and normal as possible.  If he knows what to expect and what to do, then he can deal, which means everyone else can deal too.  Surgery, smurgery.  I was preparing to delegate my role as Supreme Commander of the life of an person with autism, and Eisenhower on D-Day couldn’t have done any better.

And, thankfully, everything turned out fine.  All results came back negative, no one starved and the house didn’t burn down.  We couldn’t have asked for better, kinder support from friends, family, neighbors and our church.  I have had more offers of help than I could ever accept.  I have to admit, it’s nice to be needed.  But it’s also good to know that my family can step up when they need to.

Turns out, all this is cramping CJ’s style though.  He needs me to get back to normal as soon as possible so he can go on a second date.

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