Here’s to the pilot that weathered the storm. — George Canning

Joseph’s only been in second grade for a couple of weeks but it seems that, academically, this is where the feces starts to hit the rotating oscillator. Joseph asks me, “Can I go back to Kindergarten? Kindergarten was fun.”

Sigh. No, Joseph, you can’t go back. You must weather the storm as best you can, even as the intensity increases. That’s all any of us can do.

Tonight was Back to School Night, where the parents drop their kids off in the cafeteria to watch cartoons while they visit their kids’ classrooms and hear a talk by the teacher.

The cafeteria is not a fun place for Joseph. It is noisy and full of unpredictable kids. Blue Eyes and I discussed ahead of time that we might need to do what we did last year when Joseph couldn’t handle it: He and Joseph would walk around the campus while I visited the classroom. Afterward, we would go to the ice cream social as a family.

But life is messy, and autism makes it messier still. Joseph indeed couldn’t stay in the cafeteria for cartoons, so he and Blue Eyes hung out. Blue Eyes was feeling sick, so, after fulfilling his duty with Joseph, he went and lay down in the car. Joseph and I headed into the cafeteria for the ice cream social and stood in line. Around us kids loudly goofed around, and parents talked and laughed. The sounds ricocheted around theย  room with a life of their own.

Joseph’s shoulders edged up toward his ears. His jaw set and he started wriggling around, as if trying to physically remove himself from the situation. But the ice cream wasn’t far away, and he managed to keep himself together enough to attain the coveted goal.

I admire the way Joseph navigates the world, managing his sensitivities. In this case, Joseph wanted the ice cream but not the social. As soon as we got the ice cream, he suggested we eat somewhere outside the cafeteria. He chose a spot out by the playground. No one else around — just him and me. The sun was setting and the clouds were peachy fire. The goats nearby maaaahhhhed and the breeze blew softly on us. It wasn’t the ice cream social, but it was lovely.

Not a bad way to weather the storm, really.

He is starting to think about two things more often: God, and his future living situation. You know me — I’m loving the talks about God. Is God big? Yes, but he’s also teeny tiny. Did God make the rivers? Yes, but he also is the river. God is the drop and God is the ocean. And that big ocean? It’s completely contained in the drop. I could talk about this forever.

So far, Joseph envisions his future living situation like this: a house next to Blue Eyes’ and mine, one that he helps to build, with lots of pets and a swimming pool. Oh, and no girlfriend or wife.

Kind of like an ice cream social without the social.

Maybe this is how Joseph will navigate through his future. Maybe things will change and he will want that girlfriend or wife — or at least a housemate or two with skin on. I am willing to leave these things unanswered for now, and to honor the way my son chooses to carve out his life.

Though his choices may well navigate him out of the noisy cafeteria, I pray that — like tonight — he ends up in a place that feeds his body, stimulates his mind, and nurtures his soul.

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