Monday, July 8, 2013

The joy and anguish of flying a kite

After the school year ended we took a much-needed mini vacation, which ended up being a small family reunion. My mom had just been recently released from the hospital. My brother flew out from Colorado and my dad rented a beach house on the Oregon Coast for all of us. It was a nice time to gather together and just be a family for a few days.

Part of the trip we were dodging rain drops, and this was a picture I captured one evening as I enjoyed the view of the sunset over the ocean from our rental.


The boys had a huge fascination with the stairs, since our home is single level. They kept running up the stairs and sliding down them head first. They had tons of fun!


And then, there was the sleeping loft. It was a match made in little boy heaven. They got their own cool sleeping space that gave them an awesome view of what was going on downstairs.


And, when you have a really tall daddy like Titan, this is what happens when little boy feet are dangling through the railing...


I found my dad and Monkey hanging out in the sunshine one afternoon in the back yard.


And, after about 20 minutes of carefully negotiating our extremely sensory-sensitive Prince Charming into the water of the hot tub, I was able to capture this gem before I climbed into the water with the boys.


I love the Oregon coast. It is so picturesque.

 
And, now we get to the heart of our story.

In anticipation of our beach trip, I had purchased new Angry Birds kites for the boys. They had never had a very successful kite-flying experience before, so we were eager to test the new kites' ability to catch the wind.

After a quick tutorial with a short line, the boys practiced near us and ran around in circles. They had a lovely time. Titan then showed them that they could let the line out more and watch it fly higher. All they had to do was run to keep it in the air.


And that is when it went horribly wrong.

At first, I was enamored by the sheer joy on their faces. It was an astonishing moment of freedom for them. They were running with excitement and happiness. I didn't want the moment to end and was rapidly taking pictures of them to capture this milestone. I was able to watch their fun easily through the zoom lens of my camera.

I put the camera away for a moment to chat with Titan, and that's when it happened. We both realized exactly how far down the beach the boys had gone. And they continued to run, without stopping. They did not glance back once. Monkey was in the lead and Prince Charming was just trying to keep up with his brother.

Titan and I left my dad and brother behind as we scrambled down the beach as fast as we could through the sand. Each moment we traveled, the further and further away they got. After chasing them for what was likely ten minutes (that seemed like an eternity), the wind must have shifted, because Prince Charming managed to hear one of my bellows.

He stopped and looked back. Monkey was still running at full speed.

I used exaggerated body movements and sign language to tell Prince Charming that he needed to get his brother and come back to us. He seemed to understand, thank the Lord.

He ran off to catch up to his brother and started yelling his name. Monkey was far enough away he didn't hear him. Titan and I continued toward them, but knew that neither could hear us. After a few more minutes, Prince Charming managed to get close enough to Monkey to get his attention, and he finally looked back toward us.

Titan and I were wildly signaling with our hands to come back. He saw us. Both of the boys started heading back in our direction. Thank God. I never made it down the beach as far as Monkey did, and I swear to you it was probably at least a mile away from where we had begun. Looking back down toward our starting point, my dad and brother were barely distinguishable as dark specks on the sand.

When the boys made it back to us, we quickly reeled in the lines on their kites and had a stern chat with them. The long walk back was spent in silence. There were no smiles. No more joy.

It was a shame. They had no cares in the world as they ran along the beach, loving their kites, the wind, and the sun. What was a blissfully happy moment for the boys became something entirely different. Their freedom escalated into our intense worry over their safety, and our recognition that they lacked understanding of possible consequences.

After we re-joined the others and the boys settled into looking at rocks, I quietly excused myself. As I walked up the hill to the car, the tears began to fall behind my sunglasses. I stifled my sobs until I got into my car, and then I let it all out.

This was not the first time Monkey had wandered away with no regard for safety. One time he was brought back to us by the police after being missing for almost an hour with a full-fledged neighborhood search underway. It was a horrific experience I never wanted to repeat. Talk about a flashback.

It had been a few years since we had dealt with his complete disregard for safety concerns. Titan and I thought this portion of our autism experience was finally behind us. That hope was immediately crushed as I reflected on what had just happened with the kites and what could have been, had we not been able to get Prince Charming to hear us and understand that he needed to get his brother's attention. With Monkey's high level of endurance, rate of speed, and sheer distance he had on us, there is no telling where he could have ended up before he stopped.

I was snapped back into the reality of autism.

As I cried in the car, I wondered if any of it would ever actually be behind us. The rollercoaster of the boys doing well then not doing well, improving and regressing...it's all so exhausting as so many things in so many areas of their lives can be affected.

It made me ponder the big picture. What will the future hold for my children? It can seem so uncertain from day to day. I always hope for the best, but you can't help but go through worst-case scenarios in your head. Will my planning 20 steps ahead for things ever stop? Will my boys ever lead a "normal" life? I guess I have less certainty of that than I thought I did.

A day that started with so much joy, ended with anguish.

As we checked out of our rental that morning and went down to the beach one last time to fly kites before we left town, I certainly didn't expect our vacation to end on that note. And, I doubt I will ever look at a kite in the same way again.          

6 comments:

Jim Reeve said...

I hear you Cam. Sometimes when we get a behaviour under control, we almost tend to forget that it ver happened. But then it'll rear it's ugly head to remind us to be thankful for how things have become. I hope you have a good summer.

Melissa @ My Recent Favorite Books said...

I understand.
My Son is 22, and mildly autistic, and we have been thru some scary situations...

It will get a little better.. =)

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