Grandpas and Demetrius
Periodically when I’m talking about the kids with my dad, he’ll say something profound.
Grandpas do this.
Sometimes though, it takes a special Grandpa to be profound about his autistic grandson.
I mentioned that Demetrius was organizing my day for when I get back to Alpharetta, that he had it planned that we’d go to McDonalds and run some errands. I chuckled. Dad didn’t.
Instead, my dad said to me last night, “That’s his way of bonding with you, spending time with you. When he has a plan and it is something he wants to do like that, he is comfortable and happy. He’s comfortable, and happy, with you, at that time. This is what he does.”
I’ve thought alot about his saying that to me today, and of course he’s right.
Since Demetrius has been diagnosed, the two people who seem to understand him best are his two grandpas. Both quiet men, but very different. Kim’s dad, Jim, a big ol’ farmboy that’s a gentle giant until you get his hair up…what’s left of his hair. My Dad, quiet and objective, a thinker and wise man, patient as anyone I’ve ever known. Both are good men from muscle to marrow. Both love Demetrius for what he is, not a minute have they ever loved him more because of what he is not.
Jim’s got two other grandsons, one is a champion athlete, a star in Central Kansas. The other is just budding into something of his own – as only a 14 year old can. Who knows what he’ll be in a few years. I think probably something exceptional, exceptionally unexpected.
So I wonder what he thinks of his third grandson? The one who doesn’t say too much but wants to play on his computer, and go down into the basement, where he works on his advertising specialties. Doing TV talk and sometimes flapping his hands (albeit so much less so than he used to).
I sometimes think that they have a bit of a special relationship. The two of them spend alot of time…well, just being together. They don’t talk – but since they are both gentle and a bit shy, they don’t have to. I’ve witnessed the two of them having a good time just ‘being’.
With the type As that Demetrius has in everyday life (Kim, Maya and me), maybe this is what Super D needs. Someone that can be just as quiet as he can, who can sit and read a book sitting next to Demetrius as he plays on the computer – making Demetrius much more content than I think I ever could with my over planned, what’s the next goal in life drive.
Once we were walking along the quiet streets in rural Kansas when the boy was much younger, maybe 4 years old…and he was running ahead of us down the street, flapping a bit and holding his toys in each hand. Jim sensed that I was getting a bit nervous. He just said to me, “You know it is okay, don’t you? He’s going to be just fine.” I thought to myself, “maybe.” And I still think that, “maybe.” But the maybe at times changes from whether he’ll ‘maybe’ be fine in life…to maybe I’ll be okay accepting a few things that I haven’t yet accepted.
I’m now not so sure Jim wasn’t talking about Demetrius, and much more about me and what I needed to realize…and am still trying to.
We tease my Dad that he might be on the Spectrum. I promise all of you right now he’s got next summer planned out for our week at the beach. It is 20 degrees outside right now, but when it is 90 degrees and just as humid, he’ll be thinking about when he can see the kids during the winter. He likes plans. He likes yellow legal pads. He likes to have it all worked out to the best it can be.
My dad was the first person other than Kim to tell me he thought something was ‘different’ about Demetrius. The family story is that I told him he was right. He was deaf. No one would believe me.
To prove the point I brought the silverware out of the drawer and dropped it behind him as he watched Toy Story. D never noticed. Dad never responded or agreed – or disagreed for that matter. What I failed to realize is that he realized that regardless of what we thought, something was wrong. I was upset that noone believed me and my non-scientific tests on my son’s auditory reactions. He was concerned that I was missing the bigger point.
He let me vent, and then he waited until we (mostly me) got our arms around more testing.
D’s not deaf. I was deaf to the real issues at that time. My dad remained patient and knew I’d get there.
He approaches all of the issues two-fold, what do I need from him as my father – his son dealing with his special needs child, and what does Demetrius need from him. He’s never cared that Demetrius can’t handle sports or still has the interests of a four-year-old at times. He revels in Demetrius’ happiness, not in what he wants his grandson to revel in.
He seemed so happy last year to be watching Demetrius at the soccer game regardless of whether or not he played. He was happy that Demetrius was outside, I think, trying something new. Maybe he sensed how hard it was for Kim and I to watch Demetrius, when he won’t engage or just let the ball go by and went into his ‘bubble’. He knew that we want Demetrius to desperately ‘interact’ with other boys, as the other boys literally, not figuratively, seem to be running past him in every way possible.
Once the game ended, he just asked Demetrius if he wanted to go get breakfast and then go to Target. All wins in every way for the boy. Grandpa just understands this. Grandpa understands the overall effect creates a good day for the boy – the stress of the soccer game is balanced out by a trip to IHOP and new action figure, and then watching some SpongeBob. Much like my father-in-law, my Dad can just sit with Demetrius. Did I mention they stayed at a hotel that night, went swimming in the indoor pool and ate pizza, while Demetrius watched movies on the ‘little’ portable DVD player?
Demetrius told everyone it was a great day – Grandpa knows.
Maybe in 20+ years I’ll be able to understand a bit better the calmness they bring to dealing with the boy and his ticks. Maybe I won’t because being a parent is so much different than being a grandparent.
MAYBE, I should just go and sit with Demetrius while he fumbles with his Happy Meal toy at McDonalds, versus trying to get him to go play and interact with the other kids who scream and yell as they climb around so effortlessly. Maybe I should think about what makes him happy periodically, rather than just what his goals should be for interacting and ‘not being autistic’.
That would be hard for me.
Thank God for Grandpas, it isn’t hard for them…. because they make it so easy for Demetrius to be Demetrius.
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