Monday, July 14, 2014

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

Last night, we took Conor to a minor league baseball game at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Maryland.

A local nonprofit, Pathfinders for Autism, coordinated a Free Family Fun event (sponsored by Morgan Stanley), for families with a loved one on the spectrum. I volunteer for Pathfinders, and this is one of many fun events we put on.

(See how I seamlessly worked in that plug for Pathfinders for Autism and our event sponsor? Smooooth. 'Cause that's how I roll.)

Conor loves these kinds of things, you betcha he does. He loves himself a community outing. So I slapped on some lipstick, we threw his backpack in the car, and headed 32 miles north to visit the Ironbirds as they took on Auburn. Conor rode shotgun, as usual. (Best position to play with the GPS. He's still obsessed.) I sat in the back with our typical 12 year-old son, Aidan, who ignored me and then quickly fell asleep.

10 miles into the trip, and my husband glanced back at me as I played with my iPhone in the backseat. "Check Conor out," he stage-whispered to me.

I tore my eyes away from my Facebook app and looked at Conor. My son was staring straight ahead at the road, taking a break from spinning the dial on the GPS and looking up addresses in Montana. (I don't know why Montana, just... Montana. He likes the zip codes there. Shrug.)

"What am I supposed to be checking out?" I stage-whispered back. I don't know why the hell we were whispering. He's not deaf, for crying out loud. He can hear us.

Too bad Conor wasn't dressed
this dapper when he
did his little Twist.
But it was a
baseball game,
after all.
Wait, what? What was that? Conor's cheek twitched and then his whole body did this little jumpy thing. Then he grabbed the library book he insisted on bringing on the trip (he never reads), and he shook it several times. A few seconds later, again, with the twitching and the jumpy and the shaking. Twitch, jump, shake shake shake. Twitch, jump, shake shake shake. Twitch, jump, shake shake shake. His own little involuntary version of The Twist.

Damn Tourette's. Months and months without a single tic, and then... guess it's back. It comes and goes. He doesn't have the worst case, but it does mean additional medication and sometimes the tics make him cranky.

I went back to looking at my phone, this time entering the date the tics started up again since we're seeing the neurologist in a few weeks.

We continued on to the stadium. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the game, but I didn't glimpse a second of it, really. See, Conor doesn't like to sit and watch baseball games. He lives for the food and entertainment.

"Excuse me," he barked at the Pathfinders for Autism staffer at the front entrance. "Do you know where is Rita's Italian Ice here?" Shelly kindly pointed the way. We trailed closely after him.

Conor wants to know when he can drive.
No, Conor didn't watch the game. He ping-ponged back and forth from the Rita's Italian Ice to the corn on the cob at the Seafood Shack (mmmmm, butter) to The Claw arcade game and back to popcorn. He posed with the mascot and the stadium sponsor's mini-monster truck, then bumped into the other patrons as he meandered around the small stadium.

He veered right and left, bobbing and weaving toward whatever caught his eye, unaware of social conventions like boundaries, right-of-way, and that invisible bubble of space people carry around with them.

In public, we try to keep him within arm's reach, to rope him in when we need, but it can be challenging. Still, most people were patient, and it wasn't too crowded.

And, lucky guy, he met retired Baltimore Oriole B.J. Surhoff, who also volunteers with Pathfinders for Autism, but Conor was more interested in getting B.J.'s pretty blonde wife's digits. "What's your name?" he asked her. "Do you text?"

"C'mon, lover boy," I muttered as I put my arm around his shoulders and turned him toward the exit. "Time to head out."

This is not the Ironbirds mascot. It's some steakhouse's mascot.
Conor still wanted his picture taken.
One of his in-home aids is from Kansas, so she gave him
this t-shirt from her last trip home.

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