Ah, home... I've missed you.
It's all the little things that I'd forgotten about that remind me we're back...
Edinburgh, you were beyond brilliant. But being home is the best bit of all. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a Monsters University cup cake kit in the cupboard with The Boy's name on it. I feel a recipe coming on. It's been far too long...
So, The Boy came to visit me in Edinburgh on Tuesday for the day. I hoped he might stay over for the night, but the strange flat was too daunting and overwhelming for him. So his mum collected him later on that evening. It was still a brilliant day of marshmallow men, brown slugs in toilets and 3-D shadow puppets. I try to avoid cloying sentimentality in this blog (honestly, I do), and although Edinburgh has been an amazing experience, I've missed him more than I ever realised I would. And I find writing this blog difficult without him nearby. I feel like Barry Chuckle without Paul.
However, on Wednesday night I went to see something very special. The lovely people at Scottish Autism organised a show as part of the Fringe called 'The Tree and the Abbey'. It was a play telling the story of the history of Fife, acted by autistic adults. It was even better than I thought it would be.
It covered everything - there was music, dancing, singing, talking crows attacking scarecrows, elephants, circus strongmen, hot air balloons, a mining disaster and even the horror of war. Lots of laughter, and a fair few tears along the way. The performances of everyone involved were just amazing.
The impact of that play has stayed with me long after the actors took their final bow. Watching adults dealing with their lives with autism raised so many questions in my head. I've often wondered what kind of adult The Boy will become. And whenever I try to picture him, at the age of twenty, thirty, forty or beyond... I just get a blank. It often seems too frightening a proposition. Will some of his less savoury traits diminish with time? Will he live an independent life of some kind? How much will his cerebral palsy limit his mobility? Too many scary questions sometimes.
But watching that show filled me with hope. And hope is something we don't fill our lives with enough. I have no doubt that the road for many of those who performed on Wednesday night has been less than smooth - the horror stories of adult services, the difficulties of getting support in a time when autism wasn't as well recognised as it is now. Yet somehow, through all that, they were doing okay. They'd found their level in this world. There were so many times in the play when it was difficult to tell which was the support worker and which was the autistic adult. And they were the very best bits.
So although The Boy may be four hundred and thirty one miles away by now (who's counting?), on Wednesday night he was very much there. I saw glimmers of him in each of those on the stage. An eye movement. An out-of-time clap. A mischievous smile. And it made me realise that sometimes I spend too much time worrying about a future I can't control. Maybe, just maybe, he will be okay.
He'll find his level too.
So, after the show on Wednesday I caught the train to Glasgow and met The Boy for dinner. It's very hard writing dinner, because I'm a common Northerner, and it will always be 'tea'. You have dinner at lunchtime. But The Boy tells me off when I call it 'tea'. Dinner is Dinner. Lunch is Lunch. Yet another reminder that my son is posher than I will ever be.
Anyway, whatever it was called, it was the best meal I've had in a long, long time...
After the trip to his cousins, The Boy is now staying just outside Glasgow with The Mum, and his grandparents, Manga and Ah-Boo. Their names have stuck from when he was little - Manga was always his pronunciation of Grandma... and Ah-Boo is because Grandad used to always play 'boo!' with him. So, that was what The Boy christened him.
When The Boy got out of the car he looked like he'd grown about three feet since I'd last seen him. Standing tall... And spontaneously, he hugged me. And maybe I'm over-romanticising things a bit (Me? Never!), but it felt like a proper, full-on hug...
The Boy will often give hugs, but so often it can feel like they're devoid of anything, like he's going through the motions. Like it's just an action he's learnt, but there's no emotion behind it. A hug is just something you do if you want a Wagon Wheel. He leans with all his body weight on you bearing his head down on your chest. That's his normal hug. And maybe it was just because I hadn't seen him for over a week, but this felt like being wrapped up in him. "Fat tummy", he said. That's my boy...
We went for dinner. To an Italian restaurant. The Boy wanted burger and chips. Apparently I had to have the same. And so we sat in an Italian restaurant eating burger and chips. He spent most of the meal watching YouTube clips with his headphones in, every now and then pausing to poke me in the side or shove his hands into my face, but he was happy.
Afterwards we had napkin folding competitions (that sounds far more technical and creative than it was... it was pretty much seeing who could scrunch up a napkin the quickest). And although it would have been lovely to stay longer, he'd done brilliantly, and it was time to leave.
It's not a long goodbye this time... The Boy is coming to Edinburgh next week. I have a day off, he's coming to stay in the flat with us overnight. I can't wait. I've booked a couple of shows, the Netflix account is on standby and I've warned the kebab shop downstairs that they might have some stiff competition on the noise front...
So he got in the car to say goodbye on Wednesday evening and as he did he gave me another hug. I felt the weight bearing down on my chest as he leant with his entire body pushed on me as usual. But then he must have squeezed tighter than he ever has before. He must have squeezed so tightly, it made Dad's eyes well-up.
"Fat tummy", he said.
Well, I thought I'd better write something quickly before my nephew and niece start up their own blog and you all buggar off to read theirs instead! It will only be a quick one, I've got to get ready as I've got a dinner date tonight after the show...
Life has been good in Edinburgh, although it's taken a few days to adjust to. Sharing a flat with three blokes has been a learning curve... turns out that finally after all these years I've learnt that I don't like the toilet seat being left up either.
The show is going well, it's changing a little bit each day, and I've had some lovely, lovely people come along. There's been tears and laughter on both sides!
Audiences have experienced the thrill and delights of so many different people, from carrot farmers to train drivers. Albert Ross (don't ask!), the finest digger driver in the land, Paul the rockstar, Fred the explorer... dreams really have come true in that basement room in the middle of the day.
I've shared tender moments with my new surrogate fathers - David, Chris, Paul and Andy to name a few of them. It's fair to say some have stepped into the role of fatherhood far easier than others...
I just wanted to say thank you really to everyone who has come along. It's only been a week so far, but it's been a lot of fun. I will never be anything less than thrilled and delighted that people want to hear our story.
As for tonight's dinner date? Well, after what seems an eternity The Boy has arrived in Scotland. Talking about him each day and then going home and he's not there has been harder than I imagined. But after the show today I'm catching a train to go and meet him for dinner in Glasgow. And that will be the very best thing of all.
So, The Boy has been away to stay with his cousins. I have barely spoken with him as he's been far too busy for the likes of me. I asked his cousins if they'd write a special blog about their time with him, and so here I am delighted to introduce a world premiere.. the very first guest blog (with a tiny bit of help from their Mum and Dad) ... Take it away!
This is a blog about when The Boy came to stay with us. There are two of us: The-Cousin-Who-Only-Eats-Sweets, she's seven years old. I'm eleven and I'm The-Cousin-Who-Loves-Being-Ginger.
As soon as our cousin arrived the x-box was set up in my bedroom. Me and him played a game. He was good and I couldn't beat him. Then my other cousin, The-Teen-Cousin-Who-Likes-Moustaches played with my mum and they beat him. He got beaten BY GIRLS!!! Girls were not allowed to play for the rest of the week.
The first night was when I needed to follow The Boy's bedtime routine. This was really easy because it meant brushing my teeth for three seconds and squirting toothpaste in the sink. I liked his bedtime routine a lot.
On Thursday The-Cousin-Who-Only-Eats-Sweets gave The Boy a sweet from her jar. She let him take the biggest one: a giant pair of fizzy fangs. She's never given me a sweet.
These are The-Cousin-Who-Only-Eat-Sweets three favourite moments:
1. The time I slept in The Boy's room to keep him company when The-Cousin-Who-Loves-Being-Ginger went away for one night.
2. The Boy always eating loads of bags of Quavers from the machine at the swimming pool.
3. When he fell out of the hammock and just laughed his head off.
These are my three favourite moments:
1. Watching The Boy drive a powerboat on the river.
2. When The Boy gave me a massive hug at the cinema when I cried.
3. When he keeps saying “that’s just rude!” in his cockney accent.
It has been a brilliant week having my cousin stay with us on his own and we hope it will happen every year. The very best bit was when we all went swimming and we had a competition to see who could float the longest and ages after everyone else had given up he just kept on floating... and that is when The Boy became A Buoy!!
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.