I've got an idea... Why don't I write a blog post back in July declaring "we're back", and then write nothing for three months? Brilliant...
Sorry once more for the silence. I hope this post explains it.
We'll start with the good news... Next week The Boy returns to full-time school for the first time in twelve months. New school has been incredible so far - outreach at home, visits, trips to the cafe and crazy golf, meeting other students, all before he's had his first lesson. The Boy is beyond excited, and was even disappointed to discover it was half term and he had to wait a week longer. It's been lovely seeing him enthralled about school again, especially after everything he's been through. As for Dad? Well, Dad's a bit more reserved. By the time you get to school number five, you become a bit more hardened to it all. I'm nervous - nervous about trusting another group of people, nervous about it all going well for the first few months as it always does and then... and then. Like most things in life, only time will tell.
It's been a difficult 2015, and it's thrown things in the air a great deal, for both of us. As mentioned on a previous blog, the book is now scheduled to be released early next year. I'm incredibly proud of it, not least because for once in my life I bloody finished something I started, although I keep wanting to rewrite vast sections of it. But the book was always easier to wrap up than the blog - by its very nature it had to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and I was always clear in my mind what the end would be. The blog... the blog is trickier. This one was always going to be an unfinished story.
Here's the thing that has made updating the blog so difficult. The blurb on the right of this page states that The Boy is twelve years of age. He isn't. He turned thirteen many months ago, but I haven't updated it. I don't really want to. A 5ft 10in hormonal teenager who has been through a pretty horrible time forced to spend every day with his miserable Dad for reasons he can't understand in a flat that isn't really big enough for the two of them... you get the picture. Let's just say I'm sure Laurence Llewelyn Bowen would have a field day with the lounge. And yet I don't feel I can write about any of it, because I absolutely know The Boy wouldn't want me to, and the alternative feels like I'm sneaking off and doing it behind his back.
I don't want to paint a picture of absolute desolation - there have been good times over the last few months. We spent some incredible days in the summer when we drove across to France with friends, we even managed a trip in an aeroplane and braved an all-inclusive week in Bulgaria (one of the benefits of Dad's school - cheap, term-time holidays), and we've had laughs and moments of absolute joy. But if I just write about the golden times and conveniently forget to mention the dark shadows that have loomed across every snapshot like a forty-a-day smoker's lung x-ray, then I paint a picture of our lives that just isn't true.
I can't tell you what a joy it has been to come and sit at the computer, and write. As a child I remember writing stories about a superhero insect called Super Goodlebug, or about some other creatures I came up with whose name escapes me now but who lived in the fridge and tried to escape Electra the wicked witch who lived in the freezer and wanted to turn their world into ice. I'd forgotten the joy those stories gave me, and writing the blog has brought back the magic of those times once more. It's taught me to look for the positive when it isn't always there, and despite the current difficulties I have no doubt that it's been the very best thing for both of us. Having spent a lifetime of people telling you how difficult your child is, or how challenging... having people see him for exactly who he is, and what he's capable of, it has been nothing short of extraordinary.
But for now, it must come to an end, at least in its current form. I want to write honestly about what's happening, and I just can't do that at the moment. The teenage years are fraught for so many reasons, and I must respect that. For now, The Boy's story will remain his. In my wildest dreams I imagine me and him sitting side by side in years to come looking back and writing a reflective account of this period together, but that will be entirely his choice. Who knows?
My plan is not to disappear though. Now The Boy is returning to school, I have more time on my hands. I plan to write weekly (maybe that's a bit ambitious, let's start with fortnightly) about different things, mainly autism and disability related. I will of course let you know how The Boy is doing from time to time as well. I may well revisit past times in our lives too, looking at when The Boy was younger, I don't know yet. I'm looking forward to writing, and we'll see where it takes me, and I really hope you'll stick around as well. I hope you understand the reasons for this decision.
As for the show? Well, The Boy is still twelve in that as well, and has been for some time. I've loved going out and performing it, meeting other parents, adults with autism, professionals, and just remembering to look for the laughs once in a while. As unconventional as it is, it's been my respite. It's been a chance to give something back too - the show has raised over £30,000 for numerous autism and disability charities. I haven't shouted it from the rooftops before, but I've never really charged for it - if you are a registered charity or support group looking for a fundraiser, if we can make the dates work I'll come along for travel expenses. So for the foreseeable future the show will continue, but once again the story won't be updated - The Boy can live on as a twelve year old Peter Pan for a little while longer.
Right, I've banged on enough. For those who have stuck to the end, it felt right that I give the last word to The Boy. He's happy I share this story with you...
A few weeks ago we went to visit Nana once more (I do parent on my own occasionally, honestly). The Boy loves to go off for a drive with Grandad and Monty, the dog. Each trip is the same - they head to a spot by the river where they climb a stile and Monty paddles in the water. The last time they went, Grandad sat on a nearby wooden bench, and asked The Boy to sit with him.
"I'm not sitting on a grave", The Boy said indignantly.
Grandad was puzzled. "Come and sit down", he said, encouragingly.
"No! I'm not sitting on a grave", The Boy replied once more.
"Come on, keep me company", said Grandad, getting more and more bemused.
"Not on someone's grave!!!" The Boy said. Finally, he pointed to a small brass plaque in the middle of the bench.
Grandad peered over to read it. 'In Loving Memory of Ala....'
Thank you, for more than you'll ever know.
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.