The sun was shining Sunday afternoon and the thermometer read a balmy 40 degrees. A good day to stretch our legs at a nearby state park before the next storm hits in what feels like an endless winter. Clay, my wife, our basset hound Miles and I piled in the car with visions of clear trails running along the snow covered forest. Deer lapping quietly at the edge of the icy creek. Canada geese honking and splashing.
Turns out we weren’t the only ones with those visions.
Parents of a child with autism learn quickly that crowds are the enemy. Packed walkways, loud voices, restricted movement, stimulation from all sides. Meltdown. So, you go food shopping on Sunday nights. Visit carnivals and boardwalks early in the morning. Avoid malls, movie theaters, museums during peak times (or altogether). Don’t even get me started on Disney World.
Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you guess wrong.
The cars lining the road to the spot near a small waterfall where we like to walk were an ominous sign. The parking lot was full, but we were lucky enough to pull in behind a car that was leaving. Despite the crowd, Clay and Miles burst out of the car with the energy of a thousand suns. We decided to brave it.
This was the first trip to a park for our new dog since we adopted him last fall. We worked our way to the bridge that crosses the creek with Miles greeting all the other dogs, and there were lots of them—big and small—and happily rubbing slobber on anyone who wanted to pet him.
We were just headed up a hilly trail with people ahead of us and people coming in the other direction when Clay became agitated. Out came the keyboard he uses to communicate.
“What is wrong?” my wife typed.
“Headache,” Clay typed back. Code for: Too crowded. Too much activity. Head is spinning. Not having fun.
Message received. We dug a snack out of our backpack, and headed back to the car. We’ve learned the hard way not to fight the headache assessment. Didn’t turn out exactly the way we planned, but we had a great 15 minutes or so. No regrets.
Next stop, we guessed right.
Calculating that a non-sports bar restaurant would be deserted 30 minutes before the Super Bowl (we’re not big watchers of the game unless our team is involved), we pulled into a nearby chain for dinner. It was nearly empty. We settled down to a calm, peaceful dinner in a corner booth (restaurant nirvana). Took our time ordering. Even had a couple of cocktails. Clay ate everything in front of him. Serenity now.
Sometimes you guess right, sometimes you guess wrong. It’s nice when you guess right.