Oh, the places I’ll go

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“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ~ Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

As a young adolescent my favorite place to go was the thrift store.  I would beg my parents incessantly until they would sigh in resignation and drive me there.  I always exited with a full bag…of books.  It makes me think of Dr. Seuss’ book Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

In the past four days I have completed four books.  This is a treat I rarely allow myself but after weeks of Accounting 101, learning a new digital program for a deadline and creating two months worth of financial reports; I was done with having to think.  I needed a break.  And so I read.

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My unofficial reading marathon began on Friday with the teen; who did not have school.   Upon returning home I could hear the bored sighs of my son as he vacantly stared at his computer screen.  It was 11:00 AM and so I decided it was “date day with Mom.”  First came the groaning and moaning ‘But I don’t want to go anywhere Mom.  What if I see someone I know?’ but with the promise of food he quickly changed and we set out.

As we sat perusing our menus I looked across the table and the years melted away.  I recalled a day in kindergarten, as we waited in a local coffee establishment, for his 3 y/o brother to be picked up from preschool.  The youngest, still an infant, was nestled in his carseat asleep and my heart twinged as I asked my firstborn about his half-day at school.  He wasn’t chatty; even then, but happily would drink and decide what to eat.  You’re a big boy now, in a big school.  I’d tell him.

Then came the moves and through the years I have watched this son transform many different times.   The waitress came to take our order and I was about to prompt the son when he surprised me.  He conversed with the waitress, succinctly ordered and then turned to prompt me.  As the menus were taken away I asked him what he had been working on before we left and decided I would remain quiet and listen with intention; for most teenagers don’t want us to talk, nag,  or lecture them.  They just want to be heard.

As he continued to converse the realization came over me…this kid is smarter than I and when he asked me what I thought about Schrodinger’s Cat Paradox; I had no idea what he was saying.  I have since caught up on this paradox…the idea that a cat could be both alive and dead at the same time based on theories in quantum mechanics by Dr. Erwin Schrodinger.  As we bought ice cream at my favorite coffeehouse; the barista, a philosophy major, had a great time explaining this to me as my son nodded in agreement.

Later we perused our local bookstore to pass the time.  I found the book I have chosen for our bookclub to read; a random find that fit all of my critieria: light, love story and some science.  To my surprise and delight it was $1.99 for all e-reader forums for the other nine girls to read.  I had fretted my choice to choose a current book, easily found in a library amongst some hefty and heavy reads.  The customer service lady had walked me to my book above and said her co-worker highly recommended it.  This same co-worker appeared and recommended another book to me that she had just completed.

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I read the inside cover of The Rosie Project and discovered, to my surprise, that it was also about Asperger’s.  And all the stars aligned and I heard the “aaaaaahhhhhhh” in my mind.  This book was meant for me to read and the other book she recommended, the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, also touched on this subject matter.  I had not known either of these books were about this higher functioning form of autism (most people think of the movie Rainman) and when I asked the woman why she was interested in Asperger’s; she looked vague;  and so, I stopped questioning.  I grabbed both books and returned to my son as he read his book choices.

The son before me has, for the last four years, undergone testing to rule out the diagnosis of Asperger’s.  And this week I will attend an IEP (individualized education plan) for him to be officially taken off of it.  I sat across from him, grinning broadly, at the events that had taken place within 20 minutes in a bookstore.  It had already been fortuitous that the book I had chosen fit all the other criteria for bookclub.  The fact that it was cheap and about this subject matter was the icing on the cake.

Asperger’s is on the autism spectrum of symptoms.  These individuals do not necessarily exhibit the more traditional forms of autism (limited speech and social interaction, repetitive movements/behaviors and sensitivity to sounds, touch, etc.) but tend to be less coordinated in their motor skills, can be  socially inappropriate, lack empathy and become fixated on a single subject for a long period of time.  Words are taken very literally with phrases such as idioms.  People that are identified as Asperger’s have the ability to be mainstreamed into the regular school curriculum and have higher cognitive function with some accommodations.

This son has always had difficulties in transitioning and, even at age six after our move from kindergarten, went through counseling.  People tended to dismiss my concerns and said it was the effects of  military kids going through many transitions.  My son never qualified for services but I angrily watched as he became a target at his new school; which became exposed explosively on a soccer field during a game.   It was then that I began to advocate for my son, who after an extensive investigation at his school, was the victim.  The father of the other child was a boy scout leader; trusted by many.  From that day he could not look me in the eye after he had angrily thrown accusations at my son and us, on a busy soccer field.  It is a day none of us will ever forget.

Just last month a group of parents continued to trash talk a teacher at our elementary school.  I remained quiet as they continued to feed off each other but chose to speak up when a parent brought up an incident which involved my eldest son that occurred two years ago.  I know parents all have blinders as to how they see their children and hers could do no wrong.  Instead I decided to shut her up and shared that the teacher they were all trashing stood up for my son; after being told multiple times he was retarded because he had been undergoing testing to rule out Asperger’s.  This immediately and effectively stopped all conversation on this topic as I knew it would.

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These thoughts continue to percolate in my mind; bubbling to the surface.  It is allowing me closure on this chapter in our lives.  The son above is no worse for the wear and finally understands what is important and who his true friends are.   I, the mother, have advocated and discovered new things, encountered wonderful teachers and learned important lessons along the way.    Reading the two Asperger’s related novels affirmed many things and the son that I have fretted over has now become a very normal, mouthy, and gregarious teenager.

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Another book that the above son read for school, and I for bookclub, was Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief; a novel set in WWII in Germany.  I was surprised the book was classified as Young Adult since the content reads more for a mature audience.  Our bookclub has attempted to watch this film but it is shown in limited theaters for a short amount of time.  We have been surprised there has been very little press or discussion on this bestselling novel and have missed the showing of this film at our local theater.  So when my girlfriend called to say it was playing at a $3 theater on Sunday afternoon I texted her back,  Let’s do it!

The three of us (she took the above cell shot) found ourselves sobbing once again (we had just seen Saving Mr. Banks two weekends prior) as the book came to life.  Unlike a few novels we have read; this screen adaption stayed true to the story and was a joy to see.  I wished I had brought the son above for his reaction.  We will definitely have to rent this when it goes on RedBox.  It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  Thanks girls for that!

For MLK the hubs and I ventured outdoors on our own “date” day at the bookstore.  I grabbed the books below and continued to read Flowers for Algernon.  This book was recommended to me awhile back from the woman who I look to for reading inspiration; my very well-traveled Chinese girlfriend.  The title had seemed familiar and it dawned on me; as the eldest had me proofread his essay on this same book.  Unfortunately, I discovered how it ends and had chosen not to read it.  But since I was having a reading marathon and the subject matter seemed to fit in with my “theme,” I picked it up and quickly became immersed.

I am so glad I read this book; a novel from Daniel Keyes published in 1966.  I grilled my son over the content but soon learned his 8th grade English class had a teen abridged version.  This book has a lot of deep seated issues that continue to plague us to this day.  When the last page was read I closed my Paperwhite Kindle and decided the marathon was over.  The emotional rollercoaster I have traveled in these last three days has been more than enough.  The last time I read three outstanding books back-to-back was early last year after reading Cutting for Stone, The Fault in Our Stars and The Language of Flowers.

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Books are my way to escape…to allow my mind to travel to faraway places.  From Outliers I have discovered I, as a parent, practice concerted cultivation, in The Rosie Project I laughed and cried as we discern what social norms are important and what are not.  the curious incident of the dog in the night-time delved into the darker aspects of spectrum disorders and Flowers for Algernon completed the weekend with the moral, ethical and psychological issues of how our society handles those with severe mental retardation.   I chose to put the Accounting for Dummies book back on the shelf to take a break.  That’s why we hire a CPA to handle our business financials!

I think I’m ready to get back to the mundane details of our normal week once again.  Whew!  I will save Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed for later.

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