March 8, 2020 by whirlyjoy
Coronavirus in the autism trenches
The Dragon Lover and I returned from a cruise on the Mexican Riviera to a city bereft of toilet paper and Clorox wipes; the former being of particular concern to me given the GI issues that have plagued me for the past six months. “How can we already be out of toilet paper?” the DL asks, every time he sees “TP x 4” reappear on our shared shopping list app. We had to buy the non-premium packages left on the shelf at Trader Joe’s next to the gaping hole where the soft stuff usually sits. This quality is scratchy and disintegrates easily and is noticeably detracting from the quality of my days. Still we understand we’re lucky to have made it off our ship and home with nothing but a cough and runny noses all around. The cut on Gman’s big toe didn’t even need stitches, despite the copious bleeding.
While Seattle is steeped in a blended Elizabeth Warren dropped out slash COVID-19 response ranging from panicked (stop crying, you’ll spread germs!) to angry (not enough testicles! I mean testing kits!) to resigned (what hope is there now?) — you know who couldn’t care less about any of those things? Aida’s focus remains laser-sharp on what matters most, which this weekend was her lunch of chicken tenders and french fries at Shari’s Cafe and Pies, followed by her chocolate chip cookie at Starbucks.
Shari’s claims to serve housemade pies and I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on that, but have learned when it comes to other choices that deviating from an egg and hashbrown breakfast order, no matter what the time of day, is never wise. On the other hand, there’s usually live entertainment; this week it was a young man in oversized army fatigues and tiny black hip-hop shoes who was using the booth nearest the door as the staging area for a personal hygiene-themed interpretive dance piece. A campy, strangely elegant spectacle of stripping down to camo tank top followed by deodorant application in long, sultry strokes. That man owned his audience, every one of us rapt over our gray coffee — except Aida, who simply continued to ask me when her french fries would arrive. He was ultimately persuaded to exit the restaurant by a small posse of waitstaff, leaving me with an even greater tipping dilemma than usual.
Aida ordered her own cookie at Starbucks, using her TouchChat app on her iPad with “full support” as IEP-style language would put it, meaning I prompted her to every step; and with the same full support she paid for it using a gift card given to her at her 21st birthday party. The cashier, bless his heart, signed thank you to her, and she signed thank you right back, so that’s a massive win in our world.
Before we left I took her back to the restroom with me. Leaving her alone isn’t an option, and I do appreciate Starbucks’ large, accessible WCs where I can sit for whatever length of time necessary (did I mention my GI issues?) and she has space to spread out and amuse herself while she waits. Often she enjoys running the hand dryer, flapping joyfully in the warm air. This weekend though, with viral concerns in our city at a new height, she chose instead to lean in to the mirror over the sink and kiss her own reflection. Repeatedly, wetly, delightedly.
There was nothing I could do about it in that moment, seated a couple arms-lengths away from her. Instead I count on the high-octane immune system she has powered up, over years of rubbing her hands on various surfaces and substances, and then licking them. “You can’t let her do that!” teachers and therapists and other kids at the playground would tell me, constantly. Their voices came back to me as I sat there, but without the impact they once had of loading me with guilt and inadequacy. Aida is the one in charge.
My other outing of note this week was my annual mammogram. The clinic had boasted of a new machine, and I’m impressed at how it’s more uncomfortable in use than any of the prior models I’ve had intimate relations with. There’s an additional clear panel at about face level that forced me to pull back from mid-shoulder while my gal pal remained clamped flat on the other side of it. So here’s a health concern that I worry about: when Aida has grown to the ripe old age of needing breast cancer screenings, what kind of “full support” will it take to get them for her?