When I picked Lucas up from school on Thursday, he seemed fine. He had an annoyed look on his face, but other than that, he was cool. He’s always cool.
My son is non-verbal with autism so asking him about how his day went isn’t really an option. His communication device, while great for requests, isn’t great for emotions just yet. All I have to go off of are his personality and the way he responds to things. On this day, his personality was even and his response was the same. Maybe he wasn’t the happiest ever, but nothing struck me as wrong. Again, he’s usually like this. Cooler than the other side of Elvis’s pillow.
Later that night, I was helping him step into his blanket sleeper and, before I did, I poured way too much baby powder on him. His teachers had mentioned he was scratching and I felt it would help. Unfortunately, baby powder has two exit strategies – nothing at all or cocaine montage in a Quentin Tarantino movie. This was the latter.
He began to make a face that looked like the precursor to a giant sneeze. It was cute, but my heart sank. I felt bad over the abundance of Gold Bond I had shaken into the air. Kneeling in front of him, I looked up at his face, which sits just above mine now in this position because he’s getting so big. I was about to say something when his mouth turned into a giant letter O. It was a face that every parent knows.
I went from zero to Adam Sandler in no time flat, screaming out, “Goooo!” Veering back just in time to avoid the massive amount of puke that came careening down, I watched in horror as it nearly hit me. After a few seconds, he was done. So I thought. There was a brief pause.
And he did it again. And again. And again.
I watched as it all tumbled to the ground. The poor little guy was in pain and his poor old dad had to clean it all up. I internally beat myself up because I worried my powder pouring had caused the massive regurgitation. He took a bath and I took my time with the awful post-puke washdown.
The next day, I kept Lucas home from school. He seemed OK. There wasn’t a lot of eating as I fed him bread for breakfast and a bagel for lunch. Neither meal seemed to matter to him and when dinner came around, he chose to stay on his iPad in bed. I figured he was just recovering. The next morning, he and his sister went back to their mom’s house. He was happy. In fact, he had been pretty happy the whole time. It made me blame the powder even more.
Right after they left, I didn’t feel right. It wasn’t some major ailment at first, but the gurgling and cranking we hear from our insides when something is about to go awry. Still, I didn’t think much of it. I had a few cookies and played video games. I told myself that I deserved a relaxing day.
That night, I was making dinner when everything hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t even think about food and had to abandon the cooking halfway through. My hands tingled. My stomach turned. My body was sweating like crazy. I couldn’t keep myself together.
It was now my turn to throw up. The scene played out exactly as it had two days earlier. This was a spot-on impersonation of what Lucas had gone through, only mine made it to the toilet. I kept wondering if it was something I ate or if he had given me a bug. Even emulating his exact vomit-moment, I still couldn’t tell if our issues had been internal or environmental.
After that dark moment on the linoleum floor, I slept a lot. It helped, but I still felt like a train had hit me. There was no way that Lucas could have had this. He was way too chill. This had to have been something else. What on Earth did I eat?
And then, at 2AM, from her mom’s house, my poor daughter texted me three words of pure sadness.
I threw up.
And in that moment, it all became clear. My son had been sick. He gave us this bug and none of us had been reacting to food or powder or anything else. All three of us were sick. This terrible thing that sent me running from room to room, doubled over and drenched in sweat, was the thing he had been handling like a trooper.
It blew my mind. Even in the preceding hours to his big stomach turning, he was going with the flow. There was nothing that would make me think otherwise. This was a ten year old boy handling a stomach bug that wrecked his full grown dad like it ain’t no thing.
When people think of someone who is non-verbal with autism, they think about meltdowns, sensory overload, and disability. For Lucas, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, he couldn’t complain about being sick verbally, but there were options. He could have cried and screamed. He didn’t. He pushed through because my son is not only one of the toughest little boys I’ve ever known, but one of the toughest people. I am in awe of him every single day. My little guy can hang with the best of them.
Sometimes, you have to experience what someone else went through in order to appreciate how they go through it. That’s what happened this weekend. Even now, as I am slowly crawling out of this thing, I think about him on his iPad the next day, clapping and smiling. It’s amazing. The whole world should be more like him.
Disability? What disability? My kid is tougher than anyone’s kid. Hell, he’s tougher than the parents too.