IMG_5491So here’s the upside – he can’t run-away.  He can’t break a vase.  He can’t be the one to blame when something goes missing.  Little consolation for having Cerebral Palsy, but hey, when you’re the little brother, and you can’t get blamed for the messy playroom that’s definitely something!

I don’t have to go looking for Dane because I know darn well where I left him.  He might have made a move from the couch to his room (with a little help from his Daddy or Grandy) but it’s incredibly unlikely he’d be anywhere else that I wasn’t aware of.  This has lead to a comfortable routine.  Though this particular week, our low-key routine was turned completely on its head.

A death in the family brings family, and LOTS of it.  We have the room, we have the heart, but we also have two children that react to company in ways that are completely unpredictable.

A six-year-old with autism is a creature of habit.  Only weeks before my son Jett had spent New Years locked in his bedroom because the other children were ‘touching his things’ and ‘didn’t like him’.  Who knew what a house full of ‘touchers’ might bring…

The doorbell rang and the floodgates opened.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters poured into the house like family should.  But strangely enough, Jett didn’t hide.  Dane didn’t cry.  They laughed.  They played and they did what any other little person should have done.  They enjoyed themselves – so much so, that the nervous, conditioned Mama I’ve become actually relaxed just long enough to have a good time too.

Rumor spread quickly that Dane was stinky.  I knew the drill.  I beat feet to his room, the ultimate playroom, to change him before the stinky situation could cause snickering giggles.

When I walked into Dane’s room I looked directly at his ‘blue seat’, a duct tape covered, early intervention donated, foam padded ‘feeder chair’ that he had had for many, many years.

He wasn’t there.

I immediately turned back towards the living room assuming his Daddy or Grandy had moved him to his ‘Red Chair’, a much larger feeder seat that his fantastic and frugal Daddy had purchased through eBay just a few months earlier.

He wasn’t there.

My heart stopped.  Where was he?  Not one time, in five years, had I gone to find my baby and simply not found him where I had expected him to be.

But now is now.  There is there.  And he simply wasn’t.

I shook my head and closed my eyes in classic cartoon style.  But when they reopened I still found him, inexplicably, not there.

“Where’s Dane?” I blurted half panicked – half curious as could be.

The chaotic and casually crazy atmosphere took pause for just a moment.

“He’s hiding.” Stated his 13-year-old cousin Mikaelah.

“Hiding?” I questioned.

“Yeah.  We’re playing hide-n-seek.  He’s hiding.” She motioned with her chin towards his gated bed.

“How’d he get in there???” I asked, slightly breathless.

“I put him there.  His Dad said it was OK.”

“Good Lord child.  You know he’s almost 50 pounds???”

“I do now!” Mikaelah laughed.

We walked over and she leaned in to move him to another hiding spot.

“Oh, well OK then.” I mumbled still taken aback.  “Just hang on a sec. I need to change him real quick.”

I was so afraid he would be embarrassed that I had to change him.  I thought he would be mad that I had walked all over his newfound independence.  I was terrified he would identify me as the person who was limiting him from doing something as simple as playing a raucous round of hide-n-seek.

Instead, Dane looked over at his cousin and spoke loud enough for the rest of his cohorts to hear, “I’m gonna have to sit this one out guys.”  Then he looked up at me, smiled and said, “Thanks for changing me.  You’re a great Momma.”  I looked back down into his gleaming eyes, breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Piece of cake – cause you’re a great kid.”