Jack: Tell me the Pop-pop story.
Nana: You want to hear what Pop-pop’s doing?
Magical Nana has come for a visit. And whenever Jack and Nana are eating a snack or getting in the swing, Jack says, “Tell me the Pop-pop story.”
Nana: Pop-pop is probably mowing the grass right now. So, he gets the key and unlocks the shed.
Nana: He opens the door.
Nana: Then he gets the red mower out. He turns the mower over and checks the blade. Does he need to sharpen it?
Nana: So, he turns it back over. Puts some gas in.
Jack: Glug, glug, glug.
Nana: Then he pulls the mower out of the shed. And down the ramp. And starts the mower.
Jack: Ticka, ticka, vROOM!
Jack is afraid of Pop-pop. When we stay at Nana’s house, it’s a real challenge for them both. Pop’s just not a natural with kids. His idea of connecting with a baby is to clap his hands suddenly and without warning very close to the baby’s face. Just not his forte.
Then, there’s the door thing. Pop likes to keep them closed. All the time. Jack likes to play with doors. Pop, meet your nemesis, Jack.
So Pop says “No” to all of Jack’s favorite play things. Like doors. And garage doors. Even cupboard doors. And sliding doors. And his No’s can be a little, ummm, intense.
So that’s been their experience together.
Until the Pop-pop stories.
Nana: And when he finishes up, it will be lunchtime.
Jack: What’s Pop-pop going to eat for lunch?
Nana: He will probably go to Hardee’s for lunch.
Jack: What’s Hardee’s?
Yeah. We don’t have much experience with restaurants. Too crowded. Too noisy. Too many blenders, grinders, mixers, and people. We have our base restaurant, the neighborhood pizza place … on Sunday … at 5:00 … when it’s empty. This year, we added Moe’s, McDonald’s, and Cracker Barrel. And then Jack heard the Pop-pop stories. When he heard Hardee’s had french fries, he was all for it.
So this time on spring break, we went for a short visit to Nana and Pop’s. Jack discovered the shed and the mowers. He explored their cars and scoped out the ignitions, speedometer, and interiors. He popped the hoods. He checked out the engines.
He asked Pop-pop what cars he’d had.
And Pop-pop gave Jack a set of keys.
On our way back from spring break:
Daddy: Where would you like to eat?
Me: Jack! There’s a Hardee’s!
Jack, sucking in air in an surprised O: Oooooo, what?!
We pull in and park the car.
Jack: Is this it? Is this Pop-pop’s Hardee’s? Is this a Hardee’s? Are we in the Hardee’s? Are we going in?
We go in and pee. Successfully. Thank you, God. And Miss Julie. We place our order and find a booth. Jack wants to sit near the windows to see the cars. I pull peaches out of his lunch bag and start feeding him.
Jack: I LOVE this Hardee’s! Thank you, Pop-pop!
And that was BEFORE we ate the engine fries. Oh, you didn’t know about the engine fries? Those curly shaped things that look like they might be the workings of the inside of a car?
And BEFORE he had a bite of cheeseburger with sesame seeds on the bun, JUST LIKE DADDY’S!
And, by the way, BEFORE I had a bite of Daddy’s mushroom swiss burger. Thank goodness we don’t have Hardee’s near us. For my waistline’s sake.
But I am seeing a visit to Hardee’s with Pop-pop next time we go.
Listen, people. If we can take two very different people like Pop-pop and Jack and find a connection that allows them to communicate and enjoy each other, every single one of us can make a connection.
That’s what it’s all about. April 2nd was World Autism Awareness Day and April marks the beginning of National Autism Awareness Month. Autism Awareness is about talking. It’s about us families talking to others. In our own families, in our neighborhoods, in our community. With our coworkers, our friends, and our schools. It’s about being willing to say the first word, to write the first sentence, to share.
You might not feel comfortable sharing. You might not be ready.
But when we keep the communication lines open, we all learn a little bit more. And love a lot more.
So, let’s keep talking. Okay?
I’m afraid you’ll have to find your own Magical Nana. Mine’s taken.