I realize that I tend to write about our seemingly miraculous (to me) progressions on this blog. While this is a wonderful way for me to document Daniel's progress, it is not very helpful for those people who want true to life information about autism. It isn't all wonderful leaps forward. Those of you who know us well, know that. I do tend to focus on the positive. It is what I need to do. It helps me stay positive. It helps me have a brighter outlook. It isn't all about me, however, and I would be remiss if I didn't occasionally give an example of painful (to me) stories. A dear friend of mine who has similar struggles to mine posted on my facebook something like, "you have had an incredible summer of wonderful firsts for Daniel!" This is not what she said at all, but it is the spirit of the comment. While that is certainly true, I continue to have a black cloud in my memory of this summer and I am hoping if I write about it, that black cloud will move on and out of here.
One of Daniel's favorite things to do is to go watch fireworks. This seems strange since they consist of loud booming sounds and he does not like loud surprising sounds...the only way I can rationalize this is that the visual stimulation waaaayyyy out weighs the loudness. He cheers and claps and yells out comments to the fireworks. You can't help but be happy about that! My favorite is when he shouts "BRAVO! MAGNIFIQUE!" It's funny. I endure fireworks for him. I actually hate them. For about the first 30 seconds I think "that's pretty", but then I'm done. I don't know why but them make me super uncomfortable. They have for as long as I remember. I get twitchy and want to bolt. Especially the stadium fireworks that are SO loud and so close. We recently watched those on our northern trip and I am the one covering my ears and cringing. I am fearful someone will get killed from them. I know. Super uplifting right? I can't help it. Every ounce of my being is saying leave! Run! Get out of here!
So this brings me to 4th of July week in Michigan. Our state government made the call to legalize all fireworks. You know, the kind that people shoot into the air and explode. The shooting off kind had been illegal here until now. In the government's infinite wisdom they thought they would capitalize on the sales and it would bring money to our state. Some people (very few) used to drive to Indiana to purchase these fireworks. But now they are available to all! Lucky us! (sarcasm font). All this really did was open them to everyone in the world and they were exploding all night all summer long.
Daniel always looks forward to the fireworks booths appearing in the parking lots of local super stores. We usually buy a package, but until this year those included only the legal fireworks that you light and they stay on the ground and throw out pretty sparks. Sometimes they made loud whistling noises. For the most part these are pretty safe and I would still make my kids stay back a ridiculously safe distance. Sometimes behind windows. I know, my husband thinks I'm nuts too. I am not a super crazy safety person, but as I've said, they freak me out.
This year the package we bought (when I say we I mean my husband Todd and Daniel) included the new legal shoot them into the sky and they blow up kind. This did not make me happy. We took them north with us (because in Michigan everyone goes "up north" all summer. That is what is said, you don't say where, just "up north". If you have ever been to northern Michigan in the summer you know why, if not you have to go there and see for yourself.) Michigan's summer has also been drought ridden. Seriously no rain. Leaving everything dry and ready for a fire. Fire also freaks me out. Blogging is so self reflective, I am realizing I have a LOT of issues! :) Anyway, knowing how crazy I am about all of these things we decided to bring our fireworks down to the beach. Away from people, away from dry grasses and trees. We decided we'd shoot them off by the water, actually out TOWARD the lake (Lake Michigan, so no small lake) and then the fiery part would fall down to the water and nothing would catch on fire. We brought a bucket to fill with water to put our extinguished fireworks into so nothing is hot. We did everything right. A group of us set off for the beach, including neighbors.
Daniel and I sat on a blanket, the kids were skipping rocks in the water waiting and watching the gorgeous sunset over Lake Michigan (you really should visit if you haven't). It was lovely. Once the sun went down Todd starting setting them off, shooting over the lake. My insides started to cringe and feel uncomfortable. I always just brace for it to be over, with a smile on my face. Daniel was happy and enjoying the show. Todd was saving the bigger ones for the end like usual, you have to have a finale right? Then it all started to go very wrong. Todd put the big box in the sand, aimed over the lake. It had not just one that shot up and out but many in succession, eight in a row? more? I'm not sure. He lit it and it shot out and up, but the force of the first shot made the base of the firework flip over in the sand, not toward the lake but inland. Toward us. It shot like a missle across the sand, low to the ground. Everyone else was way off in a different direction, but I laid down on the blanket, thinking "stay low" like it was gun fire (which it sort of felt like), I told Daniel to lay down thinking it would keep shooting above us, but he didn't lay down. He didn't understand what was happening and it was all happening very very fast. For someone who processes slowly, this is not good. He was still watching the show like nothing was wrong. I didn't move because I wasn't sure where to move to. Things were shooting off in all crazy directions. Then one shot right at me. I literally rolled out of the way and the firework skipped off our blanket landing right behind it. I was relieved for a split second until I realized it would start shooting fireworks in a second (everyone else thought it hit me it was so close) I started crawling away as fast as I could and yelled for Daniel to come. I kept crawling and didn't realize he was still sitting there. My neighbor and friend started screaming for Daniel to move. I don't even remember much of this, but he must have moved finally but he was yelling "why"? I think she ran and grabbed him? And in the midst of exploding fireworks all around us I realized that he had NO understanding of having to save himself. Part of me knew that he doesn't understand danger like we do, but seeing him sitting there with fireworks shooting around us and going off right by him and he just. doesn't. move. and wants to enjoy the show was so painful. While this was all going on in slow motion another one shot off and was a bit higher. High enough that it went up the beach to the beach grass. Oh yes, on top of it all, it hit the beach grass which immediately started on fire. Todd then took a chance and ran up and kicked the still going off fireworks into the water and thankfully he wasn't hurt. Our neighbor ran up to the grass and started throwing sand on it. Todd grabbed the bucket of water and ran up the beach and doused the fire with water on top of the sand. Then it was over.
We all took a breath and gathered our stuff and walked home from the beach. Talking about how lucky we were that no one was hurt. Thankful. I was a big ball of nerves and all I could think about was that Daniel didn't try to help himself. In fact, as he always does, he refused to move. Even with fiery projectiles coming at him. He wouldn't move. If he had been sitting where I had been he wouldn't have moved and it would have hit him. My blanket has a burn mark in it where I had been sitting well actually laying at that moment. The fact that he was 4 inches to my right made it not hit DANIEL then start blowing up. I was shaking so badly and this realization, while part of me knew it, but seeing it, changed many situations for me. We are working on his independence and pushing him into the world, but he doesn't have any concept that dangerous things are out there nor does he understand to move when it happens. That. is. scary. That changes everything.
On the way home Daniel was talking about how we would finish the rest tomorrow. In my head I was screaming NO WE WON'T! WE WILL NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. I was partially upset with myself, because I knew we shouldn't do it. I didn't want to and I knew my husband would tell me I was being silly. I didn't want to have anything to do with it and I didn't listen to my gut. But really I knew I wouldn't have won and I should at least be there just in case.
Once the neighbors quietly went home, and we walked into our house, Zachary sat down (who had been safely out of the way the whole time thank goodness) Daniel went upstairs to get ready for bed and I looked at Zachary and said, "I just want you to know we are never, ever doing that again." He just nodded. Todd was trying to downplay it still, and I know this is just so I won't go into a tailspin, but it was too late. I was long gone into one. It just wasn't showing on the outside yet. I was keeping it together in front of all of these people. Once we went upstairs I cried. And then I cried some more. I cried because of the close call we all had physically. I also cried with the reality of Daniel not saving himself. I cried because even after the fact he had no idea that anything bad had happened.
I told Todd I didn't blame him. We really did everything right. We had precautions in place. It was a freak accident. It happens. I guess to our State government I would like say this was a really bone headed thing to legalize these fireworks. No amount of revenue is worth the injuries that have happened and will happen in the future. I don't even think the state will get that much more revenue, but it doesn't matter. Accidents happen. You can do everything right and they still happen. I also know you can't live in fear, but you also can just not be stupid.
So among all of Daniel's huge steps forward this summer, getting a vaccination, doing a flip turn in the pool for the first time, talking about "that tire guy" without freaking out. Amongst over coming THOSE huge FEARS, he has no fear of fiery projectile explosives coming toward him and he doesn't understand it. And this is something that is really really hard to deal with, but a reality that I need to take into consideration from this day forward. It is my dark cloud over this summer. It still makes me cry when I think about it. Although I am so very thankful that no one was hurt.
I have of course talked to Daniel about the danger. I know he doesn't really understand it. When we were headed north a few weeks later he said to Todd, "we didn't finish our fireworks, can we do the rest?" Todd told him no we couldn't and Daniel said, "because it's dangerous?" and Todd said yes and that the rest are gone, he soaked them in water and threw them away. So that is the end. Daniel is saying they are dangerous, but we know, he doesn't really understand that. As a parent that reality is very hard to live with.
hands on - Last night, my dear friend Judith posted the following on her personal Facebook page. I asked her this morning if she would be willing to let me share it...
2 days ago