Life, Autism, Disability, and More

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bowlingIt’s the only logical explanation for the way the last two Mondays have rolled.

Two weeks ago, we tried bowling for the first time all summer.

It was a roaring success! Sort of. The person I’d hoped to meet up with there couldn’t make it. That’s cool. I hadn’t let her know in advance, so it was my bad.

Simon had an awesome time bowling, didn’t want to stop until we’d managed all three of our games that had been included with our summer pass, and didn’t need juice or cookies to help him make it through. Awesomeness.

But.

When we went to get ready and leave, it turned out that his handy dandy notebook, something that he can’t live without, had gone missing. Where, I don’t know. When, I don’t know. All I knew (and he knew) was that it had vanished.

My plans of hitting Starbucks and a thrift store on the way home also vanished. I knew we wouldn’t be able to do anything until we got a new notebook, which was sitting in the closet at home.

Cue a hurried drive home. Grabbing the notebook. Much rejoicing!

One week ago, we tried it for the second time.

I knew in advance that the person I’d wanted to see there wouldn’t make it, but that was okay – two other people (that I’d never met before) and their kids would be there. Massive panic attack. New people! New people! Alert! Alert! I almost didn’t go, but then I pushed through. It would be okay. Simon wanted to go, and I couldn’t let my anxiety get in the way of that. Right?

We went. The new people were cool. Simon had a great time, even if he did start getting distracted a bit during the second and third game. Anytime I asked him if he wanted to leave or keep bowling, though, he went and got a ball and bowled. Nice.

The weather was a bit crazy. It had just been raining when we got there, but about mid-way through our time, the guy on the PA system announced something about tornadoes and power going out and having to go to the bathroom to hide. Not that that bothered my anxiety. Nope. Not at all. Okay, let’s be honest. It powered the shit outta my anxiety. I soldiered on.

When we went to get ready and leave, no problems. Said good-bye. Swapped shoes. Went outside to find out that it had turned into a gentle drizzle. All good. Whew.

But.

This time, we made it all the way to the car before the curse reared its ugly head. I started the car, settled in, heard the ding. It’s been dinging for weeks now, telling me to get it an oil change. I tell it to shut up. This time it wasn’t only telling me to get an oil change. This time, a new light came on. The light that tells me that one of the tires was low.

Did that mean I had a flat? I hadn’t noticed it when I got in. I drove out of the parking lot slowly. Didn’t notice anything. I knew there was a tire with low air, though, and I knew that if it was low enough for the car to notice, it needed to be fixed.

I went into the first gas station I saw that had a sign for air. It wanted $1.50 in quarters. Quarters that I didn’t have.

I went into the second gas station I saw that had a sign for air. It also wanted $1.50, but it took credit cards. Hallelujah! I got out, swiped my car, and waited for the air to turn on. I wanted a really long time before I realized that the air wasn’t working.

Again, I’d been hoping to stop off at Starbucks. This time, I stopped. What was the worst that would happen? I’d blow a tire in the drive thru and block everyone? I could live with that. I needed that coffee.

I drove home slowly, annoying other drivers around me. We made it home safe, and I figured we’d put some air in the tire later. (Which turned out to be another long story involving a missing tire gauge and unsuccessfully guessing which tire needed air and how much.)

Now it’s almost time for bowling again.

I’m planning on going.

Let’s hope that curse is finished with us.

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bowlin1Sixth place out of six, that is. Because sixth place is still worth something.

Don’t get me wrong. I grew up in a world without everyone getting a trophy. You had winners. You had losers. I played basketball (very poorly), and if I was lucky, they would let me in for the last minute or two of the game, when my playing couldn’t affect the final score. I was one of the official bench warmers. And I was okay with that because I knew I wasn’t good at it. But I tried. I didn’t expect a reward for trying. I would skip the award dinners because, well, I wasn’t getting an award, and the dinners weren’t really that great.

But that’s not the same for Simon.

Simon is in Special Olympics. This past Saturday was his bowling tournament.

bowling2In Special Oympics, everyone is included. Everyone plays.

Some of the kids there can’t handle crowds. Some can’t handle waiting. Some can’t handle noise. Some can’t handle sitting still. Some can’t walk. Some can’t speak.

And that’s all okay.

Because it’s Special Olympics.

The pledge they recite before the games begin is always the same:
“Let me Win. But if I Cannot Win, Let Me Be Brave in the Attempt.”

They are all brave.

They push past what makes it hard for them. Some of them wear special noise-cancelling headphones. Some of them roll up in their wheelchairs and push the ball down a ramp. Some of them need to have a coach or assistant down in the bowling area with them. But they do it. And they’re proud of doing it. And they have fun doing it. They have fun being involved. They have fun competing. They have fun knowing that they are being like every other kid out there – win or lose, they are playing.

So Simon got sixth place out of six. And he stood there, tall and proud, while they put the ribbon around his neck. And we stood there, tall and proud and taking pictures, knowing that he made it through another tournament, through all the things that normally would bother him, and through two hour of focus.


Bowling practice!

Bowling practice!

I know, I know, I just can’t shut up about the whole tolerance thing. But I really can’t. It’s too important.

And I was reminded of that back in December at the tournament for Special Olympics bowling.

It was an interesting morning. We got there on time, found out what lane Simon would be bowling on, and then settled in. Minutes after we got there, the boy sitting next to Simon pulled down his own pants and began masturbating. Whoops. The aide with him stopped him, and the boy sat back down, seemingly okay again. Time for the pledge of allegiance; everyone stood, the pledge ended, and the boy whacked Simon on the head. Hard.

For a second, we thought Simon wasn’t going to respond to it. He will sometimes get hurt, and then ignore it, like a toddler who falls down and only cries if a parent says something about it. This time, though, I think it was too much of a hit, and he started crying and getting upset. Not that anyone can blame him. I mean, if I’m standing there saying the pledge and someone whacked me on the head out of nowhere, I think I’d start crying, too.

The aide with the other boy pulled him away, and promised they would keep him away from Simon. We said fine because, hey, it happens. Patrick went down to the seats and held Simon, trying to calm him, and it took a while, but eventually, Simon seemed to be doing a little better. But he still wanted Patrick down there with him.

Another mother was also down with her son. No one was bothering anyone. No one was complaining. No one was unhappy (except for Simon, who was still getting over the random smack).

Then a different mother came over, looking for a Special Olympics official. She was unhappy because there were parents down with the children – how dare that happen! She asked an open question about why the parents were down there, and I explained what had happened with my son and that my husband was there with permission and good reason.

“Well,” she huffed, “what about the mother down there? Who’s she there for? Why’s she down there?”

I told her I didn’t know, and she continued her mission, finding someone to complain to about the nerve of some parents, and succeeding in getting the other mother removed from the sitting area.

I don’t want to fall back on a favorite saying of a friend of mine, because the saying is completely inappropriate, yet somehow it makes me giggle when I apply it to this situation. The saying? Snitches get stitches.

Really, I don’t think she should get stitches, but I do wonder why she felt the need to police other parents and other children. Aren’t we all in this together? Aren’t we all just trying to get along, get through, get happy? Why would you try to make someone else – and someone else’s special needs child – unhappy? Why?

Now, to be fair, I do understand that she was looking for just that: fairness. She didn’t want anyone getting special treatment. But sometimes the rules, especially for kids with more severe problems, are hard. Not being allowed to have a parent or aide with them can make it very difficult for them to compete. The bowling alley is loud, it’s overwhelming, and it’s very, very busy. The kids need all the support they can get. Yes, you want your kid to win if he or she is the “best,” but what about going with the theme of Special Olympics? If I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt…