Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#162 - Family, Holiday Camping, Allergies, and Road Trips

(NOTE: I know that for many, spending time in a RV does not constitute camping. However, at my age I appreciate no longer having to get up from a tent floor after trying to sleep on an air mattress while it loses air through the night.)

Let me start by saying I understand that the true purpose of Memorial Day is not so people can have a three-day weekend. However, the fact that it was a three-day weekend, coupled with the fact that two of my wife’s brothers were visiting from out-of-town, made it an opportune time to take the RV out of storage. So that’s what we did, taking the truck and fifth-wheel about 90-minutes outside of Boise to Bruneau Dunes State Park.

The good thing about a holiday weekend of any kind is that it provides an extra day away from work and the demands of daily life. The bad thing about holiday weekends is that even the nicest campground can begin to resemble a Wal-Mart parking lot, packed with dozens of other rigs, all of whom are now your neighbors (if not your closest friends). If you’re lucky, most of your fellow park residents will be courteous and not see your site as the perfect shortcut to the bathrooms, the visitor center, the picnic shelter, the hiking trail their friends told them about. You get the picture. This past weekend, we were lucky in that regard, although I suspect our site location – not close to anywhere campers might be interested in walking to – had much to do with that success.

Early evening view - 1st night
The weather was almost perfect for the last weekend in May – mid to upper 80s and sunny, though it was a bit breezy at times. However, the wetter than average spring we had (at least by Idaho standards) caused my allergies to interfere a bit with my enjoyment of being out with the RV. On the other hand, dealing with allergies in a scenic location, albeit it still miserable, is more enjoyable than dealing with allergies and still having to go into work.

While the park was too crowded for my tastes (to be expected as the holiday weekend usually marks the start of camping season here in Idaho), the weekend was enjoyable and relaxing but too short, as always. My wife may disagree, but I also think the packing up and hitching up to leave process went as smoothly as it ever has. (More so than our arrival as I again managed to forget something we planned to bring. I guess one of our trips isn’t complete unless that happens.)

Teresa and I also took the Tuesday after Memorial Day off from work so we could spend an extra day with her brothers before they began their trip home. Both brothers are into photography, so we decided a day trip was in order to see if we could find some location worthy of their cameras. (Plus, after driving the day before, who wouldn’t want to get back behind the wheel and drive some more?)

After a little thought, we decided to drive to Leslie Gulch, an area still fresh in our minds (at least in mine) as it had been mentioned a week or so prior in a local newspaper article as a worthwhile scenic drive. Leslie Gulch is located in Eastern Oregon just inside the Idaho border near the south end of the Owyhee Reservoir, about a two-hour drive (or thereabouts) from Boise. We ended up in a campground at the end of the dirt road, where we took pictures, had a snack, and met a couple from Georgia who seemed to know more about out of the way scenic Idaho locations than we did, and we have lived in Idaho since 2003!

Leslie Gulch offers up some
interesting rock formations
If you like out of the way locations with interesting rock formations, then Leslie Gulch is worth a visit. The dirt road in from U.S. Highway 95 is fairly well maintained (except, perhaps, in winter) and can be traveled in a regular passenger car, although a Jeep or Honda CR-V (or something similar) might make for a more enjoyable drive. The way in is basically also the way out, so there is also a second opportunity to capture any pictures missed the first time around or to retake shots with a little different lighting.

As I write this, Teresa’s brothers are somewhere between Boise and Western Wyoming. We enjoyed their visit and hope to see them again before too much time passes. I also hope they found some sights worthy of their cameras with which to remember their visit.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

#161 - An Open Letter to My Son

On Tuesday, our son Christopher turns 18, that magical age at which all of us become adults. This past weekend, we marked the occasion with a party at the local bowling alley. It was a small affair; the neighbor brought her son and daughter, and two girls Christopher invited from school were also gracious enough to attend.

Christopher said he had a great time, for which I am thankful. It did, however, get me to thinking about what is next for him. I know what I hope for him, but I'm never quite sure what Christopher wants out of life or if he thinks about it much. It's always been a tough subject to discuss with him. Perhaps, like me, he expresses his thoughts better in writing. So, I thought I would try writing down what I hope for Christopher and ask him what he hopes for himself.

Dear Christopher,

In a couple of days, you will turn 18. It is a challenging time and also an exciting one. Most 18 year-olds are preparing to graduate from high school and head off to college or perhaps to working life. As you well know, though, your autism makes you unique in many ways from others your age.

And yet, observing you at your birthday party on Saturday, I see that you are in many ways much like other young men your age. You have a strong interest in girls, and you know a pretty girl when you see one, judging from the two you invited to your party. You also have an adult sense of humor, one that can even be a bit naughty at times. (Your mention of being in a "girl sandwich" did take me a bit by surprise, I have to admit.) So, in many ways you are a lot like your fellow classmates.

You do also have your challenges - sense of time and money, being able to process information and respond in a timely manner. The latter sometimes makes you seem deliberate and thoughtful. At other times, it can be maddening. I suspect that patience will always be a struggle for those you come into your life.

Speaking of your life, what does it hold in store? What do you want to do with your life? What will be possible? I think all of us (teachers, aides, even us parents) have sold you short a time or two in your first 18 years. We have all struggled to determine what you are capable of and what you might be capable of in time. At times, you seem very mature and capable of great things. At others, I struggle to  hold on to the idea of you being able to live a meaningful life. I used to tell people you were 17 going on six going on 30, such are the emotional and intellectual shifts I've seen you make.

You have expressed an interest in varying things, some of them right in line with what many other young adults are interested in - a wife, a family, a career. I don't know how many of these will be possible. I hope all of them. Regardless, I hope you will be better than I was at celebrating the successes and dealing with the disappointments you will likely encounter.

At 18, your whole life is ahead of you. I hope you are able to articulate your dreams and make them come true. Where you are concerned, I've always believed anything is possible. I've no doubt it will be harder for you to make your dreams come true. But I've also no doubt that you are capable of much, probably more so than any of us give you credit for.

Your autism will convince some, perhaps many, that the things you want in life are not practical or achievable for you. Do not listen to them unless you become convinced they are correct, but decide that for yourself. Do not let them convince you. Fight for your dreams but also recognize that you will likely have to work harder to make your dreams a reality.

I know I have been hard on you at times, but it is only because I can see the potential for your life. Deep down, I've no doubt you are capable of making your dreams, whatever they are, come true. If you are willing to work hard at it and not hold on to the frustrations will will most certainly encounter, all things are possible. Dream big! Work hard! Love fully! Live!

Love, Dad