Nat’s group home is changing. This is not terrible, it is to be expected. One of the families has a very different set of values and goals for the home, and so the other three have decided to move on. Naturally the bulk of the discussions among the families and our service provider has been about how the young men will deal with this change.
Ned and I figured that Nat would probably be okay with it, because he is actually pretty good with transitions and being flexible — at least in the more recent years of his life. But truly, I always felt that it would be good if Nat could be flexible — my other children as well — because that is the flavor of our family. I find it very difficult to plan things. I don’t like being pinned down. I also find it hard to focus on something that is several events, days, or weeks away when I still have to get through other things first. Ned is much the same; he lives a lot in the moment, and likes to lose himself in his sons, his projects, work, and house checklists. Planning vacations or dinners out, for example, has always fallen to me in this relationship. That took me a while to accept — I still tend to force these things on Ned — but I’m better at it than I used to be.
It makes sense that our sons are the same way. Nat, being the oldest, is the most familiar with how we fly by the seat of our pants. One would assume that because he’s autistic, he freaks out from our “rackety-packety” lifestyle (that’s my mother-in-law’s term), but this is not the case. We’ve changed many plans last minute, from which restaurant we’re going to, to deciding to stay an extra night on the Cape.
We moved a lot in our earlier days, and this was another change Nat had to adapt to. So it does kind of stand to reason that moving out of this particular group house would not be terrible. The big question we all had was how to tell our guys, and when.
John, the group home manager is just fantastic. We all love him. It turns out that he took the guys on a little field trip to look at a possible home, without telling them what he was up to. He assumed that they would not figure anything out. He was wrong about Nat! Nat moved 5 times in his boyhood, and then into the school residence, and then into this group home. Nat has come with me on real estate jaunts, to check out houses. He loves wandering through other people’s houses. So when John took them to the potential house, it clicked with Nat immediately. And a few days later he thought he heard Nat saying, “Move out of R___ Road.”
Oh my God, he knows! thought John. So he sat down with Nat and went over the whole thing, what was to come, and when.
I didn’t know about any of this until our meeting today. But it explained a lot to me. I have felt, for the last few home visits, that Nat’s light was somewhat dimmer, that he seemed kind of distant with me. Lackluster. Not interested. I was really worried. Was he depressed about something? Yes, I assumed…
So today I visited him in the afternoon, after his day program, and took him out to a big new mall that has a JP Licks (Nat’s favorite ice cream store) and also a Gap (what mall doesn’t?). John told me Nat needed new khakis for work and some button downs. Anyway, as soon as Nat buckled up in the car, I turned to him and said, “Nat, we have to talk about something very important coming up.”
“Yes.” And he was all eyes.
“In the fall, kind of when it’s your birthday, you and D and M and John are going to move to a new house.” I looked over at Nat. He was grinning his head off.
I continued to describe the house, and how it would be all the same guys, the same day program, the same John. Just the house would be different. “It was time for a new house,” I explained. “Sometimes people move to new houses.”
“Yes.” Giggle giggle grin grin.
Some things are pretty easy, it turns out. With autism, don’t assume stuff, and you may be pleasantly surprised.