On vacation last month I had a nirvana-like experience. And despite what the world or the travel industry might tell you, it had nothing to do with a rock band, a sexual escapade or a luxurious resort.
Instead it happened at my dad’s house in Sweet Home, Oregon. Yes there are really towns named Sweet Home. We make an annual trip to Oregon to see my family. My six year old son loves his Grandpa. So for a week he wears Grandpa ragged riding with him on his lawn mower, which my son calls his tractor.
On one of those vacation days when we had no agenda — no family to visit, no sights to see, we just hung around the house. It ended up being the best day of our trip. But we don’t really have any great photos to prove it. I guess you had to be there. Luckily, I was.
My son, who is autistic, loves repetition. He will do the same thing over and over and over. And over. He dragged me out to the garage and we pretended to drive every car on the property. First there was Grandpa’s truck, parked in the garage. Then there was momma’s van, our family car we had used for the drive to Oregon, sitting in the driveway. Plus there was Aunt Robin’s car nestled on the side of the house. For about two hours we ran from car door to car door. My son would hop in the driver’s seat and do the driving. He would push the buttons on the radio, turn the steering wheel and turn on the hazard lights. There would be a particularly broad smile of accomplishment on his face when he conquered the Cerebral Palsy in his hands and managed to buckle his own seat belt. My job was to sit on the passenger side and buckle my seat belt. He would occasionally ask me where we were going and I would make up something like “take me to my doctor’s appointment” or “I need sunglasses from Wal-Mart.” After a few turns of the wheel we had magically arrived. He would bolt out of the car we were in and run toward the next ones saying “Come on Dad. We’re driving.”
He was having so much fun. And of course like most 6 year olds he has boundless energy so it just kept going on and on. And on. But I didn’t mind. In fact, about 90 minutes in I got my nirvana experience. My whole body got warm and fuzzy from head to toe. I felt relaxed and content. It was one of those moments where you know mentally, emotionally and physically that you are exactly where you need to be when you need to be there. My son was happy and having fun and I was helping him do it. That could be the peace that passes understanding.
Unless we are at Disneyland for the day, or watching one of his baseball games, I don’t often get 120 minutes of consecutive time to devote to my son. Life is full of interruptions. This phone call or that pressing deadline. And honestly there are days where I don’t have the patience for 2 hours of straight repetitive play. But not this day. It was all “Come on Dad. We’re driving.”
Next time he asks me where we are going I am going to say “drive me back to nirvana, Son.”