The Object of my Affection

LiamIt is a truth universally acknowledged that a Happy Chin on his way to day support must be in want of an object.

It’s usually a book or a magazine, but not just any book or magazine – Happy Chin is very specific, it has to be “that one.” Occasionally he’ll give me a clue such as “Up magazine” (airplanes) or Busy Boats (book, ripped to shreds by HC three weeks ago), but mostly he’ll just assume I know what he means. The trouble is I usually do know, and he knows I know. Happy Chin’s words aren’t very many (although they’re increasing all the time) but I am the person who understands him best, so I’m often the family translator. Remember the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? You put it in your ear and you could understand every language in the galaxy? Well, I’m Happy Chin’s Babel Fish.

So the search begins for said object, without which it is completely impossible to leave the house. The later we are running in the morning, the more obscure the location of the desired item. When Happy Chin is implored to help in the search, he helpfully wanders round pointing to rooms he hasn’t been in and leading me up blind alleys such as the shed and Mum and Dad’s room. Tech Support and the Lamington are pressed into service and ordered to drop everything and help look. I’m sure when they’ve left home one day they’ll have fond memories of the hours spent searching for their brother’s belongings. “Hunt the iPod” has become a favourite family game in our house. If only Apple would invent an iPod Nano that A. doesn’t cost $200 (we go through about 5 a year) and B. has a tracking device. It should also be able to survive being hurled against the wall and being wee’d on in bed. I must write to Apple when I get a spare minute.

Finally, the object is located and we can leave the house, hurrah! When we get to Day Support, Happy Chin inevitably throws it straight onto the roof or over the fence while I beat a hasty retreat, arriving at work late, panting and in desperate need of a coffee, mumbling something unconvincing like “sorry, but we couldn’t leave the house without his octopus.”

During Happy Chin’s school days the bus came to pick him up. The driver and teacher’s aides were wonderful individuals, and they put up with a lot, mostly with grace and humour. Most of us don’t have jobs where we get spat on, bitten and kicked on a regular basis. The people who work in schools (all schools) deserve our undying gratitude and respect, and when I am in charge, they will all be getting a pay rise!

But objects were a problem on the bus. Happy Chin was going through his Unpredictable Throwing Phase. It only lasted 18 years. If you are a parent of a special needs child, you expect to cop your fair share of books or toys to the back of the head, but you really can’t have staff and other students exposed to this kind of risk, it isn’t fair. So every morning when that bus pulled up, we had to divest Happy Chin of his objects at the front door. Dear Reader, I’ll leave it to your imagination to work out how much fun this was.

Hot water bottles, hardback books, full mugs of tea, a guitar, his accordion – all potentially dangerous projectiles. Soft toys, balloons and pillows were suggested and firmly rejected. Happy Chin wanted to take the cordless drill.

Or else he wanted to take Dirty.

Dirty is Happy Chin’s word for the toilet brush. When we were first toilet training him as a little boy, he was fascinated with the toilet brush and would grab it.

I would say, “Don’t touch. Dirty.”

Happy Chin didn’t know about punctuation and interpreted this as “don’t touch dirty.”

So the toilet brush became “Dirty” for ever after.

Happy Chin is still completely fascinated by Dirty and will carry it around and even kiss it (ewww) if he is allowed to. I have tried interesting him in the bottle brush, the feather duster and the vacuum cleaner brush to no avail (although he does love long cobweb brushes and will demand we buy one each time we visit the $2 shop. I wish he’d use it on the cobwebs, but hey ho)

One friend said, “Why not buy him his own Dirty and then he’d have a clean Dirty to play with?” An excellent suggestion, but do we really want Happy Chin walking through life clutching a toilet brush? I mean, people stare enough as it is.

This obsession with unsuitable objects reminds me of a book I read years back, which was penned in the 1960s by the mother of an autistic boy who loved pink rubber washing-up gloves. He used to wear them on his feet. He also quite liked to go about naked and was fond of absconding, especially at night. She’d call the police and explain the problem, and they’d ask, what does he look like? She’d say well, he’ll be naked and have pink rubber gloves on his feet. You can’t miss him!

So we’ve hidden our Dirty. If you want to scrub the toilet in our house, you have to go out to the shed and rummage around behind the surfboards, carry Dirty in in utmost secrecy, furtively clean the loo and then bolt back to the shed to stash it before Happy Chin sees.

When we visit other people’s houses and HC find their Dirty, it’s Game On. I then switch to UN negotiator mode and when that doesn’t work, I bribe him with treats.

I always swore I would never bribe my children. Then I had children.

Actually, I prefer to think of it as compromise. When you’re running late for work, dash upstairs to do your hair and return to find the entire contents of your linen cupboard on the hall floor, the overwhelming temptation is to sink to your knees and cry.

But you don’t have time for that. You must square your shoulders, straighten your spine and compromise like mad.

“OK, you can take one flannelette double bed sheet set to day support if you get in the car now.”

“No, you may not take three flannelette double bed sheet sets to day support.”

“OK, you may take ONE flannelette double bed sheet set to day support AND I’ll buy you a coke on the way home IF you get in the car NOW.”

Fast forward to a week later. I am standing in front of the linen cupboard scratching my head. I then place calls to day support, Happy Chin’s group home and the grandparents – have you by any chance seen a flannelette double bed sheet set? Blue striped? No? Would you mind awfully looking on the roof?


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