School starts Monday.
On my son’s last weekday of summer vacation, we headed to Lemont, Illinois, to walk on the Centennial Trail. We had trouble finding parking and a trail head but found the Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail instead and walked along the towpath for awhile. We got a really good look at a juvenile great blue heron before the flooded trail forced us to turn around and head back to the car and the original plan.
Eventually, I figured it out, and we walked along the Des Plaines River on the Centennial Trail. I got to see a belted kingfisher hover over the river for a fish, a first for me. Mostly though, I found myself thinking about how much I would miss taking a daily walk with my son once he was back in school.
My youngest son, recently fourteen and with Autism Spectrum Disorder, lives for summer vacation. I think all kids love summer vacation, but by August accept that school eventually has to get started again, and they are ready to see their friends on a daily basis. Not him.
My son, who’s okay with the actual schoolwork, would much rather do that work in a quiet room without society’s requirements to say hello to people, to pass though raucous hallways of fellow students, and to quietly ignore the persistent coughing of his classmates. Unfortunately, he has to learn to cope with life’s obstacles and unpleasantries, so it’s back to school on Monday.
Because of this walking resolution of mine, I’ve had an extraordinary summer with him, my walking buddy, exploring new trails and towns. Most of the places we’ve gone have been quiet, and it’s been nice to spend quiet time together walking and even driving to and fro.
He never complained that the drive to get to a walk was too long. He never gave me a hard time about the “duds”–the walks that didn’t turn out as planned. He always patiently waited for me while I looked at a bird through the binoculars or photographed a pretty field of wildflowers. The only times he complained were the times it was especially hot and sunny.
Most of our conversations this summer consisted of my answering his silly questions or his noting that the car clock showed a number palindrome, but that’s okay, because once in awhile he’d mention that he missed one of his siblings, he’d ask about his grandfathers (both passed away when he was five), or ask me about things when I was young. And those times made all the silly questions worthwhile.
I’m sure we’ll walk together this fall after school, and it will be nice, but this summer was special.