On dull hot days, we tour public pools and friendly condominium communities to check out pool depths. In-ground pools are his favorites, since above-ground pools are uniformly the same depth.
When not investigating pools in person, Tyoma searches for them on Google images. Forays into the Google universe are supervised, so I am at hand to endlessly confabulate pool depths.
Grainy motel pools, glamorous Hollywood pools, and floating thumbnails of pure blue water are classified by depth. The loveliest images he prints out for his mixed media “Google Pool Book.” He tenderly embellishes each picture with a silver Sharpie and label maker.
My son can spot the tiniest sliver of preternatural blue water in the most riotous children’s commercial.
“Mama! MAMA! Look! A pool! How deep’s the pool?!”
Tyoma’s head almost burst during the Olympics.
Hop. Hop. Hop. “How deep’s the pool?!” “How deep’s the pool?!” Twist. Bend. Hop. Hop. Hop. “FARTS! FARTS! FARTS! How DEEP IS THE POOL?! ”
I answer pool questions until the gears in my brain erode into blissful smoothness. These slick wheels spin fantastic answers until the novelty gives my brain the teeth to grind onward again.
“Two feet! Three feet! Seven meters! Fourteen fathoms!” I cheer.
Some might think I spoil my son. Shouldn’t I be teaching him skills that are useful to society? Skills that will help him function in the real world? In the real world, they might say, no one will indulge him.
I have some experience in the matter.
For seven years I worked with adult schizophrenics as a Psychiatric Rehabilitation Specialist. I taught psycho-social skills, an ironic subject for one on the autism spectrum. The big issues of life did not interest me–I was not a counselor or a therapist. My job was everyday functioning–how to live fifteen minutes at a time when cognitive demands overwhelmed my clients.
No “cure” exists for schizophrenia, but I witnessed many who turned their lives around and found a happier place. People faced with intrusive delusions and convincing hallucinations found new meaning. The secret was not the big picture—the career, the education, the house. The secret was the moment—a shared meal, a finished task, a sad friend comforted. Discrete bits of purpose strung across days added to a larger, braver whole.
Consider modern life. The medium through which I reach you abides because our climate, commerce, and resources precisely balance . If disaster struck, the former big things would crumble.
Humanity, once leveled, survives not just to eat, sleep, and keep warm. Humanity craves purpose.
My job was to guide my clients as they cut life in to small purposeful pieces. I do the same for my son. Special interests give Tyoma purpose. Resilience is taught by integrating pool-love creatively in daily life. If I show him abundant paths and approaches, he will travel to his goals in spite of obstacles. Drive and kindred spirits will never leave him.
So, I will indulge my son. We will harness his eternal enthusiasm to explore every aspect of pool depth.
Or…perhaps we shall nurture his new-found affection for hearing tests instead.