Life with Jack sometimes requires an exit stage left before the final act and other times, it's time to leave before the chorus has finished warming up. In some cases this leads to disappointment for his family, in other cases it leads to new, fun opportunities.
Our visit to my Aunt's house was a case of the former. We had driven to the birthplace of my mother in upstate New York, a place I had visited only a couple times as a kid. We attempted to take my children to see where their Oma grew up - corn fields now turned into sub-divisions. We got into town late afternoon after a fun visit with my cousin and his family outside of Syracuse and headed straight to my Aunt's house. She welcomed us very warmly and we had the wonderful surprise of another of my cousins and her youngest son who had just been accepted to college (Go NU Cats!). We got settled in for a nice visit and dinner of corn and beef on 'wick. The food, and the fact that there was a cub cadet tractor in the garage hit on all of my fond memories of my prior visit to my mother's home town. As we socialized and Katie dug into my Aunt's collection of grandkid-reserved babydolls, Jack began to let us know he was not happy. First this was just his vocal complaining. Shortly thereafter, he decided he didn't want to sit still. Now in our house this happens on occasion but is not much of an issue. Our house has a very limited selection of breakable items within reach of "long-arm Larry" (as his sister likes to call Jack). This cannot be said of most of the houses we visit with Jack, so his parents are always on guard.
We tried bringing Jack's wheelchair into the house to see if that would help as it frequently makes him feel better and calm down. In this case, no dice. Jack was done and wanted to go. His mothe, his sister and I were nowhere near done with our visit, but Jack was over this and was being very clear in his need to go. So I swept him up to sit in the car (which made him feel better) while his sister and mother wound up their chats. I don't think I got the proper chance to say goodbye to my Aunt, Cousin or her son or even thank them for a nice dinner. This is a cousin who I hadn't seen in years and who showed me endless hospitality while I was in college. It's an Aunt who I have not seen much in my life, but who I would have liked to spend more time catching up with. In short, a visit way too short for my taste. The postscript on the story is that Jack had a very good reason for wanted to leave (one which I will not go into) so I certainly couldn't be upset or angry with him.
We had another notable case of an early exit on our trip. This case, was in the visitor's center in the Grand Teton National Park. Jack, Katie, Jen and I all stopped in the Teton visitor center to check out the Native American museum and to check off some boxes towards Katie's latest Jr Ranger badge. The exhibits were really neat, but sadly the museum was not overly wheelchair accessible (Jack was very tired so was riding rather than walking). The downstairs was not easy to get to (I'll be honest, facing the stairs and not seeing an elevator I didn't get much chance to look for accessible options) so Katie and Jen headed down to look at more exhibits while Jack and I stayed upstairs. Jack and I did a second circuit of the upstairs which I was enjoying but which Jack was showing less and less patience for. I decided to throw it in and head outside to hopefully get Jack back to happy again. We navigated back out through the doors to head out to the parking lot and did a quick 3-4 laps of the parking lot looking for all of the bumpy spots (wheelchair offroading is rad don't let anyone tell you different). Jack started to feel better and dad had started to Shvitz as it was rather warm out. So I found a bench in the shade to have a sit and just start waiting for Jen and Katie to finish their activities.
This was the point where something somewhat bad turned good. Jack and I got to hang and he was back to feeling good. Normally he would want to be off by himself, but at this point he was down with hangin' with the old man. Now Jack is definitely an on again, off again interactor with others and so any time he is on again, I am thrilled. At this time, sitting on the bench in front of the Teton's visitors center I asked him for a high five and got one. Asked him for another and got another. Now we were having fun. We started a vicious tickle fight interspersed with high fives (OK an occasional "too slow" from his dad just to keep everyone on their toes). We probably had a half hour of playing together before Jen and Katie were done and it was some of the best times I had on our trip. For parents of kids with autism any interaction can be exceptional and this for me was really awesome and so much better than any museum.
Sometimes an early exit can be disappointing, leaving you feeling you missed the show. At other times an early exit just means you are the first one at the after party and get all the good drinks before they are gone. You certainly can appreciate getting to see all the acts when you can, because you never know when you'll need to head out to start a tickle fight.