The scrub brush

Having a kid with Autism sure makes for some interesting birthdays.

Jacob turned fourteen last week and, typical of his prior celebrations, he maintained a real concern that there may be some people we come in contact with, or just in the same general vicinity, which remain unaware of the occasion.  If they are not, the responsibility of notifying them falls to me while Jacob carefully monitors that I communicate the information accurately.

This year I gave Jacob a scrub brush.  You might think that would have been received in a way similar to how the wife would react over a new vacuum on Christmas morning but let me offer a little background to clarify why this was a good idea.

I originally bought the world’s most perfect video game for my son. You start the game by building and equipping a monster truck. Then, you drive the truck to an excavation site and recover dinosaur bones. Next, you somehow revive the dinosaur – I’m still not clear on how that part works – and finally, you fight them against each other in an epic, Cretaceous battle.  Two of Jacob’s passions encompassed in one simple Nintendo 3DS cartridge!

Overly anxious, I decided to give it to him a couple days early on a Friday so he could play it over the weekend before heading back to school on Monday.

The moment my wife and I picked him up from school Friday, I announced I had a gift for him to open early.  Unpredictable kid that he is, he began sobbing with joy and repeating to my wife and daughter that I had bought him a birthday present. Sheesh!  It was as if I had never bought him a birthday present before. Let me assure you, I had managed to remember without fail for fourteen years straight.

Tormenting father that I am, I decided that since Jacob was clearly so overwhelmed by my generosity, I would see how far his amazement would extend.  I told him the gift was a scrub brush to clean out the bottom of the trash cans that he emptied on a daily basis as part of his required chores.

Darned absolutely unpredictable kid that he is, Jacob was absolutely elated at the idea of having his very own scrub brush.  As we picked up his older sister, the tears of true joy continued as he informed her of this special gift he was to receive when we got home.

Conceding defeat, I decided to come clean and explain that I was teasing him and the gift was actually a video game that he would really like.

Sometimes, Jacob is predictable and this was one of those times.  He was thrilled to have a new video game and the sobs and crocodile tears slowly subsided although he remained emotional over the game as well.

Minutes later, I was truly dumbfounded when he inquired of me in a very serious tone, “Dad, are you still going to get me a scrub brush?”

So I got the kiddo a scrub brush for goodness sake!

Actually I took him to the store and let him pick out the exact brush he wanted.  If only every kid in the world could be as happy with a dollar store scrub brush as Jacob is.

His birthday party went off without a hitch and was filled with other gifts far less exciting than the coveted scrub brush.  Monster trucks,  T-shirts, an also highly coveted ebay gift card and my personal favorite, the Air Hog remote control helicopter that shoots Nerf missiles 30 feet while in flight!  For those of you not familiar, an Air Hog helicopter weighs about an ounce and is composed primarily of foam to maintain the light weight.

I couldn’t…uhm… I mean, Jacob and I couldn’t wait to get that one home.  As we opened his gifts at home, it was clear that I was going to have to spend a significant amount of time, learning how to fly the helicopter in order to help Jacob learn to fly it himself.

I spent no short amount of time crashing, lifting off and crashing again while Jacob’s concerned comments of me breaking it resounded in the background.  My frustration grew – It simply made no sense to me how I was struggling so.  Obviously, there must be some bend in the propeller that occurred during shipping that was causing the thing to fly off course.  After nearly an hour, I gave up and admitted to Jacob that it must be messed up and we might have to take it back for a refund.

My concerns were answered by him lifting the helicopter off the ground, hovering in place and soon thereafter, chasing me around the room while I ran screaming from the whirring blades that, while dancing an elegant ballet in Jacob’s hands, moments ago refused to follow my own simple instructions.

The tragedy of the situation was not lessened by Jacob’s hysterical laughter joined in three part harmony by my wife and daughter as I ran for my life fearing that he might decide to try out the Nerf missiles on me as well.  Fleeing in terror, it was apparent that I was in this until the battery needed recharging as my threats of taking away his scrub brush fell on deaf ears.

© Michael L. Collins

*This column originally appeared under the name Birthday brush takes the cake in the April 8, 2015 edition of The Mountain Press.

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