Being the Bigger Person

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There’s a couple seats near the front of the theater, aisle seats nonetheless. The perfect spot for a trip to the movies with Cade. Outings with autism are best when carefully planned. Our seating of choice? The location that provides the easiest escape in the event of a meltdown. We take our seats, my son and I. Leaning over a big ass tub of popcorn I whisper, “Who’s gonna win?”

“Batman,” he replies.

Of course he would say Batman. The caped crusader is by far Cade’s favorite. Justice League has been on his most anticipated films list since Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And while he may have limited verbal skills, the look on Cade’s face following Dawn of Justice needed no words. “What the hell just happened to Superman?” It’s now one year, seven months and twenty-three days later and he’ll finally find out.

Physically, Cade is an adult — a rather large adult rivaling the size of many among the DC Universe. However, within his towering facade lies a child. Cade’s the tortoise and the hare wrapped into one fantastically complicated fable. Hopeful that slow and steady wins the race; I long for the day that Cade progresses emotionally past a four-year-old. Until then, I remain the parent of an individual old enough to know better, but young enough to not care. Doing as a four-year-old does Cade loudly announces, “Restroom, Daddy.”

“But we just went to the restroom buddy.” I respond. “Why didn’t you go then?”

“Restroom, Daddy,” he repeats.

Doing as the parent of a four-year-old does, I escort him to the restroom. Exiting the theater I place my 3D glasses above my head. Cade does the same. It’s the usual restroom visit: #1 or #2 followed by hand washing and waving side to side in front of a dryer sensor that doesn’t work. Wiping my hands on my pants I glance in the mirror. My 3D glasses have disheveled my coif. With my hands above my head praying mantis style, I work my hair back to the way I like it. Messy but not too messy; it’s my idea of controlling the uncontrollable. Cade stands next to me with perfectly-styled light chestnut locks. He has been blessed with a thick head of hair that just stays put. Observing me, he becomes a young praying mantis and he does the same. Messy but not too messy; the two of us head back to our seats.

My hands are always cold. My wife says it’s like sleeping with a vampire. Cade, on the other hand, is very warm natured. He takes after his mother in that manner. I place my hands beneath my thighs to keep them warm and I recline back. Theater seats have come a long way, I must admit. Cade’s eyes are locked straight ahead as his idol emerges on the screen. He places his hands beneath his thighs and he does the same. Reclined back, the two of us enjoy the show.

It’s a weekday evening so the theater’s less crowded. Cade stays mesmerized as comic book legends join forces. Immersed in superhero bliss, he remains focused.

“Beat his ass, Cyborg!” Cade shouts to the screen.

“Shhh…” I lean over once more. “Let’s use our inside voice.”

“Beat… his… ass,” he slowly and softly repeats.

Excited that Cade actually used volume control, I gave him kudos. “Great job with that inside voice, Doo-Doo.”

I call him Doo-Doo from time to time. I don’t know why. I just do.

“Bump it bro!” I tell him.

We exchange a fist bump and get back to the movie. I cross my arms in front of me and Cade does the same. They say mirroring is a subconscious behavior. They say we imitate the gestures, both verbal and nonverbal, of those that surround us. This is especially true of our closest friends and family. Cade, on the other hand mimics my every move in a very conscious and purposeful manner. Even in a room full of super friends, he’s watching my every move. It’s clear to me that if I want Cade to be a better person, then I must be a better person as well. My father used to always tell me, “Don’t do as I do. Do as I say.” He was a lunatic. I loved that man, but he was a lunatic. And while I didn’t do as he did, it was because I was smart enough to know better.

We live in a world where we think we can change people through insults. For some reason we believe that calling individuals rednecks or libtards will make them somehow see things our way. This is the same dumb ass mentality of drivers with road rage. On the highway as well as in life, sometime they’re the assholes and sometime we’re the assholes. If we expect others to take it easy when we unintentionally cut them off, then we must do the same. For it’s in our most frustrating and challenging moments that it’s most important to lead by example. Show them a better way. You never know who’s watching. As far as you adults with the childish name calling, leave the jokes for the comedians. In a world full of Jokers, be something bigger. Be the Batman!

Kelly Jude Melerine