While He Looks Ahead, I’ll Stay Right Here

Ryan's score sheet from the game
Ryan not only produces meticulous scoresheets like this one, he does play-by-play. Will one of these interests carry him to a career some day?

A while back I wrote about how autism has taught me to live in the moment, to ignore common timetables and appreciate the here and now while trying not to spend too much time worrying about what the distant future looks like.

I called the post “Microscopes vs. Telescopes,” with the analogy suggesting that I’m trying to view life through the former, hyper-focused on the present while avoiding using the latter to think about things beyond my immediate control.

Last night, as has become our custom, Ryan accompanied me to my adult league hockey game. He loves to serve as scorekeeper, tracking the shots on goal from the glass while I’m out there playing.

We had a great time, as we always do, and on the ride home I was thinking of how much progress this little outing represented — for both of us. Given the option, Ryan decided to come with me even though it meant being out past his usual bed time. That is not something he would have even considered not so long ago. My team gave up a lot of shots on goal — more than 60, in fact — and he didn’t let it bother him. He stayed focused on the game and was absolutely fine being there by himself.

As for me, I didn’t worry about him or his behavior — at all. I could hear him doing play-by-play, loudly, from his perch right next to the rink. Whereas once I would have worried about how he was perceived by the few other people watching the game, I no longer do. He wasn’t bothering anyone. He was clearly enjoying himself. And you know what else? He’s actually getting good at it.

While I was reveling in this joyous present, Ryan’s mind was elsewhere. I told him how someone at the rink remarked how good he was at doing play-by-play. Suddenly he was full of questions.

“Dad, how do you become a hockey announcer?”

“Dad, could you ever get fired as a hockey announcer?”

“Dad, do you have to root for the team you work for if you’re an NHL announcer, like Jack Edwards?”

I tried my best to answer all these, and more. I told him what little I know about how announcing works. How you have people to help you with stats and a director who talks in your ear. Ryan was curious about that last bit. How do you keep announcing while someone is talking to you? I told him that just like anything, it’s a skill you acquire through practice.

At the end of this exchange, for just the second time I can recall, Ryan told me he knew what he wanted to be when he grows up.

“Dad, I want to be a hockey announcer,” he declared.

Even though I was trying to revel in the present, this look at the future was music to my ears — because it was Ryan’s view, not mine. Is it far-fetched? Perhaps. But as well as being a play-by-play announcer, we talked about all the other jobs one could have, from Zamboni drive to goal judge to clock operator, that would enable one to watch hockey for a living.

Ryan told me that any of them sounded pretty good to him, but he’s going to focus on being a play-by-play announcer for now.

Given that Ryan’s level of focus far exceeds most people’s, I wouldn’t bet against him.

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