Riley would have been up for the trip. Had Ryan been on board, we might well have spent much of Sunday in the car. But when we floated the idea at breakfast, he was not having it. It’s not that he has an aversion to car trips, he’s actually quite good despite the lack of stimulation.
What Ryan was not having was spontaneity — which I suspect will surprise exactly no one that knows a child on the autism spectrum.
His day was already planned out, and it did not involve a lengthy car trip — even if the payoff would have been the chance to see one of his favorite teams have the opportunity to close out a playoff series in person. He started lining up his reasons.
— From “Spontaneity? Not for Us,” April 23, 2012
Thursday morning, I left for work with no plans other than to finish a busy work week and enjoy a three-day weekend. All that changed when my friend C. offered tickets to that evening’s New York Jets preseason opener. He was unable to use them, and wanted to know if Ryan and I would like to attend.
It was late morning. Ryan was at camp until 4 p.m., so I couldn’t ask him. C. needed to know before then, and if we went, we needed to leave for the stadium by 6. In other words, this was going to be as spontaneous a trip as anything Ryan had ever done.
And Ryan doesn’t really do spontaneous.
I thought about it for a while. I asked Veronica what she thought. She encouraged me to take the tickets. I told C. “yes.”
My phone rang just after 4 p.m. I looked at the caller I.D. — Veronica’s cell. But before I answered, I knew it wasn’t Veronica on the other end. The conversation went something like this:
“Dad. This is Ryan. I want to go to the Jets game.”
“Awesome. We’re going to have a great time.”
True to form, the next question was about logistics.
“We’re going to leave at 6:15, right?” Ryan asked. He may have been up for a spur-of-the-moment trip, but he still needed the details.
I explained that traffic might be a problem. I was due home at 6 and wanted to leave as soon as possible to give us the best chance to be in our seats for kickoff — something else that has been a major issue at past sporting events. I decided to risk telling him.
“Ryan, we might be a little late,” I said. “I don’t think so, but I don’t know how bad traffic will be. But even if we are, it’s no big deal. It’s just a preseason game.”
It was as if I could hear the gears turning in his head as he hesitated for just a bit before replying.
“That’s OK,” he said. “It’s just preseason.”
I got home, rushed to change quickly, and we were out the door. We hit traffic. He saw the arrival time on the GPS getting closer to kickoff. He kept bringing it up, asking if we were going to be late, before immediately dismissing it before I could respond.
We talked about how long we might stay. He asked if we could leave early if he wanted, again, because it was just preseason. I have no doubt that if it was a regular-season game he wouldn’t even entertain such thoughts.
I assured him it was up to him. We could stay as long as he liked.
We pulled into the lot a couple of minutes before 7. We raced towards the stadium. A large digital display outside MetLife Stadium was counting down the time until kickoff. There were still a few minutes left.
“Dad, we’re going to make it for kickoff, right?”
I told him maybe. We still needed to get through security and find our seats. As it turned out, the gate we entered was right in front of our section, and we set down about 20 seconds before toe met leather to begin the game.
As he always does, Ryan asked all sorts of questions. He displayed a deft recall of the earlier three Jets games we attended, which left me both pleasantly surprised, and not really the least bit surprised, if you know what I mean. He remembered some of the game’s subtleties that I taught him to look for at previous outings. He asked about the unique aspects of preseason — the frequent substitution, the experimental rules.
The game was dull. Lots of penalties, punts, and snaps over the quarterbacks’ heads. It was a plodding 10-10 tie at halftime, played in front of a sparse, mostly lifeless crowd. It was your basic NFL preseason opener. Ryan was losing interest. At halftime, he asked about leaving early. I didn’t object. We watched a couple of second-half series before leaving late in the third quarter.
Such an unremarkable outing, and such a big deal at the same time. Because you know and I know about Not Little Things, of which this surely qualified.
Veronica brought it up in a text she sent me during the first half.
I was thinking of your “Not little things” theme. Amazing how he so quickly adjusted his plans, got totally on board & was ready to go. So freaking great.
Listening to sports-talk radio on Friday, I had to laugh about Jets fans grumbling about the so-so performance of their team. For me, it was anything but.
Just a spontaneous evening at the game with my boy. Such a little thing and such a big thing at the same time. Like everything, and nothing at all.