Drawn to water

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I remember it like it was yesterday.
Just thinking about it makes my heart pound in my chest.

We were living in Pennsylvania at the time.
Down the hill from my Nana.
She has an above ground pool that we would walk to in the afternoons and swim in.
The boys loved it.
They’re like little fish. They would swim for hours and hours.

But the boys can find water without even knowing it’s there.
Baths, sinks, toilets, cups, creeks, puddles… we moved to Texas and Justin started wandering. So instead of stopping him, I followed him to see where he’d take me. He found the beach. He didn’t know how to get there from where we were. We hadn’t ever gone that way. But he found it!
If there’s water, they’ll find it.

When Tyler was about 1 ½, we lived in a trailer and didn’t have central air… so after it had gotten REALLY hot and Tyler couldn’t sleep, I put an AC unit in his window.
His window was about 6 feet from the ground.
So their Dad put it in from the outside while I was inside hooking it up.

I’m sitting there… looking at it.
My kids are little houdinis. They can get out of just about anything.
So I’m looking at it, trying to see if there’s a way he could get out of the house while it’s in the window.
I shook it.
Pushed on it.
Pulled on it…
It was a little rickety… but it seemed like it would hold.
It’s getting close to bedtime.
Still not totally convinced that it was Tyler proof… I figured I’d find a way to make it more sturdy tomorrow.
At least tonight he’ll be able to sleep.

Once his room cooled off, I laid him down and it was the first time in a long time he actually slept through the night.
So good, that he slept in.
I woke up to Justin giggling in his room.
I got up.
Got Justin up and taken care of and put him his highchair with a drink then headed to Tyler’s room.

The AC was on the floor and out of the window.
Kicking myself I thought -Ugh… lovely. You should have tried harder to fix it.

I looked around the room, “Tyler? Ohhhhh Tyyyylerrrr?”
I opened his closet door. “I found y—”
He wasn’t there.
I looked around the room.
“Tyler?”
My heart started beating faster.
“Tyler??” My voice growing louder. Picking up anything he could fit under.

I looked out of the window. There were toys on the ground. But I didn’t see him any where.
I ran out of his room.
“Tyler!”
Running through the house.
“TYLER!!”
I ran outside…. Looking around…  
We’re surrounded by woods…. And because we’re in the middle of nowhere, people drive really fast on our back country road.
All I kept imagining was him dead on the road.

“TYLER!!!!!!!” I screamed.
Nothing. I don’t see him.
I ran inside.

“TOM! Get up! Watch Justin. I can’t find Tyler!”
Without waiting for him to even respond, I ran back outside.
Down our hill and on the road.
“TYLER!!!!!!!”
Nothing.
I don’t see him.
I ran back up our driveway and started running to my Nana’s house.
My heart in my throat.
I’m biting back from crying.
I can’t see if I start crying.
Just as I get to the top of the hill, I see Tyler.
Smiling and running towards me.

Relief flooded over me.
I fell to my knees when I reached him and hugged him so tight.
He thought it was funny and started giggling.
I cried.
Hard.
I carried him back down to our place.
Put him in the highchair and made the boys breakfast.

Kicking myself. Over and over and over in my head.

It wasn’t until later that day that I took the boys swimming that I saw his favorite (never let it out of his sight) blanket at the bottom of the pool.

That’s when I realized he was on the pool deck that morning.
That he threw his blanket in… and by some miracle, he didn’t jump in after it, and decided to turn around and run to me calling him instead.
He couldn’t be away from that blanket long enough for it to be in the washer and dryer….
But he came to me.
He could have died.
Because although I was teaching him how to swim… at 1 ½, he still couldn’t swim without floaties.

Before I even knew he was Autistic… I knew we had to be careful with them around water.
I fixed his window.

Often, kids on the spectrum don’t understand the concept of danger.
They’ll walk into traffic or bolt from a caregiver.
Wander far from home.
Or get into water too deep… without knowing how to swim.
If you see a kid doing something you’d expect them to know not to do, always check, especially if there’s not an adult around. No matter how old you think they are (people think Justin -7-looks 12)… make sure they understand what they’re doing and that they’re not going to get themselves hurt.

I’ve had a couple people see one of my kids running away from me.
Some saw me chasing them, some didn’t… but they were closer to them than I was, so they cautiously got in front of them to slow them down. Most of them didn’t touch the boys, they just helped me catch up. (I thanked them profusely). You never know… you might help save a life. Or at least a heart attack. ❤

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