Three years ago, when I got unmarried, I had to find my little Shih Tzu dog, Moe Moe, a daily dog walker since that was exclusively the purview of my now gone husband. My bad knees, ankle, foot- take your pick -rendered me incapable of daily walks, so I put an ad online in Next Door (I know, I know, you may have read my “Next Door’ pieces where I go on and on about how annoying it is-well not always). The ad was answered by a mom who was on my PTA board at the elementary and middle schools a few years back. She asked me if her 14 year-old autistic son could do it. I said, sure, if she thought so, then so did I. Now spare me the judgmental parenting crap about why either of my two sons couldn’t do it. It was difficult enough losing their Dad’s daily presence but having to confront their fecalphobia too? It was more than I or they could bear actually, especially since it was my less than stellar ability at potty training that gave them the phobia in the first place. Marco, my elder, seems to have recovered from it quicker as he now walks Moe twice a week. For Max my younger, well, he’s the busiest person I know and dog walking is pretty much out for him permanently. But I digress
Those first few weeks, Robbie’s mom went out with him on the walks to make sure he was OK doing it and to show him the ropes. It was soon after that he was soloing. Robbie and I became fast friends. Show me an autistic kid and I’ll show you someone who I am going to get a hug from eventually. Robbie didn’t disappoint. We chatted on many of the days that he came to walk Moe. I learned he played guitar and loved the classics-not Beethoven, the Rolling Stones. I encouraged him to keep playing every chance I got during our musical chats.
Robbie went through some rough patches over the high school years; some of it the usual high school stuff, some not. His mom would ask me to talk to him during some of the darker times and I did. I think it helped, at least she said it did. She told me he adored me and it wasn’t long before those hugs were on the horizon whenever he or me needed one. Hugs are something my own grown kids won’t do without a court order. It used to bother me, but boy did that come in COVID handy this past year. CoronaV did get Robbie and his whole family, though, thanks to his Dad’s bail out visit to the LA County jail. Apparently our illustrious Sheriff’s department subscribed to the Trump COVID protocol and didn’t allow mask wearing by anyone- coming or going. I missed Robbie those few weeks and when he came back his Dad was still in the hospital, having pneumonia and all sorts of post COVID parting gifts. Luckily though he made a full recovery.
Robbie is seventeen years old now and a junior in high school. He’s an ROTC member and stuck it out even during some pretty nasty stupid stuff. Why, I’ll never know. He gave me notice last week that he was leaving the first job he ever had because he wanted to find a job that paid more than five bucks a day. Today was his last day. We took pictures, him and Moe and him and me. I hugged him and gave him a little gift and told him to put me down for any job he gets as a reference so I can give him a great one. He thanked me and off he went to walk Moe Moe for one last time. He came back and we said goodbye again. Robbie asked if he could have one more hug. Sure, I said, and come back anytime to get some more. So long, kid, you are going to make a great adult!!