Dylan Crowder, Jeffrey's ten year old son, said nothing in return. He was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, turning a small robot dog over and over in his hands, examining the toy from every possible angle.
Jeffrey looked over at his wife, just coming into the room from the kitchen. She wiped her hands on her apron and glanced at her son. She smiled at Dylan but he was just as unresponsive toward her as he had been with his father. She came on over to her husband. They kissed in the affectionate fashion of long married couples.
"How long has he been doing that, Marge?" He nodded his head in the direction of the boy.
"Oh, a couple of hours now. You know how he gets."
"Hasn't he even tried to talk to the dog or get it to wag its tail or bark like we showed him?"
"Jeff, I've gone over the basics of that dog thing with him more times than I can count-when he lets me take it away from him, that is. He still just holds it and examines it like he's trying to see inside the thing." Her voice held a tinge of irritation, a not infrequent occurrence in homes with autistic children.
Jeffrey Crowder sighed wearily. It had seemed like a good idea, buying Dylan a simple little robot dog. He had thought his son might relate to a programmed toy, since he seldom showed any desire to interact with him or Marge-or anyone else, for that matter. He had even paid extra to get the version that was covered with artificial fur, thinking the tactile sensation might help pique his interest. So far all Dylan had done was twist it around in his hands, for hours at a time, even after being shown how the little toy dog could bark, move its head and tail and roll on its back. Even when it barked to be petted without prompting, Dylan ignored the sound and continued looking at it from different perspectives. It was impossible to tell what Dylan's thoughts were; he didn't talk much when he was focused that way.
Jeffrey checked the time then asked "How about a drink before dinner?"
"I'll go for that. It's been a long day."
Jeffrey touched his wife's cheek with his fingertips, knowing Marge wouldn't have complained unless Dylan had been difficult. He realized it was harder on her than it was on him, being with the boy all the time, but neither of them would have it any different. They wanted what was best for him, always, and Marge had given up a promising career in business to stay home with their son.
She and Jeffrey continued their conversation as he stepped down into the den and went over to the little bar. He poured gin and vermouth over crushed ice and shook vigorously, mixing up enough for two martinis each. Once they were ready, he filled their glasses, added an olive to his and a couple of little pearl onions to his wife's. He brought them over to the big couch where they could watch Dylan. He was still turning the robot dog over in his hands, peering intently at its various surfaces.
"I wonder what's going through his mind?" Jeffrey asked. "Is he trying to figure out where the barks come from?"
"I asked Doctor Whitman about it today when we were there. He said he didn't know."
Jeffrey sipped at his drink. "Did he have anything new to say about Dylan?" he asked hopefully.
"Just that we have to be patient and keep trying," Marge said. Her face, once fresh and pretty, was beginning to acquire permanent worry lines from coping with her son, day in and day out.
"How many times have we heard that?"
Marge glanced at her husband, at his prematurely graying hair and tired eyes. She knew it was hard on him, having his only son-and only child-turn out this way, but it was hard on her, too. She was home with him all day, every day. She was glad this was Friday, so she could have a weekend with her husband around to help. "Jeff, you have to admit he's shown a lot of improvement since he finally accepted Doctor Whitman."
"I guess it's better than nothing. Probably my expectations were too high to begin with."
"Mine, too but it's all we can do. Just be glad we can afford all the treatment and therapy. Most parents can't."
Copyright © 2005 Darrell Bain">a_Bain-UReward-sa.mp3