So I have returned, and we all survived!
The first holiday abroad for my brother was a complete success, and a learning curve for all concerned. We went to see our mother and Step Father in Brittany. From helping Adam to pack, as he has spacial awareness issues, to the long wait for the ferry, we overcame each obstacle as it appeared. Living in the moment was very much the name of the game.
The ferry was late getting in due to the bad weather, which meant we had to wait in the car for nearly two hours. We were rekindling games of childhood eye-spy as we waited in the queue to board. Lots of fun and laughter from both of us. Lots of questions being answered about the size of the ferry and why it doesn’t sink when all the cars are loaded.
I was surprisingly calm about the sea state. I’m not a good sailor, and when we saw the forecast for the crossing, my heart sank. For the first time ever, I managed to get through the night without any dramas of my own! I had remembered to send some Reiki ahead for the journey. This made huge difference. If you have skills – use them!
It was really rolling!
All Adam was looking forward to was his promised pint – he had no preconceived ideas of the crossing at all. The best way to be! I think he thought the rocking and rolling of the ferry was more amusing than a hindrance. Although I don’t think he got much sleep! His concern over the length of the journey, amount of petrol we would use and the amount of driving involved, was on his mind more than the movement of the ferry. He thought it was quite funny, but you never know what he really feels. His perception is so different to ours.
Do you know what a wind turbine is?
Due to the sat nav taking us on a different route to the main motorway, we were able to enjoy a scenic drive through to the south of Brittany. Pointing out wind turbines to Adam made me realise he had no idea what they were. We must be grateful for the things we take for granted. Some people never get to travel at all. Not just abroad, but just out of their home towns. As he pointed out to me, he knows where Exeter is, and Weston-Super-Mare, but he couldn’t visualise where we were going at all. Thank heavens for google maps and the little blue flashing dot!
We had two whole days in Brittany.
Two whole days and the half day when we arrived. The unknown lay ahead. We had to allow for Adam to orientate himself, and get used to being in a house full of adults after living alone for 20 years. The good thing was, he ate supper. Food always the first thing to go when he is anxious. He never eats at breakfast time, often having just a lunch, and then Weetabix in the evening. As he ate with us the day we arrived, we knew he was ok!
We worked our main meal round lunch, and just had snacks in the evening. On our last morning, he actually walked in and sat breakfast with us. A huge breakthrough!
While we were there, we really wanted him to see as much as possible but not exhaust him, but we weren’t sure of his limits. It’s easy to forget that he leads a very lonely life, not getting out of his flat very much at all. Walking around a Breton market and then a harbour side in the same day was far, far too much. Not just for the sensory overload, but the sheer physical exhaustion – and the fact we were out of the house by 9am. That didn’t help either.
We had some magical moments.
On the plus side, I think the most amazing part for me was to see him gingerly pick his way through the seaweed on a beach to get to the waters edge where MrH was already paddling. Adam didn’t want to take his shoes and socks off at all. Concerned about the sand on his feet and what would happen afterwards. How would he get back?
Once he was in, I think his world shifted slightly. The last time he would have been in the sea, was probably about 35 years ago. It really makes you think.
I explained how relaxing the sea was, and got him to feel the sand under is feet as the water pulled back. I showed him limpets and mussels clinging to the rocks, and different colours of seaweed. He wasn’t happy walking to the car with bare feet, but we got there. Thankfully Mum was waiting with paper towels at the ready.
We just take so much for granted.
With hindsight, we should have done a little less. He kept mentioning, that at home he only gets support for a couple of hours a day, and while he was away this changed. This meant he had to interact and be sociable for much longer than he ever has before. We have no idea how much this must have overloaded his system.
The good thing, was that he could now communicate how he felt. As a child, he used to just lay down on his bed and we used to think he was difficult and weird. Remember, there was no spectrum and no diagnosis for him then. He couldn’t socialise, and found it impossible to conform to meal times and time tables. The restrictions in his world with no filters, meant that he ended up hating authority figures, and unable to understand and appreciate how most of us lead our lives.
This holiday was a huge event for him.
Lots of high points. A few lightbulb moments, and only a couple of low points. Two days were plenty for all concerned. We could enjoy the time we had and focus on all the positives.
There was a moment where I saw the old Adam.
He retreated to his room on the last evening without food, and I was concerned. It took a while to coax out that he was worried about the trip back. How long it would take, what time he had to get up, and what time he would get back. Not to mention the fact he would have no milk in the fridge. He actually knew what he was feeling was anxiety, explaining to me that his autism makes him anxious and he doesn’t like towing the line all the time. This means he doesn’t like being told when to eat! After all, he has lived by himself for many years, so I guess what we think was quite normal – like deciding ahead what time to eat supper – is to him quite alien. If he is hungry he will eat. He can’t think about what he may eat in an hours time.
Then he emerged.
After he was able to chat, and I could explain in detail the process for our return trip, he emerged. For food! He then spent the evening being shown how to play solitaire on the iPad, with his mum. This delighted her, and gave him something else to learn.
I hope that we will be able to visit them again. The weather helped, and the fact the bed and breakfast season hadn’t yet started so there was no work to get in the way. Real family time.
Adam is talking about going somewhere else soon. As long as it’s on a boat. He has no intention of getting on a plane as you can’t walk about and explore. He did ask how long it takes to sail to Australia….. we will leave the one for now!