Kimahri’s Halloween Adventures 2017

More Adventures in Parenting, Halloween and Autism

Halloween is the introduction of the holiday season and in my house it is always an adventure. Parenting a child with autism can be a challenge, as you have undoubtedly heard from me in the past. Now that he is fourteen, there were complications I hadn’t anticipated.

When the holidays arrive, they can be even more problematic with the change in routines, the unexpected faces, the new behaviors which may be required to fit in.

As usual, Halloween starts with me asking him, what he wanted to wear for the holiday. In the past it was easy. Superheroes are a big thing in my house and costumes for him were easy to find and fit. For his first Halloween costume, he was Superman.

As he has gotten older, his tastes have changed and last year he was a country-western singer… Weird, right? We don’t listen to much country-western music so his choice seemed very left field.

This year, he ignored the question every time we asked right up until he was going to school Halloween morning. As my wife is dropping him off, he says: “I want to be a zombie.”

Since she is dropping him off, she parries that statement with a “We’ll tell your father and see what he can come up with.” Not a no. Not a yes. A delaying tactic which will ensure he stays calm during the course of the day. No meltdown is a good one.

She calls me when she gets to the office to inform me of this last-minute wrinkle. “Zombie?” I ask her. What does a zombie costume look like anyway? Rags, dirt, smudge-makeup? This is not my bailiwick. She’s the artist. Making stuff out of nothing is what she does.

She tells me she understands my limitations (as a not-artistically-inclined man) and to do my best. She suggests one of the many Halloween stores which spring up in October with costumes and other such bric-a-brac.

Sigh. My personal idea of hell made real. To shop for a thing which is ill-defined, requires artistic discernment, and creative license. In three hours.

Suffice it to say I was completely unsuccessful. The stores were mostly empty of anything horror-related at this point. I discover that horror is a thematic element strong with teen boys and you have to get a costume early, if you plan to get one at all.

Good to know for next year at any rate…

Disgusted, I return home after stopping for lunch. A plan formed in my mind. Something desperate. I would have to take the boy with me. Shopping with Kimahri is always a hit and miss kind of thing. He likes to shop, but only in very limited doses. The fact we would be looking at costumes might make this an okay trip or he might decide there are too many choices and want to leave.

A risk I would have to take. If I came home with nothing, the cold stare, the hawk-like gaze of disappointment from my wife is one I prefer to avoid.

Picking the boy up from school, I explain to him we are going on an adventure. He could never resist an adventure. But he was also looking a bit worn. A new school, a new curriculum, new potential friends, all look like they might be taking their toll, so I suggested he take a nap, since the trip would be about twenty minutes or more from where we started.

He was asleep in seconds. Not a question from his lips. This is one of the seven signs of the apocalypse. I was hoping it did not auger a disaster ahead.

I drove to the more expensive side of town, where the pop-up Halloween stores are twice the size of the ones where I live, on the assumption the choices would be better than in my neighborhood.

They weren’t. In fact, this place seemed as if a swarm of costume needing locusts had swept through, stripping it of nearly everything, except for the ugliest ballerinas and the lamest pirate outfits which still sat unloved on the shelves.

We wandered back and forth and his irritation was evident. I tried to be upbeat but it wasn’t easy. I suggested a few masks, but since we both wear glasses, it was easy to see they weren’t going to work.

Kimahri looked at me and said. “We should just go, dad. There’s nothing here.”

I became disappointed in myself. I should have anticipated this need and now I’ve involved him, I can’t fail. “How about we broaden our choices. Perhaps being a zombie isn’t going to work. I mean look at your skin right now, we don’t want to put anything on it anyway.” He has a mild case of acne since puberty started and I didn’t like the idea of putting greasepaint or whatever these costume colorings are made out of onto his sensitive skin.

Looking around, I began to consider a few other costumes. Demons, wraiths, and the Grim Reaper…

Man. I knew this was going to be trouble. He didn’t like the demon costumes. He didn’t know what a wraith was and even after describing it, he wasn’t interested.

The Grim Reaper, however, he knew. Or at least, the Billy and Mandy version of the character. A long pullover robe with a skull mask which pulled up over the face and it was the beginning of a costume. Hope flickered.

But it was woefully incomplete. Dull. Lacking any finesse. Immediately he knew what was missing. A scythe. He went off to find a store person to learn what I already knew.

There weren’t any. I had already cataloged all the weapons and scythes were not among the remaining detritus. Undeterred and getting enthusiastic, he went over and looked through the weapons which remained.

A tiny trident. No. Not imposing enough.

A gladius? Too short.

A chainsaw? “Death wouldn’t use a chainsaw, dad. Too messy.” The storeclerk laughs and says, she has never heard a kid say NO to a chainsaw…

Okay. So here was a Grim Reaper who was tidy…

Then his eyes find what they are looking for. This horrible runesword. Long, hooked bladed, runes down the side of it, rusty, crazy looking with a strange hand guard.

Love at first sight. He picks it up, puts his mask on and says: “Do you fear the Grim Reaper? You will…”

I laugh internally because he has never tried to use language in this fashion. He included the acting and nuance reserved exclusively by William Shatner…

But we weren’t done yet. There was still something missing. I didn’t know what it was, but now that we had gotten this far, I wasn’t going to stop until it was complete.

While we are shopping he is asking me about how the Grim Reaper sows his deadly harvest. Why does Death take people? Where do they go? Can they resist? Is Death inevitable.

Yes, I am fielding questions about mortality as I shop through piles of junk looking for the right accent to put on a costume. Since my cat just died, he wondered if Blaze might be able to return just for Halloween.

I said he would be with us in spirit. This is that kind of holiday, where the dead can return, and celebrate. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, he is cataloging everything I say to use later as part of his dialog of Death…

We left this store and ran to another store where I hoped they would be getting rid of Halloween decorations. I knew what he needed, but I wasn’t sure if we could find it. He needed a talisman, something around his neck to signify his power.

Two stores later, we found it. A necklace of skulls. Now he was ready. The right size, the skulls were on a plastic chain and dangled in a way such he could have a bunch in front and behind. With his mask and jacket hood on, he was much more intimidating.

Mission complete. Mom was happy. Kimahri was happy and when we went out on our trick or treat tour, he terrified small children (whom he immediately tried to comfort because he’s that way) and frightened a number of adults with his cat-like approach from behind.

Raising his sword he would menace folks saying “I am the Grim Reaper. Trick (brandishing his sword) or treat,” (proffering his bag instead). He was getting into his role.

The highlights of the evening were scaring a number of children and even an adult when he says: “I am the Grim Reaper, but I have not come for you, yet. Give me candy and live…”

He hammed it up. I was about to call the evening a rousing success until he had an interesting interaction with a young woman, about his age who was giving out candy.

She was dressed as a Disney princess and he walked up to her with his faux menace and sword raised. “I am the Grim Reaper, give me treats or else…”

Her response was: “Kimahri? Is that you?”

He is wearing a full face mask. You cannot see him at all. Yet she knew his voice. They were school-mates. “I’m sorry, I don’t know your name,” he says awkwardly.

“Leslie.”

He stammers. Stutters something mundane and seems oddly perplexed by the interaction. The two exchange pleasantries while I become invisible to them both. After a few more awkward exchanges: “It was nice to meet you, Leslie. I’ll see you at school.”

“Bye, Kimahri.”

I had the oddest feeling. An awareness of his evolution, which apparently now included girls.

We raided the rest of the neighborhood until his bag runneth over. Old people were predisposed to giving the Grim Reaper the most candy.

One woman in her seventies who moved very slowly, went into her house to bring back candy, suggested he return next week and she might be ready for him then…

I got it. He didn’t. We exchanged a knowing smile.

He ran off to catch up with a small group who was scouting ahead.

We walked farther than we did last year, since it wasn’t raining. He rambled on about nothing in particular, analysing houses for the right signals to indicate participation in the holiday.

His participation matrix was growing more sophisticated as the evening progressed and his success ratio also grew.

After about an hour and a half, he decided perhaps I might be getting cold and we should return home. We dip through a few other neighborhoods on the way home to round out the evening.

Our last stop was a neighbor who mentions she hadn’t seen many kids. My suggestion was if we do this next year, to put out markers for kids to recognize our neighborhood is friendly to trick or treaters.

She offers him as much candy as he can carry.

He does not refuse her generosity. We talk for a few minutes while he collects his choice bits and then we head home.

This year was so different than last year. He is more poised. More collected. But he is still alone.

Next year, we shall have to gather a party together, a group of his peers where I disappear into the background and he interacts with his friends. Ghost dad…

When I told my wife about the events of the evening, she came to the same conclusions. In so many ways he’s becoming an ordinary teenager. Just the way we hoped.

Maybe I should invite Leslie; the girl who knew him completely masked… Better get started right now. He’s growing up so fast.

Halloween Adventures 2017 © Thaddeus Howze, 2017, All Rights Reserved

I am one of the parents of a child with autism. My son has proven to be more amazing every time I sit down and write about him. Smart, funny, constantly absorbing information, he is a fascinating individual in his own right. But I admit to being afraid for him, worried his challenges may be more than he can overcome. And every day he continues to develop into a young man I respect and admire.

Autism is a developmental disorder which affects 1 in 68 children. To many parents, first diagnosis may seem like a death sentence. It isn’t. It is an opportunity to connect with your child in ways you didn’t know you could. If you think your child is developmentally challenged, get them evaluated. The sooner you know, the better it is for everyone. Then the adventures begin…

Thaddeus Howze is the Answer-Man. He is also a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding.

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