John has an affinity with animals which boarders on telepathy; except dogs, he hates them. He can’t cope with their barking, yapping and will freak out if they start jumping up at him. Dogs on the other hand love him.
Many is the time that John has been happily stood by his favourite concrete post outside Sainsburys, minding his own business and chatting to the sliding doors. Well maybe chatting is stretching it a bit, he just shouts ‘Sly’ and as if by magic the doors slide open. What he doesn’t know is that I am walking up and down inside, triggering the sensors and recieving some very starnge looks.
Anyway where was I….Oh yes, many a time a dog has turned up with its owner, who ties it up outside the shop, to John’s much loved post! How very dare they. So pleased is it to see John, that the usually well behaved pooch will let off a volley of barks and start jumping around as much as its leash will allow. In his haste to get away from the dog, John will have jumped into the back seat of the nearest car that has somebody sat in it and shouting ‘Door, now, peas mummy’ to the poor unfortunate occupant. My favourite time was when he tried to get into the security van collecting the days takings. The terrified guard assumed he was being robbed by a wild and confused young man who not only wanted his money but who also thought that he was his mother. I hope he carried a spare pair of trousers in the van.
On our drive home from Nelsons croft on Friday John kept asking me if he could go to the zoo with Annie, at least that’s what I thought he was saying. “Zu, Ani mommow” he kept repeating over and over. It was difficult to hear exactly as his head was out of the window as per usual but it certainly sounded as if he wanted Annie to take him to the zoo the following day.
I pondered on who Annie could be, possibly one of the new support workers at Nelsons Croft or maybe a new resident. I pulled Johns arm to get him to come back inside the car “Who is Annie John, is she a new person at Nelsons?” John became very animated and started bouncing in his seat. “Yes Ani Neso” he yelped and collapsed into fits of laughter which lasted all the way home. Every time I tried to chat to him he just kept confirming that Ani was at Nelsons croft and judging by his inability to calm down she was clearly a very amusing girl.
Once home John sat in the car and put his arm around my neck pulling me close, slowly tightening his grip in a Pythonesque kind of way. “Ani pici mummy” he bellowed down my ear. I rasped and wheezed that I didn’t have any photo’s of Annie but we did have lots of the zoo. “Yes, pici Ani” confirmed John nodding vigorously adding “Fut, Ani” then stuck his tongue in my ear. “Eiw, cheers John” I tried to shake my head to avoid the spit pooling in my ear canal but I couldn’t move.
Barely breathing, deaf and very confused, I had absolutely no clue what he was on about. He was gesticulating with his free hand but I was at such an awkward angle I couldn’t make out what he was signing. “Fut fut fut” insisted John “Pici ani NOW” he released his grip on me and leapt out of the car like a gazelle but not quite as graceful. “Welcome home John” shouted a neighbour and then turning her attention to me she smiled and said “I saw the two of you having a lovely cuddle there in the car, he loves being home with his mum so he can catch up on his hugs.” I smiled and nodded, I couldn’t agree more. John’s cuddles are the best no matter what animal form they come in, Bear hugs or Python crushes, I love them all.
John was a man on a mission and immediately locked himself in the computer room, shouting about Ani and the zoo and making the “Fut Fut Fut” noise again. I was barred from the room, John was busy searching through his thousands of photos stored on his computer. I assumed he was looking for one of Chester zoo, probably the monorail as that’s a particular obsession of his.
After a short while John shouted “Up peas mummy” and started banging his desk and yeeehaaa-ing in glee. He was pointing at a picture on the computer screen “Ani Ani” He had found a picture of Annie his favourite cow from the local farm.
Well I it was obvious now, he had been asking to go to the farm to see Annie, and the girl who looks after the cows is called Sue, nothing to do with the zoo at all. Easy you might think, however he hasn’t wanted to see the cows for so long I had completely removed the names from my ‘Johns weekend activities menu’ which is stored in my overloaded brain. In my defence he didnt mention the word farm or I might have made the connection. By me asking him if Annie was a new person at Nelsons Croft, John had just become excited at the thought of his favourite cow in all the world living with him. He knew it wasn’t possible but the thought was so enjoyable that it was worth hanging on to. I asked him what “Fut” was and what it had to do with Annie. Quick as a flash John clicked onto the next photo and it was…..
…..his dad’s foot.
The photo was taken on holiday in Abersoch in 2012. I Know, I know! it’s a weird link and what’s Johns dad’s foot got to do with a huge, mostly white cow, and a mad one at that?
John, like many people living with autism has a photographic memory. He never ever forgets anything he sees, or where he puts things or what anyone tells him. That is why we have to respect his gift and never doubt him when he tells us that something important is missing from his room. We never tell him we will do something with him or for him unless we absolutely can and will carry it through. Of course there will always be an occasion when something happens outside our control therefore it is important that strategies are put in place to help John cope at such times.
John knew that the photo of Annie was next to the photo of his dads foot, it was in a folder of photographs taken on my iPhone and inspite of the many thousands of photos on the computer he knew which folder to look in and which photo would be next to it. It took him only a very short time to locate it and that included the time it takes my ancient computer to fire up. Do you want to know something else my friends? He knows the position of every single photograph on that computer. Bloomin’ mind blowing.
Annie wasn’t the calmest of cows, a bit of a rogue when all said and done but John loved her and she loved him back in spades. Notice I used the word ‘Loved’, sadly in the time since John last saw Annie she sadly died. I didn’t find out until we went to see her at the farm. This was one of those occasions that we had no control over and couldn’t prevent. I will be honouring Annie and John’s relationship in a separate post, theirs was a special bond and it is deserving of a post all of its own.
Suffice is to say that we told John that Annie hadn’t been very well and that she has gone to Wales to join several of his favourite animals from the Raby farm site. It’s difficult to explain the concept of death to John, so it was decided that he should be told that they were off for a very long retirement into the Welsh hills. Up to now, including Annie, three goats, a couple of geese, several hens and Hammy our beloved hamster have all made their way along the A55 to Welsh heaven.
I wish John was obsessed by playing cards, what with his memory and my face we would be world famous Poker champions by now.