Redefining Typical

A Mother, A Son, A Journey…..with Autism

1 neon orange ball + 10 pins + my son = bowling September 3, 2013

Filed under: autism-Nothing less than a miracle moments — Cheairs @ 8:48 pm
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He has not gone for more than a year.

We don’t know why.

He could not tell us.

We only know that as soon as the tires of the minivan rolled into the parking lot, there would be tears.


He would ask us for this outing.

His way of asking, “Where would you like to go?”

Our response, “I don’t know, where would you like to go?”

His reply, “Bowling.”

And so we would prepare for this family excursion.

But many times.

Too many times.

The steps of getting dressed and putting on his shoes was just too much for him.

The anxiety taking over his large nine-year-old body.

Leaving him with clenched fists and red eyes.


He wanted to go to the place where the brightly colored round balls rolled across the wooden floor.

Where the perfect sphere hit the long objects called pins.

The place where yelling “strike” is cause for celebrations.


He just wanted to go bowling.


And in August his requests became more frequent.

Hiding in his purple sleeping bag with his paci in his mouth, I could hear his words, “Where would you like to go?”

My answer, as always, “I don’t know, where would you like to go?”

Rolling up into a purple cozy ball, his voice, “Bowling.”


But in this hot sticky month, his asking was different.

It was something that I could not put my finger on.

Until I did.

Sitting at a stoplight.

Listening to the radio.

Tapping my thumbs on the steering wheel.

I whispered.


Oh, my gosh.

I know what he is doing.

The child is desensitizing himself so that he can go bowling.

It was a long stoplight, so my celebration with myself continued.

That is it! Good Lordy, that is it!  That is why he is making all of the requests for bowling.

Dawson is doing it. He is figuring out what he needs to do to help himself over this hump so that he can go inside and bowl!

My happy dance in the silver minivan did not stop even as the light turned green.


So the requests continued.

In spurts.

And they were hard.

So many attempts ending with my sweet boy crying in the parking lot of the bowling alley.


I still don’t know what.

Was holding his body back.



On Wednesday, August 21, 2013,  he arrived home at 5:00 p.m. after his occupational therapy session.

I stood in the front yard talking to his sweet caregiver who had just delivered him home to me.

He grabbed my hand and pushed past me.

His words.

“Mommy and Dawson go bowling.”

“Silver car. Go bowling.”

So what do you do when your child requesst to go on an outing at 5 p.m. on a school night and you really need to start thinking about making dinner?

Well, you go.

I yelled to my neighbor across the street, trying to explain my plans and asking her if Mae Mae could stay a little longer over at her house.

I was talking.

Dawson was pulling.

My kind neighbor assuring me that my sweet girl was welcome to stay at their house for as long as needed.

And so my little boy and I were off.


We headed down Route 29.

Crossed over the river.

His voice.

In its sing-song high-pitched way.

In an octave that told me anxiety was creeping its into my boy’s heart.

He said.

“Go to the parking lot.”

His melody whispering that I could respond to his words.

And with careful rhythm I uttered.

“Yes, just to the parking lot.”

I peeked in the rear view mirror.

His eyes were closed.

I watched the road and then peeked again.

His head rested against the window.

His eyelids shut.

He was preparing

The building with the long lanes and bright orange balls awaited his arrival.


And the tires of the minivan turned into the lot.

His breathing stayed steady.

His hands rested in his lap.

I parked.

I closed my eyes.

I let the air fill my lungs.

I turned around in my seat.

“Okay buddy. We are here. We can just sit in the parking lot.”

And then.

The click.

His body moved toward the front of the van.

His arms bumped against the captain’s chair.

His fingers reached for the door.

His voice strong.

“Let’s go bowling!”


I took his hand.

The lightness in his steps.

The smile on his face.

His jumping as we walked through the doors.

His body bending over with excitement as I paid for the game.

They told me my son was ready to play.

He kicked off his Crocs and I handed him his bowling shoes.

He pushed his body against me as I leaned down to tie his laces.

His feet galloped to find the neon orange bowling ball.

I chased after him.

Redirecting him as he tried to roll the ball down Lane 26 when we were assigned to Lane 41.

And redirecting him again as he tried to the roll the ball down Lane 35 as we continued our journey to Lane 41.

He sprinted to the magical line of the alley where he could release his ball.

And he threw that round object.

His knees bending.

His arms and hands flapping.

The crash of the pins hitting the wooden floor.

The sounds.

Oh, the beautiful sounds.

He turned.

Looking for my eyes.

The warmth in my belly spread to my face.

The lightness in my heart stretched to my arms.

I stepped forward.

I hugged him.

“You did it buddy! You did it! I am so proud of you!”

I reached my palm up for a high five.

He met it.

Then quickly he grabbed the ball that had just appeared from the machine.

He hugged it and smiled.

He turned to share his beautiful blue eyes with me again.

And with breathless voice.

He shouted.

“We are bowling!”


And I heard the applause.

The hands clapping from the ones who are not there, but who hold our family.

I felt them.

Around my boy.

Around me.




His triumph.

This miracle.

Of bowling.


Where would you like to go?

I don’t know, where would you like to go?



Yes, sweet boy.

Let me take your hand.

we will mount up with wings like eagles

we will run and not be weary

and we will  walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31)

And yes.

My Dawson,

Let’s go bowling.


Copyright Cheairs Graves, September 1, 2013


















16 Responses to “1 neon orange ball + 10 pins + my son = bowling”

  1. You are so amazingly talented. You have captured the heart and soul of what it is like to have a child like this. I know because I have tried to explain it to people too many times to count. Thank you for sharing your talent. You are also a most talented mom. :)

  2. Ms. T. Says:

    I am sitting here clapping and cheering for Dawson! Yeah, buddy! I know how hard fought that bowling trip must have been for all of you. What a wonderful, lovely summer gift. Here’s to Dawson spreading his wings even further, no matter how long it takes. xo

  3. Diane Says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this story! So vivid, so powerful, you are an amazing writer! So proud of Dawson and inspired by his cleverness and determination. Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Kelly Murphy Henderson Says:


    What a lucky boy Dawson is to have you for his mom…the patience, the love, and the acceptance that you show and give to him is beyond a gift! I know that there are many daily challenges but I am so happy that you share these joys as well as the trials…your words fill the hearts of so many.


  5. Kim Says:

    I LOVE this. Oh my gosh! I smiled and got a little teary reading through your words. Thank you for continuing to write. Bowling!! Go Dawson!

  6. Kathykath Says:

    Yeah for bowling with mom! He really did it! AND, I am so glad you are back!

  7. Deborah Peterson Says:

    Crocodile tears are streaming down my cheeks! Thank you for sharing…Absolutely beautiful!

  8. Barbara Graves Says:


    Your stories are so beautiful and filled with love. I can feel your emotions as I read each line and am overwhelmed with admiration for you.

    Thank you for your insights and sharing your world with others.

  9. April T. Says:

    The way you word things, so poetically raw, but genuine, the way you inject the emotion into each word–draws the tears to my eyes. I get this. I totally get this :) Welcome back, Cheairs!

    BTW, I don’t think I ever told you or the rest at the Oxygen Mask thank you for the encouragement that you have me earlier this year. In May I started my own tiny blog, my own outlet. The results were more incredible than I could have imagined.

    It gave me perspective, not just about my son, but about me….as being so much more like my son than I EVER realized before….and it has been liberating.

    You. Are. Awesome.

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