We reached Hahndorf too late, except for a little gallery that Scott found very interesting and inspiring. It had been a long day and although Scott was not very enthusiastic about another stop, he reluctantly joined me under the offer of an ice cream. It was getting dark and a lot of the businesses were starting to bring in their displays preparing to shut shop.
Hahndorf is a very tourist orientated village with many reflections of the strong, German influence from the past, but it’s very commercial and lacks the honesty and harmony of many of the little towns and villages we have strolled through on our trip. There’s a strong invasion of tourism style shopping, souvenir shops and people wandering around, who are obviously only here for a brief visit, before heading to another holiday destination.
After a short time we came across a display still out on the street, there were a couple of paintings on easels and an inviting entrance to and old building. Although they didn’t sell ice creams I managed to distract Scott enough to join me and have a look at some more art.
The Australian Art House is predominantly aboriginal artists and although very traditional there were a few exceptions, I have noticed an evolution of styles coming from new-found aboriginal artists in the north and west of Australia, they are more vibrant in colours and a greater variety.
The manager was very comfortable with Scott’s standard question of birth dates and how bored he was with his day. At the same time Scott took a genuine interest in the art and seemed to study and appreciate it far more than any other galleries we had visited. We watched a video showing some of the techniques the artists used to draw their art, this included sticks, leaves, handfuls of straight wooden screws dripped in paint or natural clays and pressed into patterns onto the canvas. Scott really seemed to enjoy watching what they were doing and even had a little discussion with the manager as to how much he liked it.
Although this appears to be a small matter of interest it’s a great step forward, to watch Scott interact and show a reasonable interest and have a near normal discussion. I love the moments that give me a small window into what Scott would be like without autism, a genuine interest and sensibility and a glance of normality. I hold these precious moments securely in my mind, so I can visit them when I feel there is no future or change, and Scott’s life still feels like a hole or a void. I think of the precious moments when we meet mentally in the same place and realise he is still inside, his twitching, often tired body doing the best he can. Like the aborigines, reality and dream time are both alive and intertwined, surviving together, making up what we see as life.
I think all the moments at galleries and interacting with staff, if only brief, broaden Scott’s appreciation of art and greatly improve his communication skills. In a brief glance he appears to be able to absorb far more detail and information than I can. I have to sit and study the subject and slowly try to interpret into a pleasing exercise for myself. Scott appears to take in only subject matter that interests him, the rest is ignored and of no consequence. A wise man, his computer mind is never jammed up with insignificant, emotional back up.
It was getting really dark and cold so we headed for the van at Murray Bridge to prepare for our next day to head down to the Murray River outlet into the sea.
Next morning the weather had improved and we packed up for a long day. I was still very uncomfortable with how the car was running as the screeching under the engine was still bad and we had another stalling moment as the car lost power coming back from Hahndorf. We were so close to our target now, so I went for it. We headed to Hahndorf for breakfast because Scott wanted to see the gallery and the lady again plus the ice cream we missed. A little longer than I thought to get there but it was a good opportunity to talk to Scott about what we had done and today we would be coming to the end.
Scott got a little confused, as the end meant we were going to stay at the end of the river and we weren’t going to go home. I explained our itinerary for the next few days including meeting up with dad at Mt Gambia and heading home. Scott’s mind was now heading home, so everything that stalled that process became a little inconvenient; I asked him why he wanted to go home? He said he missed his computer and his bedroom. I think he missed McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken with the occasional Thai Restaurant and maybe, he was missing his own company, as we had been side by side for more than 3 weeks in very tight accommodation. He also said he would like to do it again but not for 4 weeks next time, maybe only one or two. This was a good outcome and I think both of us really enjoyed the time so close together. We shared a great respect and love for each other and the trip showed lots of similarities between us as well as our fear of each other.
Just to explain what I mean by fear. Scott has only seen me as a mum, the boss, the carer. I’ve only seen him as my son, my responsibly, somebody who needs support and mothering. Now we know one another better, we’ve found the friend in each of us, what we like and dislike about ourselves, and what we like and dislike about each other. We have learnt respect for each other’s capabilities, when a helping hand is in need and when to be left alone. All of these things lead to a better understanding and trust, not being frightened to share and commit ourselves to the other person. It’s very personal between mum and a son, both challenged with strong personalities and independent skills, both wanting to be free but in a funny way needing each other. I think this is love and after a life time with Scott I would challenge anybody who states Autistic people don’t have the emotions and feelings of others and that maybe they just haven’t spent enough quality time and patience with a person with communication blindness. I think once they are safe, empowered and loved they want to show what they feel but the doors a little jammed and just like a jammed door you’ll break it if you push and shove or open with force. Better to gently lift and assist without changing simply what the door does.
Hahndorf was much prettier the next day and because it was a Monday and so early it had a pleasant ambience and sense of beginning as the shop keepers were starting their day and a few tourists wandered down the street. Once again the gallery inspired Scott and he delighted in seeing the lady again and giving her some of his flyers and confirming her date of birth yet again and with great delight having had yet another captured audience we headed back to the car.
Next stop Strathalbyn on the way to Goolwa and a very famous bridge …woman’s business.