Thursday, April 4, 2013

It's Raining....or Attitude Adjustment

“It’s raining.”

These words are disheartening when you’re in Florida. When people come to the Sunshine State, they damn well expect sunshine. They are entitled.

“I planned this vacation. I spent money to come to this state, now give me my sunshine!”

Never mind that oranges and grapefruit and a hundred other agricultural products we expect to be readily available need rain to grow. Rationality plays no part in it.

“I want my sunshine! It can rain when I leave!”

In truth, it’s only rained one afternoon and evening…yesterday…and although it was supposed to rain all day today, I’m currently writing this on the deck in view of an angry sea under mostly sunny skies. But man, when it clouded over yesterday, and then the rain started, it felt like a personal insult.

Cue Matthew.

Matthew is Linda’s 25 year old son. He is autistic, and he has a deep and abiding love for umbrellas. It’s anybody’s guess as to why, and really, who cares? Some people love cars, some clothes. Me? I love collecting books. Matthew loves umbrellas. Last summer while he was away at camp, Linda cleaned and organized his collection. She stopped counting at 350 umbrellas.

Matthew loves WalMart and the Dollar Store because of their relatively cheap umbrellas. Similarly, gift shops and any kind of store aimed at getting tourists to spend money on objects stamped and screened with cheesy logos are Mecca for Matthew. Linda only allowed him to bring seven umbrellas with him from Kentucky because there were seven of us on the trip, but before yesterday’s clouds came rolling in, he had already acquired three more.

Watching him turn Linda’s “No more umbrellas, Matthew!” into an “Ok, we’ll go back and get that umbrella, Matthew” is a thing of beauty. The kid is funny.

Quick side story: Matthew also loves bookstores. We have that in common. Unlike me, though, Matthew is always looking for a couple of very specific books. We passed a Barnes and Noble going to the grocery last Sunday, and Matthew wanted to go in. Linda put him off until she learned that the same bookstore contained the only Starbucks for miles…or blocks….around, so we went in.

“Matthew? We’re going in Barnes and Noble, but we’re going fast, ok? Go fast.”

Matthew holds up one hand, and says in a Jack Black-esque voice, “Slow down!”

The kid is funny.

So anyway, just as my good mood threatens to go the way of the sunshine yesterday, Matthew starts opening sliding doors all over the house. He sticks his arm out tentatively, and then steps out for a moment. Not yet. Not yet. His pacing becomes more pronounced, and he leaves an air of expectancy in his wake. It’s like the night before Christmas. You know it’s coming, but it’s taking forever. Then finally, after hearing his bedroom’s sliding door open for the hundredth time….

“It’s raining!”

And it was! And somehow, I wasn’t pissed off about it anymore. How could you be in the face of such unadulterated joy?

“It’s raining!”

A couple of hours later, when we went to dinner, joined by Linda’s in-laws, who live down here, Matthew had umbrellas for everyone. He passed them out with such deliberate consideration that we didn’t dare trade. I got a red and blue striped umbrella with the Kansas Jayhawks’ logo on it. I carried it with pride.

Linda got one with horses printed all over it, and the adults broke into a chorus of “Horse with no Name.” Vicki, Matthew’s aunt, got one from Alaska with polar bears on it. Everyone else got a solid color, but each was still chosen with care. Uncle Charles’ umbrella matched his shirt. Sydney’s was pink.

Matthew saved his obvious favorite for himself, a black umbrella with the green Wicked logo on it. Linda picked it up when she was in New York. He held it up and simply said “wicked witch.” You could almost hear the unspoken “bitches” on the end of his statement.

We went outside and everyone opened their umbrellas to walk the three feet from the door to the cars. It was an awesome moment.

“It’s raining,” Matthew said, and four adult and four teenagers grinned and repeated it with him. “It’s raining!” The kids danced around with their umbrellas, but Matthew went directly to the car because after all, only a fool stands out in the rain when he doesn’t have to.

Later, when we returned from dinner, Matthew paced for another 15 minutes, clutching the recovered umbrellas and smiling. It had rained, and he had been there, umbrellas on the ready. All was right and good with the world.

This morning, the sun peeked through the clouds. Yay! But there is a 100% chance of rain later in the afternoon. I am fine with this. I get my sun early, and Matthew gets his rain late. One thing is certain. We will all stay dry.


  1. It's curious, rain, fascinates some of us and brings the blues to others. It gives us life yet at times ruins our plans. We rarely play golf in the rain but couldn't without it. My brain tells me, like the song says, rain is a good thing! The experiences i just read about here reinforced that notion but for an entirely new reason. Who knew rain could help cultivate love....

  2. “Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”

    Benjamin Franklin

  3. I wish I could write a comment as lovely as your Blog Post. But instead I will simply write that your Matthew Umbrella story brightened my day as I have been dealing with constant vomit for 24 hours now from my "typical" four year old daughter. My sister told me about your Blog tonight - you see my son is 10 years old and autistic - Linda is our cousin (our mom and her dad are siblings). Thanks for caring so much for Matthew.

  4. Thank you for the kind words. I am lucky to have Matthew and his family in my life.

  5. I have been fortunate enough to have helped Matthew add several Georgetown Community Hospital umbrellas to his collection. His drawer of gumballs is equally impressive. Bless you
    for this blog. Terry