The Summer of Alphonse’s Smiles

22 Apr

My friend Mayet dropped in on us with a surprise for Alphonse the other day. It was one of my son’s favorites, a homemade flour-free rellenong bangus (deboned stuffed milkfish) that could be fried easily for his afternoon snack times. I knew Alphonse would appreciate the visit so I dragged Mayet inside to say hello, and lo and behold! Alphonse was in his birthday suit, heehee.

I can’t blame the boy. It started to sizzle in the city late in March, with temperatures slowly rising to the mid-3o’s (°Celsius). The other day, we hit 37°C, with no respite in sight. Yesterday was a degree cooler and we had unexpectedly strong rain (with hail in some parts of the island) so we slept better than we have of late. Still, we expect higher temperatures in the next couple of weeks as summer goes into overdrive. The boys and I are hunkering down for the long, hot summer. We stay in darkness or under the shade during the day so we can cut down electricity costs. We settle for electric fans during the day, using only airconditioning at night before Alphonse goes to bed. With a cold drink in hand and the almost-daily afternoon halo-halo, we manage to survive this heat wave one day at a time.

Alphonse does have it better than us. While Alex and I make do with fans and mist sprayers, he has a mini inflatable pool. We can’t set up his large pool (the one big enough to accommodate four large adults) because we need to conserve water so this will have to do for now. At least it gets him cooled down. Water play has always been his favorite activity next to blowing bubbles. 🙂 alphonse in pool We’ve had to let his hair grow a while now because of his ear problems but with the heat bearing down on us, it made sense to give him a short buzzed cut. He’s been tugging at his curls often these days, so even with the open wound on his ear, we went ahead and got him a hair cut. Alphonse summer 01 Judging by the pictures, he enjoyed the visit to the barber. His dad said he kept smiling and giggling the whole time. Props to his barber too, for getting it done really fast and without a fuss. alphonse summer 02 As much as the weather oppresses us with its searing heat, summer has its good moments. When the weather cools down in the evening, the boys gravitate to our bedroom for shared airconditioning. I like these times best, when the boys spend time together. Alex is often preoccupied with his usual pursuits- music, computers, chatting with friends- and Alphonse is so very far behind his big brother’s interests that finding them a common activity has always been difficult. There are times, however, when nothing needs to be said or done, when all that is needed is a touch or a hug to reconnect and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood.

I love that my boys, despite their ages, still have these moments. Autism, for all its difficulties and challenges, does have its gifts and this is one of them- a loving look that passes between siblings, even when both are fully grown. alphonse summer 03 If we continue to measure our lives by Alphonse’s struggles and successes, we do so because we are all he has. We make no apologies for that anymore.

This summer, just like the others that have gone before it, is another chapter we save gladly in our memories. We will draw strength and inspiration from it when the good times become difficult to remember. And until the darkness comes, we will soak in this bright, beautiful world that is Alphonse’s smile and be grateful that the light is here for a while.


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