Sunday, June 24, 2012


It's the best possible time to be alive, when almost everything you thought you knew is wrong.  -Arcadia by Tom Stoppard

In the summer after 6th grade, I went to a local carnival.  It was the type of vagabond carnival that wanders from city to city, town to town and neighborhood to neighborhood raising money for a church or civic association.  It had the big gambling tent, the small gaming booths, and rides that did not exactly look like they passed inspection - a child's slice of heaven.

In one of the gaming booths was a wheel.  A large spinning game of chance with the numbers 1 through 40 it. Only a quarter to play.  Pick a number, put your quarter on it and hope against hope that the wheel would spin around and point at your number - a 1 in 40 chance.  

As I was leaving the carnival on my way home, I spotted a prize on the top shelf of the 1 through 40 booth.  I could not believe it.  I wanted it so bad.  No, I needed it. Bad.  I had such an intense longing for that prize.  It had to be mine.  I only had one quarter.  One shot.  So I stepped up and placed my quarter on my favorite number at the time 23, and I watched and waited.

As the wheel spun, I looked up at the prize.  I could not have wanted it more.  I could feel the endorphins taking over my body as the desire became deeper and my apprehension grew.    I looked back at the wheel and watched it slowing down.  I performed a visual calculation in my head.  I had a real chance at this.  Forget reason.  Forget odds.  Forget reality.  Forget common sense.    I let my mind wander.  I could see myself running home to tell my parents about what had happened, about how my last quarter won me the coveted prize.  I could see all the fun I would have with the prize and could visualize sharing it with my sure-to-be-envious friends.

The wheel creeped closer to number 23.  4 numbers away.  3, 2, 1.....

And there it stopped - on number 40.  I click away from number 23.  I could feel my face getting flush as the vagabond carnival worker peered up at me with a look of pity as he slowly swiped my quarter- my hope - away into the carnival profit box.  I was devastated, angry, embarrassed.  I felt stupid for wasting my money, stupid for thinking I could win, and stupid for caring so much about something so small.

But still, I remember that moment today, like it was yesterday.  And I am still embarrassed to admit that.  The prize was a silly complete set of knock-off wrestling dolls, that I would have lost interest in in 6 months or less and would have ended up broken and in the trash.  But still the moment stays with me.

That story of me as a young boy, hopeful, naive, gullible, and believing in the irrational and unreasonable is a perfect metaphor for life as a parent of a child with Autism.  The "wheel" consists of all the anecdotal stories we have heard of all of the different way parents have found to ameliorate the effects of Autism in their child.  The "quarter" is in our hands, to chose which treatment, or method we want to bet on next.  

But the feelings of hopefulness and desire as we place a new bet, of shunning odds, or reason or common sense to believe we can win, and of anger and stupidity when our number is not called is not metaphoric.  Those feelings are all real and we live them every day, through every choice we make.

This weekend we learned it was not parasites in the digestion process.

But, we have a life time of quarters to keep trying.


  1. Hi Justin, as usual your post has touched on a profound truth. Hope springs eternal. My grandmother used to say that being disappointed as a child prepared you for greater tribulations in life, I'm not sure if she just had so much hopelessness that it made her cynical or if she was just born that way but I decided young that I would always hope for the stars. Despite the down sides, keep on hoping it is a much nicer way to live.

  2. PS I just found my Liebster Award. Thanks very much

  3. Yay! A new post from you. It's like Christmas.

    I love this metaphor. It put a smile on my face. I would rather be the one risking a quarter than those thinking it foolish. Best wishes for this latest challenge. You have reminded me of how resilient the human mind, body, and spirit can be.

    1. Ahh, you are too kind. Thanks for sticking with me through my - back to normal - pace of posting once every so often!