What Comforts You?

autism train

There are a lot of trains that run through my town. In fact, it is not uncommon to be stuck at a train crossing at least once throughout the day.

There is one place though where we can drive on a bridge over the tracks. At the end of this bridge is a red light, so sometimes it works out that we are stopped on the bridge while a train is passing under us.

Taylor loves it when this happens.

Since Taylor was old enough to play with toys, trains have been what he loved the most. As a toddler, “Thomas the Train” was playing constantly in the background at our house. The little hand-held metal train toys, Thomas and Percy, rarely left his hands. He carried them with him everywhere. To the park, in the car, at the dinner table…he even slept with them.

It occurred to me one day that he much preferred to hold them rather than playing with them. Taylor had tons of train cars and the wooden train table with all the tracks, but when he was bored with that, off he would go onto the next thing with Thomas and Percy clutched in his little hands.
autism thomas the trainThey were his security blanket or like I call it, his “Linus Blanket”. He was much happier with them in his possession but as he grew older and began to go to school, Thomas and Percy got left behind more and more.

Pretty soon, they remained on his book shelf for longer and longer periods of time until finally, they made a permanent home there. That didn’t mean that Taylor’s love for trains had dissipated. In fact, it remained the constant.

When he turned twelve or so, Taylor got his own bedroom. He was so excited to have his own room with “no brodders” so I let him choose to decorate it however he wanted. Of course he chose trains. He did a really great job decorating his room. Posters of historical trains, dark blues and reds and shelves to hold his beloved train toys.

When he was four years old, we went to the Chattanooga Choo Choo and even stayed in a rail car. For his sixth birthday, we took him on his first train ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. Β His dad would also take him to train yards so he could watch the trains load up the cars. In high school, he even visited aΒ  local train yard with students in his class to see if there were jobs there that he may be able to pursue when he was ready.

autism train ride

Yes. Taylor loves trains but I began to realize that it was much more than that.

Since I can remember, if we were driving and came upon a train, Taylor would roll the window down so he could hear it. It didn’t matter if we were not close enough to even see the tracks or the train, he could always hear it in the distance and down the window would go.

The sound of the trains is something that I have gotten used to. It is something I have come to expect, white noise. To be honest some days I don’t even take a second glance when he rolls that window down.

Not too long ago, the passenger window on my truck broke and wouldn’t roll down. Not even an inch. Ironically, it seemed like every single time Taylor was in the truck with me there would be a train. Taylor couldn’t roll down the window to listen. He would push that button and then remember the window would not go down. His shoulders would slump and he would sit there with the most disappointed look on his face, heartbroken as he watched the train go by. It didn’t matter to him that he could hear it through the window. It wasn’t the same.

After first discovering that the window would not roll down for him to hear the trains, he didn’t complain again. He didn’t have to. The silent, crest fallen face may have been worse and it broke my heart.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I had originally told my husband not to worry about having that window fixed, it was an old truck after all. I didn’t want him to spend the money on it but after seeing Taylor’s disappointment each day, I changed my mind. It had to be fixed! I told my husband how sad it made Taylor and Mike had it fixed by the end of that week.

It was during this time that I realized how something so simple, so “everyday” as hearing a train could bring such comfort and happiness to him.

The trains here are notorious for bringing a lot of aggravation and hassle to those of us that live here. There really isn’t a road in our town that you do not have to cross at least one, if not multiple tracks to just get out. In addition, they are so common that I hardly hear them anymore.

For Taylor, this is not the case at all. The trains bring him comfort. They make him happy. They set him at ease.

That day on the bridge, Taylor rolled down his window just in time to hear the train rolling away. In that moment I got it and was overcome to snap that picture. It seemed I finally understood what it is that Taylor may be feeling while watching and listening to that train go off into the distance.

Peace. Joy. Happiness. I could see it in his face how much he loved that short moment in time. Nothing existed except that train. No worries or stresses, just the sound of the wheels clacking on the track.

In that same moment I think I may have felt the exact same way as Taylor but I wasn’t watching the train. I was watching him. I was watching my son and was suddenly overwhelmed with how much joy and love I have for him, for Brendan and for Jordan.

My boys.

They make me happy.

They are my comfort. My joy. My love. My world.

What is yours?

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