Pulling the Trigger

Pulling the Trigger (1)

We had just finished hauling our waste to the county recycling center. It’s one of the little things I do to save money. Rather than pay a monthly fee for garbage pickup service, I take it there myself.

Here’s how it works:

  • Garbage cards cost $4 a piece.
  • Each card has 4 punches and allows 1-10 bags of garbage
  • Each bag of recyclables earns a $2 credit

The goal is to bring enough recyclables to offset the amount of waste. Good recycling habits = free garbage disposal. Placing my unused garbage card back in my wallet, I leaned toward my son.

“So Cade,” I ask. “What would you like to do next?”

“Daddy…” pausing he looks back at me. “Go to Starbucks.”

Cade is twenty years old. He’s 6’3″ and weighs over 250 pounds. Although autism has limited his vocabulary, he’s a rather chatty guy. He stands at the Starbucks counter ready to order his favorite fall treat. Pointing to the barista, Cade shakes his finger while looking over the menu board.

“Hey.” Cade says with a smile. “What’s your name?”

“Dylan,” replies the young man. Eyes level with Cade, his frame is lean. About 100 pounds lighter I’d say. “What’s your name?”

“Cade.” He smiles in his usual awkward manner. Squinting his eyes, his grin stretches across his face. With a smile from ear to ear, his eyes close and then open wide. “Dylan…” He pauses before he queries. “Are you happy?”

“Yes Cade,” he replies. “I’m very happy.”

“Dylan…” Again Cade pauses. “Do you have a dog?”

“I do have a dog.”

“What’s your dog’s name?”

“His name is Ace.”

“Ace is a boy?” Cade says with a question.

“Ace is a boy.” Dylan confirms.

“Dylan…” Cade proceeds through his usual series of questioning. And if we never see Dylan again, Cade will always remember every detail of this young man. He’ll remember his name. He’ll remember his dog’s name. He’ll remember his birthday. And he’ll even remember his kitchen appliances.

Before long, caffeine seeking patrons enter the door. With both of my hands on the back of Cade’s head, I shift his attention back to the menu board. “What would you like?” I ask.

“Pumpkin Spice Latte.” He loudly cheers. Ordering done, he steps aside. “…and a pumpkin scone.”

We sit on the soft leather chairs, Cade and I. Anxiously, Cade awaits his name to be called.

“Tall Non-Fat Latte for Brenda.”

A well-manicured hand reaches for the cup. As she lifts the warm beverage, she slips it into an insulated sleeve.

“Brenda…” Cade gets her attention. “Are you happy?”

“I’m happy now.” With her beverage in hand, she says goodbye.

“Grande Caramel Macchiato for John.”

“John…” Cade approaches. “Are you happy?”

Without fail, the first thing Cade asks when meeting someone is, “Are you happy?”

Oddly enough, my wife and I are not allowed to say the word “happy.” We refer to it as the “H” word. The most common word in Cade’s vocabulary becomes shady when we use it. Therefore, we treat the “H” word like we treat those questionable friends that are always trying to sell their multi-level marketing crap. We avoid it by all means necessary.

You see, it all started several years ago when Cade first started experiencing migraines. With a limited number of words, he couldn’t formulate, “It feels like my skull exploded and a leprechaun is stabbing me in the fucking eye with an ice pick.” Instead, he would scream while referring to himself in the third person. “You’re not HAP-PY!Β  You’re not HAP-PY!” Since then, my wife and I are forbidden from using the “H” word. It’s become a trigger of sorts for Cade.

What exactly does the “H” word trigger? Let’s go back to those soft leather chairs at the local Starbucks. They’re quite comfortable. It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I had just checked the monthly trip to the recycling center off my to-do list and I was feeling spectacularly cleansed. For some reason, I get this feeling every time I leave the dump. It’s the same way I feel the morning after drinking a cup of Smooth Move tea. Cade greets everyone passing by and I tap my feet joyfully to the music. Leaning back, Cade pulls his phone from the side pocket of his cargo pants.

“That’s so gross Cade!” I shriek.

“Dad…” Licking the froth above his lip, he laughs. “You watching Dr. Pimple Popper.”

And so Cade indulges in pumpkin scones, pimples, blackheads and giant boils. With both hands on the back of my own head, I shift my attention away. To get my mind off the massive puss filled extraction I just witnessed, I focus on the music. I must say, IΒ  do love Pharrell Williams. Shortly into the chorus, I begin singing along and that’s when the “H” word comes out. “How stupid!” I think to myself. After all, the name of the damn song is “Happy.” Immediately, I shut my mouth. My eyes drift toward Cade and I wait for the outburst. Questioningly, he looks back at me. For some reason, however, he remains captivated with Dr. Pimple Popper. I actually got away with saying the “H” word; or so I thought. Cade takes another bite of his scone and I scroll through social media.

Facebook, the place where people treat each other like the trash I take to the dump. The place where people post ten or so hate filled rants followed by “Jesus is my savior. Type ‘Amen’ if you agree.” It doesn’t take a genius to know that this type of thinking only applies to household waste. And while one bag of recyclables may offset five or more bags of garbage, one pleasant post does not do the same. Hate is hate. There’s no number of puppies, kittens, grandchildren or spiritual memes that can offset hate. Shaking my head, I turn off social media and turn on Dr. Pimple Popper. I’ll take a nasty cyst over a nasty human any day.

Cade takes a final bite of his scone. Still sitting in his chair, he stomps his feet. The front of his shirt is pulled over to the back of his head. His face stretches through the fabric like a Pin Art toy you’d see on an executive’s desk. With his belly fully exposed he begins to scream. “HAP-PY! … HAP-PY! … HAP-PY! …HAP-PY!

So the next time you see a grown man watching Dr. Pimple Popper while sitting next to another grown man screaming the “H” word with his shirt pulled over his head, relax. It’s pumpkin season.