For the last 17 years I have worked with children who have Autism. It's difficult, it's joyful, it's interesting, it's frustrating, it's never boring and it's given me the gift of knowing and loving some of the most precious children in the world and being able to see past the disorder and into the personality of each and every one of them.
(Sidebar: Which is why I get so angry when people refer to someone as "being Autistic." They're not "autistic." That's a person, with a name, who also happens to HAVE AUTISM.)
Anyhoo. I will put my giant, sturdy soapbox away for now.
So it was no doubt a giant, colossal Karmic joke when Fate introduced me to Dan, we fell in love, got married, and twenty minutes later (more or less) he was diagnosed with Asberger's Syndrome.
I had been noticing (and commenting... Lord, how I commented) on the "little" habits he had that were typically on the Autism Spectrum. He would doodle pages and pages of 8s and cursive, lower case 'r's, getting weirdly happy about the ones he considered to be 'perfect' and circling them. He could spit out every baseball, football and basketball statistic ever recorded but not remember what he'd had for lunch. He is very intense, easily distracted, gets stuck on routine and can't drop a subject to save his life (and believe me when I say there were times when I seriously considered ENDING his life if he wouldn't shut up), and tends to randomly blurt out whatever thought pops into his head.
Loooong story short, when he was at the doctor trying to get a diagnosis for his erratic behavior and trying to find an effective "jerk pill" to make it all go away, I casually said, "I swear to God he has autism." And then I listed all of his quirks and all of the things that his family brushes aside as "Oh, that's just Dan." A giant lightbulb appeared over the doctor's head and she said, "Oh my God... he has classic Asbergers."
A few doctors and psychiatrists later, we had our diagnosis: Asbergers. (Dan: "See? I'm NOT just an asshole.") It is pronounced "Aus-bergers" when he's being good and "Ass-bergers" when he's, well, being a giant ass. ("So yes, Dan... you ARE still an asshole." Of course I would never say that. *cough*)
Which brings me to The Random Blurting.
Random Blurting is the one thing I would cast away if I were given a magic wand and told I could change one thing. The Random Blurting causes me to cringe when he opens his mouth in public and want to stuff a ball gag in his mouth in private. It's like a really scary prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack box. It could be anything. ANYTHING.
It's not so bad when it's family... We can all be talking about a cherished pet that passed away recently and Dan's contribution will be, "Red Lobster sounds really good right now. Mmmm, All You Can Eat Shrimp..."
But with people we don't know that well, it can require some explaining.
A few years ago, we went to Vegas with a large group of people for a friend's Vow Renewal Ceremony. When you add alcohol to Dan and stir, it gets... well... hmmm.
Group of Seven People: "Where should we go for dinner? Do we want Mexican, sushi, or pasta?"
Dan: "If you were divorced, would you move in with your ex-wife and her new husband and buy a house with them?"
Group of Seven People: "Let's get mojitos at Wolfgang's."
Dan: "I can't believe he bought a house with them."
Me: "Um, honey? Do you want Mexican or steak?"
Dan: "He's a customer of mine at work."
Other Member of Group: "Dude, what are you talking about?"
Dan: "A customer at work. He's divorced and moved in with his ex-wife and her new husband and bought a house with them."
Group of Seven People: *blink* *blink*
Me: *looking around desperately* "So, where are those mojitos?"
He is truly a creature of habit, as are all people on the Autism Spectrum. If he doesn't do something the same way Every. Single. Time. it absolutely spins his world out of control and life as we know it will never be the same. (Which, I hate to admit, makes me desperately want to fuck with him. And sometimes, I seriously can't help myself.)
When he eats breakfast, he needs complete silence and something to read. Since I always get up with him and sit there while he eats his breakfast, I occasionally find it annoying to be so thoroughly and completely IGNORED. Seriously, I could stand on my head and juggle kittens with my feet and he wouldn't glance up from the back of the cereal box that he's already read 15 times.
If I leave the cereal box, the milk, and a newspaper in front of him, it's like sensory over-load. He doesn't know what to look at first.
This morning he was telling me about how when he was a kid, he had a Friday bowl, a Friday cup, a Friday shirt and a Friday towel. And on Thursday night, he had to have rice pilaf. If all of those things were in place, his day would be swell and he could relax and look forward to the weekend. If one of those items were missing or unavailable, dark and gloomy storm clouds would appear over his head and every person who had the misfortune to cross his path would tremble in his wake.
As he was explaining this to me, I started to giggle. At first he was confused and demanded to know what was so funny. While he was telling me that he had to have CHILLED RED KOOL-ADE in his cup, which had to be a "Slush Puppy" cup, and the rice pilaf on Thursday night had to be Rice-a-Roni and "not that generic shit my mom always bought" I couldn't stop laughing. (I mean, seriously... how could his family not find this behavior even a little bit ODD?)
Eventually, he started laughing with me as he told me how tattered and worn his "Friday Shirt" started getting and how his only explanation for this behavior was that "I really like Fridays."
I was practically lying on the floor, gasping for air, flopping about like a giant fish that had just been hooked and tossed on the bottom of the boat when he absolutely sent me over the edge...
Dan: "Did I tell you what my Friday towel looked like?"
Me: *tears rolling down my cheeks and laughing like a hyena* "Nooooo.... what?"
Dan: *starting to really crack up* "It was a rainbow towel."
Me: "Haaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaaa! Whyyyyyy a rainbow towel?"
Dan: "Because of Kermit the Frog."
Me: "Haaa! Haaaaaaa! *wheeze* Kermit the Frog?"
Dan: "Uh huh. It's not easy being green."
I have NO idea what that means but it did me in. I laughed until my stomach hurt and I was trying not to wet my pants.
Like I said, y'all... frustrating, maddening, enlightening... and never, NEVER boring.