A little background on us…

This is an article I wrote that was published in 07 for TAP Magazine (The Autism Perspective).  Thought I’d share it here to give you a little background:

The other side of Normal 

Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to have a normal life.  But then again – what is normal anyway?  Is there anyone out there who is technically “normal”?  Would anyone even admit to that? 

          In this world today there are so many families living with “exceptions”, “eccentricities”, “abnormalities”, if you will.  What are your secrets?  Everyone has them.  What’s behind your front door?

          Our story is quite simple.   Well… at least we think so.   Let me introduce ourselves – there’s Becki (that’s me), Dave (loving husband and father), Michael, Tony and Joey… and a guy named Autism.  I say that because we have become so accustomed to this “guest” in our house – this intruder – this 6th wheel.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe he’s going away anytime soon.  He’s here and he’s gotten really comfortable with our family. 

          When Tony  – or “Toneman” as he’s lovingly referred to as – is in “movie-mode”, we all get to go to the movies for free.  Every single day he will pace the kitchen or hallways quoting movies.  He usually gets stuck on one movie, and then we all get to see it over and over and over again.  It’s funny… because when my husband and I met he liked my funny sense of I-should-have-been-a-movie-star mentality.  I was always quoting one-liners from movies – mostly from chick flicks, you know, romantic comedies.  The difference is that Toneman takes it to the extreme.  He won’t stop and it’s not just a one-liner… it’s an all-nighter and sometimes an all-weeker. 

          Since Toneman is so “Hollywood”, we find ourselves thinking this is normal.  Doesn’t EVERYONE quote a line — no, more like an episode — from “The Magic School Bus” when in science class?  Or at the dinner table?  Doesn’t EVERYONE have a child that still finds Barney hilarious at age 14?  Doesn’t EVERYONE still have to sit through Dragon Tales and Sesame Street clips played on the family computer?  Who knew that the “YouTube” website would be so super helpful for autistic kids?  They think it’s the best thing since popcorn chicken and french fries!  Who knew that “blue chips” in our house would mean Cool Ranch Doritos — not some financial windfall?  Who knew that a simple trip to Super Target would be a 2 hour analytical trip through their video section?  (and trust me there’s not that many to choose from)  Who knew that my three- cornered  bathtub would become a snorkeling adventure on a daily basis?  Who knew that Toneman’s fears would become so intense that he’d be scared to exit the car unless the garage door is closed?  Who knew that a simple yawn would cause the Toneman to fly across a room to kiss you?  (Does he know something that we don’t or hear something that we can’t? )  Who knew that he’d call his uncle a “World War II fighter pilot” when wearing his sleep apnea machine at night?  Who knew that my 160 lb. – 14 year old would still be scared of the dark?  And that he’d come PLOWING in at all hours of the night to “snuggle”? 

          Think about it:  how simple is HIS world?  It’s black and white.  There are no social worries.  No worries about who likes him or who likes what he’s wearing.  No worries about who thinks he’s cool or who’s friends with whom.  Toneman doesn’t care if his stomach is bulging – he calls himself “Santa Claus” and giggles.  He just doesn’t care.  I realize that he doesn’t have those associations or feelings due to our friend,  Mr. Autism.   But is that a bad thing?  Toneman has no financial worries.  He may never know the fear of ‘more month at the end of the money’ (God bless him) or a fear of paying for college or a fear of saving for retirement.  He’s very simple, really.  He’s very matter of fact.  He is what he is and he says what he says.  Plain and simple.  That seems normal, doesn’t it?

           No. “ We live in a cynical world” (quote from Jerry McGuire) with social, financial and economical pressure.  Extreme pressure.  But guess what?  We put that on ourselves.  Did God create this “world” of autism to show us “normal” folk that a person CAN exist without self doubt, self pity, self indulgence, self-everything?  Who is “normal” anyway here?  Who defines that?  And could we learn something from all of this? 

          It’s interesting.  As I sit here I wonder… how did this happen to Toneman?  WHY did it happen to him?  What would he be like if he was just “normal”?   And then I sit back.  Maybe it didn’t just “happen” to him — maybe it happened to US.  To all of us – so we could realize what’s important in life.  It’s the “blue chips”, the simplicity of children’s videos, the basic need of feeling safe and giving kisses when needed…a sense of security.  It’s a more simple world – a hidden skill or a hidden message.  We just have to search for it and to be open enough to recognize it when it’s right in front of us.  

          So, for all those families out there living with “exceptions”, “eccentricities” and “abnormalities” who are also asking “just WHO signed me up for this ‘normal’ life anyway”?  I know who did.  And I thank him every single day. 

copywrite © March 2007

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