I had problems as a child. I never wanted to admit it to anyone. I was like Evan, except for the school issues. In school, I can literally remember getting my name on the board one time, and I cried for the rest of the day. In high school, I got one detention, and even the teacher knew I didn’t belong there, and instead gave me his car keys, his credit card, and a list and sent me to a nearby grocery store instead of sitting silently like the other kids. That’s it.
But when I would get home? I would explode on my parents. Especially my mother, because my father would “discipline” me in a way that left bruises for weeks. When I was in junior high school, I was so upset by the way my mom and dad failed to understand me that I took an entire bottle of Advil, thinking it would kill me. Somewhere around that time, I cut my wrists with the superficiality of someone crying out, not the deep jaggedness of someone who meant business. I just wanted someone to understand me. And I can date it even earlier than that. My mother was so used to hearing nothing but praise at parent-teacher conferences that she considered it a huge waste of her time to go to them. Until third grade, when Mrs. Holbrook told her she saw something in me that was a little off, and recommended a psychologist. Mom was furious and wanted to know what she saw in me that nobody else did, and insisted the woman was crazy. Looking back, Mrs. Holbrook was right, mom was in denial of the way I acted at home, and I think afraid of the stigma of mental health issues that still exist today, let alone 1985. We didn’t have labels for everything. And then there is the gifted classes, that label, that left me feeling alienated from my peers.
I still have those feelings today. In the way it is unpleasant for me to make eye contact with others. In the way I feel awkward socially, and over compensate by being too boisterous, too loud. It is in the way I cannot handle certain things and lash out to the ones closest to me. Evan has the Titanic, but when I was his age, I had the Holocaust, and even arranged for a survivor to come and speak to my gifted and talented class as part of an independent project. I never studied. Never. Straight A’s come so easily because I can just listen, and on test day, can play back the information like a recording. It almost seemed like cheating. And if I don’t use the mental tape recorder trick, well, I can close my eyes and see the meticulously prepared study guide. Not that I studied it. Just writing it out was enough, organized into sections by study points, to where, on test days, I could close my eyes and zoom into the exact section that has the information on it that I need to recall to answer the question at hand. It is as real as zooming in on a detail with the view finder of a camera. I was that way through high school, my first attempt at college, and respiratory school. It benefits me in my current career because I can still do this with notes and texts from respiratory school, even 6 years out.
And I remember when they told us they thought Evan was so gifted. I cried. I didn’t want him to be like I was as a kid. It was too hard. Because I didn’t have a label back then, but I knew that something was always off just a little bit. Something made me not normal. I buried it, though, fooling myself that we all feel that way at times. That there is nothing special or unusual about me. I just have a really good memory.
And now here we are. We’re going through this stuff with Evan, and I am doing all of this research. And did you know that there are quizzes and questionairres online to see if you could possibly have Asperger’s Syndrome? And as I was reading, I started to read stuff that seemed more familiar than just seeing them in Evan. And I was taken back to my childhood. I can honestly remember all the way back to preschool. Learning Station One in Cincinnati, which had a real live caboose on its playgorund in front of the school, hence the name. I remember learning to read there when I was three. I remember my favorite pink overalls that I loved so much that mom bought the same pair in lavendar. I remember the day before preschool when I was with Mom at Burger Chef before it became Hardee’s, and then Carl’s Jr. And I went up to the manager to inquire why it was “Burger Chef, like “shy”, Not Burger CHef, like in “cheese”. I was three fucking years old. And not only did I have a grasp of the language enough to figure out the inconsistency, but I fucking remember it as if it happened yesterday instead of 32 years ago. I can close my eyes and see what my mother was wearing that day. And we went through a different letter of the alphabet everyday, moving on to sounds when the alphabet had been used up. And each day, the snack and art project would involve that letter or sound. I remember being so excited for the letter C because everyone knows C is for cookie, and I would be getting a cookie. I was pissed when I got a different C food that day: carrots. See, I remember it all.
So I started taking these quizzes along with Evan. And everyone of them said the same thing: I could possibly have Asperger’s and to see a psychologist. Not Evan. Me. They said the same about Evan. There was one that sparked intense debate here, because of the questions. And it went something like this:
A man goes to buy a smoothie, and is thirsty, so he asks for the biggest one they have. The cashier tells him that they large one now comes in a collector’s cup. He says he doesn’t give a damn about the cup, he just wants the largest smoothie. Sure enough, it comes in the collector’s cup. So the question is did he get the cup intentionally? Now consider this…
The same man goes to the same smoothie shop and again, asks for the biggest smoothie they have. The cashier tells him that the large smoothie is now a dollar more. He says he doesn’t care about price, he just wants the biggest smoothie. So the cashier gives him the smoothie and he payes the dollar more for it. Did he intentionally pay a dollar more?
Evan and I said no, that the cup and the dollar more were both unintentional. He just wanted the biggest smoothie and the dollar more and the cup came as consequences for getting the biggest smoothie. John argued with this, stating that the cup was unintentional and the dollar more was intentional. WTF? Evan and I couldn’t understand this. John argued that he could have opted for the smaller smoothie and not paid the dollar more. But if this is the case, he could have opted for the smaller smoothie and not gotten it in a fucking special cup. Anyhow, apparently the fact that Evan and I both could not process this information like John means that we are likely to have Asperger’s Syndrom while John answered the way normal people do. Stupid test.
So what of it? What if Evan has Asperger’s? What if I do? Well, if I do, he is more likely to as a genetic link exists. Does it mean we are mentally retarded? Does it mean anything at all? If I am interpreting the information I have taken in, it means we just think differently than others. That can be bad, as in social difficulties, and it could be good. It is thought that Einstein, Newton, Bill Gates, Mozart, and more of our greats have had or do have the disorder. The greats of our society, which is most likely one of the reasons that one author even attributed it to Darwinian evolution of the species. As in survival of the fittest. And “Aspies” right there in the center of it all.
It still is up in the air how I will handle it if Evan is diagnosed. I have my hunches as a mother, but actually having a psychologist tell us he has it without question is another thing altogether. Does it mean he is disordered? That I am? Did I somehow cause this as I have parented him? Didn’t I love him enough? (If this notion seems ridiculous, I urge you to google “Refridgerator Mothers and Autism”.) Or does it mean that, with proper direction and management of symptoms, the kid could be in a class with the above-mentioned people? I don’t know that I want that for Evan.
Happy. Healthy. Normal. That’s what I want for my child. For myself. But is there such a thing as normal these days?