Saturday, January 3, 2009

Stroked By The Brush

Xmas break takes over everything and puts me in my place.

I've never really been as deep into this role of The Dad as I am at this time. There are no jobs to escape to, no co-workers to spend time with, no important phone calls to engage in. Everyone knows that the world of art and commerce is shut down. The kids know it better than anyone. I'm here and I'm present, there is no juggling of anything for two weeks. I just have one role and one set of things to think about.

The doors will be closing. Please stand clear of the doors.

The doors will be closing. Please stand clear of the doors.

The phrase is repeated obsessively whenever we encounter a moving door. At the library, on a bus, at the supermarket. It comes from deep within and interrupts common conversation. It's stated as an impulse, a reaction, not as a collection of thoughts expressed. It is repeated in exact tone and rhythm without meaning. This is echolilia.

The memorization of subway schedules. The tracking of buses and their schedules in real time. The affected style of speech, with a sing song up and down pattern. The focused attention on complex mechanical gears: bus doors, elevator doors, sliding doors, multi-plane doors that fit into each other. The lack of interest in physical affection...he never needs to be hugged, it just doesn't make him feel better.

A mainstream book on autism came into the house. We laughed at it at first...we really kind of had forgotten the whole diagnosis we got last year and have come to think of these characteristics as part of his personality that we just embrace. This book had 'em all, like a check list: yes, yes, no on that, not that one, yes, kind of, yes.
The book had one concept that really was the keeper: some kids get clobbered by this autism thing and it takes over their entire being while other kids just get gently stroked by the brush. Some of these compulsions stick like pollen, others don't, and all other qualities stay the same. During this break it was clear that what we got was the gentle brushing... that is what has made it so confusing to pin point and figure out.
Having an answer to the riddle feels always very different than simply having the riddle.


max s. gerber said...

tim, this is a great description of what your family is doing and feeling and thinking. i'm really glad you wrote this. "stroked by the brush" is a great phrase, too.

sometimes i think that reading books like that on diseases or conditions - the books that are supposed to tell you definitively what life is like or what to expect or what you should do or what it all means - sometimes i think that those books don't really help do anything except fuel paranoia, and a drive to see if you can fit into the "normal" of this new paradigm.

i'm always more comfortable when books say "this is how i've lived" or "this is how those people lived" not "this is how YOU should live".

i'm glad that what you're doing instead is a thing that allows you to examine the actual family in front of you, while using those books to identify with some things and laugh at others.

Charles said...

Yeah! Happy New Year T.A. :-)