One evening we were eating supper and Aaron was talking.
That sentence makes me laugh because I could just leave the first part blank – to be filled in, you know – because any place and any time and any meal and absolutely ANY scenario could easily end with: “…and Aaron was talking.”
After all, the name of this blog IS, “He Said WHAT?!” I write about lots of other things, too, but I started out wanting to convey the amazing way that Aaron expresses himself. Sometimes he is not only amazing. He is also funny, maddening, complex, insulting, and so many other adjectives.
Anyway, we were eating supper and Aaron was trying very hard…and largely succeeding…in monopolizing the conversation. I don’t remember Aaron’s question to Gary, but Gary decided to answer in a joking way. Gary must have had a momentary loss of focus or memory. Aaron rarely appreciates joking, at least not joking in the way that we…and all of you, no doubt…would understand. Most joking does not compute in Aaron’s autistic brain. Instead, he is most often angered by the give and take that the rest of our family enjoys.
So, when Gary offered a little joking response, Aaron’s response was not at all light and funny.
“Dad!!!” Aaron responded. “I’m trying to talk a NORMAL thing!!!”
Oh, how I wanted to look at Aaron and ask, “Aaron, please define normal!”
Aaron’s definition of normal would most assuredly not be our definition of normal. And that’s OK, really. It’s just that sometimes we have a hard time not bending over in a belly laugh when Aaron responds to one of us as he did. Instead, Gary and I share a fleeting look of understanding with each other…a slight and very quick smile so that Aaron won’t notice…and wait until later to laugh at the whole situation. Or sigh, very deeply.
But we can’t sigh when Aaron is around.
“Mom!!” he said once after I sighed. “Don’t breathe madly!”
You would think that if Aaron notices my sighing then he would also notice and then copy how to engage in conversation, joking, excitement, and all sorts of other regular communication. Yet that element is often missing from Aaron’s abilities. It’s one of the mysteries of the autistic brain, that lack of being able to connect the social dots like you and I do.
As I mentioned earlier, our joking often sets Aaron on edge. But what Aaron thinks is funny is usually not at all funny. Aaron thinks it’s funny to whack a person on their bottom, for instance. I’ll never forget the day he hauled off and whacked a resident doctor in the hospital. That was an interesting moment, and so embarrassing for me.
And Aaron’s response when corrected was, and always is, this: “But I was just trying to be funny!”
We had this recurring scenario one day, with Aaron telling me he was just trying to be funny, when I repeated what I often say: “Aaron, what’s funny to you usually isn’t funny…at all!”
He looked at me for a few seconds and then answered: “Mom, I don’t know what I could use as funny.”
And THAT is a very true statement! It’s also a very insightful look into what makes Aaron tick.
Yet Aaron truly is very funny sometimes, although he doesn’t know that he is. He says things in such unusual and comical ways, but we often can’t laugh because we don’t want him to be self-conscious or to get angry.
A couple examples from this past week:
“Dogs are more trainful than cats.”
After dumping Parmesan cheese on his pizza: “Mom, you’ll need to buy some more of that spaghetti powder!”
And a favorite from the past, after I once again reminded him not to ever ask a girl how much she weighs: “Mom, I didn’t ask Tiffany how much she weighs. I asked her how much she eats!”
🙂 🙂 🙂
Aaron’s talking can also be very draining to Gary and me. Sometimes we try to slip out of the house without Aaron hearing us. We sneak out the garage door, closing the door to the house as softly as possible, and then we sit on our front porch for a few minutes to ourselves. We feel like two teenagers who are trying to sneak out without permission, and it makes us laugh.
But usually it isn’t long before we hear the unmistakable sound of Aaron in the house, clomping down the stairs and most certainly looking for us. He has something he must say and so he searches until he finds us.
Here he was one evening, standing on the sidewalk talking to us as if he was on a stage and we were his audience.
His subject was no doubt something like Star Wars and the Jedi Knights…or Transformers…or whatever else he was playing on his computer. Talk of androids and Anakin and Padme’ and Darth Maul…of Sith Lords and Jedi knights and clones and Queen Amidala…of light sabers and droids and the force and motherships.
His excitement builds as Gary and I slip further into a stupor.
Aaron doesn’t notice our glazed eyes or fixed looks. He’s having his version of fun! But then the dreaded happens! He asks us a question. And we just look at him blankly while he, at last, is quiet as he awaits our answer.
Our brains scramble to link up to the last thing or person or alien or whatever that he was talking about. If it’s a person, my usual answer is actually a question: “Ummmm…is he a good guy or a bad guy?”
Aaron happily answers me, and once again he is off and running – thankful for any engagement from me or from Gary.
Ah, yes, we’re having Aaron’s version of talking a normal thing.
But sometimes…sometimes…Aaron is quiet, like he was on the porch during this rainy moment. It was such a sweet moment, too.
And I am reminded that Aaron needs me and Gary to understand his normal and to, when possible, allow his normal to be our normal, as well.
Except for that.