North & The Great Soda Debacle…

Little Wonders by Rob Thomas


     This is the oldest of my Autistic children. He was diagnosed at three years old as Autistic/Aspie, and is now twenty-four. He loves computers, memorizes amazingly long strings of computer code/passwords/etc…, is interested in digital art/story-boarding, and is currently saving up to build his own computer, looking for work, tackling the daunting issue of learning to drive, and contemplating college. He currently types 86 words per minute using, as far as I can tell, two fingers. Watching him type is like watching a virtuoso play…his long, graceful fingers just barely hovering over the keys. Speaking of which, he would have loved to have played the violin or piano–but there was never enough money for lessons and, as we live in America, few to no school music programs for him to participate in.

     He has had a particularly rough road dealing with NT’s over the years–as when he was diagnosed, Early Intervention and such services were just really getting started in the schools/area where we lived. It was trial and error for the most part and we as a family really struggled with not only NT individuals who lacked both tolerance and compassion…but ‘specialists’ whose sole goal seemed to be to force my son into a mold he was never meant to fit. I tried to balance this at home by making our home his sanctuary (I didn’t realize at the time that I was able to do so, so very effectively, because I too craved the same lack of overwhelming stimuli and shelter from people that he did–I wouldn’t figure that out for another twenty some years.)

To any out there who state that Autistics are incapable of emotions, empathy, compassion–my North is a brilliant example of how very wrong they are. You will never meet a more conscientious, watchful, well-meaning, kind, just, and flat out wonderful human being as he is. With all my son struggled with…all this Aspie challenges…the utter disruption of life when his sister got ill with cancer and his worry for her…the devastation and disillusionment when his father walked away from our family…and our consequent descent into poverty–this young man has more than risen to the occasion, oftentimes going far outside his comfort zone in order to step up for a sibling or even me…but I will get into all of that at another time…

North, in addition to all the wonderful things that he is…he is Aspie/Autistic–which brings certain…quirks…in life, and I will give you an example…

One year for his birthday (he is a lover of orange soda), I bought a bottle of soda for North as part of his birthday treat. Several days after his birthday, I noted it still sat on the counter, unopened. Our resulting conversation went like this:

“North, don’t you like orange soda anymore?” I asked.

He looked at me oddly.

“Yeah, it’s my favorite.” he said.

I looked at him for a moment waiting to see if he was going to elaborate, but he didn’t seem to be going to.

“Why haven’t you had any?” I tried again.

He walked over to the counter and pointed to the Best If Used By date on the bottle.

“Because it’s not ready yet, see?”

I took a look at the date…which was several months away and looked at him.

“You know that date means you should drink it BEFORE that date right?”

He looked at me again, a bit confused, a bit irritated from behind his overlong bangs. He looked back at the bottle and said,…

“No it says right here, it will be BEST if I use it on this date.”

I grinned at him–

“I’m afraid not kiddo–that means you need to drink it before that day.”

“What?” he asked, half smiling half looking at me suspiciously.

“North (I chuckle), it means that’s when it may go bad. You need to drink it before then–I know…I know…people say things in weird ways.”

The next day I heard him muttering a good deal about how “people should say things that they mean in a way that makes sense” as he poured himself a glass of soda.

     This is one of my favorite memories of North–and we laugh about it even today…but it is also exactly these kind of small things that trip up so many of us on the spectrum and can cause huge misunderstandings at school, work, or in social situations–the thing is, I kind of agree with him–it’s a silly way to phrase it.

(to be continued…)


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