Childhood

Many adult Aspies have blogs where we write about Aspergers from our Adult points of view. We write what we see and feel today. Very few of us write about what it was like to be a child without the voice to explain it through our own eyes back then. I believe that is because many of our childhood memories are colored by our misunderstanding of the people around us.
I was a very young child when I first viewed my parents with distrust. They put my 15 month old sister on the back of a horse and watched her fall off. They laughed while I melted down. At five, I realized they were irresponsible and not to be trusted. It seems my lifelong relationship with my parents was cemented in that single moment.

When I was about 7 my family’s Sunday visits to my dad’s parents stopped. Every Sunday we would go to their house and have dinner where everybody would talk real loud. After dinner grandpa would sit on his chair and my dad would sit on the end of the couch adjacent to grandpa. Grandma sat in her grandma chair, and mom, sis and I sat on the couch with dad.
“No, I believe that chickens are more trouble than they’re worth.”
“That’s because you are stupid.” Grandpa shouted at Dad, his only son.
“I’m not stupid, you will never get enough eggs to make them worthwhile.”
“Well, you’re stupid.” Grandpa sang the refrain.
This is one of the strongest memories I have of Sundays as a child. I must have been about seven when I asked my mom why Grandpa and Dad spent every Sunday screaming at each other. She didn’t answer me, but Sunday dinners at Grandma’s stopped. 500_F_59547634_Pv2SQvLdwKoMAd7V3pFF2F1pVxHjmp11
Mom detested my grandparents, so this was a handy way to take Sundays back from my grandparents.
Dinner at home was never any better.
The family is at the table and my mother has put all the food on the table. We are sitting down and now it’s time to do what they do on tv.
“How was your day?” Mom asks Dad.
Dad always has an anecdote about one of the stupid sons of a bitches he works with, sometimes it’s a mad anecdote, but often it’s funny.
Mom asks sis and I in turn, and we are hoping it will all go ok; that there is nothing to rock the boat. It never really mattered. It was going to be something. Maybe we were having fried potatoes and Dad would mention that nobody could fry potatoes like his mom. This is where mom came in with her pointed but ineffective reply. Something like, “Go live at her house then.”
“Well, I’m allowed to say I like my mom’s potatoes.” Dad said.
At this point mom was crying; She was a very emotional woman when it came to any
disapproval from Dad.
I would invariably pop up with whatever positive affirmation that this situation required.
“You and Grandma both make good potatoes. Dad thinks you make good potatoes.” shirley-temple1
Dinner was an experience that always seemed to escalate. First it would rock, and then it would shake, then it would boil, then it would churn, all the while I was trying to keep peace so this wouldn’t happen. Again.

7th Grade Science Class Was Horrifying for This Aspie

Miss McHendry’s No Science 7th Grade Science Class
by Mari Stein
The worst teacher I ever had, indeed the worst teacher I ever saw, was Miss McHendry. She was 4 feet 9 inches of pure crazy. We all knew this not only from her reputation of jumping off her desk, but I knew it from those eyes. Her eyes glittered with unfounded excitement. The first day of class we wondered how long it would be until she jumped. I, for one, wanted that to be a myth. I hoped it was an untruth enjoyed and perpetuated by each class to titillate the next class. Everybody loves an “in” joke; Miss McHendry was the perfect foil,but she proved the myth to be true.10-Awesome-Facts-About-Halloween-Movies-You-Had-No-Idea-Of-2
The first week of class she climbed on the chair and onto the desk. There she made some noise asserting that humans can’t fly, even if they flap their arms. So there she is, tight grey curls badly contained on her elderly head, crazy eyes looking directly at her captive audience, while trying to raise onto her toes. The thick heels of her heavy black oxfords made quite a task of it, but she didn’t let that stop her. She had been doing this bi monthly for more years than anyone could remember. She mustered enough lift to carry her off the desk, and as she landed on the floor she said, “Humans can’t fly.” The other thing she did that first week was give us our ONE and only assignment for the year. We were to collect fall leaves for class. They had to be ‘perfect’ leaves, not small, not large, not spotted, not curled. Only perfect leaves would qualify. I drove my mother crazy obsessing about my leaves not being perfect enough. This was for a GRADE. 57_1oak_leaf_scaler
Miss McHendry loved to teach standing on her desk. She was my homeroom teacher and one of two science teachers for the 7th grade. It was my misfortune to have her as a teacher instead of the real science teacher. I absolutely detest crazy for the sake of crazy, and that is exactly what we were dealing with. We had science books, we could have spent that 50 minutes each day studying science. Studying directly from the books. It would have required no effort on her part. She could have made up test questions directly from the review in each section. We could have had Science Class. Instead we had a woman instructing us on ‘men with value vs. men without value’.
“My father was a wonderful man,” she raised her eyes, her face glowed with a beatific smile. Then she launched into a tribute about her father’s military heroism. She was too old to be teaching, so I could never really understand when his military career took place, but it didn’t matter because from there she launched into a diatribe about men who didn’t serve in the military. I think this diatribe covered any and all wars. “Namby Pambies they are! Panty Waists I say. They are not worth my father’s pinkie finger!” As she said this she had her hands on her hips and minced around, back and forth on the desk.
As she got angrier over these ‘Nambie Pambies’, she adopted her Shirley Temple voice and a five year old child’s earnestness. She drew her elbow back then thrust her fist forward and upward in an awkward hooray kind of motion. It was as confusing as it was disturbing.
I for one hated it. I hated it every day. It’s not like we ever went to class and has a science class. We no longer had those expectations, but as a person who values order and routine, I detested never knowing what the day’s crazy was going to be.
Of course we all got B’s on our report cards. We kept asking when we should turn in our leaves. “Not yet” she would say, She never wanted them. She changed her mind.

No, I DON’T Drive

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The way that Aspergers has affected my life the most is not being able to drive. This is a hard concept for people to understand. Everybody can drive.

“Oh, of course you can drive, everybody can drive.”

“You just lack confidence, once you get out there, you will see how easy it is. “

“You are so smart, of course you can drive, idiots can drive.”

And the worst, a conversation I had with a health worker when Rick was in the hospital. I explained that we would be waiting for our ride to take him home. “Well you’re driving him home, right?”

“No, I don’t drive.”

“Well how did you get here?”

“A friend brought me.”

“But you used to drive, didn’t you? You just don’t drive anymore, right?”

“No, I never drove, I have Aspergers Syndrome. I think every sign in sight is instruction for me. Sensory overload.”

“But you used to drive, right?” This time with a teasing smile.

“No, I did not ‘used to drive’. What part of Aspergers do you think is funny?”

“I don’t think it’s funny.”

“No, but you think I used to drive and you think I don’t drive now because I am afraid. Do I seem like a sissy to you?”

“No.”

“That’s right, NO.”

I’ve had far too many variations of that last conversation I don’t understand how anybody can decipher the traffic sign code. Stop.  No Right Turn on red.  Wrong Way.  Do not enter. Left Turn Signal. Yield. Wrong way. Wrong way. Wrong way.sign-signs-everywhere-sign-23907813

It looks like this to me every day. Every single day.

A lot of spaces look like this to me.

sign-overload

Driving a 3000# vehicle powered by gasoline, on the road, in traffic does not seem like the smart move to me.

Not being able to drive has affected my life profoundly

There is no doubt that I would not have run away from home at 17 if i could drive; if I believed I had options. In 1965, there were no options that I could see.

 

Literally

Literally

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant, an Aspie is faithful one hundred percent.

 

We don’t lie, not about anything important. If an Aspie says “I love you,” then that’s the truth. We are, for lack of a better word, guileless. 644352_4646749134457_993909344_n

 

I believe whatever  anybody tells me, not in the carrying tales kind of way, but in the  “you are my friend” kind of way.  I never see personal treachery coming. SURPRISE ! It’s the guilelessness. So, unfortunately,  sometimes  I get hurt and shocked on a personal level, but today the subject is about auditory incredulity.

I take things literally, and I detest the sunza-bitchez who lie to me on the evening news, and the morning news, and on all the news. Before every commercial there is a quiz… a quiz on the news.  Will President Obama send troops to Syria? Well, I’m sure I don’t know, I kind of expected them to know, though…you know them being in the news slot, on the news program, broadcasting the News. Newscasters no less. I find all of this extremely frustrating. I should know better by now, that this is not journalism, but it’s on the news, in the news slot, so it should be journalism.

When I was a kid, I always asked my mom about all these lies. “Why did that guy on tv just say I wouldn’t cheat you for all the tea in China.” I told her I knew he was lying, and asked “Why did he say that?”

“Take it with a grain of salt Marianne, take it with a grain of salt.”

Poor mom. That was just not helpful. She always said the ‘take it with a grain of salt thing’ shrilly, as though she was just ready to snap. I was a trying child, because then, pretty much like now, I want answers. Other people take these things in stride, so they must have the answers, right?1932495_10202765629613164_5115774722796958332_n

It was much easier when I was younger, because news was not quite so artful. The news was more straight forward; pretty faces reading near news and pseudo news have replaced journalists like Walter Cronkite. We felt we could trust those journalists. We looked forward to being informed by Uncle Walter. He was family, the smart one in the family, and we trusted him. We loved him. The news was worth scheduling dinner around. People ate before or after the news, not during the news.

The problem is not that the newscasters cast what they cast. It is that I try to understand it every time. Then, when I realize they are lying. Then I am mad, and I want answers!

It’s the same with commercials. For people who take things literally there are no grains of salt. Except the real grains of salt that I would use for seasoning. As for commercials, what does “the best room at the best price” mean? It means nothing. The best room where? In all the world? In the slums of India? Surely not the best price in the world. Surely not the best room in all the world everywhere, every day!

I just don’t learn, I hear it, accept it, start to move on, and then, invariably comes the what!? and with that ‘what’ comes the frustration.

It’s a big, noisy, frustrating world sometimes.

mari stein  ….. sept. 2014