Asperger’s Syndrome

Not that I’m counting or anything, but it’s Thursday late afternoon which means tomorrow is FRIDAY! Thus, tonight is Friday Eve! I really enjoy my job (mostly) but Saturdays and Sundays are a way to really recharge my batteries!

Although, this weekend, it’s going to be a little more hectic. My mother’s 91st birthday is tomorrow, so my son and his girlfriend, and my brother and his wife, are all going to be coming here on Saturday to celebrate! We are in the Orange Tier in California, so indoor dining is slowly opening up. I believe that means that restaurants can have 50% capacity but still have to maintain social distancing. Outdoor dining is also allowed, again with social distancing. We are going to try to go out to lunch somewhere. My fear is that everyone else and their brother will also try. But, we will see. Push comes to shove, we can always just get food to go and eat at my apartment.

My brother is on the spectrum. The autism spectrum. But, he is what they call a high-functioning autistic. They used to call it Asperger’s Syndrome, but now they lump it all into one category called ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

My brother is extremely smart. He does not have an intellectual disability, nor does he have a physical one. His disability lies in the fact that he has no social skills. Zero. Nada. Bupkis. He is very literal (and I mean VERY). He doesn’t get jokes because they are often a play on words. He obsesses over minor things that no one else cares about. He follows the rules to a fault. He gets mad and upset when others break them. Now, I am a rule follower and I color inside the lines. But my brother takes this to the extreme.

“Why are they speeding???”

When he drives and someone speeds, he gets upset and wants to know why they speed! Don’t they know the speed limit is 65? He drives exactly the speed limit. When people pass him or get angry, he gets very upset because he is doing the speed limit!! Why are they mad? He also cannot read facial expressions or emotions. He has had difficulty holding a job because he can be unintentionally infuriating. He does well with a job that does not involve time pressure (because he just freaks out) and he can work at his own pace and can work alone most of the time.

Here is an example of his literalness: About 20 years ago my parents purchased an expensive car with all the bells and whistles. It was Christmastime, and my brother and I were both visiting. We went out to admire the new car, and appropriately ooooh’d and ahhhh’d over all the fancy electronics. I said, “Oh my goodness, this car has everything except the kitchen sink!” My brother, absolutely deadpan, and absolutely serious, said, “Why would it have a kitchen sink??” Oy.

JUST STOP!!!

Our dad passed away last year, and after the service, my mother sat my brother and his wife and me down to talk about the paperwork that we will need when she dies. She gave us all the pertinent information about their bank accounts, the trust, etc. My mother discussed how the IRAs needed to be handled when the time comes, and my brother went down a rabbit hole about his retirement. He went on for 20 minutes about when he was supposed to file for social security, and what if he doesn’t have enough in there, and on and on and on. All I wanted to do was get home, get changed into my pajamas and mourn my Dad. It was in the middle of summer, it was hot, and my mom’s place is very warm. She doesn’t run the AC much because she is always cold. I was emotional, I was sad, and I was sweating. Finally, I snapped at my brother and told him to stop! This wasn’t the time, we’re not talking about his retirement, we need to get down to business with my dad’s affairs so we could go! My mother hates when I do that, but if I hadn’t, he likely would STILL be talking about it. Later on, my mother very gently reminded me that there is a better way to handle him when he gets like that and snapping at him just makes him upset. I get it; I really do. He can’t help it. But I DO NOT have patience like that. But neither my Mom nor his wife were guiding him, gently or otherwise, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

And don’t get me started on opening presents. I finally told our family that we are to use gift bags for my brother. No more wrapping paper, tape and ribbons. He would literally take 10 minutes or more to open a gift. It was excruciating. In our family, we take turns opening gifts so that we can see what each person got, and the giver can enjoy the reaction of the receiver.

When it was my brother’s turn, he would examine the gift, turn it all around. Then he would set it on the table, and pull out his pocket knife. He would painstakingly cut the ribbon, fold his knife and put it in his pocket, and then make sure he put the ribbon in the trash.

This!!!

Then, he would go back to his gift, sit down and examine the sides that had the tape. He couldn’t stand to rip any of the paper. He would get out his knife again (which he had already put away; don’t ask me why). He would painstakingly cut the tape on the sides and on the bottom, then close the knife and put it away. Then he would carefully take the paper off the box, fold it, and set it aside. Meanwhile the rest of us have grown grey beards and I’m rolling my eyes so far back in my head that I’m afraid they won’t come back!

If it’s a plain box, it is often taped down. He gets his knife back out, cuts the tape, folds his knife and puts it away. Meanwhile, I’m trying not to bang my head on the table next to me. I’m doing everything I can not to go over and rip the paper or throw his knife away. Lordy!

. . . Not this!!!

Finally, he opens the box, sloooowly opens the issue paper, then proceeds to very carefully examine the gift. If there is some sort of plastic thing on the shirt (he usually gets shirts) that he doesn’t know what it is for, he will spend another 10 minutes (you think I’m exaggerating, don’t you?? I’m not. Trust me.) talking about the plastic thing, what it is for and why it is there. You can’t just redirect him. He is like a freaking dog with a bone. He will. not. let. it. go. Meanwhile, I’m contemplating Hari Kari. We still always give gifts to him in gift bags. I told my parents that if they gave him wrapped gifts rather than gift bags, I wasn’t going to come to Christmas. I didn’t want to go to prison for murder, even if it would be justifiable homicide!

My brother is younger than I. He turned 60 last year, and I will turn 63 this year. His wife is amazing. She is endlessly patient with my often-frustrating brother. She loves him unconditionally, and it is absolutely amazing. She has transformed my brother. I used to call him Eeyore (not to his face of course) because he constantly walked around with a cloud over his head. She is 20 years younger than he is, and bless her heart, they really are simpatico. My brother is the happiest I’ve ever seen him. No more Eeyore, most of the time. He cooperates more, he is starting to get jokes, and you can even (gasp) joke around with him!! They’ve been married about 4 years, and it is such a relief to see my brother be much easier to be around. He still has his issues, but somehow she is incredibly patient.

I’m excited to celebrate my mom’s birthday that isnt through a window and that she can actually go out! But after a few hours, I will be ready for people to go home. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m an introvert who can be sociable when needed, but only for a little while. And having rarely been around any people for the past year, I’m even more overwhelmed by socializing and small talk.

I have 16 followers now — Woot! I’m very excited that you are all here and I hope you enjoy my prattling. Love to have comments if you feel so moved. 🙂

Cheers!