Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cold and flu season, Aspie relatives, and writing memoirs

3 things occupy my mind today:
  1. I'd love to be able to breathe through my nose again.
  2. I really want to meet and talk with John Elder Robison.
  3. Writing my own memoirs... I must get to it.

I've been sick for about 5 days (and smoke-free just as long, not by coincedence) and although Thanksgiving was thrown in there to shake things up a bit, I've spent the majority of those 5 days laying around watching TV, reading, and sleeping. In between screenings of movies I've been meaning to watch for months, I finally finished reading Look Me In The Eye by John Elder Robison, an account of living with Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism. I started reading it because I believe my younger brother, whom I'll call Reboot (the middle child, who is 31 at present), has Asperger's. This has been a source of much tension in my family. My mother, I, and my youngest brother (The Ninja) are inclined to think Reboot has AS, while my father, stepmother and Reboot himself are not so sure and seem to me to be offended at times at the prospect of a positive diagnosis. I had heard of John Robison, as he is a local author, and somewhat of a celebrity in our corner of New England. His brother is also a famous author, Augusten Burroughs. They grew up in Western MA, where I have lived nearly my entire life. It was an interesting experience reading about local places in a published book, places I have frequented – even recognizing some of the names in the book as people I knew, either personally or through someone I know. It was also interesting seeing the similarities between Robison and my brother, although there were differences, too. This kind of threw me for a bit, until I was reminded that every case of Asperger's is different, unique, just as every person is different and unique. At the end of the book, Robison lists his website addresses, both for his car repair business and for his writing and speaking engagements. So I checked them out. I came across a video of Robison and his brother at a reading at Barnes & Noble. Watching Robison move and speak, well, that did it. I recognized the stiff posture, the almost delayed cadence in speech, the almost-smile that is pasted in place most of the time. These were all traits that my brother has possessed for years. Although I believe my brother has Asperger's, I must say that I think he has adjusted to living with it pretty well, in regards to social interaction. Over the last 10 years I have watched him blossom and turn from an awkward, clumsy misfit into a composed, insightful speaker and talented instructor. This is not to say that he has it all together all of the time. Every once in a while a quirk pops up and he says or does something that is normally socially unacceptable, or at least uncomfortable. A few days ago we had Thanksgiving dinner together at Mom's house. The last few Thanksgiving dinners have generally been fine, but this year we had the addition of the Ninja's new lady friend, which I think threw Reboot off a little. At one point during dinner there was a lull in the conversation and Reboot started making “woop-woop” noises, something he used to do quite frequently when he was younger and (I think) uncomfortable. It used to bother me but I've grown accustomed to his little quirks, and having learned more about Asperger's has put me at ease about these quirks, assured me that there's nothing really wrong with Reboot, he just processes things differently. I'm thankful for John Robison's book, and I would love to have the chance to talk to him at some point. I don't know if that will ever happen, but if it does I would like to ask him about his process of social adjustment as an undiagnosed adult, and how finally receiving a diagnosis has helped or hindered him.
And finally, there's the thought of writing my own memoirs, which I've pondered for years. A dear friend has been telling me for 2 decades that I need to write a book, it's almost become a joke. Every time I come to him with a new story, he asks “What chapter is this, now?” I figure we'll be hitting chapter 486 pretty soon.