My oldest son, Julian, is 19. Julian faces some developmental and emotional challenges in life so in many ways, he's my little boy in a man's body.
Julian's life is driven by his obsessions, of which there are three. Fire extinguishers, music and plumbing. If you visit our garage, you will see many fire extinguishers, most empty and in many various states of repair. At least twenty. Maybe thirty. I've lost count.
Fortunately, we don't buy them all--he's made friends with the fellows and Miss Peggy at the local fire extinguisher service yard and they let him raid their bone yard from time to time.
It's often been observed that if ever a fire breaks out at our house, the house will be doomed to burn to the ground while we rush around trying to find one of the thirty fire extinguishers that might actually be functional.
Such is the life we live.
Julian excels at many things--he can change out a hot water heater and talk you through many other tasks related to plumbing and home repair. He's fluent in the stock at Lowes and quizzes Siri about the price of pipes and fittings regularly.
His vocabulary has been greatly expanded by watching hundreds of videos on YouTube about plumbing and various home repair jobs, however, math has never been a subject he could grasp. Math--specifically money and time--just do not compute.
He doesn't understand the concepts of paying for some item and getting change...and more than that, he doesn't care that he doesn't "get it".
He would rather have four one dollar bills than a ten dollar bill any day. Of the week.
We have tried to explain it and demonstrate it, hundreds of times, but he just doesn't grasp the concept of a single ten being worth more than five ones.
So the other day, I gave him the usual $3 in ones before work, for purchase of snacks at the convenience store "with the guys". Julian works two days a week on a lawn care crew and one of their rituals is a daily stop at the gas station for snacks and drinks.
Being among "the guys" has quickly encouraged him to get his game together in regards to the skills needed to make purchases on his own--something he never previously cared about.
On a typical day he purchases a honey bun and a Coke, however on the day before this particular day, he confessed to having purchased 2 honey buns. I don't mind that he deviated from his usual but the consumption of 2 honey buns was enough to make me raise an eyebrow. No one really needs two honey buns, right?
(Ok, no one really really needs a honey bun at all...but it's not a hill I'm willing to die on at this point.)
So as I was handing over the three dollars, I casually mentioned that perhaps two honey buns were "a bit too much in the junk food department" and suggested that today would be a good day for purchasing just one honey bun and a water. He grumbled a tiny bit and shoved his dollars into his pocket.
I didn't expect a great deal of cooperation, frankly.
Hours later, I picked him up from work. On the ride home he was pretty quiet. I've learned that when social stuff--incidents that he's not used to--happens at work, it takes a while for him to process it, even enough to formulate stories to share with me or questions to ask. I give him space and he invariably comes around to share tidbits about his work day with me.
On this particular day, he came around later to inform me that he had indeed heeded my advice about not purchasing two honey buns at the convenience store.
"I didn't buy two honey buns today." He stated with a grin.
"You didn't?" (Insert an air of surprise and disbelief.)
"Nope. I bought a Coke, and one honey bun...and a cheese Danish."
And then he laughed and laughed. And honestly, so did I.
Because laughter and humor haven't always been a part of our lives together. Julian has struggled through some serious problems and we haven't always been able to see humor in them. Sometimes life is hard and messy and being a parent without answers and not a lot of hope is no laughing matter.
About this time two years ago, Julian was in a very dark place emotionally. In a particularly ugly round of anger and rage, he held the tip of a large kitchen knife to his stomach and screamed at me "I'll do it." He was 17 and spent seven days in a psychiatric hospital soon after.
I refuse to hide the struggles we endure. No one ever told me that about half of all young adults with Autism will, at some point, spend time in a psychiatric hospital. That's not a statistic that parents of sons and daughters with Autism really want to think about, much less discuss. Because life is heavy and confusing and over-loading. And sometimes it's just more than a person can cope with--whether you are the person with Autism or his parents.
Today I'm grateful to be down the road from that a ways. And I'm grateful for a boy who can pull a verbal prank on his mom and laugh at it. I'll take that any day of the week!
Overcome with laughter, as often as possible.