Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Stewing tomatoes, or stewing in my own juices, or processing on a fall day

It is chilly today. Perfect for the first day of October.

The sky has been a deep shade of periwinkle off and on and the leaves on the willow tree are silvery as they wave to me. I am working on hard red frozen tomatoes. A gift from my garden queen sister, Terri. Bags and bags of frozen orbs. She cleaned out last year's tomato harvest from the freezer to make room for their beef. I was the lucky recipient!

Part of the tomatoes are bubbling in a canning pot on the stove. I will boil them down, take out the skins and cores, then can them. Or make marinara sauce and tomato basil soup if I get really energetic. It is easier to have jars on the shelves of the basement to make room for beef, pork, chicken and duck in the freezers.

Working in the kitchen alone for a little bit gives me pondering time. Sometimes that is a good time, sometimes I wonder...

Earlier this morning I was sharing with an old friend that a mutual friend from ages and a couple of states ago found out her son, similar in age to our son, was recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. When I told Thomas about his old pal's diagnosis, we thought it was kind of cool that someone else we know was wired in a particularly special and unique way; that it was neat to know someone who could relate to certain struggles and also certain joys. Thomas was helping clean up the kitchen with my friend as we chatted and I was absolutely mortified when she responded to that news with "Oh how horrible! Poor poor "friend"." Of course she had no desire to hurt Thomas or me. And PLEASE know that I am all too well aware at how easily my foot flies into my mouth on a regular basis.

I guess I hated having Thomas hear that our friend thinks that having a child with aspergers is a curse. That she would think it a horrible thing for our friend and her family to have to endure such a diagnosis. Of course all was smoothed over and conversation moved along. But I have been in a bit of a funk nonetheless.

I love Thomas. Sometimes I wish life were easier for him, easier for him to navigate social issues, sensory overload, difficulty in verbal expressions. But he and I know of all sorts of people who had difficulty navigating social issues, had terrific problems in expressing themselves in socially acceptable ways, and couldn't handle certain overstimulating environments. These people were responsible for making amazing contributions to the world through inventions, technological advancements, etc.

Thomas was upset and a bit confused by our friend's comment. He is very very perceptive. One of his areas of giftedness. Sometimes we forget about aspergers and just get annoyed at certain behaviours that are AS(asper.syndrome) symptoms. He is who he is. I annoy people all the time, and don't have a label to justify it! If Thomas were "cured" and we no longer had to think about aspergers, would it make our life so much better? Would it be less "horrible"? Would our teenager all of a sudden miraculously get out of bed at 7:30 without our haranguing? Would he run and jump to get his math books out and eagerly work on his writing homework?

Thomas has an incredibly wry sense of humor. He makes me laugh. He lets me hug him. He has an amazing ability to focus on a task for hours, whether it is splitting firewood or peeling apples. He reads books like something crazy! He must read 8 or more novels a week, plus another I don't know how many historical or reference type books. He retains information like a sponge, if he finds it interesting! He wishes he had a pal, but it is hard for him since most of his peers don't know how to meet Thomas where he is, and he doesn't know how to meet them where they are. Sometimes that feels horrible.

Living with autism is a challenge. What in the world is NOT a challenge in life? Living with autism has helped each member of our family be a better person. We are learning that some people labeled "weird" by society may be wired a particular way and that wiring enables them to do certain things that other neurotypical folks could never hyperfocus enough to accomplish.

Thomas, our friends' son, and our many other friends who are on some spectrum or other are "fearfully and wonderfully made." Their limitations, bumping up against our limitations, make for real life. Flavor. Salt.

Fall weather makes me think of a stew. Lots of ingredients. Not really expensive ones. Humble, tough cuts of beef or pork or chicken. Some old potatoes, an onion or two. Maybe some gnarly carrots. Garlic. A slow heat and lots and lots of time makes for a comforting bowl of melded flavors that feels like home. Family. Autism has been a great seasoning/tenderizing agent in our family "pot". I bet it has been in the life of our other friends who live with autism. I reject the word HORRIBLE as an adjective to describe our life with special needs. There are many many adjectives I could use to write about our experiences with special needs. That would be another article.


One Day At A Time said...

AMEN to that, sister!! :) I'm glad you reject those negative things, because Thomas really is a wonderful guy. I hope he can reject them, too.

CountryDew said...

This is a beautiful entry. You are blessed to have such a special outlook on life.

sweetflutterbys3 said...

Thomas is so blessed to have a parent like you. Our struggle with our son's diagnosis of autism opened a world up for us and made us better people. I got to know so many parents going through the same things. It made me appreciate how a "curse" can truly be a blessing. Like Thomas, My husband's co-workers son didn't fit in until he went to college (he got in to Carnegie Mellon- wow!) and found many "odd" kids just like him. Now he is doing great and is so smart he's making straight A's.

Lee B. said...

Ginger, I love that post!! I am enjoying reading your blog--almost feel like we are in the same state again. I miss you so! So thankful for my AS son with all his many quirks--I wouldn't change him.