Wednesday, April 2, 2008

We Are All Unique

I’ve been thinking a lot about a wonderful friend of mine and I’d like to tell you a bit about him. I always think of J more this time of year than any other. We see each other a lot during the spring and summer. During the winter he and his family are busy with school and work and the days are short. J doesn’t like driving at night, neither do I actually, especially now that my older eyes play tricks on me. I remember one time when we had to drive after dark, a bunch of us were stuck at J’s brother’s baseball game later than usual. We all divided up into various cars and J decided to come with me. I had to put the overhead light on for him and that got us pulled over by Highway Patrol, it is a bit distracting to drive with lights on inside the car. Luckily the officer was immediately soothed by J’s explanation.

J is an artist. During the winter he faxes me wonderful little drawings to let me know he’s thinking of me. When we’re together he loves to encourage me to draw. He’s the only person who can. I am terrible at it. We once did an exercise where everybody drew a picture of the animal they were most like, there was a list of animals and their attributes and I chose a bear. In my attempts to make the bear’s legs full and fuzzy I created what looked like a tooth with a smiling head. My nieces made fun of me and we all laughed at me and my bear but J was not amused. He disappeared for a bit and when he returned he had with him a giant gold star that he glued to my picture. And he hugged me. A tiny, quick hug but a hug full of love and acceptance. Ordinarily J is not much of a hugger. He prefers to have his own personal space, a small bubble of air around him. I get it. I often feel the same way and I’ve never understood why people think it’s OK to grab and lift and touch other people without knowing if it’s OK with them. I remember when I was pregnant people would just pat the baby bump, in my case the baby boulder, and it drove me nuts.

Back when I first met J I sensed that he didn’t mind closeness if you asked first. So I always ask. Usually we sit shoulder to shoulder; often he will eventually stroke my hand. He loves to point out when my nails are a mess, you know – the terrible day before the manicure you should have had last week. Once he touched my thumb and mentioned that “brown is not a good color”. He was, as usual, right. He has an artist’s eye. I always try to have a fresh manicure when I see J. I love to present my neatly colored fingers to him and wait for a thumbs up. His cousin and I sometimes get our nails done together and we always inspect the colors, looking for one that will be “J approved”.

J has many other interests. He used to be intimidated by weather; dark gathering storm clouds would ruin his day. He doesn’t like the unexpected. I found a meteorology kit online and got it for J. On the day I gave it to him there was about 6 adults there and several kids ranging in age from 3 to 17. None of us could figure out how to set the damn thing up. J wasn’t aware of what it was yet so he didn’t share our frustration. Since I was the one who brought the offending object into our midst I was left to figure it out. At one point I had to walk away from it for a few minutes. My hands were literally itching with annoyance at too many parts and instructions that didn’t make sense. Before I left the room J asked me what the object was. I told him it was supposed to be like a weather station, when assembled it would tell him what was going on in the clouds and the air. I apologized to him for it being so complicated; it had looked so cool on the website. I promised him that I would figure it out even if it killed me; I just had to take a little break. When I came back the weather thingie was almost fully assembled and J greeted me with a smile and bestowed upon me the honor of sticking on all the cool decals. He checks it every morning and has become really good at forecasting the weather. And he lovingly named the device – “that thing that Dianne couldn’t do”.

J is kind and gentle. J is clever and creative. His brothers and sisters are better people because of him; they are more accepting of diversity and far more considerate of others than most people.

J is everything you would want in a friend. Oh yes, and J is autistic.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.

April is Autism Awareness Month – I hope you’ll take a moment here and there to watch a documentary about autism or read some articles. I also encourage you to check out my friends:

Casdock – her blog is serenity. The images in this post and on my sidebar came from her site. She is generous that way. I had to stop myself or my sidebar would be the twin of her sidebar – so go check out the rest over there and read a bit about her and her son.

Jeni – Grandmother extraordinaire. I love to read about the escapades of Maya and Kurtis, not to mention the cats. My favorite Maya story is when she glued her works of art to the wall. Oh and the way she proclaimed the arrival of visiting cat Nina – “the Neener is here, the Neener is here”. We should all be greeted with such enthusiasm. My favorite image of Kurtis is the one of him falling asleep while eating some kind of cereal – I think it was whole wheat and peanut butter morsels. If only Jeni could fall asleep so easily.

Linda aka Snoopmurph– I love her name so I always include it. Linda’s son Connor has a place in my heart because he loves Siren’s photo so much. Siren is often difficult to love – he’s complicated and carries with him a giant load of issues. I wonder if Connor can sense that when he gazes at Si’s photo. Wouldn’t surprise me if he did. Connor’s brother Ian is a very entertaining fellow. He appears in one of my all time favorite vlogs. He is quite the star. Linda and her family are what I wish all children had. Actually I wish they’d adopt me.

Michelle – her entry for today is, as I commented to her, “perfect, simply perfect”. And check out the poem from the previous post. You will most likely want to spend some time there.

Each of these blogs will also link you to other blogs and sites. Places where you can learn and understand.

Through J I have become convinced that it only takes a moment of understanding to gain a lifetime of joy. It is his gift to me.


Bobkat said...

J sounds so cool! I guessed about the Autism when you mentioned the closeness thing and the weather, but I don't think anyone should be defined by their condition. Your post shows this beautifully as there is so much more than defines your friend.

bobbie said...

Dianne, this is such a beautiful post. Thank you so much.

If I could just write the way you do!
Your words - and your instincts on how they should be used.

Raven said...

What a wonderfully written tribute to J and a great way to talk about Autism. Brilliant, rich and deep with love as always. Well done.

Casdok said...

Lovely post :)

Dianne said...

thanks so much for seeing that bob-kat, that was my intention and I'm so glad it came thru. I saw a comment last night that really hit me. A parent of an autistic child commented that they hoped today wouldn't be all about the "burdens" but about the "abilities" and the "love". I could feel that parents hope and frustration in the comment.

bobbie - I'm learning to trust my instincts more. Comments like yours give me more confidence so thank you so much.

raven - "rich and deep with love..." - thank you! I do adore J - he just touches my heart every time he trusts me. It's like being given a precious treasure. I always feel so much better about myself after seeing J. As though I am more worthy :)

thank you casdock. and thanks again for letting me raid your sidebar.

CG said...

What a thoughtful and considered post! My nephew has Aspergers so I know a little about autism.

Betty said...

A lovely tribute. I know next to nothing about autism, but find it very interesting. I want to know more about it.

Dianne said...

cg - thanks. Isn't it amazing how connected we all are.

betty - thank you for stopping by. Any of the 4 blogs I linked is a great place to learn more. I love your blog by the way. Some great political stuff.

Jay said...

That was a really nice tribute. J sounds like a really great person.

Jo said...

What a lovely post to celebrate your friend, Dianne. I've worked with some autistic children through art...all I knew was that each of them had a fascinating perspective on the wasn't until I befriended several moms with autistic children that I gained insight into what a challenging & uniquely beautiful experience it can be to walk through life at their side.

I was asked by a brilliant woman if I'm high-functioning autistic...I'm not, but I believe when you step off the spectrum, where wondrous, curious things appear to you as second-nature, there really isn't much separating all the kindred spirits who exist there.

You & J are lucky to have each made my heart smile to read about your friendship.

Dianne said...

jay - he is a great person. thanks.

jo - "...I believe when you step off the spectrum, where wondrous, curious things appear to you as second-nature, there really isn't much separating all the kindred spirits who exist there."
that's beautiful in its truth jo, I hope more and more people come to see that, to feel and understand it. More hearts would smile. thank you.

The Quiet Rage said...

Thank you for sharing your story about J. I have an autistic niece, and what you wrote really hit home with me.

Unknown said...

Dianne: Such a tender and caring post of the heart. I am trying to network girls on my Blogroll with Autistic children together because after watching Jenny McCarthy on "Larry King Live", who is an Autistic Mother, I'm so convinced sharing information and experiences can help! lol! :)

Linda Murphy said...

Hi there-I loved reading about J. You definitely have a connection with him and he probably senses that safety zone with you. Next time he lets you give a hug, sneak an extra one in from me-he sounds like one terrific kid.

Thank you so much for your loving words for me and my family. And consider yourself adopted! (as long as we can include Siren in that for Connor!)

Honestly, you make me cry because we are the hardest on ourselves and I always wonder if I am doing enough or the right thing. Having someone look up to me as a parent is one of the greatest compliments I could possibly receive. Thank you.

Jeni said...

Ah, Dianne - such a beautiful post! We'd best not tell Maya though that you get a kick out of some of her antics though ya know - liable to give her a big head -or worse, think some of her stunts bear repeating too -like the pictures on the walls!
I keep telling Mandy -my daughter -about this blogger and that one, and she hears me mention you and your blog frequently. I told her the other day that I'd love to meet you in person. She asked where you live and when I told her NJ, she said "Hmmm. Maybe some how we can arrange that." She's starting to learn more about the bloggers in my life and why I feel such an affinity for all of them. So, maybe one of these days, we can do a road trip -meet halfway or something -what with gas prices being what they are and all, ya know.
Just keep posting the great pieces you write. Pure enjoyment for sure!

Dianne said...

quiet rage - thank you for visiting. I'm honored that my story of J touched you.

michael - if anyone can network people it is you! I saw Jenny McCarthy twice yesterday - 2 different interviews from 2 different points in time. She is endearing and impressive and shares her story so effortlessly. I admire her a lot.

snoopmurph - Yay! I'm adopted!! and of course we include Siren, and Mia too - they go where I go. What a package we are LOL
I'm so glad you see and feel how much I admire you - and Thomas and Uncle Mike. You are all an amazing tapestry of love and care.

jeni - a road trip would be fabulous! and I promise not to encourage Maya to repeat any of her stunts. thank you jeni for all your kind words.

tt said...

A beautiful and sentimental post. There are so many people in this world who can inspire us with so little and yet bring us o much. If we're open to the idea that everyone has 'something' to offer us, our lives instantly become richer for it.
I just can't get enough of you. There is deep shining light that must emit from you...a glorious auora that follows you whereever you go. I think open hearted people can see it and others wish they could.
Thanks for the lovely post!

As American as Apple Pie said...

I have an autistic cousin and my daughter was borderline, but we caught it early and fought hard to get her back. It's still a hard row to hoe but ahhh...those good days are soooo good!

Beautiful post about J. You have a wonderful gift with words.

Leighann said...

Dianne you're such a sweetheart!

Knight said...

What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful friendship. I knew it was World Autism Day but for some reason I didn't realize that was what you were talking about until you said it outright. J sounds like a wonderful soul and you are lucky to have each other.

Akelamalu said...

A wonderful post Dianne and you have a wonderful friendship with J. :)

pink dogwood said...

you write so beautifully - it is such a treat to read your posts :)

Dianne said...

tt - my grandmother used to tell me that a million years ago when I was young ;)
thank you, thank you - it was as though she was right here again.

as american as ... thank you for stopping by and thank you! for the praise, it is appreciated.

leighann - awwwww, thanks

knight - that is exactly the impression I was hoping to leave, thanks. J is not a label - he's just J.

akelamalu - I'm quite lucky to have a friend like J. thanks :)

pink dogwood - as always you're so kind, thanks

Hilary said...

This was a beautiful, tender and insightful post. Thanks for that.

Dianne said...

thank you so much hilary