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Tag Archives: autism friendship

Ode To A Dog

I came across this poem in a book I have been reading (Vegan’s Daily Companion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau) and it really resonated with me. I thought I would share it, and hope this is allowed.

“Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog”

by Lord Byron

When some proud son of man returns to earth,

Unknown to glory, but upheld by birth,

The sculptor’s art exhausts the pomp of woe,

And storied urns record who rests below;

When all is done, upon the tomb is seen,

Not what he was, but what he should have been:

But the poor dog, in life the firmest friend,

The first to welcome, foremost to defend,

Whose honest heart is still his master’s own,

Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,

Unhonour’d falls, unnoticed all his worth,

Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth:

While man, vain insect! hopes to be forgiven,

And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Oh man! thou feeble tenant of an hour,

Debased by slavery, or corrupt by power,

Who knows thee well must quit thee with disgust,

Degraded mass of animated dust!

Thy love is lust, thy friendship all a cheat,

Thy smiles hypocrisy, thy words deceit!

By nature vile, ennobled but by name,

Each kindred brute might bid thee blush

disgust, for shame.

Ye! who perchance behold this simple urn,

Pass on – it honours none you wish to mourn:

To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise,

I never knew but one, and here he lies.

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Autism: Busy Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow I have a busy day. I have to clean my house, and my friend is coming over.

Clean my house and my friend is coming over.

Clean my house and my friend is coming over.

And today that is all I can think about.

I know that tomorrow, I will like having my house clean, and I will enjoy having my friend over – but today I am anxious, so it is all I can think about.

At least twice a week, I clean my house. It isn’t like I do this just because my friend is coming over, yet… two things in one day – that seems like a lot.

I have tried to clean the day before she comes, but with 5 pets and other people living in my house, it doesn’t help. I still have to clean before she comes. I have to clean just as much. So it is no good cleaning early, and I clean the day she comes. Only two things in one day? It is a lot.

I will clean in the morning, and she will come in the afternoon, and we will have a great conversation – deeper than I have with most anyone. And I will love that we are able to talk about such things, when most of the world likes to talk of the weather and sports.

My friend doesn’t seem to mind when I spend half an hour talking about my pets. I love my pets. She gets that. When I talk to others about my pets – because I do – I think they mostly don’t like it. I can’t really tell, and it is hard to talk to them about anything else, because the weather isn’t interesting, but they don’t talk much about those things.

When I talk to my friend about my pets, she talks about her cats, and other pets that she has had, and about how she likes to watch live videos of cats – and that lets me know she likes them too. It isn’t all we talk about, but it does help to get started. Otherwise I might sit in silence, and struggle to find what to say.

I guess from my words it might seem like I would prefer to meet somewhere else, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about cleaning my house on the days she comes over – but that wouldn’t be true. If we met somewhere else, I would feel even more anxious about having to leave the house, and being somewhere I wasn’t so comfortable. That would be harder, and I think she knows that about me. Since she doesn’t mind coming here, and I prefer it when she does, that is the arrangement that we have settled into.

So I know that I will be pleased to have my house clean, and will really enjoy my visit tomorrow – but today I am anxious.

I am anxious, and that means very little will be done today. And as I hear the thoughts repeat in my head, “Tomorrow I have to clean my house, and my friend is coming over,” my mind pulls me to fixations that will calm me:

  • Pinterest
  • Netflix
  • looking at houses on the Realtor website

And that is pretty much all I will be able to do today.

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Autism: My Dad

My dad was good at a lot of things. As I was lying in my bed yesterday afternoon, exhausted, and depressed, and overwhelmed by life, I was thinking of that. He was good at a lot of things. I am not really good at anything, and that fed my depression.

My dad was a good son. He was a good brother. He was a good friend. People liked him, and I think he genuinely liked people. He was the first one people often called for help. They would frequently drop in unexpectedly, and he would welcome them in. I remember at least two instances in my childhood where people were really struggling, and my dad invited them to come live with us; and they did.

Frequently my dad took people out for coffee, or just for drives, and he talked to them. My dad was very social, and was very easy to talk to. He was generous, and giving, and caring. He liked helping people. He liked being useful.

My dad liked spending time with people. We spent a lot of my childhood visiting with his friends and family, and camping as a large group with his extended family. He would go fishing with his brother and brother’s kids, and sometimes take us; when he didn’t, he always brought small gifts home with him to show he was thinking of us. He would take us and go to amusement parks with his sisters, our cousins, and his parents. He would take us to the drive in theatre (a lot!) or just rent movies and invite people over to watch at home.

My dad liked spending a lot of time with us. He would take us for walks along the creek, and on picnics, and for drives just to talk. When my dad was home and awake, he was almost always visiting. He even came with my older brother and I to nearly every cadet meet we had. He would bring donuts he got free from Tim Horton’s because, of course, he was friends with all the workers there. Even my fellow cadets (I’d like to say friends, but since I didn’t talk, I guess I wasn’t much of that to them) liked him.

My dad liked to sing. He had a great voice, and when we were on our drives, he would put in a tape and sing along. He would encourage us to sing too, even though my younger brother and I did not have good singing voices; he never criticized us for it. I still love the songs that he used to sing.

My dad was a hard worker. Though he worked in a steel factory, in a physically demanding job (and though he was injured before I could remember, and had a bad leg as a result), and though it was shift work which changed week to week, he never complained about having to go to work. He worked full time, and was the sole income provider for our family for a long time. Even so, when he wasn’t working or sleeping, he was visiting with, and helping people.

My dad was good at woodwork. He finished our basement in the house we moved to when I was four, and put a lot of detail into it. He built us a nice toy box/bench, a corner cabinet, a desk… He kept our homes in good condition. He even whittled animals and things from wood, and they were really nice. He was just good at it.

My dad was good at a lot of things, but the brokenness in him… I guess that is why people didn’t believe me when I did speak – for my father was good at a lot of things, but the deepest seeds of evil he pretty much reserved for me.

My dad was good at a lot of things. I am not really good at anything. Maybe that is why I am depressed. Maybe.

Vacation July 2016 014

 

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Autism: My Maternal Grandmother

When I was about 7, I remember the day that my family was sitting in our car. The car was stopped at the side of the road, and I was thinking of how often we visited with my father’s family – yet we didn’t know my mother’s family at all. Speaking was an extreme rarity for me at the time: I was both too shy, and unable for the most part to form the connections to get the words out. On this day, however, I was able to get my thoughts and my words together to speak in a car full of people.

me at 7

“Why don’t we ever visit your grandma (meaning mom),” I asked my mother.

I don’t remember the words that they spoke, but I do remember how uncomfortable my parents seemed in trying to explain the reason for this. It was many years before I got the real reason, but shortly after this, we began visiting my mother’s family again.

At the time, my maternal grandmother and my mom’s youngest sister, lived in a house below the “mountain” in Hamilton, Ontario. It was a Victorian style house, different from any that I had known. Everyone else I knew lived “on the mountain” (the way Hamiltonians describe the escarpment that splits the city in two) and there were no houses like that up there.

The house had a spiral staircase, and the only bathroom was at the top. It was such fun to slide down those spiral stairs, but the adults in the house felt that wasn’t safe, so we were always stopped.

It was in that house where I also met another aunt and the only cousin on that side that I had at the time. She was a year younger than myself, and I later found out that her mother was 16 when she was born, and my parents were asked to adopt her – but it was decided last minute that was wrong, and my mother’s family were upset with her for considering it (or something like that.) That was the reason that we had so little contact with them until that time.

The differences were set aside, though, and after that, we visited several times a year. We spent part of that Christmas in my maternal grandmother’s house, and I remember that year I was given a very large teddy bear. I named him “Bear.” Bear is gone now, and I don’t remember when he was lost. In fact, it was thoughts on Bear that inspired me to write this post.

Sometime shortly after, my grandmother and aunt moved to an apartment in the same area of town, and there they both stayed until my maternal grandmother died of lung cancer when I was 23.

My grandma liked to have the heat high in her apartment. We were always hot there, and so even when we went at Christmas, we would have the sliding doors to the balcony wide open, and we would spend time out there (without coats even.) She didn’t have toys, but she always had lots of scrap paper and some crayons that we would use to entertain ourselves.

My cousin and I often spent a lot of time in my aunt’s bedroom trying on her clothes. That was quite a lot of fun. Although I was very shy, and not really one to play with other children, my cousin was quite the opposite. She was loud, and bold, and quite pushy. She was also aggressive (she once punched my cabbage patch kid, and threw her across the room – I was horrified) and she swore! The kids I knew didn’t do that in those days.

Often the television would be on at my grandma’s house. She watched soap operas, and I never remember her talking about anything else. It always seemed strange to me that her conversations were always about fake people from the TV. Above that, I wasn’t allowed to watch soap operas. My mom told me they would poison my mind, and to this day I can’t watch them.

My grandma rarely left the house, and never went on vacation. Very different from my father’s family, who were always going places, and visiting, and traveling, and social. She sat in her living room, and would cook for us at Christmas (and the turkey was always pink, but her potatoes and gravy were the best!) She would watch her shows, and speak only of these, and when she died the only people at her funeral were her six children, three children in law (my mothers other three siblings were hermits… quite odd, and likely autistic as well) six of her eight grandchildren, and one neighbour that had lost touch with her years ago when she moved from the Victorian house.

Sixteen people at her funeral. Sixteen. It made me feel really sad. But that was my grandma. She kept her life private, and didn’t let people in. She wasn’t Autistic (or I don’t believe she was) but I can see where it came from. She was strange, and she was quiet, and she didn’t have any friends – but I loved her, and am glad that my family were able to put aside their differences so that I could know them.

 

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Autism: What Was Wrong With Me?

It was a big snowstorm. I don’t remember another like it, and as far as memory serves, we never had so much snow again in my life. So of course the schools were out, and my brother and I were home.

We lived in a semi-detached house, and our previous neighbours had moved away. My mother was shoveling the driveway, and my older brother and I were playing in the front yard. We were digging tunnels, and from what I remember, it was over my seven year old head.

Coming up to the middle of the property, we noticed a woman shoveling the driveway next to us – our new neighbours! And my brother decided to ask her if she had any children (he was much more social than me.) She had two, and went to get them. R. was 4 at the time, and A. was 2. They were too young for my brother to play with, but R. and I spent the next 5 years as friends.

I would have even gone as far as to say she was my best friend, and aside from family (namely my older brother and a younger cousin) she was also my first real friend. Her parents were from Jamaica, and for some reason, a lot of people commented on our friendship – that we didn’t seem to notice a difference, or something?!?

90's and earlier 008

Well, one time she had an aunt come to visit. She kept a chicken – a live chicken – under her bed! That was different (and fun!)

Anyway, we spent a lot of time together – especially during the year my younger brother was in the hospital, when her parents would watch me. I thought we were really good friends. But then there was that time in school. She was in first grade, and I was in fourth, and we were out on the playground together. R. was highly extroverted, and had many friends in her class.

On this day, rather than stand against a wall waiting for break to be over – as I usually did – when I saw R. outside (her first time on the same playground,) I tried to go play with her. Only the friend that she was playing with at the time (C.) didn’t want to play with me. I didn’t understand. R. was my friend (too) and up until that point, she always wanted to play with me.

At the advice of C. however, R. went and complained to the teacher that I wouldn’t leave her alone – and the teacher made me walk away. After that, R. wouldn’t play with me at school. I guess her friends didn’t like me. Even at home, she would only play with me when none of her friends were around. I don’t know.

We were in the same school until I reached eighth grade, but never again would she play with me at school – and after that day, as was true before, I spent most of my breaks standing against the wall waiting for them to end.

Even when I had a friend, I really didn’t, and I began then – more than any time before – to question what was wrong with me.

 

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Autism: Redefining Friendship

As a child, it was my brother and cousins, first of all. Not unusual, only ‘playing’ for me, mostly meant following along, and doing what they did (often in tears, as I was often overwhelmed.) There was also the eldest daughter of my next door neighbour – 3 years younger than I was. We played together at home, but she ignored me when we were at school.

Still, for me, that is what ‘friendship’ was – people who didn’t mind me ‘tagging along.’ Until they did mind, and once more I found myself lost and alone. At school, I was pretty much always alone, and uncomfortable, and out of place. School was a difficult place to be, and though in the later years I was able to find ‘friends’ who would not send me away, it never really got easier to be there.

Again, I pretty much just tagged along, and did what they did. It was difficult, if not impossible, for me to come up with ideas on my own – and I was almost always uncomfortable. Friendship was hard. Not something to look forward to, but rather, something to be endured.

I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy my time with those friends, only that the entire time I was with them, I was shaking with stress and fear. It was a relief to escape and find myself (mostly) alone.

Only I never really liked to be alone in those days. My own company, with my constant flashbacks, and deep routed fears, was as hard on me as being with others in a crowd.

So how did I get through it? I latched on, almost obsessively, to my boyfriends, and had meltdowns over being separated. Not healthy, I know, but it was a rather difficult time for me.

In my early twenties, I met a couple of friends through my church. Mostly we went places together out of town. Long drives, lots of talking (it is easier to talk in a vehicle, when I am not required to look at people.) I enjoyed the time, yes, but I was also constantly shaking, and exhausted from the interaction.

And that is what I would have defined friendship as: People who enjoy doing things together.

Only those friends moved away, and the majority of my contact with others came from my husband and son. Anything beyond that caused me a lot of struggle, and eventually I gave up trying to find more ‘friends.’

Whenever anyone asked, I would say “I have no friends,” and I fully believed it.

And then there was my son. As a child, I ran a daycare, and so he always had other children around. He didn’t exactly play with them, but he played next to them, and that was enough. He had a couple of friends when he was young, but mainly because those children struggled to make friends also. Some were unpredictable, and would hurt my son with no provocation. It was their own issue, but my son learned to fear them, and no longer chose to spend time them. Understandable.

As a teen, he found a couple of good friends, who enjoyed the same activities as him – video games. Again, they never played together, but side by side, and they seemed to enjoy that. And then his friends moved away.

For several years, I have been considerably concerned about his lack of what I would call ‘friendship.’ He, however, always protested that he does have friends, and he does ‘visit’ with them online. I was not convinced.

And then people learned about my Aspergers, and started to invite me out – trying to form friendships. I appreciate the gesture, however, in those moments I came to the realization that my definition of friendship was being redefined. Those visits, as had all of my visits in the past, were stressful, exhausting, and took many days to overcome.

As I spoke to old ‘friends’ online, and very much enjoyed those conversations, I began to understand my son’s point of view.

I now know that I do have friends. I have found them where I didn’t see them before – in my husband, in my son, and in online friendships with people who really ‘get’ me. Perhaps I do not need more than this. Perhaps my son’s ‘friends’ are actually that, and are enough for him.

It looks different, but this works for us.

It is good to know.

 

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