I think about this story often.
One night as my husband and I—well before becoming parents—were watching the nightly news, a story came on about a motorcycle accident that left the driver pinned under a big car. His chances of surviving didn’t look good.
A few onlookers saw the accident and rushed to help. They tried to lift the car off the man, but of course, they couldn’t. He remained trapped. More onlookers rushed to help. More and more people hurried to help, straining to lift the heavy vehicle off the man. Finally enough strangers joined in where the small crowd actually did lift the car—and slowly, laboriously, they inched their way up the pavement. The man’s shoulders emerged, then his midsection, until finally his legs were free. He would live!
I practically had tears rushing down my face. “Those strangers banded together to save that man’s life!” I exclaimed. But Jason, sitting on the couch next to me, looked annoyed.
“Those people are idiots,” he declared. “They didn’t need to wait so long until all those people came over to lift and move the car. Instead of the first five people all trying to move the car, just the four men should have lifted it while the woman knelt down on the ground and pulled the man out. They really only needed to muscle the car up a few inches—not haul it six feet down the road.”
I was speechless. Only Jason could criticize humans in crisis trying to save their fellow man for inefficiency.
When Logan was diagnosed with autism, Jason intimated that he likely had autism, too. I scoffed. Jason, a social impairment disorder? Most people know him as the life of the party; he has tons of friends, and he’s loud, witty, sarcastic and incredibly brash. If autism were truly genetic, passed down from one parent, it seemed to me that I’d be a more likely candidate. After all, I’m the shy one, intimidated by most people and nervous about starting conversations. And I’m the one with sensory issues—too much noise, or too many kinds of noise happening at once, makes me panic. Sometimes if there’s too much noise, I feel as though I can’t see inches past my face.
And, as I’ve written about here, I also can’t stand the squishy textures of raw meat and eggs.
But even with these sensory quirks and social failings, I’m positive I’d never receive a diagnosis. Autism is more than having a few quirks.
So of course I scoffed at Jason’s notion that Logan’s autism came from him. I admit he has a freaky ability to calculate numbers in his head, and he’ll fixate on certain things, like playing the same song on repeat 30 times, but again, autism is so much bigger than that.
Then again, he often doesn’t show awareness of other people. When we drive anywhere (without the kids), it’s usually in silence. I remember asking him once about his childhood, and he answered, then left it at that. No, “and what about you?” to keep the conversation going. I remember being stunned at how rude that was, how self-centered. He protested it just simply didn’t occur to him to ask.
That was years ago—but it sprang up in my mind as if it happened yesterday while I read Raising Cubby by John Elder Robison last week. Robison is an author with Asperger’s, and he writes about his son, who will also eventually be diagnosed with autism. In one chapter, he writes about picking Cubby up from school and driving in silence. “Being Aspergerian,” Robison writes, “it did not occur to me to say, ‘Hi Jack, how was school?’”
Could Jason be right? Could he be labeled on the spectrum?
I thought of Jason several other times as I read Robison’s book. Especially when he writes, “At that time, I still saw Asperger’s as a disability. I had yet to embrace it or connect it to my successes, and it certainly was not a source of pride.”
As the mother of someone with autism, I like to think that I’m open-minded enough not to view it as a disability, either. Yet when I read that, for the first time it struck me that a successful businessman could have autism. I instantly felt ashamed—not only for any assumptions I might have had about how Logan will fare when he grows up but also for my assumptions about my husband’s success. A large part of why I frowned when he speculated about being on the spectrum came from the fact that he’s had a prosperous career.
Of course, it is possible to be autistic and successful. Intellectually, I understand that and had even said it myself a dozen times. But I realized thanks to Robison that I didn’t truly feel it, emotionally.
Raising Cubby made me wonder if Jason was right about being on the spectrum; moreover, it also made me wonder if he wasn’t successful in spite of autism but rather because of autism.
One of Jason’s more impressive feats has been passing many college courses and his PMP certification without taking the actual classes. He’d just lock himself in our home office for a couple days, study intently, and pass every test he took. He brings this same obsession, this all-consuming mindset for a few weeks, to work as a project manager.
As another example of his single-mindedness, when we decided it was time to move, Jason started to research. But not just typical research. In essence, he moved out to the living room couch and did not sleep in the bedroom for almost a year, staying up every night to search for houses online. I don’t doubt that he categorized every single house on the market in the entire Twin Cities metro area.
He then researched the housing market to such an extent that we were able to buy a new house even while going through a short sale. By the end, he was explaining things to our real estate agent.
We are in our lovely house today because of Jason; I suppose it’s possible we’re here because Jason is on the spectrum. His single-mindedness and lack of awareness of others suggest he could be; his drastic swings in mood might, too—he’s almost always either grumpy (home-mode) or hyper (social-mode). Just like the smallest thing (like a detour) could set Logan into end-of-the-world meltdown, the slightest offense to Jason causes him to launch into all-out tirades. Admittedly, life at home is often difficult on both fronts.
Would having an official diagnosis for Jason change anything? Probably not. But it might be interesting to see if the old saying is true: Like father, like son. Or, in our case, like son, like father.
Feeling: More Open