Different

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May 11, 2017, Prescott-

I have, as most are aware, led a life that has been far from conventional.  My love and I did not play by the rules, as much as we might have, when purchasing our home, in 2003.  I did proudly bring in my mortgage check, for five years, whilst juggling her increasingly unpredictable medical state.  Then came the Madoff scandal, which hit us, indirectly.  Then came the “Great Recession”, bankruptcy and short sale.  Three years later, she was gone.  Son moved on with his life, a testament to our own resiliency, and his.

We, the survivors, are hanging in there.  He’s fine in Busan, South Korea, as far as I can tell.  I am stable in Prescott, as far as I can tell. Money is tight, but no matter.  Those who played by the rules have their struggles, as well.  In the end, we each have what we’ve earned, and little else.

My autism has made me different, from day one.  I approach new situations, new groups of people, from a distance, with some caution.That’s caused issues with others, who jump into newness with both feet, and think a delayed response is a sign of apathy.  It’s caused initial issues with women, who are more in tune with connection.  After reading my heart, much of that has faded away, but it still irks me- that I can’t.quite. be. as forthcoming with new friends, as seems reasonable.

Life is better now, though.  At this age, most of those around me have either been through their own scar-fests (my contemporaries and elders) or are heart-readers (children and teens).  I have one goal, for my own behavioural exchequer:  Feel less inclined to hang back, in new situations.  ACCEPT that most people are naturally inclined to be social, to be accepting, themselves.

It’s okay to be different.

Who Am I?

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June 22, 2016, Springerville, AZ- My father passed away, thirty years ago, today.  Then, as now, I made a long journey.  Then, as now, it took a few phone calls to get the details right.  I arrived at my destination after six hours of travel.  I was comforted by the very people I came to comfort.  He was given a dignified send-off, and from the spirit realm, he still looks after me, in a stern, but loving manner.

Who, exactly, did Dad leave behind?  I was not the easiest of sons to raise, but there was a lot about autism that was not known, that was misunderstood.  There still is, in the perceptions of many people.  There is, however, nothing about who I am that limits me.  I have raised a fine young man, and am gladly here to answer his questions about the time of life that is young adulthood.  I am here to encourage his success, to boost him over the bar.

I am also here to reach out to as many people as possible.  July will be yet another month on the road.  This time, though, it will be focused on family members, some close and some long-lost.  It will be focused, as well, on friends- some in pain, some offering joy.  I will be keeping an eye on things in Arizona, though there are still those nagging critics who take umbrage at my having missed this meeting, or not being available for that event during the coming four weeks.

I am not easy to define.  Mostly, my living consists of proferring love on those around me. It’s the most basic thing in the world, and in the Universe, for that matter. There will always be those who try to obfuscate and throw me off course. There will always be those who hear the word “widower” and think, “troll”- as is the case with one of my co-workers here at the fire shelter.  No matter:  I am here to do a service, and I will continue, whether this person likes it or not.  I am very open about my wife’s having passed on.  The other part is that I am open about being comfortable with how my life is now.  This life is full of bonds, and true friendships.  The false of purpose, and the fearful, need not worry about my presence.

Another thing that colours my life:  Commitment to the generations coming up behind me; not just my son and young relatives, but the well-being of all.  A case in point:  When I stopped for dinner at one of my “A-List” California restaurants, en route back to Prescott, I was struck by the humidity inside the place, and concerned for two young ladies, who were dressed in Victorian attire, in their roles as servers, and who were about to crumple from the stifling air.  The manager, herself about to keel over, had them go into a small staff room, which was more comfortable.  We need to pay close attention to those who work hard on our behalf.  Fortunately, all three ladies recovered nicely.

This is my 1,000th Word Press post.  To leave you with more of a sense of who I am, here are a few scenes from my coastal visit on Monday.  First, here are two scenes of Cardiff State Beach, west of Encinitas.

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Not your typical June Gloom, but a bit of mist was there, on San Elijo Beach.

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Beach artistry is alive and well.

Up the coast, at Dana Point, I enjoyed a lengthy lunchtime conversation, with a longtime friend, at another of my California “A-list” establishments.

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Harpoon Henry’s is at the south end of Dana Point Harbor.

Who am I, really?  I’m just a human being who treasures those in his life, who is glad for the form in which I find myself, who does not have a need to judge the paths and courses of life taken by others, insofar as they do not harm those around them and who looks forward to whatever tale each day has to present.

Post 1,001 will look at an estuary- the mixing of fresh and salt water, and why brackishness is a good thing.

 

The Road to 65, Mile 44: “Pay Attention”

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January 11, 2015, Prescott Valley-  Autism is rarely depicted on the big screen.  We may see it on television, via at least one of the characters on the series, “Scorpion”.  Film, though, implies a consistent flow of action.  We who are autistic are prone to periods of calm and inaction, often accompanied by silence- hardly the stuff of a major box office success.

I joined a group at a Screen Actors Guild viewing of “The Imitation Game”, last night.  As this was a private viewing, there was none of the First Look, previews of coming attractions, or sitting afterwards to check out who played what part, as the credits roll.  There was a solid cast of British thespians:  Benedict Cumberbatch, in the lead, supported well by Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance and Mark Strong.

The voice-over at the beginning admonishes the viewer to “Pay Attention”, all the more vital, given the slow pace of the film, during the first two-thirds of the story and the constant flip-flops, from one time period to the next.  I devoted myself to do just that; the task was made easier by the presence of another man, who had exemplary command of detail.

I was primarily interested in how an autistic like Alan Turing would be portrayed. Mr. Cumberbatch mastered both the autistic behaviour and the non-flamboyant homosexuality of Dr. Turing.  As his long-suffering assistants, Ms. Knightley and Mr. Goode reminded me of the best of my friends from youth and early adulthood.  My wife largely carried me out of the fog of the Spectrum, much as Ms. Knightley’s character, both as his sham fiancee and as a genuine friend, managed to do, with Dr. Turing.

Attentiveness is a huge deal for someone like me.  Having worked so hard to be in the moment and stay out of the fog that’s in my head, I tune out the extraneous, and quite readily now.  If I am engaged in an activity, the phone goes to vibrate- or increasingly, totally off.  If I am working, the rest of life gets checked at the door.  If I am on the trail, everything on all sides, above and below, gets brought into my awareness, as part of the natural experience.  If I am driving, I get irritated by any demand from a passenger to “notice ME and what I want”.  The road, and my fellow drivers, have my full attention.  Texting or talking on the phone, while behind the wheel, are foreign to me, especially since I am no longer a caretaker.

Pay attention- a good way to stay out of trouble, I’d say.

The Road to 65, Mile 40: Truth

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January 7, 2015, Prescott- Lunacy seems to regard itself as truth.  There are, however, parameters by which honest truth may be discerned.  I grew up with a skewed inner view of reality, filtered through the lens of my autism. Thankfully, I was surrounded by anchored parents, loving siblings and an amazing, varied and huge extended family of over 200 people, on both sides.  I also had concerned and engaged neighbours and teachers, for the most part.  People would notice when something was awry with me, and instead of gossiping and ridiculing, they went straight to my parents.

I have done just fine.  My friends and associates, in Arizona and around the world, have been nothing but a blessing in this long and joyful life.  So, I think of those who are not so fortunate.  So many have grown up in hateful or indifferent homes,  where their every word, every move, is questioned or discounted.  This is not just true of girls with misogynist fathers and self-hating mothers.  It happens with boys, also- and the standard can be held way too high, with no allowance for error.

Truth, then, becomes a relative thing.  The hurried, browbeaten, and unrecognized child becomes a prisoner in a surreal existence.  That person’s expressions of reality become twisted, hateful, and fraught with severe pain, both for self, and for everyone around. He or she learns no trust.

No matter who is found responsible for today’s horrific assault on free expression, those three persons, and any accomplices or masterminds will join the long parade of the demented- all the way back to Caligula and Nero, through the ravages of Justinian, Attila,Tamerlane, Ivan IV, the Jacobins, Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin, to the modern monsters, who present a false image of Mohammad- he who forbade graven images of himself- to the world.

I am not talking about the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.  They are no more culpable in this matter than the Danish man who devised a lewd piece of glassware, purporting to depict Christ, so many years ago.  No Christian killed him.  He was simply ignored and his ill-tempered “sculpture” faded into obscurity.  Thus should it be with all such depictions.  None merit capital punishment.

The modern ravagers are those who loudly proclaim themselves “avengers of the Prophet”, knowing deep down that He would disapprove, vehemently.  Even in the darkness of Seventh Century Arabia, Mohammad only sanctioned violence when it was done in self-defense, as unfortunately it was deemed prudent on several occasions.  Their depraved actions spur equally savage responses from non-Muslims.  As Gandhi cautioned, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”.

So, while French and international investigators sort out the evidence and pursue leads, the world waits to see whether Islamic extremists, or clever agents provocateurs from a Nationalist group, or just-plain hateful miscreants with no agenda other than mayhem, are behind this latest atrocity.  In the end, truth, in its purest form, will be spoken to power.

Past as Prologue

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A friend online celebrated cutting ties with what, for her, was a rather abysmal past.  I congratulate anyone who can put an end to pain and suffering. We each deserve more than that.

The exchange led me to thinking about my own past.  Until I was about 30, my autism and chemical dependency were intertwined, so as to make me put forward a rather wretched countenance- so far removed from the little soul who was such a happy and hopeful child, until getting involved in rock fights at age ten led to the head trauma that aggravated my autism and caused so many of my peers to alternately laugh and cringe.

Age 30 brought the Baha’i Faith, abstinence from alcohol and drugs and my soul mate.  She had her own health issues, but they were more or less kept at bay for the first 21 years of our marriage.    Penny had a very positive, productive interest in health.  It bordered on obsession, but if one is to be obsessed with anything, it may as well be that which enhances life.  Someone like myself, used to a “catch-as-catch can” physical regimen, had much to learn from such as she, and learn I did.

When fate intervened, in 2003, and she suffered two head traumas within two weeks’ time, we began to look upon our shared experience as bittersweet.  We kept on with an exercise regimen, through her neurological and physical decline, even in the wheelchair days.  I would get her to the local YMCA or 24 Hour Fitness, two or three days a week.  A kind RN showed me how to lift and lower Penny from wheelchair to car and back, and from wheelchair to exercise machine. Most of the time, it worked.  This added at least a year to her life, I’m sure and we were so happy just getting the physical sustenance.

Then came infection, lesions, cleansing surgery, and rehab hospital.  2010 was like our lost year.  I would substitute teach most days, and be with Penny afterward, until visiting hours ended, usually between 9-10 PM.  Weekends, I was there just about all day.  In November, I brought her home and we had home health care- so that I could keep working and thus contribute to what her disability checks provided.  In December, 2010, the seizures started, and we came up with a deep breathing method of bringing her out of them.  At first, though, we had to go through ER, ICU, The Speech about how a responsible spouse would have her put through a tracheotomy and on a breathing machine. (I ran this by Penny and she turned it down- being confined and isolated in hospital would no longer work for her- or me.)  So, we left the hospital, arranged for a different home health service, due to her increased oxygen needs, and for its attached hospice service- just in case.

Mostly, home health-hospice was supportive, through January and February.  I again heard a Speech, this time about “my duty” to turn her disability checks over to the State of Arizona, so that Penny could be placed in a care home.  She rejected this option, as did I.  That ended all social work assistance to her.  The state’s social service structure, at that time, was abysmally mercenary.  Things are starting to look up in that regard, though too late for my darling wife.

The  staff who helped us, unfortunately, had health crises of their own- right at the time Penny’s bacterial infection flared up again.  We did the best we could to keep it from spreading, but by February 26, 2011, she needed to go back to hospice.  An unfortunate round of pneumonia found its way into her room, and her fight ended on March 5.

Since she left her physical self behind, I have experienced her constant spiritual presence.  Our son has had similar experiences.  He and I are on separate paths- he in the Navy and I wending my way through semi-retirement and on a well-defined path of fiscal and physical self-discipline.  We converge, with her blessing, every so often, most recently for two weeks in December.  I have traveled more, read more books, written more and eaten less. I have made friends, spent less money and been more systematic in my approach to life.  When women have approached me, seeking more than friendship, I have run it by Penny, and the answer so far has been, “She’s not the one.  When I see someone who would be a good companion for you, until we’re together again, you’ll be the first to know.  Just don’t be mean to anyone.”  That’ll work; it’s not in my nature to be mean, even when I have to be aloof in order to protect myself.

Somehow, I think these are things she wanted to see in me, all along.