“Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.”

2008-june-showalter-visit-0291This is a great quote from Whoopie Goldberg and one of many quotes I love about the word “normal.”
When anything or anyone departs from an accepted standard, we call that abnormal, odd, freakish. My son, Zachary, has been described with many of these adjectives and more over the course of the last 10 years. But none of those words really fit him. What he is is exceptional, extraordinary, rare and striking.
I had to add striking, because he really is. He’s a damn good looking kid. He has the most beautiful blue cow eyes and a leprachaun smile that would melt an iceberg. And when he smiles, he has this look, like he has some really delightful secret and he just can’t share it with you, not yet.

Zach sees the world in such a unique way that he has changed the way I, and the rest of this family, look at the world. The stereotype of an autistic person is that they are unfeeling, checked out, vacant, something is missing. I believe it is exactly the opposite. They feel too much, they are clued in to everything going on around them, they are filled to the brim with seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and it is overwhelming for them.

For my beautiful boy, the world is often too much and he is too much in it. He is easily frustrated and monumentally impatient.  Whenever there are any changes in the house, from the furniture to our routines, he is the first to notice and the first to object.  He is a visual learner and a stubborn one. If he doesn’t want to cooperate it is a real challenge to change his mind. He likes to repeat phrases from TV and commercials, he has an unending interest in Star Wars, Godzilla and any and all superheroes. He likes to wear costumes and he is not afraid to talk to anyone about anything.

I used to want to change him, make him more accepted, acceptable, less annoying, smaller! The struggle was exhausting.   Now, I try to welcome his “obsessions” and his stubborness, within reason.  And life is much more “normal” now that we’ve expanded what that means to us. In our home it’s normal to get into your pjs as soon as you get home. It’s normal to wear one mitten on your left hand for two weeks, no questions asked. It is normal to quote entire scenes from “Star Wars” and to never tire of a peanut butter and honey sandwich for lunch.

  Some of these “normal” habits have faded away over the years and I actually miss them. For instance, Zach used to say “bless you” when any of us passed gas. He used to insist that I sing a goodnight song without fail at bedtime. He also used to ask bearded men if they were George Lucas and he was positive the little girl next door was Wendy from Peter Pan.  I miss those things. 

But I can’t say I miss Zach leading a “normal” life, not anymore.  Somehow, somewhere it was decided that he should have an extraordinary life and we, his family, are along for the ride.