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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Postscript to the Last Several Stories

The last group of stories have touched on several aspects of life on the spectrum, which include a desire to attain some control over my environment by collecting things and possessing them. Chris's Crap illustrates how this took hold. I thought that I could find a use for each and every thing that I took home. My imagination was such that I could always see a possible use for something no matter what it was. I know now that this wasn't normal, and it set the stage and prepared me to eventually develop the desire to collect and study postage stamps. This story also touches on the relationships that I formed with many, many older men over the years. There would be many more - neighbours, teachers, friends of my parents and parents of friends.There are some that were so influential to me that they will feature in other stories.

One thing that his group of stories along with the other stories does illustrate is how different parenting styles were back then. It was the age before over-protective helicopter parenting became the norm. It would be tempting to think that there were no helicopter parents back in the 1970's, but that would be wrong. They definitely did exist, but they were so rare that when a kid had them, it was very obvious to everyone in class or their circle of friends and they became the subject of ridicule. This would be along the lines of kids talking to one another like this:

Kid 1: "Hey let's go ride our bikes down to the vacant field. We can dig some holes and build some dirt ramps and do wheelies"

Kid 2: "But I am not allowed to go to the field without my parents."

Kid 3: "Yeah Justin, your parents don't let you do anything. I'll bet they don't let you go to the bathroom by yourself either do they? Hey John, Justin's mom still wipes his bum!! Ha! Ha!"

Justin: "Stooopp!! (running off)

My second ex-wife Kay was often astounded at just how often I was allowed to go off exploring or wandering off alone when I was a kid. To read my stories in the light of what is considered a normal level of due care and caution it sounds like I had little structure. Again, that is not true. We had rules. Not to talking  to strangers was one. A stranger was anyone my parents either did not know, or had no recourse against if something did happen. Adults in the neighbourhood were fair game for this reason alone, and were not considered to be strangers in the strictest sense. The random dude in the park wandering around picking up butts off the ground and drinking from a beer can? Not so much. Like most kids, I occasionally broke the rules. Another one was that we had to tell mom and dad where we were going and give them an address and a telephone number so they would know how to reach us. I do not believe that in nearly 17 years of living at home that they ever used this information, as the stories reveal, but they very well could have, and we knew that.  I believe that having that much independence and responsibility was critical to my development.

The Chris's Crap story also illustrates how gullible I was at that age, to believe what the guy told me about the chainsaw, but then at the same time, I asked him about dying without understanding what I was asking him. I did so because I had seen other people ask this question when someone was hurt on TV and so it seemed appropriate to me. Of course the man could see that I had no idea what death was by the sheer ridiculousness of the question, so he decided to have some fun, but was completely unprepared for my response, which was not appropriate, given his answer.

Swimming Alone illustrates tunnel-vision-like focus that sometimes causes me to block everything out except what I am focusing on to the point that I can fail to notice what is going on around me. This is often accompanied by a stubbornness. In this story I just had to know what that tap on the toilet did, even though dad said not to touch it. I disregarded this because I could not see how it would lead to something bad happening. But even when something bad did actually happen, I never realized it and actually played in the water, completely oblivious to the damage the water was doing. I suspect even at that young age, that most kids probably would have gotten a parent right away as soon as they noticed water where there wouldn't normally be any.

Curiosity is normal in kids, but Eat a Peck takes it to extremes - extremes that I never did see in my son, or any of his friends while he was growing up. So I suspect that it wasn't entirely normal to be curious enough to almost eat dog shit.

The Interview illustrates a situation where I should have been able to take cues from those around me to judge how I should behave and how completely I failed to do this. When the wine came there was certainly nothing wrong with having one glass - like everyone else. When other people said "oh this is too sweet for me. One is enough." it is possible that one or two of the guys were actually expressing their opinion and really did think the wine was too sweet. But what is much more likely is that everyone could see that the guy whose wine it was really liked it and they really didn't want to drink all his good wine and leave him with none. So they tried a bit, and politely declined to have more. I took what I heard literally and assumed that people were not having more because they didn't like it. The guy offered it, and I liked it. So I could see no good reason to stop drinking it. This is one example of a social faux-pas that I took many years to understand and overcome. It took a lot of work for me to get to the point where I could internalize that what people say is often not what they really mean and it is because they are trying to protect the feelings of the other person. In this case, if people showed the guy that they liked his wine it would be uncomfortable for him to accept it back. BUT if they could convince him that while it was nice, it was not their thing it would be much, much easier to convince him to take it back. Other subsequent stories will show just how long it took for me to understand this important social rule.

I'm not sure how much the Jumbo Sundae illustrates the spectrum - perhaps  in terms of how terrified I was of swimming between the ages of 4 and 8. I liked it because I think most people can relate to a simple story of how to teach a child not to be greedy, 

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