41 Years Old & Kinda Awesome

Howdy All! I’m Q’s Plus One. With a guest post of sorts to end Autism Awareness Month. This one is about me. It’s about 8 weeks that changed everything…and nothing.

Begin Flashback Sequence

I got good grades until 5th grade, after that it was a struggle. If I was into the subject, I could not get enough. Photography and yearbook were what made me actually enter the building in high school. After three years of procrastination I earned my Eagle Scout in the BSA. Thank the Lord they gave you a 90-day grace period after your 18th birthday or I wouldn’t have earned it. In those three years that I procrastinated, I earned Brotherhood through Order of The Arrow, became a patrol leader, and took trips to canoe base and Philmont.

College? If I didn’t have Q in my life I would never have gotten my degree, I needed some gentle insistence to motivate me. At the time though, it was a win/lose for her since it drove her nuts that I had to have the TV on to be able to study. It was especially true since she was often trying to study at the same time. It’s even worse if she has to proofread something handwritten. I shoulda been a doctor.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

My boss calls me “The Most Interesting Man in the World” due to my pre-marriage penchant for changing careers and hobbies like toilet paper. Many of those jobs aren’t your usual ones, at least eight of the jobs featured on the Discovery Channel show Dirty Jobs are something I have done. I think Mike Rowe, the host of the show, may be the only guy that can top it.

I was a volunteer firefighter for almost 10 years, and was even the Fire Marshall for a couple years. That eventually turned into becoming a 911 dispatcher for the local police and fire departments. I even earned a chiefs commendation for my work. I was a dispatch trainer and a critical incident dispatcher for the county emergency management team. Remember the Hayman fire? Yeah, I worked that.

My other jobs include construction, wrangler, truck driver, Manny, street maintenance, EMT, farrier, sewer maintenance technician (which is as glamorous as it sounds), retail, food service/bartender, systems admin, and now SEO.  No, Q doesn’t understand what I do now, either.  Don’t worry.

In all of that I somehow managed to meet the love of my life and the person who makes me better in every way. I’m not sure what she was taking, but she agreed to become my wife. We have three kids and a nice house on a couple acres. I even manage to make enough at work to allow her to be a stay at home mom.

Why the Resume?

Well I’m getting to it. If you are getting bored grab a cuppa Tea – Earl Grey – hot, take a walk, and come back. I’ll wait…


…that’s enough. We don’t have all day.

OH…look a bunny.

(Q’s note – he does this in real life.  It isn’t just a saying.  He’s been interrupted by a bunny, hopped around, and then asked what he was talking about more than once.  Its reasons like those that I married him.)

Sometime around 2012 I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive). That was fun. I got to try out many of the drugs that are used to treat it. Man did I try a lot. I hate most of the stimulants, they make me feel jittery, while still standing still. The non-stimulants make me moody or make me want to vomit. It’s an on-going process.  We will figure the meds out at some point.

The Square Pegs in the Round Holes

Growing up I was always the weird kid. In any group I stood out as being a little different. I never had a ton of close friends, those who I can call on if the excrement hits the rotating ventilator blades. The ones I do/did have I would walk through fire to help.

I have a “Pogo Stick” of thought according to my friends and Q. I will be listening to a conversation but be thinking about something else. That pogo stick often has me saying things that were odd and out of place, sometimes even doing something that was unexpected.

I also seem to drone on and on, often ignoring when someone wants to move on…and I interrupt people when they are talking. I even have a slight stutter, so it takes me a minute to get a thought out and I change subjects like Cher changes outfits. Boy do I like to talk about me, but I swear I want to know about you (see what I mean about topics?). The only thing I like to talk about more is the random facts that I have memorized, which led my friends to start calling me Cliff Claven.

Of course, that weirdness causes many to avoid me or exclude me. I can’t count the number of times that I have seen people prevent me from joining their group. It’s often. The number of times that I know about people deliberately excluding me from something would astound you. It’s kind of routine for me, dang near daily. Never really told anyone about it.  Until recently I thought it was something everyone experienced just as often as I do.

Why Are We Yelling…or Whispering
I didn’t really want to spend time with many people anyway. Big crowds and loud parties were just uncomfortable for me. Going to a party at someone’s house felt like being in the world’s largest interview while thousands of spiders crawl on you. I usually followed one person all over the party, which frequently ended with them avoiding me. My other option was to find a corner to stand in, preferably one where I could have a wall on at least three sides. If the corner was somewhere very quiet and had a dog nearby I was good, venturing out only for sustenance and bodily functions.

The Social Butterfly?

I avoid social functions at work. I wear ear buds anytime I go to a store without kids, sometimes with nothing playing in them. My coworkers are nice enough (mostly), but they often look at me like I have two heads when I say things. They know I am good at my job, but I’m that quiet guy who doesn’t talk much except about my family, Star Wars, comic books, video games, or anything Disney.

Thankfully I have Q. She is my rock, my world, and my best friend. Without her, I wouldn’t have the friends I do or the amazing family I love. I do a lot to annoy her too, though. I can tune her, and everyone, out by simply playing Angry Birds on my phone or sewing a patch on a scout shirt. When she asks me to do something, there is a good chance I will forget. The only thing I never forget is our kids.

God help us if our routine must change, I get rushed, or we have an argument. I turn into a flustered goob. Not kidding actually. I turn into a cartoon character whose body goes one way and head the other. God help us if we are under a deadline too. Brain falls on the floor and I kick it every time I try to pick it up.

Seriously What’s the Deal with All the Background?
Okay. Now I am getting to the reason for all of this.

Our middle child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder a few months ago. We were shocked at first, it was surreal. Then I do what I always do when something like this happens. I researched and became engrossed in what is ASD. I learned the symptoms, particularly those associated with Asperger’s, now known as high functioning autism. Some (not all) of those symptoms are:

  • Disliking changes in routine
  • Having a heightened sensitivity to sensations
  • Poor handwriting
  • Being preoccupied with a narrow range of subjects (that can change over time)
  • One sided conversation where internal thoughts are verbalized
  • Long winded conversations
  • Inability to pick up on social queues
  • Diagnosed with ADHD
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Problems socializing with peers
  • Stuttering

Sound like someone you have met recently?

Eight weeks ago, I found out I am a genius in non-verbal problem solving and almost a genius in verbal communication and working memory.

Eight weeks ago, I found out I am a member of a group that likely includes Einstein, Newton, Tesla, Mozart, Darwin, Jefferson, Michelangelo, Warholl, Dickinson, Disney, Gates & Jobs.

Eight weeks ago I learned something that explained everything.

Eight weeks ago, nothing changed.

Eight weeks ago, I was diagnosed as a high functioning autistic (Asperger’s).

I’m 41.

Autism isn’t bad.  Autism doesn’t mean failure.  Autism doesn’t mean lack of success.  Autism doesn’t mean a sheltered life with no hope.  I had no interventions, no therapies, no help. My father worked with special needs kids and didn’t see anything, probably because I covered with my other strengths and he worked with much more severely impaired kids. I have no doubt he would have gotten me help if the spectrum was as well understood then as it is now.  I had a mother who ignored anything wrong, unless it would benefit her in some way.

I’ve done a lot more than many people.  My wife still loves me for me, and admits she would still say yes (I really need to find out what she is on).  The label didn’t change who I am.  It just explained some of who I am and why.  I’ve bonded with my middle son in a way no one else in our family can.  I have an awesome family. I have a great job. I am leading an amazingly full life.

Kind of AUsome, isn’t it?