Goodnight, Sweet Prince

There is only one fan letter I have ever written. It was to Prince. He was young and not yet a popular culture phenomena and what I witnessed shook me. I turned to my friend with concern for this brilliant performer and said, “He is a human sacrific”. I don’t think many of my friends have ever understood this comment, so I shall now explain. Beyond his immense talent, I saw a muse, and he did what a true muse does: he became a magic mirror for each person so that each saw themselves in him. He completely surrendered himself and opened up, giving absolutely everything that was his to give and it made us see ourselves. It was beautiful and scary, as the mirror of Prince made me want to protect him, to sit him down and explain what he must do to survive. Of course, I was merely seeing myself in that mirror, and my own vunerability as an autistic performer. When I was young and being fast-tracked to Hollywood, the word “vunerability” was commonly used to describe me, with comparisons to Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. And all I could think was that they did not fair very well in life, and that following in their footsteps may not be the best plan. When one is wide open, lacking what is known as a “fourth wall”, that division between performer and audience, one cannot help but be a muse and a sacrifice. And I knew I would not survive it, at least not for long. So I walked away from performing, over and over, shunning opportunities. But then I would be in some sort of bind, and unable to make a living otherwise, so I would raise my hand and say “Here I am”, and become the public me. It always worked, but would spend me, and take everything, for I could give no less, and the ever-hungry public would always want more. And how does one give more than all? And how does one survive such a thing? No, I would not, could not, this much I knew, and would walk away again, until I needed it again. I would make prayerful barter deals, not with the devil, but with the Godhead of my belief, saying, “If you please get me out of this present mess, I will go back on stage”, and then I would have to make good my promise, at least for a while. I am, without ego or artifice, a born muse and I must muse. I know this may read a conceit, but I freely admit my talent is small. I also admit I adore every moment, it in the moment, of my time on stage, and hate how it spends me so. Is it any wonder I would want to write to Prince, to explain what I saw in his magic mirror? I never became a great fan if his genre of music or trite film, but I was proud of how he survived as long as he did, for, like so many, he was privately me, my muse, my friend. 

The last time I made a spiritual deal I promised to keep performing and not walk away until I had nothing more to offer. I assumed this meant I was surrendering to the inevitable fate of being a human sacrifice. Instead, I was blessed with a finding my sweetest of husbands, my equal on stage, but with the savvy and wisdom to somehow keep us in the range and freedom of being able to make a career out of our talent while enjoying a very private, sweet, life. I always felt I must to make a choice between giving all to the public or to just one person. I find it unbelievable that I have been able to do both. I am still a muse, for I cannot help that, but with Doc as my protective wall. And I am his. This is the Happily Ever After I could not have imagined. So, with a kiss and with doves, good night, sweet Prince. I shall keep the afterparty going in my little way, as long as is mine to do, and think of you often. You gave all.

 

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Telling My Story

I am at the doctor’s office, a new doctor, who will be my new primary care physician, and so I needed share my medical history. To do that and not sound ridiculous is hard, because so much that makes anyone vital and healthy cannot be measure. And so much that has been suffered through is not seen. How does anyone explain, or, what should one divulge? And my heart races, no matter how much I have my mind wrapped around the visit. My blood pressure soars, no matter how calm and peaceful my continence is. I have no anxiety, no fear, no fretting. The staff are pleasant and attentive. But I struggle to put my thoughts into words, and it has nothing to do with intimidation or trepidation. I know myself, and manage my health well. I am proactive and informed. I can speak to a doctor as one accomplished adult to another, giving and expecting mutual respect. But my heart races and my pressure rises, not in an urge of fight or flight. It is only the sheer exhausting effort, to sit under fluorescent lights, in a place with strange noises, with high pitched beeping machines, and bandaid-like smells, and everything, everything in different patterns of gray, so the windows, walls, doors, floors, all scramble together. I cannot find my way back to the front desk, ever, from any doctor’s examination room. I can read the forms, and form the answers, but, for the life of me, cannot get my hand to move the pen in anything better than a large crooked scribble. Why does my body betray me so? Why must everything, everything, everything, be ruled by this invisible challenge of processing? And then I remember the joy I get from so many things that others don’t see and feel and smell and hear and touch, and the heightened human experience of my imagination. I soar more often than I struggle. But the struggle is nothing short of a disability, and I must lean into it. I must embrace it to survive without harm, as if riding a wave rather than fighting it’s power. And so I calm my body with a steadfast mind, and no one will know. They will sense something, as my control appears unusually formal and overpolite. I reach for my purse, to touch a large fur pom pom I have clipped to it. It looks like a cute accessory, but it is a secret aid. I like to keep something fuzzy on hand, if possible, to pet and anchor my senses, so I do not feel shattered like shards of glass in this cubist maze of gray angles and repetitive lines and nerve-sanding patterns, under the lights that make me flutter and even, yes, burp. Some books make me burp, too, and what is that about? So I limit shattering outings whenever to conserve myself for the things That are mine to do. I will be useless the rest of the day, for I have spent all of my reserve simply to manage the sounds and lights and gray bandaidness. I write this so you may understand better, and it is hard to write. This is neurological, not psychological. This is how hypersensitivity works. How can someone who can otherwise works hard, with stamina, competence, and focus, with a stubborn resolve that borders on relentless compulsion be so absolutely floored by a clinical office, a minor run for errands, or a brief encounter with certain stimuli that most people give nary a thought to? I slip into old habits at such times, of thinking of myself as somehow weak in character, ashamed of myself, and only acceptable for the lowest regard. Stop! We all are disabled! We all struggle in invisible ways. And by speaking out for ourselves we give others an opportunity to be human. We get to enjoy their humanity, and they grace us with accommodations for our needs, as we become human by accommodating others. And if we cannot understand each individual invisible struggle, we can choose the most excellent, perfect, all-inclusive accommodation possible, and that is love. When there is nothing else to do, love. And so, as I ride the smelly, ugly, cubist wave of visiting a new doctor, I choose the one thing that makes everything else manageable. I choose love, and my humanity shows, and recognizes the humanity in others. And I win this day, even as it crushes me, for I am human and fine and I am surrounded with divinity, in the divinity of others, even if the divine humans around me do not recognize it in themselves. So they smile at me, because I cannot help but smile warmly at them even if I do not look in their eyes for the correct amount of time. As I ride this cubist wave, hoping I don’t drown. I won’t. I have practiced riding waves for so many, many years. I am a very good swimmer.  

A Lightness of Being

     It is glorious, full-flowered Spring, here on the Chesapeake Bay. The frogs have awaken and their peeps and songs are of nothing but anticipation. I am between sleep in a dark soft hours, a time when I review my life in a way I call “talking to the angels”, and find answers in the silence. I just wrote to my son, which heaps on more joy. My sleeping husband, my love, lies next to me, a pile of contented, snoozy breathing, warm flesh, and sweet-smelling masculine comfort. I am floating, for that is what I do, becoming light with bliss as if to almost float away. The Spring moon is my focus, as I familiarly float,  away and away, finding union with all matter of the universe. I am light, star shine, and grateful to be so. My world at this moment is complete. I could stay here forever, rocking softly. But the silence angels tell me not to linger too long. The frogs are peeping, alive, and so am I, and I must peep, too, and walk the earth, not dance with the moon. I am human, and also fleshy and scented with my own kind of comforts and warmth. My connection to the universe must come from communion with other humans, who are not silent like my angels. I must dance on this earth, and peep what angels tell me, if I can, if I am to live a life of worth. So I bid goodbye to the moon and angels and think of fat frogs and flesh and damp earth. Today will be busy with small human tasks. I will do them and be worthy again. And, if I am worthy, I can retreat, speak with angels, and dance with the nightly moon. That is my reward. My bliss.

 

     To the outside world, my rocking and untethered silence is described as autistic withdrawal, stimming, and sleep disorder. So I am taking this moment for this small task of giving a narrative to my bliss. It is not everyone’s, or every autistic person’s experience, but it is one of the most important of things to me and always has been. To untether myself and to float, hear silent angels, and dance with the moon. And it guides my daily actions. I do not need a sleep aid or a trick to correct doing such things. I just need to live this way. So, with a wave and a wink to my angels, I snuggle close to my husband of warm scented flesh. I have small tasks to do. I will do them with worth now. I am grateful for having a life where I can just be me. I know many do not have such a thing. So I will hold my husband and gently rock him, too, and tether myself to him. I better get sleep now, for I am of flesh. Like the frogs. I have peeping to do.

The day I became disabled

 Something glorious happened to me the other day. I grew in one of those time-stopping, crystalized ways that happen when reality smacks you in the face, pushes you down the stairs, and then laughs about it. I am not one to let a bully get the best of me. In fact, I am quite capable of defending myself because I not only have the sense to take the high ground, but the resources and advantages to do so. And I found that advocacy through love rather than anger works best for me, although it may not work best for everyone in all circumstances. Conflict has always been my kryptonite. I am a very polite person. I am also a professional entertainer. So when, rather reluctantly, it was revealed rather publicly that I was an autistic woman, I found myself caught in the spotlight of a curious new branding. I was befriended by many members of the autism community and the larger disabilities rights movement, as well as parents and educators of autistic children. And I never felt lonelier. There is a school of thought that says identity is a combination of how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we think others see us. Being suddenly seen as autistic did not change how I saw myself, but decidedly changed how others saw me, and it didn’t take long until my idea of how I thought others saw me changed drastically. That changed my view of myself. My genuinely happy demeanor was seen as masking my suffering. My challenges were to be pitied. Some of my most mediocre endeavors were celebrated as inspirational, considering how “damaged” a person I was. Some people stopped talking to me directly and chose to address my husband instead. The worst moment of all was when someone actually patted me on the head and, with baby talk so I would “understand” her “kindness”, said to a stranger, “And here is our special girl”. I was frozen in shock. After all, I was still the same person as before being seen as autistic: a mother, wife, producer, performer, darn good cook and life hacker, smart in some things and not so much at others, tempered, like others, by a life filled with my fair share of joys and sorrows. I think I live a winning life, even by the most neurotypical standards, so this new pity and patronage was something I felt I didn’t deserve. After all, I was not disabled. I certainly did not consider myself a valid representative of disabled people, or even other autistic people. I did things differently, faced certain challenges, but didn’t everyone? Besides, I was great at hiding mine. So I sucked it up, politely, continued to congratulate myself on taking the high road and moved on. At the same time, I saw my Facebook newsfeed fill up with more and more advocates of Disabilities Rights, many angry, young, and fired with passion to change the world. Some even attacked me, for they seldom held back anything for the sake of tone or manner. Some, I cheered on, with great admiration, for they were trying to make positive changes. Others had challenges far different from mine, and I could not relate to. I certainly was no expert on their plight. I was encouraged to add my voice to the mix, as a fellow disabled person. But, I thought, I am not disabled! I am winning at life! I cannot speak on behalf of this group, for I am not of this tribe. And then something happened, and I gloriously was. I was sitting in the kitchen of people I love, sweet, kind, loving relations with pure hearts. I have never known them to have anything but the best of intentions. The conversation drifted to them speaking of their church, and one of these sweet and gentle relations expressed how awful it was that the church had been “forced” to put a wheelchair ramp to the pulpit, and how it ruined the look of the altar. I had that same stunned shock as when I was patted on the head. Did he not think, I asked, that all members of the congregation had a right to access the pulpit, since members regularly use it as part of the service? He said, with a now-familiar patronage and pity, that “we” would be happy to carry one of “them” up to the pulpit and that “we” should not have to put up with this unsightly ramp for a few of “them”. Besides the obvious problem being the poorly designed ramp, it did not occur to him that he was speaking of my friends as inconvenient. Time stopped for me. I thought of my advocate friends, of the “we” and “them”. I thought of how far more I related to “them” now, and the laughable, horrible, injustice of thinking of access and dignity and rights of humanity as inconvenient. Time stopped, and I grew. I understood why my young friends were fighting so hard. If such loving, gentle people as these relations could think this way, what did my disabled friends face by those less kind daily? If I, with my mostly invisible but very real challenges, oh yes, now I’ll say it, disabilities, have had my dignity stripped by a pat on the head, what imprinting of indignities did they face? Not to mention all the other groups labeled as “them”. Kind intentions towards “them” is not a valid justification for the othering. There is, in reality, only the “we”. We are all human, all worthy of access and dignity, and not inconvenient. And so, proudly, I am now disabled. And far more able to be part of humanity. We are we. There is no them. To not be able to embrace the idea of the unity of “we” disables us all.

Smeared Lipstick

I started writing this little blog and stopped. All the things one must learn before blogging gets fun, snazzy, tech savvy, and enjoyable to readers, are still far beyond me. My writing skills stink. I don't have time to learn at present. However, I promised a friend I would post something today, so here I am. Forgive my rudimentary scrawlings. I have much to share, really, and will eventually learn how to do it.

I am having a bit of a break from an extremely intensive few months of shows. It has been deliriously fun, but I am deeply exhausted. Time to recharge, do domestic damage control, and wipe off the smeared lipstick. Time to stop being my onstage self I call “the creature” and be the artsy peasant wife, the fix-it woman, what my sweet husband calls “Polly Gadget. I have been cooking all week, huge fabulous meals, gaining a bit of needed weight back that was carved away performing. Much Fall bounty has been prepared and put away for use when we are performing again, for when I am too busy to cook. Homemade sausage, stocks and sauces, baked goods, cheeses, root veggies. I started a indoor watercress garden. This past summer, I built an addition to my freezer, in order to store more in a customized way, Our little beach cottage demands I not waste space. I don't waste anything.

Cooking makes me happy. It is quiet, repetitive work, and sensual. Taking on the responsibility of nourishing self and those in my keep is something I have always considered important. I am good at it. I know what I am doing. It is NOT like my clueless blogging attempts. I know food. I am also a flirt, and cooking is flirting. Those bits of surprise tastes and texture, coming from me, my food, giving pleasure. Over and over, the process continues, changing with the seasons, to delight and seduce. I am a culinary flirt.

Here is my watercress garden. Just some suspended pots in a bus pan, with an aquarium aerator pump and bubble stones. Bubble, bubbling, like a babbling brook. The cress seemes to like it, and is happily rooting and growing. Hi, little cress!

And here is some winter squash, neglected but delicious, that grew among the boxwood and flowers in my tiny front yard herb garden. I had little time for gardening this year, and it is unkempt out there, but cute. These got along great without me, even if they are a bit battered. Kind of showing the veggie equivalant of my smeared lipstick, I think.

I guess I need to learn photography, too. Much to learn, and I will, I guess, slowly. I will take more pictures after I clean things up around here. The cottage's lipstick is smeared at the moment. As I said, I have been very, very busy. Sharing pictures and thoughts, doing the usual social stuff, these are the things I am awful at doing. Solitary work is much easier. Or putting on a show. I am told I am also unusually impressive at helping clients in their event plannings, too. That is, as long as I can avoid the dreaded business meeting, where I will be struggling to put the words together with all the other room noises, knowing my voice will go baby-sounding, and I will move oddly and too quickly, lose focus. I will become too loving and open, far more than I should in order to be taken as a producer of a world class band. I will need much rest afterwards to recover from the effort. One business meeting takes two days away from my other responsibilities.

In an ideal world, the challenges I face would be understood, without prejudice, and I could admit freely why I prefer not to have a business meeting. I could request a quieter place to meet, or give guidlines on ways to structure the meeting. One day, I decided I could do that. I explained politely, and, while people don't usually understand, most do try to accomodate. I am happy to show them how. I help them, they help me, making the world just a bit more ideal. People are grand. The ideal world is made by each of us, bit by bit.

I act for a living. I act like a singer. Like a bodacious blonde bombshell, vintage both in style and years. I create illusions from the raw materials of me. I take sequins and songs, and flirt around a room, sparkling in the spotlight. I am no different from that pumpkin in the picture above. I make a pie out of myself. A Chou Chou pie.

Is this objectification of my womanhood? Should I even worry? Far from it. I choose it, relish it, delight in it. I owe it. There is a time and place for the rituals of courtship in our society, just as in all cultures. When people dress up and gather, holding each other on the dance floor, I become a muse, a reflection of the guests emotions. They see me sway and they are reminded of the sway in themselves. They hear me purr a note out and they feel their own purr. It is not an ego driven exhibition, for I care nothing, nothing of that. I remind them that there is a time and place to feel yummy and flirt. To be pie. I don't have much to give socially, but I can give that.

When I was a little girl, and autistic child, I did not understand or care for how other children played together. I am still the same person, and find it hard to “hang out” in the usual way, though I have gained many skills along the way. I can do it, but never in that instictive, effortless way that is the pleasure of so many. So I perform, become a muse, to amuse. I am no great beauty, no great talent. I am a darn good flirt and make others want to flirt in an appropriate time and place. It is rehearsed. It is years of practiced experience. Just like cooking. I am pie.

The point is, I am autistic, and process differently. I socialize differently. Am I disabled? Hardly. Am I unable, that is, not able to join in social groups, even online, easily? Absolutely. Do I give all I can to make others happy, with pumpkin pie and Chou Chou pie? Completely. Here, have a slice of each! Enjoy!

One more thing in this meandering blather I am attempting to write. Doc, my love, my joy, my partner in all things, takes great delight in the little acts I do, the flirtings, the pies. Delights in those things, but that is not love. He loves me, the unspoken me, the soul I am that completes the soul he is. It does not matter if I am quiet or flirting, able or not, brilliant or hopelessly lost, or if my lipstick is smeared. He loves me.

So, that's my little, happy post today, my promise to a friend. I need to straighten up my home now. Then I may get extra pretty and flirt with Doc. So he can smear my lipstick. Hope you find some great pie today.

Photo of me with two charming sons of doctor who diagnosed me as a child. I had a major crush on their father. They are just as crushable, times two!

 

 

 

Being a poodle

“You can’t make a hound dog out of a poodle”. That is what my beloved Tom, my first husband, would say, shaking his head, as I tried, over and over, to prove I was capable enough to be a hard-working farm wife. He would laugh and admire and lovingly scold me for pushing too hard. I would push harder, to prove him wrong. “I can do whatever I want to do!”, I would say, as he chuckled to himself and lifted the grain sack I was struggling with, and did it with one burly arm, just to rub it in. I hated that I could not push the “man killer” plow, or hoe in the hot Carolina sun, so I worked long hours when I was strong, between shutdowns of exhaustion.

Tom had icy, piercing eyes, of the palest blue, with surprisingly dark brows, long flaxen blonde hair, ruddy tan skin, and was tall and strong, artistic, and extremely intelligent. He reminded me of a beautiful palomino horse, with that coloring and muscularity. I had fallen in love with him in high school, and he was my first love. As beautiful as he was, he was odd and not popular, and had strong opinions he was not afraid to voice. He made enemies. I was startled that he saw through the prettiness of young me, right from the start, and fell in love with the me, the true me, the one I hid. We recognized each other. We married, lived on a small farm in North Carolina he was heir to, and were so very young, happy, in love, and full of potential.

I milked our goats, gathered eggs, used a scrub board, made a home for us, waxing the wood floors with a cloth-wrapped brick. I tended the closer yard of fruit trees and flowers and berry patches. I helped with the plantings in the rush of cooler Spring, and stored the food in Fall. I fed chickens and tended the chicks, cats, dogs, but not the stinky pigs. I gathered wild rose hips and herbs to keep illness at bay, and learned to kill water moccasins and chase off predators, and to reluctantly shoot the 410 shotgun and keep it near, for there were black bears, there at the edge of the Dismal Swamp, who didn’t always want to share the land with us. I did not work the fields, or gig frogs in the pond, or clean the fish we caught with cane poles, or hunt for deer with Tom, but cooked it all admirably. I was a city girl from New Jersey, all 99 lbs of me, and I burned in the hot Southern sun, and fainted in the fields. I hand sewed long farm dresses and aprons to work in, practical, comfortable, and pretty. I had never been strong, and often got sick or weak, what could be called “frail”, and I hated that, and lived in denial of it every moment I was not hacking from bronchitis, buckled over from a belly ache, or frozen from some new mystery ailment. I had times when all my body and thinking brain would just stop working, and I could not speak or take command of myself. Sometimes I would cry or lash out in frustration, I would feel robbed, robbed of my happy life, full of shame for missing opportunities, not meeting obligations, and not living up to my full potential. Or was I? Maybe this was my full potential, and I should just give in to being of a sensitive, delicate nature, not able to do. Nah. Nope. Not gonna do it, as much as I sometimes just wanted to give up and be lazy. That voice in my head, that afirmation imprinted so deeply, telling me I was strong and could do anything, made me get back up and do. I am happy when I do. No one can push me to do. I can only push myself. I think a lot of autistic people do best if you just tell them they can do, let them know what needs to be done and why, and then get out of their way.

Tom would carry me in from my stubborn attempts at the fields, let me be still in the cool quiet of a dark room, and called me his gypsy, and was sure that spirits were calling me away, that I needed to dwell at times someplace else. He respected that, and the wisdom that he found in me that seemed to come only from those quiet other times. Strange wisdom aside, I just wanted to get the dishes done.

We went to college, too, on top of working the farm, and yearned for children. I miscarried, badly, losing twelve more pounds from my small frame. Two weeks later, while Tom worked hard to pick up the slack as I recovered, he found he was urinating blood. He had a malignant tumor in his urinary bladder. It was removed and treated, but he need painful cystiscopic exams every six months, for the unforseen future. We wanted a child even more, a legacy to our love, our masterpiece, and lived each moment far too aware that our time together could be fleeting. I miscarried again, before having our stunningly healthy nine and a half pound baby boy. Mission accomplished. Bliss.

Many things happened, for, while I am not “accident prone”, I seem to be “incident prone”, at least at that time in my life. I’ll skip all that for now, and continue with what happened six months later.

One morning, six months after Nathan was born, while I cuddled in bed, nursing our beautiful son, Tom kissed us goodbye, saying he loved us, reminding us that we were everything to him. He left. That evening, he was to bring his best friend home for dinner, and I was excited to fix something extra special, and he would be back at seven. He was always precisely on time.

So when there was a knock at the door, precisely at seven, I assumed he forgot his key. I opened the door, and was startled by the policeman standing there, when it should have been Tom. There was an car accident. It was bad. Tom’s friend was dead and Tom began the long journey of severe permanent brain damage, before finally dying five years later. He never was to live with us again. I was twenty one, and Tom a year older. I was autistic, unskilled, nursing a child, uninsured, alone, with no car and a husband needing me at the hospital, a baby at home. My mother was not there for me, for my father was dying of cancer at that time. I was not there for her, either. We both had our hearts completely smashed through the helpless vigil of incapacitated husbands.

There are some chapters in life that divide all time. My life and who I am is forever divided into before and after Tom’s accident. I will never drop his flag. As I rest here, today, after once again pushing myself too hard, doing far more than I should, happy, in love with Doc, in my little beach cottage, I am warmed by those words of my strong Palomino, and let myself feel the tough, long scar on my heart. “You can’t make a hound dog out of a poodle”. Perhaps not. But maybe, at times, I can be one heck of a poodle. Tom, I know you’re proud of me.

 

 

I never meant for you to know

Long ago, there was a small wild rose that grew near the bank of the babbling river at the end of our back yard. My father loved to garden, but this was not part of the realm of gorgeous colors and fragrances he took such pride in showcasing. The large property was split into two very different levels, with a retaining wall of smooth river rocks and slate steps that divided the flood-prone riverland from the kingdom of his display. Riverland was the kingdom of children, barely more than a cleared woodland of hard damp earth, moss, a few tall trees, and hearty patches of grass. The swing set was there, and an eye-soar but beloved pool, and an ever changing arrangement of bikes, balls, forts, broken toys, and blanket tents. This was the height of the baby boom, and the new fifties suburban neighborhood in the northern highlands of New Jersey was filled with large familes and Riverland, along with the adjacent undeveloped woodland, ruled by children.

I never meant for you to know.

All of the children ran outside in every kind of weather, including my older sister and brother, and younger sister. My strong older sister was demanding and smart, getting her way and making the rules for the Riverland tribe. The children ran free, played war, picked teams, and seldom talked under full volume. There were mean kids and nice kids, as there always are, and shy ones, and the one they ignored and protected, me, for I was…”slow”.

I never, ever, meant for you to know.

The bands of children played too loud, too rough for me. I did not understand their rules, why they did what they did. I struggled to speak, and remained mostly silent, and passively played alone in more quiet activities that were full of beauty and wonderment to me. The parents enforced few rules, but one was to include me as a tribe member, and a watchful eye was kept for my safe keeping, as I crouched in the corners of the play areas. The tribe would scream and fight and call it play, but I never understood why this was considered any kind of enjoyment. They cried and pushed and hit and teased in a constant struggle to prove themselves. I studied the tiny things, the beauty of the tree bark, watched ants airing their attended eggs on hot days, split leaves for hours, studying the pattern of veins. I adored swimming, but alone, and spinning on the swing set, after repeatedly twisting the chains up tight. I sang enthusiastically sometimes, about my observations, but no one seemed to understand or consider it of interest. Smiles. Shrugs. They moved on to more shouting and play, away from the slow, odd, me. I gave “Holy Communion” to the ducks, scattering crumbs I would bless for them.

I never meant for you to know.

One early summer day, I was studying the small pink rose, and enjoying the burbletalk of the river. My father came down to inspect the pool, and offered me the rose, as mine, my own to tend, to safekeep, as a tiny garden, almost a pet. I was thrillled! It was so beautiful, so delicate, and so generous a special gift. So I sat and guarded it, and observed every detail of its seasonal growth, how it thrived or didn’t with the amount I watered it. I built a small fence of sticks and rocks, to protect it from the children, and made tiny roads underneath the rose, so the bugs could enjoy a scenic visit to the rose park I created for them. I hid behind the cool wall, observing my father’s garden techniques, and how he pulled weeds and picked away the spent blooms.

That summer, I began to garden. I learned to love the caregiving of growing things. I had a small, great joy, something to love, and avoided the battles of the Riverland tribe. I had my own tribe of beetles, ants, and earthworms, and my beautiful, beautiful, rose.

Odd. Simple. Slow. I never meant for you to know I was or was not these things. I never meant for you to know who I was. It was not to be judged. I did not expect or need it to be understood. That would be selfish of me. I share this now, as a gift, a sweet beauty. I was a autistic child, in a time that such things were not spoken of.

I never meant for you to know.

Photo of Yuletide Camillias that bloom in my garden at Christmas time.