My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Love The Weirdos

So much has been said about the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday. Too much, if you want my opinion (and you came here, so obviously you do!). But there is one piece of this puzzle that hasn't been discussed... this killer had Aspergers Syndrome, the same form of autism that my youngest son has. My heart breaks for this mother who, like me, appears to have been left alone to deal with her son. His own brother had not seen him in two years!

There have been people in our life, even members of my immediate family who have questioned Austin's diagnosis, accused me of being too permissive with him,  and ultimately just come to avoid Austin and myself because of who and how he is. And he is... a wonderful, loving, caring, funny, smart, articulate, cultured, amazing young man... except when he isn't. And when he isn't... sometimes he isn't pleasant to be around.

He has quirks. He wore pajama pants and flipflops to school every day of his senior year... but he graduated. He has hoarding tendencies. He breaks things. Sometimes things that you think should be common sense, don't occur to him - such as last night when he was making sloppy joes and forgot to use a potholder when moving the pan. Once he gets an idea in his head, it's durn near impossible to change his mind. His hurts are deeper but so is his loyalty and love.

Would I have had a gun in the house with an autistic adult? No, but I wouldn't have a gun in the house anyways because I'm just not comfortable around them. My life is all about risk management, in the office and at home. I have spent Austin's lifetime trying to prevent him from being in situations where he might lose control or do something that would hurt him, other people or property. The older he gets, the harder it is and for a large part, I leave a lot to God and fate. This summer while he was living an hour and a half away from me, I couldn't help guide him or protect him in any way and he managed... for the most part. Other than personal hygiene and work attendance, he did ok. Yet, he was also in a situation where there were few boundaries so there were few things to upset him.

I could never imagine Austin hurting anyone else intentionally but yet.. his responses to frustrating situations are not always predictable OR logical. He has done things that have caused permanent damage to relationships in our life and I grieve for those losses yet... I know that he has a good heart.  I have a tendency to blame others for not understanding as much as I blame him for the things he does. I don't mean that we should excuse inappropriate behavior and I definitely don't mean that we give that kid in Connecticut a pass for killing 26 people... I just mean that as a society we really need to go the extra mile with people like Austin... and this gunman... and try to be understanding, forgiving, accepting... which will help prevent conflagrations of this magnitude in the future. These people are powder kegs and rejection helps light the fuse.

If there's a person with Aspergers in your life, give them a little latitude, a little understanding, a little love - but not a hug! Austin hates hugs! For that matter, anyone in your life who is a little different needs to be loved for who they are and not be cast aside or ignored. There are so many blessings that come from being around someone who is different. My life has been enriched by having an often unfiltered peek into his thoughts.

Be a rock for someone who may be feeling rejected by the world. No matter what goes wrong in his life, Austin knows that he always has Mom and Mawmaw and Pop to turn to. He has the security of unconditional love and I believe that makes him stronger. Giving folks who are a little different a safety net goes a long way in helping them be contributing members of society.

Every place he goes where he is loved and accepted becomes a place where he wants to be.  The times that Austin has gotten off track have been largely because the kids who could potentially be a good influence on him haven't really accepted him. It's too much work for him to find a place in their world. He finds himself among other outcasts who may not have habits that, as a mom, I want him to adopt, yet, those are the people who welcome him and let him be himself.

I'm not placing blame or excusing anything that happened at that school on Friday. I just can't help but wonder if things could have been different.... if there was a point in that young man's life when someone had the potential to completely change the course of his life and missed the opportunity. Love the weirdos! Embrace the special folks! (figuratively, because again, Austin hates hugs!) Make the world a better place for them to be.

Time for me to run a few errands before I run out of steam. I never could quite get my energy level up yesterday and didn't do the things I needed to do so today I've got to push harder and go further. Wish me luck! Love and hugs, y'all!


Estela said...

Great piece. I have been on the road and hadn't heard that the young man had asperger's. IMHO it doesn't explain everything, but it does shed light. I also think we need to spread a little lov e-hopeless,loveless people do desperate things.

Red*Hot@53! said...

Thank you for your view on this - I have had a hard time wrapping my mind around this whole tragedy.

I understand that people with any form of Autism are different, and each one is very different from another with Autism. I hope that this tragedy sheds light on the fact that kids with Autism and their families need help to learn the best methods to work with the kids, to help them cope with the world around them.