Seconds From Disaster

The past few nights I’ve been working on an epic post, working through way too much stuff in my head over way too much time and I’m seconds from crashing all day long. Tonight was a pile up.

Kai could not transition into bedtime mode tonight. The friction created by him and me could burn down a small city. I keep thinking he’s just got to figure this out and get used to it; he’s got to listen and stop blowing up and stop treating me like that. Jen came home. Kai told part of the story, I told the rest. She cut me off, frustrated or angry — probably both — at me for being surprised about his behavior and words towards me; about being surprised about his difficulty transitioning from total engrossment in whatever he’s doing into bedtime. “Jen, I don’t know what to do when he’s not listening to me. When all of my tools are gone and he’s still going at it, I have no idea what to do.” “You have no tools? How much research have you done on Asperger’s? How many blogs have you sought out and read? Books? Anything? How much have you tried to learn about this?!” Her inquiries were not completely rhetorical. An answer or response was warranted, but I had to keep my mouth shut. The slightest fissure in the dam would have been catastrophic. The raging storm on the other side is already tough to keep at bay. I wanted to scream back at her about how much time I don’t have. I wanted to scream back loud enough to make her mute ‘How much do you know about code and user experience and building software and constantly learning more and more and more about all that so you don’t get fired or discarded for being obsolete and worthless? How much time have you spent working your ass off to keep a job to pay for our house and everything we do and have? How much do you know about making [insert annual salary]? How long have you tried to cram a day’s worth of time into maybe a couple of hours over and over again with your kids cause that’s all you have, only to have that time destined for failure because it’s all jacked up with stress and exhaustion and disappointment? I wish I had time to read blogs all day and research, in-depth, everything I felt like looking up. I wish I could stay home.’ I know all that is moot. I know it’s unfair and hurtful. I didn’t say it. I wanted to. I wanted to vomit all the shit smashing around my brain into her face. I wanted to disappear. “Not as much as you have,” I uttered with zero sarcasm and zero attitude… “I need to keep my mouth shut right now.” “Of course. You’re shutting down, just like you did on Monday.”

I went to the garage to swap car placements. The van was on the street from earlier this evening while the kids and I worked on and played with our new-to-us used truck we bought for a dollar from a friend who was trying to donate it. We’ve been needing a second car for a while. The big garage door opened and I turned the ignition. Jen barreled out of the door separating the garage from the house with three library books about Asperger’s Syndrome that she rented a couple of weeks ago. “Fuck you. You wanna know about your son? Here you go…” and she threw them at me into the truck. I swapped vehicle placements, went back into the house, dropped the books on the coffee table, went upstairs to go to bed, laid there for a few minutes of eternity, got up, re-dressed and went down stairs to get my shoes on.

Kai, still sitting on the couch with Jen through all of this, apologized for being rude to me and asked where I was going. “Somewhere to read.” I said, “Good night… I love you, too.” and left. I had no place in mind to go. I headed to the IHOP just down the street, but it was closed temporarily due to a pipe leak. I thought about sitting in the “café” at King Soopers, but that just seemed lame. I was still burning from everything. I wasn’t ready to sit yet. Providence made the pipe leak. Providence made King Soopers lame. I was still trying to stay the storm held back by sheer force of will. So I drove. I drove for about an hour when I spotted a Waffle House. I’m not sure how far I would have gone. Wyoming was a stone’s throw away. The first and last time I was in a Waffle House was back in 2005 in Alabama with Jen’s brother the day he got out of prison. It was exactly like everyone says, back then and now: grimy, gross, and the perfect place to go. Somehow, when you’re feeling like shit, a shitty cup of coffee and a shitty waffle seems to normalize everything.

I sat at the table for two hours and read one of the three books in its entirety. I was planning to sit there and read them all. I wanted to devour them. I wanted to know everything. I wanted to know how to talk exist with my son. I wanted to know what made him tick and in some respects, what makes me tick. We’re cut from the same stuff. So much of what he’s dealing with reminds me of my childhood. I read that as people with Asperger’s Syndrome grow up, it’s common for most of the indicators that are so prevalent and brightly colored in childhood to fade; they don’t surface quite as obviously; we learn to cope and function in a neurotypical world; we acquire skills along the way to help decode the world around us. Of course, it also depends on the severity of where a person is on the spectrum. With kids, it’s all still so intense. I began to learn about my eleven-year-old son, and remember being him twenty-five years ago.

Just as I was swallowing the last page, a fight broke out behind me between two guys. One guy had been there for a while, bouncing from table to table, unable to sit still. The other guy had just come in a few minutes before-hand and just sat down at a table somewhere behind me. I used to think I was sort of invincible. I used to think I could do anything; that I was strong. I was paralyzed. I stood up and wanted to help another Waffle Houser who came from the opposite side of the diner to break up the fight. I wanted to jump in the middle of it all and grab both guys, one in each fisted iron grip, six feet apart, and drag them outside and sit them down and resolve the issue. I just stood there, heart pounding, immobilized, terrified of my own hesitation and what that meant. They finally broke it up thanks to the other guy from the other side of the diner, and left. I sat back down, freaked out on adrenaline and finished the last page of the book, took a few more drinks of my shitty coffee and headed out on my hour drive back home; set “Wonderful” by Gary Go to repeat on my iPod the whole way.

I was so mad at Jen for making tonight’s explosion my fault. I was the one getting kicked, punched in the face with cruel, murderous words. I was the one dodging flying objects and chairs and computer parts. I was the one trying to diffuse the fire. But it was my fault. It was my fire. I’m the one using work and benign obligations as an excuse for why I don’t pursue learning about this. I’m the one caving into stress and bailing out of this burden as if I’m justified in not being the father my son so desperately needs because I don’t have time; the father I so desperately needed. I drove home so thankful for Jen and her ability to smash bullshit into dust. Kai is incredibly lucky to have someone with her patience and intellect and passions fighting for him, for us. Yes, I’m tired… and under a lot of pressure to perform beyond my typical mode of operation at work. Yes, I’m overwhelmed by this diagnosis. Yes, I’m trying to make sense out of my own life as this diagnosis spills over onto me as well. Yes, I need to lose sleep learning about this. Yes, I’m really sorry.

3 Responses to “Seconds From Disaster”

  • I love you. This, and so many other things, are overwhelming for us all. The only way to get through it all together is to walk through this fire. Together. So let’s walk, arm in arm. Side by side, holding onto the only One able to bring us through.

    (Clarification about one thing… I didn’t throw 3 books “at [you].” My arm went in front of you as I threw them to the passenger floor. ;) I learned my lesson, long ago, about throwing things *at you*. I miss even when I aim for you. :))

    I still would have picked you. You’re worth it. I love you. So much.

    • Thank you for the clarification. Noted ;)

      I’m trying to learn how to walk like you are saying. Thank you for loving me, having a divinely inspired level of patience, and oceans of empathy. If we could do this… everything… all over again, the only thing I would change is me, and by that I mean I would have paid more attention — to everything — and not ignored the realities of my life and the issues I create and ignore. I love you, too. So much.

      Ah, the Great Salad Bowl Incident… good times :) Well, not really, but it was funny.

  • You didn’t have to change the text or strike it from the record! Haha :) Can’t wait for our date night tonight. Loooong overdue… a conversation without interruptions or fatigue getting in the middle of it. Ahhh.

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