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12:58 p.m. - 2012-09-22
Who doesn't love autumn?

It's my favorite time of year. This brief window of cool and color called autumn. Though one or two have jumped the season with gaudy dress it's not quite time for the technicolor tree spectacular. Yet the fall palette nearer to the ground had me in happy tears driving to Shoprite the other day. Went past the farm with its fields of sere beige cornstalks and flaming pumpkins, impossibly hokey and only needing a scarecrow to be cartoon perfect. The clumps of sumac gone to shades of deep aubergine. The marsh a dreaming haze of cattail fluff on the wind. Sweeps of frosty purple asters and goldenrod spilling across pastureland left fallow. Just for the pleasure of it I took the long way home over the bridge so I could check on the river and was rewarded by catching a flock of migrating duck coming down to feed. To my left a solitary tractor on the low rolling hill taking one last cutting of hay grass, its cutter bar scything through timothy already white at the tips. Further down the road this year's foals, now leggy teenagers big enough to be on their own, were running races. Their mothers in the next field contentedly grazing, satisfied the kids were okay.

I live in Wonderland.

Because it's mine I can dismiss the nearby smelly interstate and its constant rumble of diesel traffic. I turn a deaf ear to the military planes droning in holding patterns overhead waiting to land at the air force base. However I do happily see the hot air balloons and the occasional bi-planes that come and go from the other airport about a mile thataway, a wee doink of an airport with one runway and a greasy spoon cafe called Ray's.

Love is like that.

I don't rail and rage because my paradise has elements not exactly to my liking. I don't believe in perfect. I waited too long, spent far too many unhappy years existing on scraps. All I need is for the good to outweigh the not so good. And the good I have now is astonishing in its generous weight. Who am I to bitch?

I don't mean to lecture. This isn't a smug homily to the innate moral superiority of accepting 'It is what it is' and getting on with things. I'm just in a thoughtful place this morning. I live with two guys who by nature and nurture are bent on only seeing the wrong bits. Discontent is their lunch and dinner.

Wolf as an Aspie is hardwired to notice and focus on what doesn't conform to his idea of correct. Just as his father could look at a groaning Thanksgiving table and ignore the steaming dishes and hours of work and only see the one wrinkled napkin next to someone's plate, what my son first sees is much the same. Only Wolf can and does understand the necessity of holding his peace and taking in the bigger picture before he speaks. The wrinkled napkin still rankles, but his good heart holds sway and he remembers to compliment and thank before saying something about the napkin. (If he does at all. My boy has made discretion and kindness his personal watchwords.) Of course I've helped and taught him but it's been Wolf's choice to not let his Asperger's define him. He is half me after all. And struggling against type is something I've done all of my life. Wolf loathes the casual careless cruelty of his brand of autism. He is the Oscar Pistorius of Aspies. Yeah, he's missing a couple parts but it doesn't mean he can't run and win anyhow. Takes more work, a hella lot more work, but so what? He can be a full blown Aspie and punish everyone around him with his inborn contempt and navel-centric view or he can be a guy with Asperger's syndrome who deals and has a full life despite his condition. Wolf sees himself as just a guy. A regular guy who has to work around the less than stellar hand he was dealt, BFD.

Mick? Mick's case is less clear cut. He was born fussy. MIL laughingly speaks of Mick objecting to a dirty diaper really early on. Well before other babies even noticed theirs. Mick always ate neatly. He frowned and howled when people chucked him under the chin and tried to make him smile. A born contrarian, my guy has been upset by and angry at this messy world since day one. Getting along, a social manner, giving first to get back, not in Mick's DNA. AT ALL. Mick wants it 100% right first and then and only then he might relent and join in. Okay, not really. Joining in is exactly what my guy has fought so bitterly against. He had nothing but contempt for joiners. Authority is a choking yoke he's thrown off always. This is a guy who refused to smile in his first grade school picture because the smiling lady told him to. If someone tells Mick he has to do a thing then that is absolutely the one thing he will die before doing. Even things he can objectively see as being better for him like eating vegetables or obeying traffic laws. Doesn't matter, Mick will object. Mick will refuse.

Yet absurdly Mick slings scorn at those who also might do things as he does. Those who don't follow society's rules, those traffic scofflaws, the rude ones, the ones who insist on having their own way, those people make Mick even crazier. Mick is THE prime example of 'do as I say and not as I do'.

Upshot? Mick is never happy. He's never satisfied. Not only is he angry about the wrinkled napkin, he's already furious we're having Thanksgiving dinner in the first place.

So what did he do? He went and fell stone in love with the original get-along girl. He married a freaking hippie.

Now you might say Mick was only doing as he's been doing all his life. If it makes perfect sense to marry someone as cranky and dissatisfied as he is then of course he'd marry the exact opposite! This is what contrarians do.

Fortunately for both of us Mick might have been pulling his usual back-assward trick but he really and truly does love me. Mick is awed by my hippie-ish ways. He digs moats and I build bridges across them. He refuses to tap his foot to the music and I make him get up and dance. When we sit on the stoop and he bitches and grumps about the cars speeding down our road and the C-5s shrieking into Stewart AFB I'm there pointing out the woodpecker in the pine tree. Enthusing about the way the light is playing off the shadows in the woods. I'm waving to the train engineer slowly guiding a freight convoy on the tracks across the street.

Does it get wearisome to have to always push back against Mick's neg? Oh for sure. There are times I just want to be at peace and not have to deal with Mick's or Wolf's relentless nitpicking and dissatisfaction. How could I not? I'm the nutter who cries over asters and goldenrod.

I'll let you in on a secret though. It's because of my guys' refusal of the status quo that I've learned how to demand more from my life than just getting by. Their arrogant (to me) insistence on having everything right and seeming (to me) ingratitude for what little good there is, well, I've learned not to settle for the very least of things.

This is pretty cool.

We all come away with more than what our basic nurture and nature bent us to accept. Wolf has grown past his handicap. Mick is finally gaining appreciation for the art of compromise. And I'm learning not to be such a schmuck.


Meeting in the middle and finding it good, ~LA

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