Tuesday, March 26, 2019

I’m just a few months short of 75, and was raised in an Air Force family in several states and one foreign country, the United Kingdom (England, Scotland Northern Ireland and Wales, [NOT not spelled the same as the aquatic mammal.]

I’ve had two careers, 21 years in communications and aircraft electronics in the Army, and another as an Electromagnetic Compatibility Engineer, in technologies from high security computers to microcomputers, consumer electronics to defibrillators and aerospace, products sold retail to equipment used by teleph0ne companies and network serve providers.

I’ve been a soldier and an engineer sans degree, an amateur photographer and a poet. I’m to a large degree self-educated, never applied the college credits I earned in Army Education Centers, and never took any engineering classes.

I seldom go to movies, don’t own a television or stream consumer entertainment, eschew role playing games and have hundreds of books.  A CD changer has about 150 music disks for when I want music to inform my thinking – and I’m working on better housekeeping.

My bgget accomplishment thus far is that I’ve saved lives, and been part of a war. I’ve made a study of humans; much as Temple Grandin called herself an anthropologist on Mars, I learn about people.

I want people to know about autism is that Everyone, NT or not, we are of all kinds people, and THAT spectrum has an infinite number of directions;  as Shakespeare has Hamlet reply to Horatio, who thinks the old king’s ghost “Passing Strange”,

>>Then as a stranger greet it; there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies.<<

I want to tell fellow autistics:

Words to think about-

Keep learning. You don’t have to be a genius or live up to an unrealistic stereotype, just keep learning.  SOMETHING can make you feel better – and if you can learn one thing, sooner or later it can be more.  

And be kind.  

How I or other suspected my autism is:
No one suspected; they didn’t know anything about autism, and there's still a lot of ignorance about it.  I thought my memory problem was Alzheimer’s so I consulted a neurologist and spent an afternoon testing.  THEN I knew.

In school, some had thought I was either a rotten kid or an idiot, but they didn't know about autism and they’d never looked to see how much I was reading. 

Resources that benefitted me: Libraries and books.   Adults who thought me an idiot, and that only punishment could reach me and discipline reform me were all wrong.   Only love and joy worked.

I was born at a time when Kanner and Asperger had just published, and was diagnosed with what a neurologist called high functioning autism only at age 67.  Teachers and parents alike had apparently thought me thought me variously retarded or genius, eager to learn or a troublemaker, creative or unimaginative and everything else they could mistake me for but who I am.

I often use dictation software, my typing being a six-digit attempt at expression and my editing benefiting from the  voice decoded better than a keyboard,

After I got the diagnosis, I told my coworkers in the engineering department and they just looked at me, “Well, DUH!”; they knew – and didn’t care.

The diagnosis took a huge load off my mind; the autism I realized I’d grown up with was infinitely better than the dementia I would face with Alzheimer's.  Of course, advancing old age takes its own price.

Since then,

Other things have happened; strokes, blocked arteries and a heart attack; they have their own risks.  But I’m already older than my mother got to before smoking killed her, and I’m quite close to my father’s age when he passed on. I may have given up smoking in time to live longer.

Not knowing of course had had to make things more difficult, but not knowing it’s difficult didn’t make it any harder at the time, so the difficulty wasn’t obvious to me; it was always in how others and treated me.  I’ve since forgiven their error; only a very perceptive adult could have seen past my behavior and believed me when I told them I couldn't remember things.

And, as with many of us, I had problems growing up.   
My history isn’t pretty; Dad was said to have broken my legs when I was 2 years old, and I remember being held underwater in a public swimming pool when I was seraphs three; screaming NO! NO! When he pulled me out at the last moment, telling others I was laughing.

He was subject to fits of anger, and I only now wonder, after having long ago recognized that danger in myself (FIRST BE KIND works), if perhaps he was having meltdowns; I was the reason he had to get married, and that may have made me a target – but I ran away to the Army a week after he slapped me around in front of other family members.

Pride Kills
Is one
Thing piled on
Top of another until
I can't tell death from daylight
And the fact that a broken leg keeps
Me from running to the door is seen as a sign
Of intolerable indifference to a need
Not less than my own

it all comes down in a great pile of unordered rubble bricks
crumbled tumbled bruises ruses wounds
and where to put the bandage if
I had one but she cannot see
And of course I don't say that.

They think there's someone behind the calm
Who can actually get something done.
Maybe I should just say... help?

Or have them see too late
the sunken wreck that was a life
Pride killed.

© Cortland Richmond

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