Thanks to Oren the Otter for help with this story
Joey was such a good baby, you have to understand.
He was our first, and we were a little scared about taking care
of him, but he hardly ever seemed to cry or get into those tantrums
that the other parents warned us about. He did not seem very to be
very responsive, but we did not see anything wrong with that. But by
his second birthday, it seemed that he was not acting like other
babies that we saw. We did not have experience raising a child,
of course, and we had figured that he was just quiet. He would
play with a pull tab for hours, and we figured that meant he would
be focused...probably a great scientist. But he didn't start to talk.
By his third birthday, we were taking him to specialists to find
out what was wrong. I still remember feeling faint when the doctor
said Joey was autistic. When we got home, I looked up autism in
the encyclopedia I had used ever since I was a little girl:
Autism, in psychology, a striking disability in
interpersonal relations with severe obsessive com-
pulsive mechanisms. In 1943, L. Kanner described
a syndrome that begins at an early age and is char-
acterized by an extreme withdrawal and obsessive-
ness, which he called "early infantile autism." The
peculiarities of autistic language and thought, al-
though somewhat different, share the general fea-
tures of schizophrenia. Early autism occurs more
frequently in boys than in girls. The psychotic
nature of the illness becomes apparent not later
than the age of two. There seems to be an inability
to form close ties, with a resulting lack of responsive-
ness. Almost invariably, the parents of autistic chil-
dren are intelligent, successful, and in good eco-
nomic circumstances, but are obsessively preoc-
cupied with abstractions of a scientific. literary, or
artistic nature. Family life becomes impersonal and
the child receives very little genuine parental affec-
tion. The child becomes less sympathetic and does
not develop an interest in people. Drugs and therapy
have been used in the treatment of autism.
I got the encyclopedia for my tenth birthday and Christmas
(being born in late December is not an advantage), so it would
have been from 1968. I can still see the dark red cover of that book.
I soon learned that the interpretation of autism was changing, but
for a long time I struggled with that paragraph. We were not all
that rich...it was the early 80s and there was a deep recession
going on. And we were not particularly interested science,
literature or art. But we loved Joey, and prided ourselves
on the amount of attention we gave him. My parents and in-laws
both blamed us for what we had done to their grandson. We went
to our pastor, and he just said something about raising a child
in the way of the Lord and he would not depart from it. The
neighbors who had been so helpful fell silent now when we appeared,
and friends seemed to have other things to do. If I had not been
pregnant with Susan we would not have had another child.
We did our best to raise Joey and Susan. Our parents finally
came around, but it was never really the same afterwards. We went
through all the treatments of autism for Joey, but nothing seemed to
do much good. Susan graduated third in her class and was preparing
for college. But Harold was pushing 50, and Joey was legally an adult.
We would not be able to care for Joey many more years, and an
institution seemed so...
Then we heard on CNN that a species of beings from space,
like intelligent ball lightnings, had announced themselves to Earth.
We are now bottle-nosed dolphins. We can see the wonders of the
sea bottom, and can swim close enough to shore to gaze upon the
slowly crumbling ruins of our old cities. We can go anywhere that
the ocean waters of the world go. Joey is communicative now,
his autism cured. He is even poetic. Susan is also musically gifted.
And the world of sonar is as different from sound as sight is
from smell. All our lives we had been ranos, to coin a word
like "blind" or "deaf". But now we experience the world anew.
Joey and Susan have even developed a trick, combining their sonar
sounds in such a way that they seem to "show" a fish or other
object in the water...we can tell stories and illustrate them at
the same time!
Thank you, Nacalites.
DRIZZLE DRAZZLE DRUZZLE DROME
TIME FOR THIS ONE TO COME HOME