Sunday, February 2, 2014

Autism Diaries: Slipping into Life... and Death

Some people invoke the Multiverse to explain how it is that the universe is tuned just right for planets, liquid H20, tidal forces, and … life. This preternaturally unlikely state of affairs is explained in a preternatural way: beyond our universe, there are multiple others—all possible ones, in fact. Even if our universe is just one in a multiple billion, we humans are in it because it’s (one of) the only one(s) we can be in.

J takes this a step further. What inspired him was a chapter in his American history textbook that described the Plymouth Landing. He wouldn’t normally have any more interest in this event than in any others—that is to say, hardly any at all—except for the fact that William Bradford happens to be his great-great-great-great....great-grand father.

We were reading about how Bradford’s first wife, Dorothy, slipped over the side of the Mayflower and drowned. What would have happened if Dorothy hadn’t slipped, it immediately occurred to me to ask him.

And, equally immediately, J grasped his personal stake in the matter, quickly expanding it to cosmic proportions. Maybe the multiverses include ones in which Dorothy didn’t lose her footing, but he has to be in one of the ones in which she did.

And that’s where Life (J’s life) comes from.

Death, too, has interested J recently--but here the trigger is a more immediate ancestor. Whenever the subject arises (often at J’s initation) of the death of his grandfather, he pulls a long face, lowers his voice, and says, with uncharacteristic earnestness, “When I saw Grandpa at Labor Day, I didn’t know he would die. I thought I would see him again at Christmas time.”

But, perhaps realizing the inevitability of it all, he’s also found a better way to spin things. “Do you think old people get tired of living?” he asks hopefully.

And a way to make light of it all. Shortly after learning the standard euphemism--“Why do people say ‘pass away'?”—he handed me a folded slip of paper. “Can you pass it to Daddy?” he asks. As soon as I do, he hollers: “You passed away!”

Taking back the slip, he unfolds it and holds it up. In his large, crude handwriting is scrawled a single word:

“AWAY.”

1 comment:

C T said...

That was pretty funny.