The dawning of the age of majority…

When J crawled into bed on Wednesday night, all of seventeen years old, he was a beaming, happy, enthused being with a trimmed goatee and a recent haircut.  He had a pimple on the bridge of his nose, and he was wearing his usual attire of lounge pants and sweatshirt with very little consideration to how one should be dressed when one passes from being a “kid” to being an “adult.”  It wouldn’t have mattered anyway because when the clock struck midnight, J didn’t change one bit…well, maybe the pimple had diminished in size, but that was about it.  J turned 18 in his (our) sleep, and the world didn’t stop turning.  Go figure!

Thursday was a good day for J.  I don’t think one single person failed to greet him with a hearty HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  I don’t think he failed to be profoundly pleased by this gesture, and his face must’ve hurt by the time we said our good nights because he was smiling from ear to ear every single time I looked at him.  To his grandpa’s rather cacophonous rendition of The Birthday Song (made all the more strident by the use of speakerphone,) J responded with his close-eyed smile and a humble THANK YOU.  He opened every birthday card (given to him individually so as not to overwhelm him with a barrage of greetings) with the simple happiness of one who accepts being the center of attention for one day.  He likes being paid attention to on a daily basis, but he has a sense of his birthday being an extra-special day, even if the concept of “having a birthday” escapes him.

I’ve been trying to get him to say he is eighteen years old, but this is such a vague concept for J that it’s hard to get him to focus on it.  Time is not of the essence for him, unless it’s here and now, he doesn’t exactly “get” it.  If J had been placed by Nature at a more high-functioning end of the Autism scale, I think he would better comprehend the importance of his age; he knows he’s grown, and he knows he’s changed, but the why and how all seem removed from his consciousness.

I’ve spent years trying to explain this to people, but I can’t seem to get through.  For some unexplainable reason, our need to focus on J is construed as egotism rather than a focus on his Autism, and all the complexities that come attached to it.  That is something I will try to talk about later…right now I’ve got some accumulated “upsets” that I think will throw me into “unjustified diatribe” territory.  More and more I hear “I know, I know” from those who don’t, and if I try to ask them to actually put an effort into knowing, I somehow turn into the bad guy…sigh…

J is eighteen.  That’s the gist of it.  Legally, until the hearing in March, we can’t really chime in without his consent or request.  The hearing, so J’s court-appointed attorney tells me, will be brief, and the core of it will be the commissioner’s attempt to explain to J what the business of “legal guardianship” is all about.  In those few weeks that sit between today and then, we will all do our best to help J prepare for the odd experience of being the center of attention in a somewhat formal situation.  I explained to the attorney (who is kind and helpful, thank goodness) that J might require the comfort of his hats, and she said this should not be an issue.  I think a quick day’s work will generate a newer, less faded, less ragged Rasta hat to top his scrum cap with, and this -with the spiffy new shirt and sweater we will buy for the occasion- should make him look like he’s showing up at a courthouse rather than at a more informal locale.

In the meantime, the eighteen year-old member of the household is taking everything in stride.  Friday’s impromptu no-school day was met with a shrug and the usual exodus to the living room, where he promptly made himself a nest on the couch and proceeded to watch Winnie the Pooh for the greater part of the morning.  Today he has wistfully put BACKPACKS and BUSES all across his schedule board while looking out the window at the incessant snowfall…

The rest of us are easily falling into the groove of J as adult.  Maybe this is because his attitude hasn’t altered significantly since Thursday.  The kid is the kid, and he has cash in hand because everyone thought to give him the same thing (what else can you give the guy who has everything???,) but he’s in no rush to spend it.  The bikini-clad girl in TGG’s birthday card is not getting more or less attention than the scantily-clad girl in his Playboy calendar.  Yeah, he’s pretty much the same, and it’s us (the ones who are getting old rather than older) who feel as if something monumental happened when J had his birthday.

We’ll be back to normal, I suppose…a new normal (as usual) is emerging even as we speak…



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