A one-man cult following…

It is inevitable.  Whenever J goes out shopping and there is a video department at the store, he goes looking for the same movies.  We recently did an inventory of all the movies in his binders, and his pattern is pretty consistent.  He loves Alice in Wonderland, A Bug’s Life, The Brave Little Toaster, The Great Mouse Detective

No sooner do any of these get the smallest scratch that J goes and replaces them.  He doesn’t jettison the scratched one.  He keeps it much like Beth March does old dolls in Little Women.  The movie is scratched, split, cracked, slightly bruised…it doesn’t matter.  J puts it where it used to be stored before its accident, misfortune, illness, infirmity, and gets a new one to use in its place.

This, I have to wholeheartedly admit, is one of his most irritating habits.  We don’t get it.  We know it’s part of how his brain works, but it irritates us nonetheless.  We play along.  We replace the movie.  From time to time we make a concerted effort to persuade him to toss out the broken, split, bruised, scratched, marred one.  From time to time, very rarely…once in the bluest of blue moons, he plays along and says goodbye to an old, infirm friend.

We’ve gone through this with everything: Beauty and the Beast, A Charlie Brown Christmas, We’re Back! A Dinosaur Story, every single Toy Story movie, every single The Land Before Time movie (especially The Great Valley Adventure because he loves The Roches’ songs), and so on and so forth.

However, from among these, there is one movie that is especially singled out for replacement even when replacement is unnecessary…

Lord Jesus help us, we buy FernGully: The Last Rain Forest every single time we find it at the store.

It has become, by now, a running joke in our little household that Ray Liotta’s voice can be heard whispering “if you stock it, he will buy it!!!!”  We are single-handedly feeding the vicious cycle that is a store’s inventory: go through the list, mark what you have and what has sold, and if that ONE COPY of that ONE MOVIE sold, restock it.

We have considered when going shopping at stores that stock this DVD, sending a search party ahead to locate the ONE COPY and somehow hide it.  Our recon missions might, however, seem suspicious to Loss Prevention and we might end up getting pulled into a back office to explain away our particular situation.  The thought of this is not particularly enjoyable: you see, sir, our son…well, he’s I’d guess you would call it obsessed????  He ALWAYS buys FernGully and if you look at your recent inventory lists you will see that it gets consistently restocked even though it’s not one of the most popular movies made in 1991…that honor would go to Aladdin…which he also buys as frequently as he can…if you’d like to come to our house and look at his embarrassment of riches when it comes to movies you would understand that we were not trying to ABSCOND with FernGully, but rather were attempting to NOT have to BUY it AGAIN????

There are things that are hard to explain, and this particular obsession is one of them.  Why FernGully?  At $4.99 a pop (on average) it’s not a huge expense, but at maybe 15 copies by now, it’s a ludicrous one.  All the other movies cost more, and we try to explain to him that he doesn’t need another copy.  There are some movies that create a true crisis when they do crack, split, get bruised, won’t play properly because they are scuffed…  Those movies we have backups for, and we are unrepentant about this.

The list of classics that cannot possibly be out of circulation because they cause him deep distress are Melody Time, Make Mine Music, The Three Caballeros, Saludos, Amigos!, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Fun and Fancy Free and anything that has Johnny Appleseed in it…  Those I have a secret stash of, and I am not ashamed to admit it.  A few weeks ago his Walt Disney’s Timeless Tales Volume 2 wouldn’t play and I, while J looked over my shoulder and breathed anxiously into my ear, had to search high and low on Amazon until I found it…used…for about $25.  Dear reader, I bought it…I would do it again, too.

If you could have witnessed the look of relief and peace that took over J’s expression when the package arrived, and how happy he was when he sat down to watch The Country Cousin over and over again for the next couple of hours, you would understand why I cave…  These are, we figure, his friends and companions, and while he has a vast selection of movies, there are some of those where his nearest, dearest, most trusted and most soothing friends and companions can be found.

The real world is ready and available to J, and he partakes of its joys and activities as often as he is comfortable.  Last Saturday, for example, he went to lunch with us at his favorite French restaurant here in town.  We went early and left walking in the direction opposite to the Christmas tree lighting event taking place at the shopping mall.  We knew J wanted an outing, and we knew the tree lighting thing would be too much.  J was very happy and enjoyed his meal greatly, and then he was ready to come home.

J likes going to the Mexican bakery so on the way home we stopped there.  The parking lot was full of vehicles, and J decided he didn’t want to get out.  I could have said “you MADE us come here”, but instead I said, “wait with Dada, and I’ll be right back.”  I came back to the car with a bottle of Mexican Coca-Cola and his favorite bread to last him throughout the week.  He was happy, and he was ready to come home.

We adjust.  We tweak.  We accept.  We move forward.

Every time we go to the store and buy FernGully (or The Brave Little Toaster) the cashier says “I used to LOVE this movie when I was younger!!!  I had it on VHS and I watched it so much it broke!!!”  I am always tempted to say “you should buy it on DVD!  Tell your nearest and dearest!  Tweet to your friends and contemporaries!  We BEG you!!!”  I never do.  We’ve got a one-man cult following going.  Why mess with a good thing?

Once in a while, a very small royalty check arrives at the offices of whatever representatives the players in this movie have.  They look at the meager amount that its made for -or maybe they just wait until it reaches a certain number before they hand it out to them…who knows?- and they ask themselves “FernGully?  Who could possibly be buying this movie????”

Call it our (teeny-tiny, extremely) little gift to them.  A little pixy dust in royalties.  We just hope they never think “you know, this thing is SELLING!  Maybe we should do a fan convention or something of the sort?”  There J would stand…alone in a crowd that suddenly remembered they love this movie and don’t own it.  He’d be overwhelmed by them, and we’d have to leave while they surge forward to shake the hands of Samantha Mathis, Christian Slater, Cheech AND Chong, Tone Loc, Tim Curry and representatives from the estate of the late, great Robin Williams…

Of all the movies in the world, J’s hyperfocused on FernGully.

Go figure!




That was a lull…a prolonged lull…wasn’t it????

Happy November (I’m even late for that) and may everything be well in your neck of the woods, valley, copse, thicket, hedgerow, desert, tundra…

We are well.  J is well.  J is an adult with Autism, and he has moments when this hits home for him and for us, but we’re all doing well.

We have grown accustomed to our new surroundings, and we have jettisoned all sorts of things that don’t really bring positivity into our lives.  By this I don’t mean specific people or things, but rather general clusters of influence: Facebook groups that elevated our blood pressure unnecessarily (I’m looking at you, neighborhood Facebook page!), activities that brought no real pleasure and felt more like social obligations, the unwilling and reluctant interactions we were not really enjoying with certain businesses, food, events.

We have become pleasantly self-contained in a non-noxious way.  We are cultivating each other and ourselves.  Does that sound reasonable?

What I mean is that even in his most non-verbal mood, J is actually feeling that we listen to, and take him into consideration.  J no longer thinks we will try to hoodwink him into doing something he’s not in the mood to do, and this has made him more accommodating.  “You did this for me…please, let’s do this that you want to do…”  We have realized that the no-more-than-two-hours window of opportunity for outings works best, and he loves that we take that into account.  We also have realized that Autism aside, J is very much a homebody and loves his creature comforts.

We have accepted that there will be times when J will be done with a movie at the theater before the movie is done.  The last time we got irritated about this we ruined our own afternoon.  J had come down from his anxiety, and we were still fuming…then we took a step back and realized “if he’s cool, why are we doing our best to rile him up again by being pissed off?”

I think they call that wisdom.  I’m not entirely sure that we’ve become wiser, but we’ve become more accepting.  We didn’t think this was possible.  For a while there we thought we were pretty damn good about that, and then we realized that we aren’t.  We were getting upset about things because the accepted convention is that we SHOULD be upset when we’re really not…if J is happy, without the more tyrannical aspects of his happiness manifesting themselves in too outward a manner, we should be (and, surprise!!!, are) happy.

Maybe it’s not wisdom.  It’s quite likely that what we have reached is old age.  Or maybe not Old Age, but rather Older Age…we spend a lot of time quoting that t-shirt that reads “I find myself to be exorbitantly superannuated for this feculence.”  The feculence was fighting things that are not worth fighting against.  This is not to say that we have given up on our kid or the work we have to do with him, but we are understanding things a lot better.

Take, for example, his recent rejection of the treadmill.  He doesn’t want to use it.  He’s done with it for now.  I know it’s “for now” because he hasn’t expected it to be removed, and he hasn’t stopped exercising.  He has just changed the way he does it.  The weather has turned kinder (and there are not as many flying things out there) so he now enjoys walking up and down the driveway and across the street at a brisk clip until we complete 20 laps.  He does this carrying a weighted ball.  He also stretches; he does lifts and bends that improve his coordination.  I’ve ordered him a weight bench to help him with his fear of being leaned back.  It will also, with the program I’ve designed, help his core muscles.

At first, I was upset about his unwillingness to stick to the treadmill.  I worried about him getting fat.  I worried about him being stubborn.  I worried about being scolded by the doctor.  His weight has remained steady.  His clothes fit well (and he’s down a whole size).  He is doing his best with the body he has, and within his particular current preference for movement and effort.  He’s not slacking.  He’s changed course for the time being.

I sometimes travel into that alternate reality that we abandoned when J was diagnosed.  Alternate-reality J, at this same age, would be completely out of reach.  Would we know what he eats?  No.  Would we know what he drinks?  No.  Would we know what he’s doing or where he is?  No.  Would he be willing to listen to advice and take guidance?  Probably no.  Real-world J, because things are as they are, has all these things he’s expected to adhere to, and he is quite gracious about it…

J has learned to accept the dog, and he’s getting closer to letting her do what she’s supposed to do for him.  She positively adores him, and she is extremely obedient when he’s around.  She only hears “the boy is coming” and she sits quietly in her corner, regardless of how unruly she has been previous to that moment.  She respects his space, and she accepts his reluctance.  She is also full of hope that someday her feelings will no longer be unrequited.

That is where things stand at this moment.  We have a new granddaughter and we hope the kids will move closer to us sooner rather than later.  We are comfortable in our home and our skins and our bodies and our minds.  J is comfortable and happy, and he tries really hard to stay that way.  On bad days he only expects understanding, and he repays with efforts to meet us halfway.

Life is good…even during the lull…the prolonged lull…