My six-year-old son likes to skip. He skips everywhere. This habit makes him seem relentlessly cheerful, even though the skipping has more to do with the fact that he has Asperger’s syndrome than with any genuine bonhomie on his part. I often think that when the 100-foot albino alligators emerge from New York City’s sewers, intent on devouring the populace, Gus will be skipping toward them, greeting them with a wave and asking if they prefer to travel by train, bus, or cab. (Urban transport: his current obsession, along with giraffes, the Beatles, and ladies’ feet.)
Having a son who is autistic and hyperactive is not, on the face of it, all that funny. Yet every single day, he cracks me up. Occasionally, I get into trouble for a certain lack of solemnity about his differences. For one thing, I don’t call them differences; I say he’s nuts. This hasn’t always endeared me to other moms of kids with special needs. And it’s not that I don’t understand the heartache and worry of having a child who can’t kick a soccer ball or carry on a complex conversation or, for that matter, zip his own pants. I understand. Believe me. But rather than look at, say, Gus’s budding foot fetish and run screaming to the psychiatrist, I’d rather think, Hey, at best he’ll be a podiatrist, and at worst he’ll have plenty of company in the chat rooms.
Every day of my life, I thank God for dark humor. I subscribe wholeheartedly to this idea, first put forth by Woody Allen: “Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering—and it’s all over much too soon.”