This is not a book where everyone lives happily ever after.
If you write and publish a book about your personal life you automatically expose yourself to criticism. If you write an accurate and honest account of your personal life, warts and all, you expose yourself to even greater criticism. So I shall be the first to launch the attack.
But let’s back up a bit. Let’s be frank here. There are so many books on the subject of autism, a deluge, that it’s sometimes hard to spot the good ones. These days I positively avoid reading anything about autism as I am heartily sick to death of all the tales of woe and misery. I also dislike warped distortions of autism where everything is fun and games. I’m looking for balance and realism.
But I digress. Back to Laura and her book “A Regular Guy,” growing up with autism, a family’s story of love and acceptance.
It’s a promising start.
The book starts at the beginning and the story gradually develops chronologically but before too long, it becomes all too obvious:-
Laura is a big ol’ cry baby!
It seems that every few pages she bursts into tears. She doesn’t know the meaning of ‘emotionally repressed,’ or if she does, she certainly doesn’t put it into practice. But that’s because Laura is a good sharer and a truth teller, a fairly heady combination. Bear in mind that every few pages represents a skip in time which considerably reduces her ‘year per weeping ratio,’ especially if you compare it to her ‘laughter per day ratio.’ She has cartloads of that too. More importantly, her ready wit, private asides and singular voice must surely touch even the most callous of readers, such as myself.
I suspect I know the reason why Laura is apt to blub so often. I’d posit an idea that doesn’t receive much air time. It goes like this:- you become a parent of a child and have great expectations. Sometime after that you become a parent with different expectations. Sometimes that transition merely warrants a one liner for some parents.
Good luck to them.
Others share their journey of a life time, in many chapters. As often as not, this is captured in the term ‘emotional rollercoaster.’ Thus far all is well and good, within our range of comprehension. The bit that’s left out, is the everything else. Everything else isn’t just family, friends and community, it is just that, the everything else. The autism experience does not exist in a vacuum, the roller coaster is in full swing, but the world keeps turning. There are jobs and careers, commitments, finance, paperwork, all the daily detritus of life either piling up or dealt with. Either way the pressure is on and doesn’t let up. The cliché of the human existence is that at the end of the day we dwell upon the things we did not do, or the things we could have done better or that we did badly, before it all begins again the next day. These days go on forever because we cannot escape life to focus on autism exclusively. Autism has to fit in with everything else and often it doesn’t.
It is the ability to live in these two worlds at the same time, to help them fit together better that takes determination, strength and stamina. This is what parental responsibility is all about, we have to be grown ups. As grown ups we juggle all these different things, we manage, and some people excel. In the midst of the permanent juggling act, something additional falls into the mix, something tiny, something huge, something unexpected and you have a choice, burst into tears or laugh your head off. The ability to do either or sometimes both, is the path to survival and Laura demonstrates this with perfection. It’s hard to encapsulate life with autism, but this may be as close a picture as possible.
This is a book were everyone continues to live their lives to the fullest.