Sunday With Sandy

I spent Sunday afternoon with my sister Sandy. She has autism and lives in a group home about a 45 minute drive away. It was the first I had made time to visit her since my mom died. Over the past 5 months Sandy has had far less contact with her family than she had become accustomed to because our attention had turned to Mom’s needs. It is time to pay more attention to her.

Since people with autism can range broadly in terms of how and how well they function let me tell you a bit about my sister. She knows who people are. She knows her family,loves her family and certainly misses us whe n she does not see us.

Her speech is limited. She forms words and sentences often it is hard to figure out what she is saying. She has a tendency to babble and repeat things over and over and over.

She is on several medications that help her control her behavior. She can become obsessive about something and it will become hard to redirect her which may lead to physical confrontation. Often food is the object of her obsession. Her control has been relatively good for the past couple of years but  I still have memories of having to wrestle her to the ground  in public, crowded places to keep her from grabbing things she should not have. With her screaming at the top of her lungs. While people stare at you as they try to figure out what if anything to do since they do not know you are family or a mugger. One learns not to be embarrassed easily.

She loves music. She could play records for hours. Beatles, Beach Boys and Herb Alpert are amoung her favs. No accounting for taste on that last selection. If you spend time with her it is always a good idea to have some of her favorite tunes on hand.

She is very friendly and enjoys striking up conversations with strangers. Most are fairly good natured about it though as I said she is often difficult to understand. Once in awhile Sandy will try to hold someone’s hand or reach for a piece of jewelry. You never know.

She has few govenors on her speech or he actions. She is definitely not politically correct. That last characteristic can lead to many smiles–as long as you are not easily embarrassed.

So that is my soon to be 42 year old sister.

I went with my mom’s husband Fred who has been her de fact father for 20 + years. She seemed a little reserved at first. Normally I immediately get a big hug and kiss. I can understand. She could feel a little abandoned andon top of that her mom just died. Yes, she understands that. She was also very chatty, in a random word kind of way. Sometimes that is a warning sign that her behavior control is on the low side.

We started by going shopping for a new comforter and sheets. Most people with autism have some trouble with choices. I gave her the choice of polka dots or a blue pattern. She would say she wanted whatever one I said last. We finally agreed on the polka dots.

By this time she had warmed up. Lots of hugs and kisses and she wanted to hold both of our hands. Nice but hard to maneuver through narrow aisles that way. She waited patiently in line.

Non-PC moment number one. She asks the sales clerk if she showered today. One of the good ones. The response was  “No, not today but I did shower last night”. At least two more people got the same question before day’s end.

We went to another store to look for a winter hat and gloves. Sandy was doing a good job of reading name tags and addressing clerks by name. One got her necklace grabbed. Another was fun and offered Sandy a smell of some perfume.

People can be very kind or completely standoffish. Enough are kind that my faith in people gets restored consistently when I am with my sister. As Sandy was trying on hats another shopper asked if I had coupons for the store and offered me an extra. She made a point of finding us again before she left to give us more that she had not used.

We went to a movie. She tends to be more interested in live action movies especially musicals. Unfortunately High School Musical 3 was not for 2 hours so we saw Madagascar 2. (It did not hold her attention or mine.) Got pop and popcorn. Popcorn can be a problem because she never has enough but I took a chance. A little chatty during the movie about the popcorn but not too bad. Some great belches from the pop (hey, I am a guy of course I found that funny). Lots of kisses.

On the way home she borrowed my water bottle for a drink. She sits in back, its safer. I ask for the bottle back and then try to drink not realizing that she had removed the top. Soaked my pants. For a nanosecond I was mad, after all it was 30 degrees out. Then I burst out laughing. You never know what will happen when you are out with my sister. I turned on the heated seats and all was right with the world.

Once you take her home she is done with you. She starts saying goodbye and does not stop until you walk out the door. Every time you walk out you realize how much you learn from a day with Sandy.

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About 48facets
What you read is what you get.

4 Responses to Sunday With Sandy

  1. Pax Romano says:

    What a wonderful piece.

    As you may, or may not, know, I have worked directly and indirectly with developmentally disabled people for almost thirty years. I have found that those with autism can be the most beguiling to deal with. That said, one of my favorite clients ever was a young man with Asperger’s syndrome ( a form of autism). His quirky behaviors put a lot of people off, to me, they were endearing and in a way, revealed a very profound sense of humor.

    And I think your sister has great tastes in music (even Herb Albert), and if I had the brass, I too would ask people if they took a shower today.

  2. 48facets says:

    Pax,
    as you know from your work it is always amazing to step out of one’s “normal” world and be in a world were “normal” is calibrated very differently. I know that I am a better person for having that opportunity on a regular basis for the past 40 years.

  3. Harold says:

    48–I’m catching up and made it through page 1 with a huge smile on my face. Sounds like you had a great day. And having read two previous mensch blogs, you certainly fall into the mensch category on this one.

    And yes, I’ll try to remember to bring the shirt to the party.

  4. 48facets says:

    Harold, you can call me Rick. My wife only freaks when her name or my son’s name are mentioned–and no pictures.

    Thanks, I have my mench moments. What do you mean you read two blogs before mine!

    I expect stories and pictures from the trip. See you and my shirt in a couple of weeks.

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