While we’re settling into our new home, I’m featuring a few guest bloggers. Today is Jeff, who writes about living with his 13 year old son Alex, who has autism.
All of a sudden my son Alex has a line along his upper lip. At first, like every parent of a boy pushing 12, I assumed it was dirt. Then I assumed it was shadow. Then I realized that Alex is getting older and older and older, and another milestone was gone.
He has a pencil line, like Matt Dillion’s in Something About Mary, a line that curls around the corners of Alex’s lips. I feel like I’ll just turn around and Alex will soon look like Burt Reynolds in all those pin-ups from when I was about Alex’s age. I’ll have to remember to get Alex gold medals and necklaces to hang in his chest hair.
He has hair in other places, too, but I decided long ago to confine most of my writing to the stuff above his waist. Alex is also getting taller: He’s up to the back of my wife Jill’s neck now, and has once again pulled half a head ahead of his typically developing little brother Ned. Alex is also getting stronger: When he doesn’t happen to want to go somewhere – and being autistic he often doesn’t want to go somewhere we want him to go – he plants a stiff arm on the doorjam and is mighty hard to budge, even for me. Jill’s ability to handle him is slipping faster than mine, which I don’t like to think about for kind of the same reason I don’t like to write about the hair below his waist.
So, we’re off to shaving. I shave, of course. Nobody taught me to shave, as my dad died when I was 12 and one Christmas mum simply gave me a blocky Remington that missed about everything under my jaw. Sometimes today I use a blade – triple-blade razors and pricey shaving gel have changed my life – and Jill shaves her legs with my razor when I’m not looking. We will not use triple-blades on Alex.
Jill’s first thought, however, is that we should also shave his eyebrows – or eyebrow, as he as one, and it stands out as what we think is an unnecessary badge of his condition. My electric Norelco has a pop-out blade that should be just the right width for brow work, but I hope the exercise doesn’t go like the shaving of Mike’s mustache on “All in the Family.” He showed up in one episode bare-lipped, and said that he’d started trimming one side, then took a little off the other side to even it out, then took a little more off the first side to even it out, then took a little more off the second side to even that out, then suddenly he had no hair. Alex needs two eyebrows. Not one, you see, but two. Funny how I never imagined I’d have to think about stuff like this for my son.
Alex watches me shave; he never used to, but now he sometimes appears in the mirror behind me when we hears the whir. “Alex, want to shave?” I hold the razor to his upper lip. The vibration reduces him to the giggles of a tickled child.
Jeff Stimpson is a native of Bangor, Maine, and lives in New York with his wife Jill and two sons. He is the author of Alex: The Fathering of a Preemie and Alex the Boy: Episodes From a Family’s Life With Autism (both available on Amazon). He maintains a blog about his family at jeffslife.tripod.com/alextheboy, and is a frequent contributor to various sites and publications on special-needs parenting, such as Autism-Asperger’s Digest, Autism Spectrum News, the Lostandtired blog, The Autism Society news blog, and An Anthology of Disability Literature (available on Amazon). He is on LinkedIn under “Jeff Stimpson” and Twitter under “Jeffslife.”