As I mentioned in an earlier blog post “Comedian,” Alex has a surprisingly good sense of humor for a person with autism. While he likes to make people laugh by saying things that he knows are funny, he often makes us laugh by saying things that are unintentionally amusing. Part of what makes his comments entertaining is that he sees the world in a different way than most people do. For example, one time when he was little, he was being bothered by a fly on our back porch and decided to go inside to get away from the pest and the noise it was making. On his way in the house, he grumbled in disgust, “It’s too buzzy out here!” His description was not only onomatopoetic, but it was also funny to us. Similarly, when he was a little older, he was riding in the back seat of the car as I was driving, and he began complaining about a noise he heard as we backed out of the driveway. Because he was just muttering at first, I ignored his complaints until he became quite animated and yelled like a grouchy old man, “It’s getting really loud back here!” While I found his reaction amusing, I took his aggravated tone seriously, pulled back into our driveway, and discovered that the back wheel was coming loose from the axle. Alex’s irritation by noises alerted me to danger, but it also made me laugh from what he said to get my attention.
When Alex was a baby, I used to sing to him, as many mothers do with their babies. Unfortunately, I cannot carry a tune, and Alex was honest enough to let me know what he thought about my lack of singing ability once he was able to say a few words. One day when I was serenading him, he lifted his hand to my lips, shook his head, and said, “Mommy no sing!” To make sure I’d understood him correctly, I asked him if he liked my singing. He shook his head and told me most definitely, “No!” The earnestness in his face, combined with his comment and attempt to silence me with his hand, struck me as funny because it was true: Mommy no sing! (As the old saying goes, “Out of the mouths of babes.”) When he was a little older, he once again took on the role of being my critic. Lying on the couch feeling lousy with flu, I noticed preschooler Alex examining me with a concerned expression on his face. He told me, “Mommy doesn’t look good.” Pleased that he was showing sympathy for me in my illness, I told him that I didn’t look good because I didn’t feel good. He thought about that for a minute and studied my face a bit more. Then he had an epiphany: “How about some lipstick?” I guess he thought if I put on some makeup and looked better, I might feel better, too. Actually, he made me feel better because his comment made me laugh out loud—the medicine I really needed, even more than lipstick.
In addition to critiquing me, Alex has also made some amusing comments about his own appearance. While he generally doesn’t worry too much about how he looks, he does seem to care about his hair, combing it and letting me know when he thinks he needs a haircut. When his hair gets to be what he deems is too long, often because his cowlick begins sticking out, he’ll inform me that he has “crazy hair.” Revealing his scientific mind, Alex will tell us—in his inimitable way— when his hair is sweaty from running around playing that he has “condensation hair.” Although Ed has escaped having Alex make fun of his appearance and singing, he has been under Alex’s humorous scrutiny for the way he talks. Growing up in Indiana, Alex has developed a Midwestern accent, despite being exposed to my somewhat Southern drawl and Ed’s way of speaking, learned from his youth in Brooklyn, but less obvious over time spent away from New York. Fortunately for me, Alex thinks I talk normally, but he enjoys making fun of the way Ed says certain words. He’ll teasingly mock Ed for saying “dunky” for donkey, “maynaze” for mayonnaise, “alahm” for alarm, and “farin” for foreign. He can imitate Ed’s New York accent to a tee, which makes me laugh. I especially enjoy when he does this because usually Ed and Alex gang up on me and find it terribly amusing to make fun of me. As Ed explains to me, his teasing is simply a way of showing he loves me. I’m pretty gullible, but I like the explanation anyway. I suppose that Alex’s amusing comments about us, then, could be considered his way of showing love for us. If nothing else, he keeps us entertained with his funny remarks and his unique perspective on life.
“He will once again fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.” Job 8:21