As usual, last week’s time change from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time adversely affected Alex a bit. When he was younger, he often had trouble adjusting his sleep for a few days when the clocks changed. Now, his sleep patterns don’t seem to vary, but some subtle mood changes suggest that his circadian rhythms have been disturbed by the one-hour difference. Although he knows how to change every clock in the house and enjoys turning them ahead or back an hour as needed, he requires a few days to adjust. This past week, he has been disgruntled at times, muttering his concerns. Since he is usually good-natured and congenial, this change in personality indicates that something has disrupted his system. Whenever he is in a grouchy mood, we take the advice given in Kenny Rogers’ country song “The Gambler”: “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” To explain, sometimes we reassure Alex that his fears are unfounded, or we distract him by talking about something other than his obsessions, or we just ignore him, or occasionally, we get out of his way because he’s likely to have a meltdown.
Currently, Alex seems to have three primary preoccupations. First, he’s very concerned about when his doctor will retire. Since she has been his doctor for more than a dozen years and has been very good to him, he has a bond with her that he worries will end soon. He knows that she’s about the same age as my parents, both of whom are retired, and he assumes that she will also retire shortly, even though she has indicated that she has no imminent plans to do so. Despite our telling Alex repeatedly that she’s not planning to retire yet, he still frets about her and keeps asking when she will retire. I think Ed was finally able to ease Alex’s anxiety about that issue a few days ago when he told Alex that after his doctor retires, he can go to the same doctor Ed does. Of course, Alex wanted to know right away how old Ed’s doctor was; I guess he wasn’t too eager to go to someone else who might be planning to retire shortly. This interest in ages has also affected his current reading material as he has been researching child development. He has been selecting books from the library about babies, then preschoolers, followed by elementary-aged children, and now he is reading books about adolescents. I’m not certain how much understanding Alex has of his own development as a child because of his delays, and I wonder if he’s trying to recapture those days that may have been confusing to him. In addition, whenever he sees children on television, in books, or out in public, he asks us how old we think they are. As I had mentioned in my earlier blog “Rating,” Alex needs to quantify everybody by statistics, age being one of the most important to him. With the holiday season approaching and all the commercials and ads for toys depicting children, we hope that Alex overcomes this current obsession with little kids and how old they might be.
Besides potential retirements and little kids, Alex has current concerns about his memory. Even though he seems to have a photographic memory and has memorized many sequences of numbers, such as dozens of prime numbers and hundreds of digits of pi, he worries that he will forget something. Again, I suspect that he’s trying to remember his childhood. Fortunately, looking at photographs of himself at younger ages seems to soothe his anxiety. Another issue that he has recently raised is that he is certain that he erased data he had stored on his graphing calculator and worries that he’ll never be able to regain those lost numbers. Despite our reassurances, the thought of losing information makes Alex extremely agitated and upset. In addition, he worries that his memory isn’t what it once was, much as an elderly person might; however, Alex isn’t even nineteen yet. He has repeatedly asked us if he has a good memory, and we have been able to give him several examples—including the pi digits—that prove his memory is not just good, but phenomenal. The other day, he decided to take a new approach to this question, comparing himself to his two-year-old cousin and asking if he had a better memory than Casey. He worries that Casey won’t remember his early childhood because Alex can’t remember much about his own life before the age of four. I suppose he thought that comparing himself to his little cousin would be an easy way to make sure that he has the better memory. Plus, he likes that he knows exactly how old Casey is, which comforts him. Now, if he starts asking when Casey will retire, then we’ll have another issue on our hands…
“Yet God has made everything beautiful in its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11