After living with Alex for twenty years and learning to deal with his various idiosyncrasies, probably not too much of what he does surprises Ed and me. However, at times, we find ourselves scratching our heads, trying to figure out his motivations and actions…those moments that make us go, “Hmmmm….”
For example, how can Alex re-program our television to display the closed captioning in a matter of seconds? When he did this the other day, Ed and I worked together to undo his actions for about a half hour with three remote controls and a variety of muttered comments reflecting our irritation. Of course, asking Alex how to take the closed captioning off is worthless because he just grins and walks away. I suspect he’s thinking, “What a couple of dopes that they can’t figure out something so simple.”
Similarly, Alex knows how to set the alarm for every clock in our house that has an alarm feature, most of which Ed and I have no clue as to how to set or re-set. For some reason, Alex likes to set them for strange times, such as 11:40 P.M. or 4:20 A.M. Moreover, he often leaves the battery-operated alarm clocks in unusual places, such as under couch cushions or on the bathroom floor. When the electronic beeping starts, we go on a wild goose chase, trying to find the hidden clock and turn it off before he really does awaken. Again, I wonder if this is something he finds amusing because we can’t figure out where he’s put the clock and why he set it for a weird time.
During Alex’s recent stint of obsessively writing numbers, I’ve discovered that ballpoint ink can write on a lot more surfaces that I ever dreamed possible. Alex's handiwork is truly a testimonial to the Bic ballpoint pen's slogan, "Writes first time, every time!" Besides writing on countless notepads, Alex has scrawled numbers on painted and wallpapered walls, the ceramic tile of the bathroom floor, the wooden top of our family room end table, our laminate kitchen countertops, the flannel sheets on his bed, the marble vanity top of our bathroom sink, and his own arms, legs, and abdomen. Who knew ballpoint pens could write on so many different places? Thankfully, rubbing alcohol on cotton squares safely and completely removed nearly all of Alex’s numbers. Although he’s never seen the movie, A Beautiful Mind, Alex’s need to write reminds me of John Nash writing mathematical formulas on windows with a grease pencil. I wonder if a ballpoint pen can write on windows.
In addition to making his own lists of numbers throughout the varied surfaces of our house, Alex has been having me type lists of numbers for him. I’m not sure why he insists that I type the lists when my handwriting is legible, while he chooses to write his lists in his barely legible scrawl instead of typing them. Most of the time he’s fairly specific about the lists he wants me to create, such as lists of random twelve digit numbers. The other day, he relinquished some of the control by asking me to choose how many digits the numbers would have, telling me to “surprise” him. Because Alex—like his mother—can be somewhat bossy, his allowing me to make the choice came as a pleasant surprise to me. Fortunately, he found my choices of digits a pleasant surprise, as well.
While some things about Alex are predictable—his love of numbers, clocks, electronic gadgets, and lists—the various new ways that he pursues these interests keep us on our toes and make our lives more interesting. Maybe some day he’ll tell us the secret to taking the closed captioning display off the television screen and how to disengage the alarm clocks. Somehow, I doubt it because I think he likes keeping those secrets for himself.
“Sometimes people say, ‘Here is something new!’ But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new.” Ecclesiastes 1:10