Monday, June 6, 2016

Voices from the Edge: If I Had a Hammer

If I had a hammer,
I'd hammer in the morning,
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land,

Ever since Allen had put on a new doorknob two weeks ago--all by himself, I might add--the front door had not shut properly. Every night, he slammed and banged to get the door to shut and lock, and every morning it took all my strength to pull it open. But it wasn't until Friday that I realized the doorframe had pulled away from the porch wall; all of our banging and tugging was only pushing the frame farther away from the supporting wall.

"We need a hammer," I told Allen. "So we can pound the frame back in place."

He thought for a moment and I, with the wisdom gained from years of parenting this adult who lives on the upper ends of the autism spectrum, waited. And waited. "Well, maybe," he said. "I'll see if I can find the hammer."

Progress. We have a variety of tools, but I have given up on bringing any order to the basement while Allen works on his robot project, so tools that I need frequently--such as hammers and screwdrivers--are kept in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet. It wasn't long before Allen returned with the smallest hammer he could possibly find, a ball peen probably snatched from his metal work downstairs.

"I really think it's too small," I said. "Nah," he said and shrugged. "A hammer's a hammer."

Okay. I guess. So Allen and I went outside and I showed him just where he needed to pound the doorframe back into place. He gave it a few whacks. Nothing happened.

"Harder," I said. "Put some muscle into it!" Again, he gave it a few whacks. Nothing.

"Not going to work," my son told me. " If I hammer any harder, the top of the frame will break. See?" and he points to the top where I can see absolutely no discernible cracks. "You'll have to hire someone," he said sadly.

I'd hammer out danger,
I'd hammer out a warning,

Once Allen has his mind made up, it is very difficult to change. But I was determined to try. Anyone who knows me knows that I really hate to hire someone to do something that Allen or I can do ourselves. My father, a whiz with any hand tool known to man, taught me to change the oil and the tires on a car, rewire an outlet, and hammer without hitting my thumbs.

"Come on," I told my son. "We just need a bigger hammer."

He hesitated. "Well, there is my sledgehammer. But it will probably break the door. Then you'll really be mad! Sorry." and with that he was off to the basement, where the various parts of his robot currently live.

I studied the situation a few more minutes. I wasn't really strong enough to push the frame back in myself, but a sledgehammer packs a wallop. I'd last seen it on the back deck. Resolutely, I dragged it around to the front. If I could manage to lift it, it just might work.

And it did. It took a few whacks and a few tries before I hit my mark, but I accomplished the task and the frame was solidly back in place. I wished, not for the first time since Ron's car accident, that I had a husband that could do these things and didn't need to figure out so many things on my own. I wished there was someone around to be a mentor to my son, someone to show him the things a dad should teach a son. But, at the same time, I was grateful to my dad who'd taught me basic home maintenance skills, and my youngest son who did his best to help when he could.

The frame was in place and I was preparing to drag the sledge hammer around back when Allen reappeared.

"I thought it over," he said. "And I think you're right. We just need a bigger hammer." Allen's delayed response is not at all unusual for those on the spectrum. Since his brain has developed differently, the cells are packed tighter and the stems are shorter. It takes longer for him to process things.

"Too late," I told him  and was sorry I hadn't waited a while longer. I did a Vanna White pose, pointing out the fixed doorframe.

He spied the sledgehammer at my feet. "You used my sledgehammer?"

I nodded. "Yep. And it worked." For a moment, I could not read his expression. Was he upset I'd gone ahead without him? Mad I'd used his tool?

Finally, he grinned his special Allen smile. "So," he said, "since you used MY sledgehammer"--and the emphasis is his--"it's like I fixed it. And I want the credit for it." With that he easily hefted the item and carried it away.

I'd hammer out the love between
My brother and my sister
Ah uh, all over the world.

If you are keeping score here--and I guess Allen is--it's five him, three me. But at least my door is fixed. And Allen, who maybe only had a minor contribution to the event, has defied the odds by being in the minority--only 6%, according to recent government data--of autistic adults who hold a fulltime  job.

Heck, let's put another one in the Alen column. And maybe one for me as well. We're doing okay.