“I don’t get this question,” Tommy said. He was sitting at the dining room table, his homework in front of him. Both hands were clasped over his cheeks as he peered down at the paper.
“It’s not math, is it?” I asked, finishing up washing the dishes. I am awful at math. It’s pretty sad when I have to press in what 8X9 is in the calculator because I’ve forgotten. (72, by the way.)
“Not math,” Tommy grumbled.
Thank goodness. Math is evil. I went over to Tommy and saw that it was a story that he had to read and answer questions about. Easy enough. I love to read, so this would be simple.
“What question is giving you problems? I’m awesome in describing symbolism,” I said, settling down beside him. “Though sometimes I think a rock is just a rock in a story. It doesn’t have to mean eternal life or some other crap, you know?”
Tommy stared at me with saucer eyes for a few seconds. Then he went, “This question,” and pressed his index finger over it.
The question was this:
What do you think ‘his jaw dropped’ from the story means?
“Well, what do you think?” I wondered.
“I think,” Tommy began, scratching his head. “That it means that he needs to get to the dentist if his jaw dropped off.”
I stifled a laugh.
Oh, my beautiful, literal boy.
Because Tommy has Aspergers, he takes most things literally. If you ask him to give you a minute, he might start counting down from 60.
“That’s a good thought,” I said slowly. “But let’s look at how his jaw dropped is written in the story. See? Here, when it says his jaw dropped, what do you think it means? He seems like he’s....” Surprised....shocked.....say it, Tommy, you know....
But Tommy really didn’t know.
“Look at the story,” I tried again. “What do you think it means?”
Tommy threw his hands up in the air. “I don’t know! He needs to go to the dentist! I don’t get it!”
I ran my fingers through his hair. “It’s okay. We’ll figure this out.”
Tommy frowned. “I’m an idiot.” He’s been saying this lately and it hurts my heart.
“Tommy. You know that’s not true.”
“Then why can’t I know this?” He slammed his palm on the table.
“It’s....well, you know you have Aspergers. And what does that mean?”
Tommy sighed. “That I think differently sometimes.” He rubbed his eyes. “When I’m older, I’m not going to have Aspergers anymore. I hate it.”
I chewed my lower lip. “What did I tell you about Aspergers, Tommy?”
Tommy shook his head. He didn’t want to admit it.
I tentatively touched his arm. “What do you know about Aspergers, Tommy?”
“That,” Tommy started. “That I’ll have it. Forever. Unless someone develops a cure for it and I hope they do. Because I hate it.”
“But it makes you who you are,” I reminded him. “My quirky, wonderful boy. I mean, who wants to be normal anyway? I’m not normal.”
“I know,” Tommy said bluntly.
Oh. Well. Okay.
“And if someone doesn’t accept you for who you are, you can tell them to kiss your a—” Tommy stared at me, wide-eyed. “Your butt,” I finished. “But really, you are a smart, sweet boy. You’re my smart, sweet boy and I’m proud of you no matter what. Okay? So let’s tackle this homework question, how about it?”
“Tackle, like on football?” Tommy looked confused.
“What I meant to say is, let’s figure it out.”
In the end, Tommy figured out that jaw dropped did mean surprised. As he wrote it down, he mumbled, “But I still think he should see a dentist.”